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$1 million and a few penthouses at $3 million-plus.

Early South Waterfront buyers have seen their condos spike in value already.

The buyer demographic is diverse — empty-nesters, single professionals, well-to-do retirees, young couples looking for urban starter homes and guys such as Venice Tunnitisupawong.

Miles Morgan, a United Airlines captain, bought a one- bedroom with an alcove for $404,000 in December 2004, when the Meriwether was nothing but a hole in the ground. He estimates it's worth as much as $550,000 today.

An analyst at Intel west of Portland, Tunnitisupawong, 28, wanted out of the suburbs, even if it meant a longer commute.

"I'm a single guy and that lifestyle doesn't really fit me right now," he says. He'll move into a third-floor, one-bedroom when a third tower, the John Ross, is finished in May.

"This is poised to be the premier neighborhood in Portland," Morgan, 36, says. "It will appreciate faster than any property in Oregon or Washington."

AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S NEWS SECTION, JULY 27, 2006

AS SEEN IN USA TODAY’S MONEY SECTION, AUGUST 1, 2006

A more energy-efficient home can turn up the heat on your savings

By Sandra Block USA TODAY

In St. Louis, it's so hot, you can fry an egg and a slice of bacon on the sidewalk. In Baltimore, you can pop popcorn on the hood of your car. It's turning out to be a scorching summer across the USA, and you know what that means: higher electricity bills.

u Energy-efficient improvements. This credit covers a lot of improvements you might be considering anyway, such as replacing your leaky windows. The credit is for 10% of the cost of eligible improvements, up to a lifetime maximum of $500. You can't boost the size of your credit by spreading your purchases over two years, says Bob Scharin, senior tax analyst for RIA, which provides tax information and software to tax professionals. The credits are limited to improvements to your primary home.

While the heat will abate eventually, don't count on much relief from rising energy bills. In some parts of the country, caps on electricity rates are set to expire. Regional blackouts are focusing attention on the need to invest more money in the nation's power grid.

Congress also included caps on specific kinds of improvements (see chart). For example, the maximum you can claim for new windows is $200.

Your best short-term defense is to put on a tank top and turn up the thermostat (or join those who think sweat is good for the soul and turn off the AC). For the long term, consider making your home more energy-efficient. You'll permanently reduce your energy bill, and you may also qualify for some short-term tax breaks.

If you can't afford a major project, there are less-costly ways to save energy that are eligible for the tax credit. Installing more insulation can reduce your energy bills by up to 20% and is fairly easy to do, says Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "Insulating the attic, basement, crawl spaces -- these are activities that a homeowner can do over the weekend," she says. "They don't involve a large investment of capital or time, and there's a great return on the investment."

An energy bill signed into law last year included several tax credits for energy-saving home improvements. The credits are limited to eligible improvements made between Dec. 31, 2005, and Jan. 1, 2008. Tax credits are more valuable than deductions because they represent a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill.

Here's a rundown of what's available:

If you buy a new energy-efficient air conditioner or heat pump, you can claim a credit for up to $300 toward the purchase price, including installation costs.

While a new air conditioner costs a lot more than a roll of insulation, the payoff can be significant, Callahan says. "If your air conditioner is 10 years old or older, there are much, much more efficient products on the market now."

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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