To uproot or to stay?
June 22, 2006 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Is it insane for two married 40+ year olds, no kids, to think about moving from Seattle to Portland? The thought that we'll never be able to afford a house here unless we opt for a two hour commute is killing us. Ready to throw in the towel.

We both have not so great jobs in Administration, I'm a painter, he's a musician. After moving here from Brooklyn four years ago it seems like we are never going to get set up like we thought we would. However, the only thing that is holding us back is the fear of the job market in Portland. Any thoughts? There is no rush, we just both want to finally put down roots and move on with our lives.
posted by dchunks to Work & Money (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not insane. But it's a good idea to have a job or jobs lined up before you move there. If there's no rush, that shouldn't be a problem.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2006

Have you thought about opting for a more affordable condo? Houses are ridiculous, but there are still good deals to be had on condos.
posted by tristeza at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2006

Yeah, so how about answering the question? Sorry. I don't think it's insane - I adore Portland and for sure it's more affordable, but I would *definitely* have a job lined up before I went.
posted by tristeza at 10:25 AM on June 22, 2006

I've seen a lot of (admittedly anecdotal) evidence that is showing Portland to be extremely up and coming, particularly in regard to tech. Moving to Portland now might pay off well in the future.
posted by wackybrit at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2006

I guess the better question, how does one go about getting a job lined up before getting there?

We almost moved to Portland instead of Seattle four years ago, but the same issue kept us away.
Another small fact, I grew up in Seattle, was away for a decade and came back to find it just not the same. I certainly don't hate it here, but I want a higher quality of life...a backyard...I don't want to spend my life on the freeway commuting.
Thanks for the responses!
posted by dchunks at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2006

Portland is both up-and-coming and down in the gutter.

If you're a 20-something in a field that's very competitive, good luck. One of my friends lost out on a $40k/yr entry-level engineering job to a 50 year old man with 30 years of engineering experience. Older people with longer work histories have an easier time finding jobs. Many 20-somethings are either in menial jobs or are leaving the area.

People want to move there, and like any city that people want to move to, it's difficult to get jobs. If you move, make sure that one of you already has a job that will support you. One of my friends, 23 years old with great work history including teaching as an associate professor at PSU and 3 years as the Sales Operations Manager at a 5 million dollar/yr company, has been unemployed for seven months now and is about to take an entry-level IT/Helpdesk job just to get some money coming in. His fiancee's waitressing income and the little bit of consulting income he's had plus his savings have been paying rent since November.

In Portland, income and property taxes are your enemy. There's no sales tax, but the property tax and business income taxes (Multnomah County, for instance, has something like a 3.45% on a business's GROSS income) are quite harsh. That means that the end-cost of goods is about what you're used to paying in Seattle even with sales tax added in. Income tax means that saving money and not spending it is no longer a tax dodge; your money is taxed before it reaches your hands and again when you transfer it to the business via the business income taxes.

If I had the choice, I'd probably live in Vancouver on the 205 side of things and work in Portland on the 205 side of things. If you can arrange to commute at off-peak hours, it's not a bad commute. Houses in Vancouver are affordable, whereas Portland's Urban Growth Boundary has driven house prices in desireable areas of town (read: Not Gresham/Troutdale or Hillsboro/Aloha) up to the same prices you're seeing in Seattle.

As for getting a job -- watch Portland Craigslist, the Oregonian wanted ads at, and try to locate companies you want to work for in the area and monitor their Careers pages for job postings.

Moving is a good idea. I moved from Portland to Texas for the same reason you are -- in a few years, after I've paid off the debt I accrued in Oregon, I'll be able to afford a house with a nice yard here in the boonies of Texas. After I accrue some equity and level up my resume a few more times, I'll move back to the West Coast.
posted by SpecialK at 10:59 AM on June 22, 2006

On preview, ditto what SpecialK said

Craigslist is an obvious place to look, also check out some of the previous threads on the topic of moving here for other suggestions on places to look for work.

