Well, are there? As Robert Ripley might say, "believe it or not", yes there are good deals to be found. In general, real estate is most expensive in close to the center of a metropolitan area. In our case, Portland. If the 'core' city is built out (Portland is) that city becomes increasingly expensive as there is little room for growth. Aside from assorted affluent communities scattered throughout the suburbs, homes tend to become less expensive as you radiate out away from the center of the urban mass. There are notable exceptions to this notion but here in Metro Portland the rule is generally applicable.
The first thing a frustrated buyer can do in this type of market is to look a little further out. One thing that is nice about our area, is that most of the heavy traffic is in close to Portland. Generally Clark County freeways away from the Columbia are running at the limit around the clock. For a person that is commuting to Downtown Portland, the ride from Mill Plain, Blvd. in downtown Vancouver, WA at 8:50 AM this very morning is shown at 24 minutes with some heavy congestion between Delta Park and the Fremont Bridge. The distance is 9.9 miles. Double that distance to 20 miles at the SR 502 interchange North of Vancouver and the ride is 31 minutes. In all fairness it is still double the distance and a commuter will put more mileage on their car, but most people are more concerned with time, rather than a little extra wear and tear on the car. This is not the case with every suburban area. But Clark County has an excellent highway system, so it does apply here. Push that ride all the way up to Woodland at 30 miles out and the ride is 37 minutes. The median price of a home in Woodland is roughly 40% less than a comparable home in either North Portland or NE Portland. Of course it should be noted that a bad accident on the highway can make the commute randomly horrible and the further out one lies, more chances for a random traffic issue. Of course timing is often everything and commute times at 8:50 are lighter than they are at 7:30. A typical traffic pattern in the morning sees the peak of heavy traffic at SR500 on I5 in Vancouver and on the return trip home almost all the heavy traffic is south of the Columbia. In general the notion that one can double the distance for only 20% more time is still viable.
Another way to find a deal is to look for a home that needs some work. This market right now is strong, but not as "hot" as some suggest. The houses that are getting bid up to ridiculous prices tend to be immaculate specimens. The homes that need a little work are lingering a bit longer. I am not suggesting really ugly homes. Often those are not financable. I am referring to the house with older worn carpet, scuffed up flooring, dated kitchen and bath. These homes do not attract the hordes of hungry buyers and can still be found at a respectable price. Of course the buyer will be faced with some weekend sweat equity to make the house shine. This could be a great alternative to the 'further out' approach.
For buyers that want a really screamin' deal, the application of both principles can be considered. Perhaps a light fixer in Woodland or Washougal. That should get you a house on the cheap! Don't fret frustrated buyers, there is light at the end of tunnel :)