Where should I live in Oregon?
May 12, 2006 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I want to move to Oregon. I have heard good things about Ashland, Medford, Roseburg, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, Beaverton, and Portland. How can I choose where to try first? We have ‘up and moved’ before (without plans, no jobs waiting at new city) and I don’t want to do that again. I can see us moving summer 2007.

I am a twenty-something white female. I am married and we have a cat. I want to move to Oregon and rent for a year or two, and then buy a house. We can swing a $250k mortgage. If we could live below our means that would be ideal. I don’t mind living in a suburb as long as everyone minds their own business. I would love an acre surrounded by a tall fence. I am willing to sacrifice ‘culture’ for privacy. I want to get a dog, and eventually we want to have a kid, in the next 5-6 years. I want a fireplace, a dining room/area, a ‘master suite’, a basement. I like museums, books, bikes. We are foodies, home bodies, but like to have friends over for dinner. We live in So Cal and I cant take it here anymore. Four years ago we moved here from Brooklyn, before that we lived in the Midwest.

Another Ask MeFi is in here somewhere about Portland, so I don’t really need Portland advice, but does anyone else have any thoughts about the other cities, or ones I don’t know about? I don’t know if Portland will be too big of a city for me, with my dreams of a tall fence.

At least one of us would have to find a job, before we could move, but we are both reasonably intelligent and employable. I am a records department supervisor for a medical company. I like to organize stuff, I have management experience. My husband is the IT guy, currently building the infrastructure from the ground up at an office. I would like to hear your opinions, but would also value links to relevant info. I don’t want to drive more than a half hour to get to work, the subway or bus is cool too. Sorry for the long post; I wanted to give as much info about me as I thought was relevant.
posted by saragoodman3 to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
An acre for 250k would be difficult to come by in most of those areas, though perhaps not Roseburg.
I'm guessing by your requirements (firepalce, dining room, etc) that a mobile home would be out, which definitely limits your selection for country living close to town.

With the exception of Portland, driving half an hour in any of those cities would be you well out into the sticks. heh.

Feel free to ask more, I did essentially the same thing you did:
East->Midwest->SoCal->Northwest, so I've got a good comparison going.
posted by madajb at 4:15 PM on May 12, 2006

The city of Portland itself and quite possibly any of its immediately surrounding areas will probably not work if you require a full acre. I would guess that would run $1 million or more these days and, because of the urban growth boundary, you wouldn't be able to buy an existing farm without continuing to work it as a farm.

If you do want to be nearer Portland than Ashland, etc. checkout the outlying areas of Vancouver, WA. You could get a full acre out there for less, but I don't really know how much less.
posted by turbodog at 4:17 PM on May 12, 2006

Portland isn't too big of a city for you, but it may be too expensive of a city; for $250K, you're either buying a rundown, $30K-worth-of-work fixer house within the city limits or a decent place in the eastern (read: not Beaverton) 'burbs. (Most of Beaverton's housing, I believe, is also at or north of the quarter-million mark...)

If you're used to "city" type amenities, I'd head for Eugene - I know nothing about the cost of living down there, but IMHO it's a much more vibrant place than Corvallis or Salem.

the subway or bus is cool too.

Ain't none of them-there fancy subways in this part of the world; Portland has east/west/north (from downtown) light rail, the other cities you mention have buses.

The job market here is recovering verrrrrrry slowly, so if you can find a job before you move, as you mention, you're much better off. I can give you (or your husband, he being the IT guy) referrals to a few IT recruiters in the Portland area, if you want; email's in my profile.
posted by pdb at 4:18 PM on May 12, 2006

You'd definitely have to find a job before you moved. Portland's job market is one of the worst I've ever seen. Whatever you do, do NOT move to Oregon without a job offer letter in your hand that will support both of you.

