It’s not news to most Oregonians: Californians are moving to Oregon in droves, and the migration shows no signs of slowing down.
It’s true that some native Oregonians like to complain about folks moving in from out-of-state. California is usually the poster-child.
But if you ask us, being an Oregonian isn’t about where you were born. It’s about where you live and why you choose to live there. People are moving to Oregon from California and elsewhere because they want to add their own individual thread to the fabric of what makes Oregon a unique place. We’re all for that.
Portland’s Willamette Week reported a little over a year ago that nearly one in five people in Oregon were born in California. Part of the phenomenon may be that the grass just seems greener on the other side. It goes both ways: there are plenty of Oregonians moving to other states too, 39% of Oregon-born folks to be exact. But we don’t think that’s all that’s going on.
If you’re reading this article, chances are pretty good you’ve at least thought about moving to Oregon. There are a lot of good reasons to move to Oregon from California–and a few good reasons not to move to Oregon.
Oregon’s population may not be big, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a diverse place. So the clearer you are about why you want to move to Oregon and where you want to move, the better.
Each of Oregon’s cities has its own unique flavor. We’ve written already about why people are moving to Eugene and why people are moving to Bend. But wherever you land in Oregon, you’re sure to notice both similarities and differences.
Finding you a home is a big part of what we do as realtors, but that’s not the only way that we serve our clients, particularly those relocating from out-of-area.
Our job is first to help you decide whether you’re ready to make the big move or not. There’s a lot of factors that go into that decision, and we want to make sure you don’t make the wrong choice, even if it means we don’t sell you a home.
If all roads do end up leading you to Oregon, our job then is to welcome you here with gusto, help you get your feet on the ground, and make your move as seamless as possible. We are facilitators of your whole experience.
So, join us as we give you a bit of a tour of what the journey will be like. Just what are you in for if you’re looking to move to Oregon from California?
Why Move to Oregon: The Benefits of Living in Oregon Vs. California
Let’s cut to the chase with three simple words: quality of life. Of course, that means different things to different people.
If you’d like to be able to jump straight into the ocean year-round, Oregon may not the place for you. But consider: all 362 miles of Oregon’s coastline are completely public. You won’t have to fight traffic and crowds or (usually) pay for parking. Just bring your windbreaker.
That’s just one example of what you’ll encounter in terms of the benefits of living in Oregon vs. California. But it’s quite indicative of the whole flavor of the Oregon life. There’s a lot of room to breathe here and to slow down and enjoy the little things.
Life isn’t so congested in Oregon (though your sinuses may be when Spring allergies hit the Willamette Valley.) If you’re in the wrong lane and need to merge, people will usually let you in, though sometimes awkward standoffs can ensue at 4-way stops: “No, you first!”
True, traffic in Portland, Bend, and Eugene is getting worse and home prices are rising across the state, but nowhere in Oregon has anything on L.A. or the Bay Area in those regards. And wherever you are, pristine wilderness is never too far away. Some outdoor destinations are more popular than others, but if you just want to get away from it all, you really can.
For all these reasons and more, the stress level is just lower here. If you’re coming from most parts of California, the difference is palpable almost when you step off the plane.
All in al, Oregon is pretty much a mellow place to be. If you’ve lived a long and full life in the rat race and are looking forward to a more hassle-free life, we probably don’t need to convince you that it might be a good idea to retire in Oregon.
Bend and Eugene, Oregon, where we do most of our business, are definitely two of the best places to retire in Oregon, balancing the lifestyle and cultural perks of city life with the earthy, laid-back vibe of the Pacific Northwest. And if life in the countryside and some acreage to call your own are what you’re after, Oregon has a number of stunning ranch properties, especially in the high desert of Central Oregon.
Mind you, Oregon is not the place to be if you’re looking to be at the center of the hubbub. We’re well aware: Los Angeles and the Bay Area are home to some of the finest and most diverse cuisine, entertainment, fashion, and shopping in the world. Oregon, even Portland, is not on the cutting edge of any of those.
But none of this is to say that there’s nothing going on in Oregon. Oregonians are, by well-earned reputation, physically active, creatively-engaged, and community-minded. But whatever makes your clock tick, you’re likely to find a way to plug in here. If your passions involve the great outdoors, all the better.
All of these qualities make Oregon a great place to raise kids too. We’d definitely count Eugene and Bend among the best places to live in Oregon for families, with high-quality parks and schools, safe neighborhoods, and great access to recreation.
Is it Cheaper to Live in Oregon or California?
You probably already know the answer to this question already. California is pretty much the most expensive place to live in the country.
So, let’s add “cost of living” to “quality of life” when it comes to the benefits of living in Oregon vs California.
On balance, Oregon’s lack of a sales tax and (relatively) less expensive real estate probably do a lot to alleviate the stress. The overall cost of living in Oregon vs. California is significantly lower.
According to bestplaces.net, the cost of living in San Jose is 64% higher than living in Portland as of publication. Similarly, the cost of living in Santa Rosa is 41.5% higher than living in Eugene. That’s not even getting into much pricier SoCal cities.
