If you’ve found your way to this article, chances are good that you’ve at least put some thought into retiring in Eugene.
Counting down the months and then weeks as you approach that magic 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.
Eugene is probably on your radar, it being Oregon’s third-largest city and all. It’s also nationally and even internationally renowned for all that makes it, well, Eugene, even showing up in the UK-based Guardian’s guide to the Best Towns and Small Cities in the US.
We’re biased, mind you, 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 Eugene.
Retirement, after all, is all about getting out of the rat race and settling down, re-prioritizing, and enjoying all the things you’d always wished you had more time to enjoy. It also helps to be in a place where you have access to shopping, arts and culture, recreation, public transportation and access to quality healthcare. Also desirable: a climate that doesn’t tilt too far toward extremes of hot or cold.
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.
Eugene is, as you’ve probably already surmised, a place with all of those features. We’ve already covered a lot of it in our articles on why people across the country are moving to Eugene and why Eugene (along with Bend) is one of the best places in Oregon for families. But whether or not Eugene is the right place for you to retire will, of course, depend upon a few different factors.
Is Eugene the Right Place for You to Retire? Consideration #1: Cost of Living
To be sure, living in Eugene means putting up with some rain during the colder months. As a reward, though, you’ll get to enjoy some of the country’s finest summers. Snow is relatively uncommon, but snow and ice storms are becoming more frequent.
Climate and lifestyle perks aside though, the most important thing is just to make sure that the dollars and cents line up. What’s the cost of living in Eugene?
Oregon as a whole certainly isn’t the cheapest place to live in the United States, and housing is the biggest reason why. The median cost for a home in Oregon was $335,000 in 2018, compared to $219,700 nationwide.
U.S. News and World Report, surprisingly, ranks Oregon number 48 on its list of the most affordable states, with only California and Hawaii below it.
Keep in mind though that these figures are skewed heavily toward the Portland metro area, home to a whopping 60% of Oregon’s population. Portland is expensive, and though its housing market has cooled off, signs don’t point toward it getting any cheaper.
Eugene is not Portland (and it’s proud of it!) But Eugene’s housing market is pretty hot itself, and available inventory is extremely low. The median sale price for Eugene homes over the past 12 months was $321,000. If you want to live in the more desirable parts of Eugene (and who wouldn’t?) expect to pay significantly more.
Maybe you’re moving from an even more expensive housing market (California, we’re looking at you) and those figures don’t sound so bad at all. Compared to other places in Oregon like Portland and Bend, they really aren’t.
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 excepted.) Depending on your tax bracket, that may be more, and in a few cases maybe less than what you’ll find elsewhere.
You’ll definitely want to figure that into your overall financial picture. Yes, all is not mountains, ocean, and majestic forests for Oregon retirees.
Still, you probably don’t want to retire in Eugene because it’s the cheapest place around. You’re coming because the quality of life is worth the cost of living in Oregon, whether in Eugene or elsewhere.
With all of that said, it isn’t enough just to find a house you can afford. You’ll also need to find a house that you actually want to live in, and Eugene’s unique inventory of homes presents specific challenges.
What Retirees Need to Know about the Eugene Housing Market
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.
Maybe home improvement is one of those hobbies. We can certainly relate. 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.
Most likely, you (just like the majority of people) are looking for a turnkey home in a nice neighborhood. You may have your eyes out for a single-story home, or at the very least one with the master suite on the ground level. A fact of aging is that we become less mobile, and making allowances for that is simply a wise investment for the future.
You may also be looking to downsize: you’d like a home with all the right finishes but without the extra square footage typical of homes at higher price points.
In choosing where to live, you may be looking for peace and quiet up in the trees, or you may want to be able to go out on the town regularly with as little hassle as possible. Maybe health issues are on your radar, and you want to live somewhere you’re less likely to be stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital.
Maybe you’d like to start your own vegetable garden. There’s good news on that front, because larger lots are common in Eugene. Most vegetables grow well here, especially if you have a greenhouse.
Anyway, the point of all of this is that you’ll definitely have certain priorities in your housing search. Depending on the specific items on your wishlist, however, it may be difficult to find a home in Eugene that checks off all the boxes, even if money is little or no object.
What Kind of Homes Can You Buy in Eugene, and Where Do You Find Them?
For the past several decades, new construction has been in very short supply in Eugene. A lack of urban growth boundary expansion coupled with a lack of medium density housing have created one of the nation’s most constrained housing markets.
In the hills of Southeast Eugene, including the Crest Drive Neighborhood, 70s-vintage split-level and multi-story homes predominate, with a sprinkling of luxury homes off of Spring Blvd. You’ll find some newer developments in the hills around the Churchill neighborhood and Far West neighborhood. These include some ranch-style homes, but 2000 sq ft-plus homes with multiple floors are more common.
In the flatlands, 40s, 50s, and 60s-vintage bungalows and ranch-style homes are the norm, with pockets of craftsman-style or contemporary homes. Some of these have been spruced up with contemporary finishes, but a number of them have not. With these homes, roof, foundation, and sewer issues do tend to pop up on inspection reports.
Newer homes are more common in North Eugene neighborhoods than in South Eugene, including the northern parts of Santa Clara and the North Gilham section of the Cal Young neighborhood. Pockets of Cal Young feature some of Eugene’s largest concentrations of luxury housing, particularly off Goodpasture Loop and in the North Gilham area.
Generally speaking, North Eugene has a more suburban feel than South Eugene. If you want easy access to shopping and prefer big-box stores to boutiques, that could be right up your alley. Of course, North Eugene does also feature one of Eugene’s premier boutique shopping malls, with restaurants and a Trader Joe’s, at Oakway Center.
All of this is just the barest summary of Eugene’s housing market. With the housing inventory as low as it is, you’ll want to become as familiar as possible with the market as possible before you commit to moving here. We certainly don’t mean to scare you off, but 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 Eugene 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 look 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 of courtship.
It’s an awkward metaphor, but the bottom line is that in a market like Eugene’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 Eugene or you’ve already spent plenty of time here and are ready to hit the market. Contact our Eugene office today, and we’ll get you started on the right foot.