The drive down isn't as bad as you think and I have no doubt that you could wake up early in Seattle, drive down for an interview, and be back in time for dinner. You absolutely do not want to move here without one of you having a job that will cover living expenses while the other one looks for work.
posted by togdon at 11:06 AM on June 22, 2006

Is Portland your only other option? Spokane is a terrific smaller city with a wonderful quality of life and a lot more sunshine. Or maybe Bellingham if you want to stay on the wet side of the mountains?
posted by LarryC at 11:28 AM on June 22, 2006

At 40 (41 in about three weeks), my wife (34) and I are considering a similar move. From San Francisco to Chicago. I love San Francisco, but I want to buy a place and I want to live in a city, and San Francisco isn't ever going to be affordable for me. Frankly, I don't want to work as hard as you have to work to live here, and that's kind of the end of that.

So, me, hell, I don't think it's crazy, because next year around when I'm turning 42 I'll be doing the same thing. :)

However, I am not sure what your timeline is. I kind of have a mental one set for us to move next summer around this same time of year as now, so I will be spending the next year closely re-evaluating my work skills and personal skills to see what type of job I may want in Chicago. I already have friends and leads there, so that helps. So, if you have time and friends in the location, you'll be able to get yourself prepared and have a good start to getting a job (although, my Portland friends tell me it's harder than they anticipated there).
posted by smallerdemon at 12:28 PM on June 22, 2006

You're not crazy, except that uprooting your life is always a little crazy and a little risky. Three quick things.

First, Seattle' economy is, in general, better than Portland's. Portland's economy is not bad, but you're not going to have a job the day after you start looking. If you're a skilled professional with experience you should be able to find something (this is not a guarantee, so don't come whining to ask metafilter if it doesn't)

Two, despite what others in the thread have said, stuff costs more in Seattle. When I first got here I noticed market items (food, beer, etc.) were always price $.50 to $2.00 higher than in Portland. Gas is about $.30 more per gallon, depending on where the station is.

Three, Portland's "scene" skews younger. I'm not sure what it's like for 40 year olds in Portland (and I imagine that'd be dependent on the 40 year olds in question)
posted by alan at 12:31 PM on June 22, 2006

I promise no whining...this is all great advice.
posted by dchunks at 12:52 PM on June 22, 2006

No sales tax in Oregon! Common consumer goods will be ~10% cheaper there. Score another for Portland.

Then again, I'm openly wondering about your expectations where a two-hour commute is your best option to buy a house. Seems to me that there are very affordable mid-range houses closer to Seattle than two hours away.
posted by frogan at 1:40 PM on June 22, 2006

frogan: No sales tax, but high income and property taxes plus business taxes and a high minimum wage, both of which cause service-industry businesses to charge more means that no sales tax could actually be a minus if you did the calculations out.

Although your point about the houses is good.

dchunks: What price range of houses are you looking at?
posted by SpecialK at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2006

Hi frogan,
The two hour commute is of course an exaggeration ( but as my co-workers tell me, an hour, to hour and ½ in traffic is not) , but the real issue, as smallerdemon noted: I don't want to work as hard as you have to work to live here,.
I know my expectations of my adult life might be stuck in 1985, but as we started to seriously look at buying a house, and the house next door to our rental, a mere 750 sq foot rambler went for an insane price…we thought there must be options. Portland from our vantage point seems to have what we want. I am fully aware I might be wearing “the grass is always greener” glasses too.
posted by dchunks at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2006

Hi Special K,
This is the price range (and the email from my sidekick that started this bee in my bonnet this morning)

"Average home price in Portland is $260, 000. That’s a lot better than seattle which is $450,000."

$260,000 seems reasonable.

Which is why gleaning all the good and the bad is great. The underlining news about the job market doesn't make my stomach any calmer though.
posted by dchunks at 2:26 PM on June 22, 2006

I know that this is not answering your question, but I hope this is useful information anyway.