Oregon is certainly not the cheapest place to live. Its state income tax is the highest in the country, and home prices have been on a steep upward trajectory. We’ll have more on that later. Still, Oregon’s cost of living in less than California’s on balance.
Where to Move in Oregon: Mountains, Forests, Cities, Ocean or Desert?
Oregon is a place of staggering geological diversity. That won’t necessarily be anything new to you if you’re moving to Oregon from California. Still, it’s nice to have some different options to explore.
Each of Oregon’s distinct geographical regions has its own unique vibe. The Oregon Coast is a quiet, peaceful place to be, dotted from north to south with small towns no larger than 16,000 people. The mighty Pacific Ocean kind of overwhelms everything else, which may be just your speed if you’re looking to escape the bustle.
The Willamette Valley, on the other hand, is home to the vast majority of Oregon’s population, with cities like Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, and Portland stretching from north to south along the I-5 Corridor. In between, you’ll find vast stretches of farmland, orchards, and vineyards. Oregon has its own wine country, and it’s quickly growing to rival even the finest that Sonoma and Mendocino County have to offer.
Portland is an obvious choice if you’re looking for the city life. You can expect, perhaps, to find some of the things that may have driven you from California in the first place, like traffic jams, expensive housing, and a rapidly growing population. But Portland still maintains a slower pace of life, a willingness to ignore what’s trendy elsewhere and occupy its own unique niche.
Southern Oregon is kind of a lot like Northern California in terms of climate and general vibe, without of course the sales tax. Medford is the population center, and Ashland is a gorgeous place with a bit of a new age flavor. Its Oregon Shakespeare Festival is internationally-renowned.
Eugene brings to the table a lot of what makes Portland a special place, but in a much smaller package. We write extensively about Eugene, having an office here and all, so we won’t repeat ourselves too much. But suffice to say, we love it here. If you’re moving to Oregon from California looking for a breath of fresh air, it should be near the top of your list.
Coming from California, you may have your own PAC-12 team that you’re used to rooting for. But don’t overlook the excitement of being able to see the Ducks on the gridiron at Autzen Stadium or at the brand new Matthew Knight Arena and renowned Hayward Field, all among the nation’s finest collegiate sporting venues. It doesn’t hurt that Duck athletics consistently rank near the top in football, basketball, track & field, and others.
Going east from the Willamette Valley takes you over the majestic Oregon Cascades and into the high desert and open blue skies of Central Oregon. Here, Bend is the lodestar, the center of gravity, attracting visitors, adventurers, and transplants from all over the globe. We’ve been in business in Bend longer than anywhere else, and needless to say, we love it here too.
More than perhaps anywhere else in Oregon, Bend has grown into what it is today from the outside in, quadrupling in population in the past 25 years. Californian transplants make up an outsize portion of its population, and it’s easy to see the appeal.
Bend is a quintessential mountain town, but it’s also full of people who are just living their best lives and making the most of the city’s natural beauty and many amenities. We’ve written a primer of the Bend Life which summarizes what makes Bend an attractive destination.
Property in Bend is expensive relative to the rest of Oregon, but Californians used to much steeper prices could be pleasantly surprised by the quality of homes that are available. Some of the finest builders in the Northwest do their work here, and at certain price points, stunning finishes, architectural flourishes, and mountain views are almost the norm.
Bend gets plenty of sun, and unobstructed views of the Oregon Cascades are definitely the norm. But this being the mountains–Bend sits at approximately 3,600 feet of elevation–there’s going to be some snow.
Some years, we don’t get big snowstorms and the main roads stay pretty clear. But in February of 2018, Bend had a record four feet of snow, and during the heaviest snowfall, things pretty much shut down.
You may have experienced plenty of snow before and loved it, but there’s not much that can prepare you for shoveling it day in and day out, making sure your roof stays free of ice dams and trying to get to work every day on icy roads. For these reasons and more (read further below) we sometimes recommend that people spend a year renting in Bend before purchasing a home here.
We’re sure you’ve heard about the rain in other parts of Oregon, the Willamette Valley and coastal region included. It’s a thing, sure, but most people get used to it. You may even grow to love the cool, damp weather of early spring. But if Seasonal Affective Disorder is a factor for you, note that the skies remain overcast through much of the winter, and the wet cold of the Willamette Valley takes some getting used to.
Getting from there to Here: Making the Big Move from California to Oregon
Just jump in a U-Haul, throw your stuff in the back, and drive on up here, right? Oh, if only it were that simple.
The DIY route may be a fine way for you to go, but there are a number of moving companies out there who can make the trip as easy and worry-free as possible. Investigate your options. To start with, we recommend taking a look at consumersadvocate.org’s Guide to the Best Moving Companies.
Before you even get to that point though, you’re probably going to want to find a home. At the very least, you’ll want to find a temporary rental while you search for your dream home. We think the latter option is actually a solid way to go.
If you’ve visited whichever city you’re considering a few times during different parts of the year and have some flexibility in what you’re able to spend, you may be ready to buy a home in Portland, Bend, Eugene, or elsewhere. But we’d recommend that you spend at least a few solid days looking at properties with an experienced realtor who knows all of the neighborhoods and knows just what to look out for.
