can i afford to be happy??
August 7, 2011 8:33 PM   Subscribe

looking to move - can i afford portland? seattle?

i'm fixing to move, but not sure exactly where i might fit better. based on some research and similar askmes, portland and seattle are obvious choices. but i haven't been to either in ages and have one basic question: can i afford to live there?

i need a one-bedroom apartment, decent part of town (single female), near transportation (preferably trains/metro, but also buses) and walking distance to some shopping (groceries) and stuff to do. i can spend about $800/mo on rent ... no roommate. (i don't want to live in a shoebox, don't expect to live in a penthouse ... etc, etc.)

these are the bare bones ... so if the answer is no, let me have it. please - current data only. i just want to know if it's a waste of time considering these two cities.

i've looked on craigslist but don't know either city well enough to get any real sense. my current impression is that portland is a maybe and seattle is a probably not.

(anon because i don't want to start answering IRL questions if moving isn't an option. currently in a large midwestern city.)
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, in Seattle you can. First Hill and Queen Anne are more doable than it may seem on Craigslist.
posted by reenka at 8:46 PM on August 7, 2011

There are definitely places to live in Seattle for less than $800/month, especially since there are a lot of students around here. You might want to wait until October 1 to move so you don't have to compete with UW students coming back to school in the Fall. What I would do is first choose a neighborhood because the price of rent depends most greatly on location, then see what is available in each one.

There are a bunch of threads on Seattle neighborhoods on Ask Metafilter to get a good description:

Off the top of my head for your price range I would recommend Greenlake, Beacon Hill or the U-District.

Then go on craigslist and search for the neighborhood name and your max price. For example:

Btw maybe you already considered this but wouldn't it be better to move to the location where you'd be more likely to find a job?
posted by seattlejeff at 8:51 PM on August 7, 2011

Is your budget independent of your location? Portland is definitely cheaper, but the job market sucks. Seattle is more expensive, but salaries tend to be higher and jobs easier to come by. If I were making the choice on a fixed income (and without personal connections to either city) with your criteria, it'd be Portland in a heartbeat. If I were considering which city to move to without an offer letter in hand... well, I'd look real hard at the job market for my field.
posted by stet at 9:02 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

A year ago I lived in Ballard (part of Seattle) at $835/month at a very spacious 1-bedroom apartment - with my own organic gardening plot too! - and it fit all the rest of your criteria - a few blocks radius from the lake, farmer's market, artsy shops, supermarkets, local cafes, and with major bus routes outside my building.

There were lots of choices like that.

Other areas are trendier and closer to downtown and a bit more expensive, but similar prices aren't unheard of - just rarer and get snapped up quicker. I also recommend University District and Greenlake for similar prices to Ballard and may have more exciting stuff going on.

Most of Seattle was super safe for a single female wandering around. Crime in Seattle is not like crime in other major cities. It's also a very small city, and so long as you don't go too far north or south or live in Bellevue then public transportation is perfectly adequate.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:10 PM on August 7, 2011

I live in the Portland area and recently moved from a one bedroom apartment that was 650.00 a month. About 750 sq ft. Garbage, water and sewer included. About 4 blocks from the max less than a block from the bus. 1/2 block from a grocery store, nail salon, 6 restaurants, 3 bars, a daycare, gym, Starbucks and bank. This was my second Portland apartment and the one prior was a 2 bed 2 bath for 775.00. I currently live in Hillsboro, a suburb that is farther out and am in a 2 bed 2 bath 2 story home. We pay 1150 but have 1500 sq ft, 2 walk in closets, a backyard and garage. Mr. beans lived in a 2 bed 2 bath apartment 6 miles from downtown before we moved in together. He was about 2 blocks from the Max. He paid 800$ a month utilities included and his rent did not increase in the 3 years he lived there. His apartment was about 1/4 mile from a grocery store, 2 blocks from a bar, dominos pizza, harbor freight, a coffee shop, a quckie mart and a Mexican restaurant. By the grocery store there were about 5 other restaurants a gym, a bank, a movie store and a couple other small businesses. When he lived there we would often take the Max downtown at night to bar hop and such and the commute was really nothing.
I agree that the job market may not be the best but honestly neither of us have had any issues finding employment in the 5 years we have both lived in Portland. Neither of us have college degrees but both of us work in IT and have solid job histories.
This should give you a general idea of the cost of living in Portland and if you want more information or specific neighborhood suggestions based on what your looking for feel free to contact us! Good luck!
posted by Pork n Beans at 9:32 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely possible in Portland, though as someone cautioned above, finding a job is tough. I live in close-in SE (Clinton St./26th Ave. area), right off a main bike route and within a few blocks of 3 bus lines. It's a very safe neighborhood with excellent restaurants, bars, coffee shops, a New Seasons and a co-op all within close walking distance (less than a mile). I pay $695 a month, water and garbage included, for a one-bedroom with about 600 square feet of space. I don't have hardwood floors or fancy appliances, but it's a cute place. I had to look a while to find a place that cheap (most one bedrooms in the area are $100-$200 more per month), but you can find them.
posted by janerica at 9:59 PM on August 7, 2011

