Last Updated June 17, 2022
If you’ve found your way here, chances are good that you’ve at least put some thought into retiring in Bend.
Counting down the months and then weeks as you approach that much-anticipated retirement date, maybe you’ve already felt the draw of Oregon’s vast stretches of public wilderness, its relaxed pace of life, and its distinct culture.
On the whole, Oregon is a good place to retire, but it’s also a big state. Where you’ll want to go in Oregon depends on a few different factors.
What Makes Bend One of the Best Places to Retire in Oregon
Maybe it’s the sunshine and fresh mountain air and the area’s reputation as an outdoor mecca. Or maybe what makes Bend stand out is its great culinary, shopping, and cultural scenes, or its beautiful contemporary homes.
We’re biased, but if you’re looking for a balance between access to wilderness and all the amenities of city life, without the traffic, crime, and frenetic energy of a place like Portland or Seattle, we think it’s pretty hard to beat Bend. It should definitely be near the top of your list of best places to retire in Oregon.
Family, of course, is important too. It’s no secret that where parents go, adult children and their families often follow. If that could potentially describe you, you’ll want to end up somewhere that your family won’t mind ending up either. At the very least, you’ll want to be in a place where grandchildren can enjoy summer vacations with grandma and grandpa. It should come as no surprise that Bend has a ton to offer folks at all different stages of life.
We do have to get one disclaimer out of the way right off the bat. Bend is a great place to live, period, and it’s certainly a great place to retire – if you can afford it, that is. Home prices in Bend have been on the up and up for a while now, but over the past several years, they’ve really skyrocketed.
There are a few other qualifiers that will help you determine whether retiring in Bend is right for you or not. Read on as explore some of the ins and outs of making Bend your retirement destination.
Is it Expensive to Live in Bend, Oregon?
Beautiful mountains and lifestyle perks aside, the most important thing when you’re considering retiring in Bend, or anywhere for that matter, is just to make sure that the dollars and cents line up. What’s the cost of living in Bend?
Oregon as a whole certainly isn’t the cheapest place to live in the United States, and housing is the biggest reason why. U.S. News and World Report, surprisingly, ranks Oregon number 46 on its list of the most affordable states, with only Alaska, Massachusetts, California, and Hawaii below it.
Bend, mind you, is one of the most expensive places to buy a house in Oregon, and it’s only getting more expensive. Buyers have flooded Bend’s market since the summer of 2020, resulting in an unprecedented inventory crunch.
As of publication, inventory is down about 70% year-over-year, and a lack of supply has meant rapidly rising prices. In May of 2022, the median sale price was $750,000, and homes under $500k are becoming harder and harder to find.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’re likely to face competition, even at higher price points. For rentals, it’s become more and more common to pay upwards of $3,000 a month in the more desirable parts of town.
So yes, it definitely is expensive to live in Bend, Oregon. Redmond can be a good alternative if you’re feeling priced out of Bend. Of course, if you’re moving from an even more expensive housing market (California, for example) the above figures might not sound so bad.
But, as a retiree, you’ll also want to keep in mind that Oregon taxes income from retirement accounts at the same rate as any other income, ranging from 5 to 9.9%. (Social security benefits are an exceptions.) Depending on your tax bracket, that may be more, and in a few cases perhaps less than what you’ll find elsewhere.
You’ll definitely want to figure that into your overall financial picture. Yes, all is not majestic mountain views and strolls along the Deschutes River for Central Oregon retirees.
Still, you probably don’t want to retire in Bend because it’s the cheapest place around. You’re coming because the quality of life is worth the cost of living in Bend. But with that established, let’s dig a bit deeper into what to expect from Bend’s housing market.
What Retirees Need to Know about Bend’s Neighborhoods
For most people, retirement means unwinding and relaxing from the stresses of working life while still remaining active, investing more time and energy in the hobbies and other pursuits that are most meaningful to you.
If you’re coming to Bend, chances are good that outdoor activities are high on your list–hiking, fishing, canoeing, golf, or maybe just long strolls by the river and watching the sun set over the mountains from your back porch.