Property search websites have, in many respects, made finding a home from afar a much easier prospect. But photos or even 3-D virtual tours rarely ever tell the whole story.
Technology has come a long way, and listing agents know that people virtually always get their first impressions through the web. So you can bet that their photos will present things in the most flattering way possible. Then again, sometimes photos don’t really do a home justice. There’s just no way to know until you set foot inside a property.
When you walk into a home with all of your senses engaged and have an experienced realtor with you to point things out you might miss, it’s just that much easier to picture yourself in a home–or not. You’ll be that much better equipped to pull the trigger or run to the door, especially if you’ve looked at a couple dozen other homes that haven’t quite done it for you. You’ll know at least a little bit about the neighborhood and have some kind of feeling for what it’s like.
Again, while technology has come a long way, real estate isn’t as simple as putting a snazzy-looking home in your online shopping cart and then sending it back to Amazon if you don’t like it. Once you’re in contract, things can get sticky.
Before you hit your property search in earnest, learn as much as you can about the Oregon real estate market. We’re happy to give you a helping hand there: check out our 2020 Bend Real Estate Forecast or our 2020 Eugene Real Estate Forecast. We also offer freshly-updated quarterly reports on the Bend and Eugene markets.
Important Differences between Real Estate in California and Oregon
Oregon real estate practice has plenty of idiosyncrasies that you’ll need to be aware of, even if you’ve been through plenty of transactions in California or elsewhere.
In California, it’s a common practice for the seller to pay for a home inspection before they put their home on the market. That’s great if you’re a buyer and don’t have to pay for it, though you may be left with questions about the partiality of the inspector. But in Oregon, it’s almost always the buyer’s responsibility to get an inspection during a period stipulated in the purchase agreement.
Don’t let your agent or anyone else tell you that you don’t need an inspection, even on new construction. Plenty of things can slip under the radar, though it certainly helps if your agent knows who the most reputable builders are.
In order to recommend a proper inspector and set of inspections, your agent needs to know the different building concerns relevant to Oregon’s various regions. For instance, many homes in the lowlands of Eugene are built on expansive clay soil, so foundation issues are common and need to be investigated.
Likewise, Eugene homes of a certain vintage often have sewer line materials that are inferior and prone to failure, necessitating a sewer line inspection. Because of the high moisture level in the Willamette Valley, pest and dry rot inspections are important.
Over in Bend, there are pockets where radon gas has been identified, so getting that inspected is important in certain areas. For rural properties in Central Oregon, the well and water quality issues specific to different areas need to be known. Septic issues are common in homes in La Pine, south of Bend. You can’t assume that all agents who do business within a specific area know all of these nuances and idiosyncrasies. So when considering an agent, be sure to ask these kinds of tough questions.
These are just a few examples of the many ways that buyers need to be well-represented when choosing which types of inspections to have. Items that do come during an inspection–and it’s rare that nothing comes up–are often the subject of negotiations between the seller and buyer. So your agent also needs to know who has the leverage in the situation and how to apply it when it comes to requesting repairs.
Generally speaking, sale price negotiations have a different flavor in Oregon than they do in California. In many markets in California, agents routinely overprice homes in an effort to set neighborhood records and earn themselves more clout. But in Oregon, that’s not so common.
By and large, Oregon realtors price homes at whatever point they think they’ll be able to sell them for. At in-demand price points, it’s actually more common for agents to under-price a home in the hope of setting off a bidding war.
Homes that are overpriced tend to stay on the market until their sellers issue a price reduction. But in most cases, you can’t necessarily assume that starting low and meeting ’em in the middle will be a good way to go. By the time you’ve made your lowball offer, somebody else may very well have made an offer at or above list price.
If you’re coming from a market like San Francisco, where the cost of home renovations tend to be astronomical, you may be more inclined to purchase a turnkey property than deal with a fixer-upper. But in Oregon, expect remodel prices to be a fraction of those in the Bay Area.
Although Oregon’s construction labor market is tight, there are still skilled carpenters to be found here who charge quite reasonable rates. So when you’re house hunting, it’s good to keep in mind that what you see doesn’t necessarily have to be what you end up with in the end. So if you’re in love with a house but just wish it had quartz countertops and a gas fireplace, there’s no need to fret.
In Conclusion: What to Know Before You Relocate to Oregon
To summarize, before you dive into Oregon’s real estate market–and ideally, before you’ve committed yourself too deeply to making the move–you’ll want to find a skilled agent who can represent you through the whole process of relocation. You need someone who can really educate you on the idiosyncrasies of the area.
Then, if and when it comes time to buy a home, you need someone who can help you view properties with a trained eye, negotiate a sale, and handle all the myriad logistics of closing a transaction.
Uprooting your life and transplanting it somewhere else won’t happen overnight. There will be ups and downs and plenty of tough choices to be made. Stress and anxiety are par for the course, but doing your homework can definitely help alleviate a lot of that.
We’re pretty confident that a skilled agent can also help ease a lot of the anxiety of buying a home out-of-state. We’re here to help, but how we help depends on your own unique situation. We’d love to start a conversation: contact our Bend Office or our Eugene Office today.