Portland has this thing called the Urban Growth Boundary that makes your acre & fence a smidgen unreasonable without driving 45 minutes or more, because you need to get out of the tri-county area that makes up Portland before you can find something with land. Essentially, urban development in the metro area has to stay inside of the urban boundary (to prevent sprawl), which means that everything is being built up and closer together. For $250k, you're looking at a smaller vintage home in a gentrifying area, if you can find one, or you're looking to live out in the deeper suburbs... which feel like California, with huge multi-lane roads.

Typically, people in suburbs mind their own business. People in smaller towns, like Corvallis, Roseburg, and Medford/Ashland are ... well, small town residents. I personally like Roseburg, Ashland, and Medford, but there's a huge class division between country bumpkins and farmers and them city folk.

The only way to decide would be to take a road trip up there and see for yourself.
posted by SpecialK at 4:22 PM on May 12, 2006

I know Ashland well and it is lovely, but expensive. There are cheaper small towns very near like Talent, which are OK but I guess the appeal of living somewhere like Ashland is often its walkability? There used to be a sign outside the town which read "Stop Californicating Ashland..." which at least proves that many people want to move to just over the border.

Southern Oregon University gives it a nice College town atmosphere, as does the Shakespeare festival. There may be good IT opportunities for your husband via the University?

There is a large hospital - Rogue Valley Medical - in Medford, about 12 miles away. Medford is quite built up, but as cities go, it isn't bad and there are some nice bits, including on the ribbon between Ashland and Medford. The airport is very convenient there.

One idea - Klamath Falls is a nice town - I've only visited, but it might fit your bill nicely?
posted by A189Nut at 4:24 PM on May 12, 2006

Thirty minutes will take you clear across Corvallis... on a bike.
posted by jedrek at 4:25 PM on May 12, 2006

posted by A189Nut at 4:26 PM on May 12, 2006

The briefest breakdown of the listed towns hitting as many stereotypes as possible:

Ashland: I grew up there. It's overpriced and full of people who gave up on living in SoCal. You'd be hard pressed to find a house under $400k, out of town you'd maybe be better off, but eventually you're really far out of town (South/East). There are no jobs.

Medford: Ditto Ashland but remove culture and charm, add in the fact that it's essentially one big sprawling mess of a suburban wasteland and the weather sucks. If you live in Ashland, Medford, Talent, Phoenix, White City, Central Point, or Eagle Point you'll probably end up working in Medford.

If you really want to live in Southern Oregon consider Talent, avoid Grants Pass at all costs.

Roseburg: like Medford but smaller and more in the middle of nowhere. I wouldn't consider this a good thing. I've never met a happy Roseburg resident, but I've met plenty of people who used to live in Roseburg who will spend hours explaining why they hate it.

Eugene: full of hippies and U of O fans. This may actually be your best bet, but the number of terrible experiences in my life that relate to specific cities is few, and most of them are in this town, so I'd like to say something nice about Eugene, but I can't.

Corvallis: full of farmers and OSU fans. There are lots of quaint little places around Corvallis you'd probably enjoy living given the whole big fences thing.

In both Eugene and Corvallis you may be lucky enough to find work. I'd attempt to do so before moving to either.

Salem: no redeeming qualities unless you're a politician, and even then I assume that it's better to just commute from Portland.

Beaverton: the slightly cheaper version of Portland with better schools (for now). I don't like it, but at least it's not Tigard or Hillsboro.

Portland: you know all about it from the other AskMeFi Portland threads.

There are a bunch of other suburbs that you didn't mention around the Portland area, all of which you can either ask about or avoid, because you're not getting your big fence in any of them.

A ways outside of town (Portland) you could live somewhere like Banks, Vernonia, Mount Angel, Battleground (WA), etc. and get your big fence and land.

The job market for your husband will probably lie in Beaverton/Hillsboro. Your best bet would probably be OHSU.

One place you didn't mention, which should be added to your list, is Bend. It's overpriced but I think it captures a lot of what the out-of-staters like to admire in the "I'm moving to Oregon to get away from this shit."*

And on preview I'll 2nd, 3rd, or 4th the job thing. If it wasn't obvious... the job market here sucks.

