Today I saw five houses.
1) was nice and in a good location, but it's a big higher than I really want to pay, and we both think it'll go for even more than list. So I'm not going to invest any energy in it.
2) was surprisingly nice for the boxy boring house it looks like from the front, but it's not really in an interesting location, nor is it near friends, and then we realized it's near a not-so-nice housing complex (probably as bad as it gets in Portland, i.e. not so very bad) and my agent said we should forget it. I wasn't sold on it anyway so that was helpful.
3) a poorly laid-out newish construction home with just really weird layout and features... like a garage behind the house that you access from an alley, and there's a door to exit the garage by the sliding glass door of the house..which you can't unlock from the outside. So it would be useless as a come-home-with-the-groceries thing.
I did however see two houses that have me interested. They are about as different from each other as it is possible to be. Both are under my mental price cap.
House 1 is newish-construction, only three years old. I have a possibly irrational dislike of these houses, and my agent said she did too, but being inside is an eye-opening experience. It was built with quality ingredients like real hardwood, decent tile, granite in the kitchen, etc. It's got a small but nice backyard. The living room has a gas fireplace in it, and the main floor has a nice flow of kitchen/dining area/living area, and a half-bath. Upstairs are three bedrooms and 2 more bathrooms. In short it is way more house than I need.
Good things about it: it's walking distance to 3 friends' houses, it's walking distance to light rail, and it's got a nice garage (good for my car and bike; I don't really care that much about it otherwise). It's nicely set up for me to have guests visit. It has really good light inside it.
Downsides: you can hear the highway from it. It's not that pretty and it won't appreciate as fast as other houses do. Its taxes are a bit on the high side compared to other (older) houses. It's not near much in terms of a cute neighborhood/restaurants, but it's a half-mile from a grocery store, and has easy highway access.
Upsides: it's walking distance to a booming/up and coming part of town. It will appreciate much faster. It's cute. Much lower taxes - in all this house will cost $250 less per month than the other.
Downsides: huge yard. on-street parking only. much further-flung so it'll be a bit of a trip to visit friends (a 15-minute drive to the closest ones).
On paper, the bigger one makes sense. In reality I'm leaning toward the smaller one. I'm revisiting both tomorrow.