I lived in Seattle for 10 years before meeting my wife and moving into her house in far south Seattle- almost Skyway. In all that time I never realized that there were affordable houses in Seattle- they're just down south. Until about 2 years ago, you could buy a nice newer house on a big lot for about $300,000. Now, after 2 years of big appreciation, you probably need $350 or $400, unless you're willing to accept small or fixer- there are two houses a few blocks from us, one selling for $235 (tiny) and another for $289 (very charming, actually, and probably gone in the next few days).

Big lots are actually COMMON down here- I'm talking 10,000- 15,000 sq. ft. The commute is still Seattle- but surface streets will take you into downtown in about 30 minutes when the interstate's locked up. The one downside- you don't get the funky young professional neigborhoods that all my friends live in up north: the ones with cool shops and Pagliacci's that'll deliver to your house.

But we can afford to live here on a teacher's salary. Again, I'm sorry for going OT.
posted by carterk at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2006

No, you're not insane.

I was a full time musician in Texas and moved to Portland for several reasons, one of which was the abundance of affordable houses in close-in established neighborhoods.

I thought that the real estate market had surely peaked in 1992 when we arrived. But we bought a place anyway. We found a great 2 bedroom place with a large office, finished basement, 1 car garage, workshop, and a yard surrounded by 8 ft hedges for $160k. And it's right on the light rail line.

Now it's worth $250k or so.

I looked, but never did find a job and have survived doing computer consulting for clients outside of Portland (I do have a few clients here now as well.)

If your husband is a musician of the money-making type, he may find the pay scale lower here. I averaged $150 a gig in Austin. The going rate here in Portland is much lower. Half that, it seems. It would be tough to be full time and support yourself, let alone a family.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 4:33 PM on June 22, 2006

Oops. That 1992 should be 2002! We moved here in 2002.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 4:34 PM on June 22, 2006

What carterk said -- there are affordable neighborhoods in Seattle, they just aren't north of the canal and they aren't hip and trendy, necessarily. Of course even the cheaper neighborhoods are more expensive than they probably ought to be, these days. But I don't think Portland's that cheap, either, if you want to live in the nice or cool areas.

Look around Southeast Seattle (it's not all bad) and see what you find...
posted by litlnemo at 5:04 PM on June 22, 2006

The competitiveness of the job market drives wages down, so there's an argument to be made that Portland is only "cheap" when you're not living here.

My fear is that Portland's popularity due to quality of life is contributing to a decline in that quality of life. Our section of I-5 is nowhere near the tangled nightmare that is Seattle-Tacoma, but it has gotten much worse in the past few years. Childless professionals build up formerly impoverished neighborhoods, and then totally neglect the schools, so now they're shutting down by the handfuls.

My point, which I swear isn't too much of a derail, is that Portland isn't better than other metropolitan areas because of magic. It's better because people fight to keep it better. So, please, come on down, but unless you want to have to move to the next great place in another 10 years, help us keep it great.
posted by Skwirl at 5:14 PM on June 22, 2006

I'm intrigued by this question, because I recently moved to Seattle and found the surrounding areas shockingly affordable. I just went to and searched for houses under $300,000 and found a bunch of listings for single family homes in Seattle and areas within 30 mins of downtown (Shoreline, Bothell, Lynnwood, Auburn,
posted by frogan at 10:46 PM on June 22, 2006

Sorry, hit post too quick ...

I guess what I'm saying is, actually go sit down with a real estate agent and ask them to pull live MLS listings right there in front of you. You might be surprised.
posted by frogan at 10:47 PM on June 22, 2006

Can't tell if you are crazy by post, did a voice tell you to move? But good idea to move. Moves seems to expand your life. The magic of change and all that. After a while every place begins to suck. At least moving to a new place seems to wake you up for a while as you search for a new barber. Good luck
posted by zackdog at 1:44 AM on June 23, 2006

I'm seriously thinking about the Seattle-Portland move myself, in about a year. Software engineer, single, no kids, 40 but with the social life of a 30-year-old. But I would definitely get a job lined up first.
posted by matildaben at 2:39 PM on June 28, 2006

P.S., You don't have an email address in your profile. Email me if you want to talk about this some more.
posted by matildaben at 12:59 PM on June 29, 2006

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