*Not that there's anything wrong with moving to Oregon to get away from "this shit" my parents did when I was a lad and I'm a more balanced person for it...
posted by togdon at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2006

A couple of comments on comments.

It would be exceedingly difficult to get a job at SOU. Let me repeat this... there are no jobs in Ashland.

Klamath Falls, unless it has changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years, is exactly like Roseburg, but less conveniently located.
posted by togdon at 4:35 PM on May 12, 2006

Well, what some people hate, others like... Klamath Falls is out of the way, but perhaps that's what they are looking for.

Academic jobs at SOU are a no-no, but support services do turn over more rapidly if I recall right. But yes, $250k won't buy anything there.
posted by A189Nut at 4:46 PM on May 12, 2006

Corvallis has a lot of hippies as well, what with all the college professors and the like.
posted by jedrek at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2006

I'v lived in Ashland for 10 years, it's a wonderful little town. Most jobs in the valley (Medford, Ashland, etc) do not pay as much as they would in a larger market, but some people (me and late-of-Chicago wife) find the tradeoff worth it. Great food culture (restaurants, local producers, Dagoba), and much more "culture" than you'd expect. Also a regionally killer Co-op.

And yeah, Medford is like Phoenix, AZ writ small. Ick.
posted by everichon at 5:42 PM on May 12, 2006

Also: IT jobs are scarce, at least in Ashland. But City of Ashland has one position...
posted by everichon at 5:47 PM on May 12, 2006

Have you considered WA over Oregon? Or are you set on Oregon?
posted by Amanda B at 5:48 PM on May 12, 2006

Personally, if I was looking, I'd consider somewhere like Fortuna or Eureka, CA over Oregon. You've still got CA taxes and other crap, but you can get land and there are at least some jobs.

If I wanted to live in Oregon again and wanted land, etc. I would probably live in Vernonia and commute to Beaverton (Intel, etc.) on 26. The Vernonia/Mist/Jewel areas of the coast ranges are rather beautiful; they were always my favorite areas for volunteering for Hood to Coast. You could probably get a trailer on some land for $250k up there.
posted by SpecialK at 6:22 PM on May 12, 2006

I'm not at all dogging on Ashland FWIW... I'm merely saying that you cannot afford it with the price range you quoted, and there aren't jobs in the area that are going to support you pulling it off via a magically higher income.
posted by togdon at 6:42 PM on May 12, 2006

I can't imagine ever living south of Eugene in the state due to airports. After you get down into Southern Oregon I hear it's like a 4-6 hour drive to any sort of airport. Even if you're going to stay put for a while, life intervenes and you have to fly somewhere sometimes and I can't imagine driving from Ashland to any airport or paying out the nose to fly a puddle hopper from there.
posted by mathowie at 6:47 PM on May 12, 2006

Sounds like someplace between Salem and Silverton might fit the bill. Do understand that you will be sacrificing culture for privacy. Commuting to Portland is do-able and there's probably some work in Salem. I can't recommend Medford in good conscience—unless you really love methamphetamine. Scappoose, maybe? Aloha? Tillamook? Reedsport has a lot going for it, but not much of an economy.
You might also have a look at Walla Walla, WA; it's not in Oregon, but it's got its perks, land isn't overwhelmingly expensive (at least not last time I looked), and there's a fair bit of culture for a smallish, remote community.
FWIW, if you move to Oregon or Washington from California, get your license plates changed promptly. Unless you <3 speeding tickets and getting run off the road, I mean.
posted by willpie at 7:10 PM on May 12, 2006

At willpies's suggestion, I can speak for Walla Walla, WA. We're 8 mi from Oregon, three colleges (Whitman, Walla Walla, and a community college), all the wineries you could ever want, community theatre...
If you live outside of town, say, a 15 minutes drive or so, you could easily have more than an acre of land, and not too much in the way of neighbors.
The school system is fairly good, both public and private.
The town is about 35,000 people, and it's a nice little place.