Maybe home improvement is one of your hobbies. But if it’s not, we’re willing to bet that working on a fixer-upper is not the way you’d like to spend your retirement.
If you’re fancying living in Bend, then you’re in luck on that front, because the majority of homes are relatively new constructions that are completely move-in ready.
Bend, as you probably already know, has really taken off in the past 30 years. Since 2000, Bend’s population has nearly doubled, from just over 50,000 people to an estimated 100,000 today. Over that span of time, the standard for new construction in Bend has been consistently high, and it’s getting higher.
Cookie-cutter developments with small lots are more common on the East side of Bend, but even in these, the quality of interior finishes is generally quite high. Meanwhile, many of the homes in Bend’s West side, particularly the hills in the Northwest quadrant, bear the stamp of some of the Northwest’s finest builders.
If you’re in the market for luxury-grade construction, the Awbrey Butte, Summit West, and Century West neighborhoods are the first place to look. You’ll find a number of gated communities with great amenities, including several fantastic golf course communities like Awbrey Glen and Broken Top Club. Breathtaking mountain views are practically the norm in these neighborhoods.
But if easier access to the amenities of downtown–not to mention the Deschutes River–is important for you, take a look at the riverside homes in River West and Old Bend. Just expect to find older homes with varying finishes and higher prices than most other places in town.
Don’t overlook the East side though. As Bend’s West side has become prohibitively expensive for most folks, premium construction in Bend has steadily migrated east. Simply put, you can get more home for your dollar in neighborhoods like Larkspur, Southeast Bend, and Mountain View than you can on the other side of the Deschutes. Homes in a range lower than Bend’s median are certainly more common here, and there are even some sub-$500,000 bargains to be snagged.
Know What You’re Looking for if You’re Retiring in Bend
All of these neighborhoods are fine spots for retirees. It’s really just a matter of what your priorities are.
Would you rather live in the rarefied air of Bend’s northwest hills or be able to step out your front door and walk just blocks to downtown? How important are mountain views, or would you rather spend the money on nicer finishes? Do you want easy access to the amenities provided by an HOA, or are you more keen to go into town and explore? What’s your budget, and how far will it stretch in Bend’s different neighborhoods?
Maybe you’re looking to own a decent piece of land a bit outside of Bend. You’re in luck because the region features some of the finest farm and ranch properties you’ll find anywhere.
Whatever you may be looking for, there’s probably a place in Bend where you can find it. Real estate in Bend is expensive, but in this case, you do get what you pay for: unparalleled quality of life, both inside and outside the home.
First Things First: What to Do Before You Buy a Home in Bend
All of this is just the barest summary of Bend’s housing market. To get a better feel, you’ll want to become as familiar as possible with the market before you commit to moving here.
Once you get to a certain stage of your life, moving into something else if it doesn’t work out becomes less and less attractive. Finding that forever home takes some special care, and it also takes having a knowledgeable guide who can steer you through all of the potential twists and turns.
Visiting Bend and getting to know the different neighborhoods yourself is definitely an important step. At the same time, first or even second or third impressions can be deceiving. That certainly applies to online real estate listings.
Context is everything. A property might look like it hits all the right notes, and the neighborhood might seem nice enough, but you won’t really know if it’s right for you until you’ve completed the most thorough of investigations.
On the buyer’s side, a skilled real estate agent is kind of like a matchmaker. They get to know you and what you’re looking for as well as they possibly can, and then they have tools to match you with what will be the best long-term fit. A skilled agent also has the tools to counteract obstacles that might come up in that process.
It’s an awkward metaphor, but the bottom line is that in a market like Bend’s, real estate is often more of an art than a science. You can gather all of the right data–and an agent can help you do that too–but there will still be a journey ahead. Where that journey ends up will depend upon how you proceed, and an agent’s job is to guide you each step of the way and make sure you don’t make any missteps.
We’re ready to help you in whatever stage of the journey you may be at, whether you’re just starting to think about retiring in Bend or you’ve already spent plenty of time here and are ready to hit the market. Contact our Bend office today, and we’ll get you started on the right foot.