Seattle doesn't really have trains/Metro unless you are going to the airport or the suburbs. It's all buses.
posted by Amanda B at 10:01 PM on August 7, 2011

This can easily be done in Portland. Portland is pretty tiny and compact, and I would even venture to say that there are no flat out unsafe neighborhoods, they get get sketchy at worst. I live in a tiny one bedroom with only a few caveats that's only 650$ a month in a pretty desirable area (for a 20something). The city has a rental shortage right now but it's still possible.

If you choose Portland, welcome but please have a job.

Seattle is Portland's older brother that used to be cool before he married, had a kid, and settled down, and now listens to more NPR than music. He can still be really fun if you can get him to come out though.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:43 PM on August 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are right: Portland is closer to what you're looking for. I've lived here on and off for ten years, and while jobs are scarce, the public transportation is better than Seattle's and the cost of living is generally lower.

I live in an absolutely beautiful one-bedroom apartment and pay $960, but you can definitely find something very good for $800. If you want info about neighborhoods and places to look for apartments (or info about Portland in general), please feel free to memail me.
posted by Specklet at 11:04 AM on August 8, 2011

Yes, First Hill in Seattle is good. Not sure how cheap one can get 1-bedrooms for-- I moved here with my husband, four cats, and a fair bit of furniture, and we were on the east coast when we were looking for a place, so we were looking more for space and, well, certainty of having a place to move to. This town is pretty absurdly safe at night, apart from a couple of areas like Pioneer Square. And even there it seems like you're more likely to get nonsense shouted at you by a crazy person than actually get mugged. Seattle does have a fair number of homeless people, which can disturb people from places with fewer, but the ones I've talked to don't seem to be particularly scary or aggressive. You'll get a lot more passive-aggressive out here, no matter which city you choose to move to.

Portland is fun too. It is a LOT cheaper, but as stated above, Seattle seems to be doing a bit better with the job market of late. Seattle is a lot more of a City, if that's what you're looking for, though it's still a small city. Portland is kinda homier somehow, more relaxed. At least this is my experience. I've never lived in Portland, but my husband's family is there, so I have spent some time there.

Yes, you could do it. I recommend it. I'm going to miss the Pacific Northwest a lot when I have to leave next year.
posted by Because at 11:13 AM on August 8, 2011

Well, being willing to live in a shared house type situation would make it easier in Portland (I recently lived in a huge, gorgeous, two-story house I shared with two dudes in one of the hippest neighborhoods in Portland and my monthly rent was $500), but getting a nice one bedroom for under $800 in Portland is definitely possible, and that would even include utilities. Look at the Eastside, especially NE neighborhoods like Irvington, Sullivan's Gulch, and North Portland - all are reasonably close to great transportation and you can find a nice one-bedroom for between 600 and 700.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:17 PM on August 8, 2011

Oh, and yes, jobs in Portland basically don't if you don't have a job lined up and will need something in less than like a year (and even then...) bear in mind that might be difficult to impossible.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:19 PM on August 8, 2011

"Seattle doesn't really have trains/Metro unless you are going to the airport or the suburbs. It's all buses."

You forgot SE Seattle. But many people do.

(In other words... North Beacon Hill is a good possibility.)
posted by litlnemo at 1:36 AM on August 9, 2011

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