Housing prices* in Portland are down some 10 percent from this time last year—that's bad. But cheaper Portland homes are still moving, spurred by first time buyers taking advantage of an $8,000 tax credit. In 2007, sales for homes under $250,000 made up just over a third (35 percent) of the market. Now, homes in that price range are almost half of all home sales (49.6 percent).

“That’s the range where most first-time homebuyers are looking,” says Joel Weiler, a spokesman for the Regional Multiple Listings Service, which tracks real estate trends in the Portland area.

RMLS measures the market by how many months it would take to sell off all the available listings in a given area. For example, Southeast Portland has an inventory of 5.4 months right now. A healthy inventory size sits at about six months, said Weiler. That's higher than North Portland's low, low 4.9 months, but lower than the Portland area's overall inventory of 7.8 months, and less than half of Mount Hood's 11.4 months.

Areas that have high-priced homes (Lake Oswego's average sale price for August was $551,500) aren't doing so hot. According to RMLS, Lake Oswego's inventory sits at a sluggish 10.2 months. North Portland, with the area's shortest inventory, had an August average sale price of $240,000. Again, first time home buyers seem to be moving the market along.

"That market (first-time buyers) has definitely been the most active over the past year," says Salvador Del Cid, a real estate agent and author of Portland Oregon Real Estate Blog.

*Correction. Original sentence read "Housing sales."