Not Oregon, but I find eastern Oregon to be pretty much the same as Eastern Wash.
posted by Amanda B at 7:42 PM on May 12, 2006

I think that's 80 miles from Walla Walla to Portland, BTW.

Walla Walla is nice, albiet conservative. I know that kids who grew up there wanted to get out soonest, though, and a friend of mine who tool a job there after college couldn't stand it due to lack of things for th' youngin's to do. But I've ridden through there on a motorcycle, and it *is* beautiful; reminds me of where I just moved to, College Station, TX, a lot.
posted by SpecialK at 8:01 PM on May 12, 2006

$250k is reasonable for Corvallis in town. There are places outside of town that have an acre of land. Those close to town tend to be more in the $300-500k area, but once you start getting 20, 30 minutes out you might be able to find something.

Job availability is decent... we have a Good Sam hospital, so you might be able to get med work there. Renting is VERY good/cheap, because just about everyone at OSU rents. OSU is definitely a good thing- it keeps the cops busy, they generally don't make too much noise unless you're right by campus or have loud neighbors, and because its a public school, you get the library/etc free of charge. My emails in my profile if you want more info/come out here.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:10 PM on May 12, 2006

*tool = took
posted by SpecialK at 9:17 PM on May 12, 2006

What about McMinnville? Nice downtown, easy commute to Portland or Salem, lots of sticks to live in and amongst. Monmouth, too- not too expensive and centrally located to Dallas, Corvallis, Salem and McMinnville.
posted by codswallop at 10:12 PM on May 12, 2006

I've lived in Roseburg and Salem for a couple years each, and I now live in Portland. Additionally, my work has me heavily involved in Klamath Falls and other areas in southern and eastern Oregon. Now for a comparative analysis:

Klamath Falls: small, backwoods, bang-your-head-against-the-wall-in-frustration-type place. The economy has been steadily weakening, especially over the past five years, and it is not very conveniently located. They need to move the town, I think.

Ashland: absolutely charming town, but also extremely expensive cost of living. I'm also not a fan of the dryness in southern Oregon, and it gets hot and dry in the summer there.

Grants Pass: a community with two sides, both of whom use a lot of drugs. The many retirees needs medications, and the many meth addicts need their fix.

Roseburg: likened by another commenter to Klamath Falls. This is a small town that's very difficult to find a job in unless you know people--and it's better if you are related to them. The Umpqua River is scenic and beautiful, and my parents have lived there happily for many years.

Eugene: don't let the liberal persona fool you--venture far off the beaten path and you'll find plenty of "Keep the UN out of the US!!!!" signs. Poor urban planning and high cost of housing are two things that irritate me about the town. However, they also have hundreds of miles of bike trails, and the area is beautiful. It doesn't take much to get out of the city into acre-sized lots.

Salem: compared to Portland, the housing market is much more reasonable. There are also outlying towns that are quite charming, such as Silverton and Mt. Angel. The area is heavily agricultural, and I've never had more problems with my allergies in my life than when I was living there.

Portland: based on what you describe as your preference, one area particularly comes to mind. I took Scholls Ferry/River Road from SW Portland to Hillsboro yesterday, and that area (well, the area between the condos that are shooting up around both cities), there is a nice rural, open feel with lots of back roads that is still conveniently located to Portland, Intel, OHSU, etc. I have no idea what the property prices are around there, as I just "found" it yesterday.

