It’s not exactly news: people are moving to Oregon (and moving to Bend) from all across the United States. Currently, Oregon has more people moving in compared to moving out than any other state in the country.
There are a lot of great reasons to consider moving to Bend, but to find out whether it’s the right place for you and your loved ones, you’ll need to do your homework. Bend has quite a lot going for it, but there are also some potential cons to consider. This isn’t just a fluff piece: we’ll mostly cover what makes Bend a special place, but we’ll also cover the bad and the potentially ugly. We’re all about giving you the data points you need to make the right decision.
Maybe you’ve thought more broadly about moving to Oregon, and Bend is one of the destinations you’re considering. There are other options, of course. Oregon is a big place, after all. So it’s helpful to clarify which vision of the state resonates with you with the most.
Is it the lush, green Willamette Valley, home to Portland, Salem and Eugene? Southern Oregon, with its yellow, rolling hills and distinctly NorCal vibe? The Oregon Coast, with its towering cliffs, thundering waves, and vast stretches of completely public beach?
Or, is it the high desert stretching hundreds of miles east from the Cascades mountain range, Oregon’s mecca for outdoor lovers of all stripes? That, incidentally, is where you’ll find Bend, the nation’s third fastest-growing city as of October 2019.
Head to any of these places, and you’ll know right away that you’re in Oregon. At the same time, each region showcases a particular facet of the Oregon life. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question: where is the best place to live in Oregon? The best answer we can honestly give is: wherever you feel the most at home.
So, is Bend, Oregon a good place to live? Is it the awesome place to live that some folks in the national media are making it out to be?
That depends on you. But one thing is for sure: people are moving to Bend and making their new home in Bend at an astonishing clip. Look more deeply into what makes living in Bend special and it’s not hard to see why.
Bend’s real estate market has reflected this trend: home prices in Bend are high and getting higher. Based on our 2020 year-end market report and 2021 forecast, this trend shows no signs of reversing, and that’s the main factor making the cost of living in Bend, Oregon significant.
Mirror Pond in Old Town Bend with view of Cascades Mountains.
Living in Bend, Oregon: A Place and a State of Mind
If you’re approaching Bend from the west, you’ll notice an immediate difference as you start to climb into the Cascades. Lush Pacific rain forest gradually gives way to pines, volcanic landscapes, and breathtaking vistas of water, mountains, and sky.
The air too begins to change. You’ll want to stop your car, step outside, and inhale the crisp, clear air for a few moments. You can almost taste the spaciousness, the vast, uncharted expanse of the American West.
We’re not just waxing poetic. It’s something you can take for granted after living here for a while, but if you’re thinking of moving to Bend, the first thing to do is just breathe the air. It could be love at first inhalation. Try the water, too: it’s some of the finest public drinking water in the world. These are some of the small but quite significant pleasures of living in Bend.
Of course, you won’t want to stop there. Bend is a place you need to explore to fully appreciate, whether it’s the hundreds of miles of singletrack that line the Cascades, the Deschutes River’s pristine waterways, or the well-trod pathways of the Bend Ale Trail. With 20 local microbreweries, it’s the biggest such route in the West.
If you’re in Bend, then you’re not far from adventure. And if you’re moving to Bend from somewhere a bit more domesticated, you may very well find that there’s more of an adventurer in you than you’d suspected.
People in Bend certainly know how to relax and enjoy themselves. The thing to keep in mind about living in Bend, though, is that there’s a definite culture of earning that relaxation. It’s the burgers and rounds of cold beer after coming down from a five-day backpacking trek in the Jefferson Wilderness area. There are beautiful views of the mountains all over Bend, but Bend’s residents know: it’s not enough just to look at and admire them. To know the mountains, you have to get out there and explore.
Burgeoning and experienced adventurers alike will have more than plenty to do. Try rock climbing at the world-renowned Smith Rock, or let Wanderlust Tours take you underneath the rocks for a spelunking experience you’ll never forget. Come wintertime, hit the slopes at Mount Bachelor. Even better, join a dog-sledding expedition.
For the stout of body and heart, you can also consider taking part in one of Bend’s many world-class outdoor athletic competitions, from trail running, cycling, and mountain biking to cyclocross, bouldering, multi-disciplinary races, kayaking, snowboarding, and, of course, beer runs.
You can certainly go at your own pace. But there’s a certain recognition here that it’s important to push the edge, if only just a little bit, and to have fun doing it.
What to See and Do Before You Move to Bend, Oregon
Before you commit to living in Bend, Oregon and start looking for real estate, you’ll likely want to check it out and see if the lifestyle is right for you.
You may be thinking: this outdoor stuff sounds pretty great, but it also sounds kind of like summer vacation. Maybe extreme feats of physical endurance aren’t your thing, or maybe they sound more like your day job than what you’d do for fun. Maybe all of it sounds like something a younger version of yourself might have enjoyed. Or perhaps your focus right now is on raising a family.
We understand. But we think you could still love it here, and so could your family. We’ve written elsewhere about why Bend (and Eugene) are two of Oregon’s best places for families.
Bend is small enough to provide a safe and close-knit community. At the same time, it’s big enough that your kids and even your teenagers will have plenty to do and plenty of opportunities to engage and to grow.
Bend’s spirit of exploration, adventure, and zest for life runs deeper than just the surface. You’ll find it everywhere you look, from Bend’s music and art scenes, its restaurants, festivals, shopping, to its top-notch parks and recreational opportunities.
