News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Housing in City of Sisters — by the numbers

The 2020 Census is delayed — again.

Trying to get a peek at the new number for Sisters’ population is frustrating. We put a man on the moon 50 years ago but it’s been almost 10 months since the official count started and we still don’t have a number for Sisters. It is understandable that Portland or Eugene might take a while to tabulate, but Sisters? Not even a preliminary number. Not even an estimate.

In the years between the decennial census, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts periodic analyses and projections of population and housing in what they call the American Community Survey (ACS). In their 2014-2018 ACS five-year projection, the Bureau estimated our population would be 2,838 in 2020.

Portland State University, a historically reliable source for population figures, pegs our number on July 1, 2020 at 3,220. Both numbers are dramatic increases from the official 2010 Census of 2,038 — a range increase of 39 to 58 percent. That’s an impressive 3.4- to 4.7-percent annual growth rate.

Housing data, however, is fairly current. The same ACS, only in this case taken in 2020, shows some surprising things. Sisters has one of the fastest-growing markets in the state, and region, having 18.8 percent more housing units than 2010, a total now of 1,318. That doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody watching the explosion in new construction the last five years. The percentage change in total housing units is 3.4 times greater than Oregon as a whole.

What may surprise you is how dense this housing is. Sisters has 701.6 units per square mile. We are, after all, a town of only 1.88 square miles. That compares to 18.4 units per mile in all of Oregon and 42.5 for the entire U.S. Yet, it doesn’t feel crowded, most would probably say.

Sisters has the highest percentage of renter-occupied housing units in the area. More than Bend, more than Redmond. More on average than all of Oregon. Some 45.7 percent of Sisters units are rental properties with 54.3 percent owner-occupied, says the ACS.

The question of affordability is often raised when discussing housing in Sisters. Sisters is within $25 of nearby Bend, Redmond, and Prineville when comparing average monthly rental prices. The median here is $1,154 per month. Oregon overall is $1,110 and the U.S. average in total is $1,062. An Eagle Crest rental by comparison will set you back $1,742.

Buying a home is Sisters isn’t quite as onerous as oft reported — comparatively speaking. According to Central Oregon Association of Realtors, the median price in 2020 was $450,242 — lower by $65,000 than Bend and vastly lower than Black Butte Ranch or Eagle Crest.

Our neighbors in Tumalo face a $609,900 median home price. On the other hand, Redmond at $356,880, Terrebonne at $340,000, and Prineville at an even $300,000, are bargains by comparison.

Some three percent of all Sisters homes, not just those that closed in 2020, are valued at $50,000 or less. nine percent are in the range of $100,000 to $200,000. Twenty-seven percent command a price between $200,000 and $300,000; around eight percent fetch $300,000 to $400,000. Right at 20 percent will take $500,000 to $750,000 to purchase, and 36 percent of the housing stock costs over $750,000 — more or less something for everybody.

The challenge currently is low inventory.

All this reporting does not consider Sisters Country, only the city. While there is vast acreage in ZIP code 97759, outside of the city limits, population and housing growth are at a much lower rate than in town. One doesn’t need to wait for the official census to know Sisters is booming. Whether that is a good thing depends on your view.


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