If I were planning a big move, I'd be looking more toward Washington. Did you know that Washington has no state income tax? Gotta love that.
posted by bloggerwench at 10:56 PM on May 12, 2006

Did you know that Washington has a sales tax? And you have to pump your own gas? :P If anything, bitch about Oregon property taxes. Oregon income tax isn't too bad.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:35 PM on May 12, 2006

Oregon property taxes are a damn sight cheaper than a lot of other places.
I pay about 25% of what my parents pay in NY for roughly equivalent houses.
Not having an income tax is nice though. I'd prefer that over no sales tax.
posted by madajb at 11:40 PM on May 12, 2006

The coast is pretty but everyone is either really stupid or crazy. All the little towns are very conservative and rednecky. The only liberal towns in the whole state are portland (excluding all suburbs), corvallis, ashland, and eugene. I would say just move to portland and rent a place you can usually find a two+ bedroom house for rent under $800. Look for a place in NE or N. It's supposedly "the ghetto" but most of the interesting people live in this area and most all the fun/funky/progressive type venues/places/things are in this quadrant. Portland is like a fishbowl, the longer you stay here the smaller it seems to get. Saint Johns the city is funky, cheap and close to portland but has a weird small town vibe. Proximity to portland is a good thing as its about the only place between SF and Seattle with any culture. Also you would like somewhere near forest park (kind of trucker townish but close to portland). Out past hillsoboro is good because this area is turning into condos slower than the gresham side of portland, also the big companies are on this side in case you have to work for the tech/ fancy shoe industries. However it's pretty redneck and not very bike friendly (though empty country bumpkin streets arent that scary to bike on). It would be spendy and kind of windy but sauvie island will be the last area in portland to go urban sprawl.
posted by psychobum at 3:09 AM on May 13, 2006

As far as everyone talking about buying in Vancouver, WA (which is just across the river from Portland) a co-worker just bought a house far out from any major developments. He wants to buy the adjoining lot, which is bare grass and a few good size fir trees (valuable in themselves). I believe the asking price was around 2-300 or more for the bare lot. I'd write a lot more, but there are a lot of responses already. If you still want ot know more, feel free to email me, I grew up in portland and have either lived in or had spent a good amount in every city you listed. emails efalk21 at hotmail
posted by efalk at 3:48 AM on May 13, 2006

It's been a number of years since I've been out that way, but the Alsea Bay area (Yachats, Waldport, Newport) was an area of the coast that wasn't "conservative and rednecky" when I lived there years ago.

It's not a strong IT job market in the area, but there's definitely more than a little respect for technology. The tiny town of Waldport was one of the first places (if not The First) in the country to have real time, online reporting of election results and was one of the first districts to have an actual CS education program in the public schools in the very late 70s. The cooperatively owned local phone company, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative actually understands the value of data services; they offered residential DSL before PacBell did in San Francisco.
posted by majick at 9:42 AM on May 13, 2006

newport and astoria are worth checking out on the beach. florence and bend in central oregon are going too yuppie but also might be worth a look. hood river is another city worth looking into. I used to fantasize about moving to klamath falls but it seems too white bread for me. If you don't care about culture and want a big yard and the easiest entry into the IT market go to the Tri-cities washington (richland, kennewick, pasco). It's in eastern washington. Way cheaper than anywhere in oregon. It's got the some of the biggest engineering contracts in the US but there's always talks of downsizing which would really mess of the economy (based on urban sprawl). Most of the jobs are private companies but the hanford nuclear reservation certainly gets quite a bit of government dough. There's plenty of good biking if you don't mind the hot desert and you've puncture proofed your tubes. Washingon is a cheaper state to live in (esp car stuff). And smoking is banned in that state. It hasn't happened in oregon yet. Richland never has any serious crime. It's surreal and I wouldn't reccomend raising teenagers there. The sunsets/sunrises are like paintings. It's really conservative but they might build dorms for the WSU campus in richland. Fortunately seattle's liberal tendencies trump the area's own political leanings and eastern wa is too sissy to form their own state. I'm not fond of the area (the "dry shitties") but I grew up there. It snows there in the winter, but its almost too cold to enjoy. Portland is even worse for allergies believe it or not.
posted by psychobum at 5:27 PM on May 13, 2006

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