And while there’s a lot of fun to be had in the wilderness surrounding Bend, you don’t even really need to leave town. Grab your inter-tube, kayak, or surfboard and hit the rapids at Bend Whitewater Park. Take your dog and yourself for a walk along the Deschutes River’s 12+ miles of pathways and trails then hit the food carts and taproom at The Lot. Stop at Thump Coffee for a delicious, locally-roasted pick-me-up.
Then, head down Galveston Avenue for a world-class yet locally sourced dinner at Ariana and start your trip down the Bend Ale Trail with a pint at 10 Barrel. Go deeper into Beer Country, follow the music to one of Bend’s many fine venues, or head up Pilot Butte to watch the sunset.
And all of that’s assuming that there aren’t any special events going on in town. Chances are actually good that there are. If you time it right, you’ll be able to catch one of Bend’s major music, microbrew, culinary, film, or city festivals. Though summer is festival season, there are plenty of special events to keep you busy during the spring, fall, and winter in and around Bend.
Okay, Where’s the Rub? Why Bend Might Not Be Right for You
We already mentioned the number one reason Bend isn’t the right place to live for everyone: it’s pretty dang expensive. We’ll talk more about the housing market below, but suffice it to say, competition is fierce. If you’re looking to get your foot in the door before you commit to buying, rentals are scarce in desirable locations, and prices are high.
We also hinted at another potential con of the Bend experience: it might feel a little too much like vacation. If you haven’t visited Bend yet, it’s worth reflecting upon the places you’ve enjoyed vacationing and whether or not you’d enjoy living in them year-round.
You might visit Bend in the summer and love it, but Bend in the winter is a bit of a different scene. We’re in the mountains, at close to 4,000 feet of elevation, and it snows. With that said, Bend gets occasional heavy snowfall, but it’s actually not too bad most of the time. We’ve prepared a full guide to what you can expect from Bend’s weather and climate.
Bend’s population is increasing rapidly, and that’s meant some growing pains. The topic of people moving to Bend from out of state is a controversial one, mainly because it has coincided with soaring home prices. Plenty of locals are feeling priced out, and even smaller markets in the Bend metro area like Redmond and Three Rivers are getting more expensive.
Apart from higher real estate prices, traffic is also getting worse, and crime has been on the rise, even if Bend is still significantly safer than most other places in Oregon. But Bend’s growth has also brought a lot of great new local businesses, a vibrant festival scene, and plenty of new people doing great things locally. People aren’t going to quit moving to Bend anytime soon, and for good reason.
Next Steps: Touring Bend Neighborhoods and Finding a Job in Bend, Oregon
At the end of the day, whether moving to Bend is right for you or not is a question of whether you can feel at home here. If the answer seems to be “yes,” the next step is to get more concrete about what it’s going to take to make a move here.
Nothing beats spending time in Bend to get a feel for what it’s really like to live there, and we suggest you plan for at least a week’s vacation. Going out on the town is an important part of any visit, but we also recommend that you tour neighborhoods and really get a feel for the possiblities. Neighborhood tours are actually one of the services we offer prospective clients – nothing beats having an experienced guide!
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Bend real estate market is a tough one for buyers. Some neighborhoods are more affordable than others, though. But if walkability, mountain views, and access to shopping, restaurants, and entertainment are important to you, there are a few obvious choices for Bend’s best neighborhoods.
Now, before you get too far into planning your move, it’s also important to address the elephant in the room – you’re going to need to find a job, unless you’re lucky enough to be transferring or are able to work remotely.
There’s good news on that front: Bend’s economy is growing just as much as its population, with a 5.8% increase over the past year. That’s way higher than the national average of 1.6%. In 2016, Forbes Magazine named Bend its Best Small City for Business and Careers.
Even so, Bend’s population is small enough that you’re probably going to want to get work lined up before you commit to living here. Otherwise, you’d better have plenty of money saved up. According to Zumper, the median rent for a one-bedroom unit in Bend is $1,795.
Navigating the Bend, Oregon Real Estate Market: Expect Competition
So you’ve decided that Bend is the right place for you and your loved ones, and all the necessary pieces line up. Now it’s time to start looking seriously at homes.
The issue in Bend, particularly in today’s market, is that homes are hard to find. In order to navigate the market, manage your expectations, and put in a winning offer, it’s definitely going to help to have a good real estate agent.
We mentioned earlier that the number one factor driving the high cost of living in Bend, Oregon is its housing market. There simply isn’t much inventory to go around, particularly following the unprecedented number of buyers that flooded the market in mid-2020 and into 2021.
As of May 2021, Bend’s available housing inventory weighed in at an extremely lean 0.7 months. Notably, new inventory is dominated by higher-end developments.
If you’re looking for affordable real estate in Bend, Oregon–something cheaper anyway than the $628,000 median reached in May of 2021–expect few choices and even stiffer competition. Again, living in Bend, Oregon comes with a steep price tag, Oregon’s lack of a sales tax notwithstanding.
Simply put, it’s a sellers’ market here, and you’re going to need an agent who is willing to knock on doors and create opportunities for you. We just happen to be the kind of agents who will do just that.
Check out our Why Work With Us page for the lowdown on what we do and how we like to do it.
If you’re still on the fence about whether the Bend life is the right life for you, we’re happy to set up a discussion where we can talk about the specifics of what you’re considering. Relocating is a big deal, and we won’t feel comfortable helping you find a home here unless we feel confident that it’s the right choice for you and your family. Contact our Bend office, and we will get the ball rolling.