It’s not exactly news: people are moving to Bend from all across the United States. Whether it’s the mountain air, opportunities for outdoor recreation, or myriad lifestyle perks, Bend has become more and more of a destination in recent years.
As of October of 2019, Bend was the nation’s 2nd fastest-growing city. In early 2019, Bend had the highest percentage of remote workers in the nation. It’s since slipped in the rankings, but the pandemic has only brought more remote workers here.
So, why is Bend so popular? There are a lot of great reasons to consider moving to Bend – but there are also some potential cons to be aware of. This isn’t a tourist brochure: to find out whether it’s the right place for you and your loved ones, you’ll need to do your homework.
We work extensively with people relocating from out-of-area, and we’ve designed our site to be a source of clear, detailed information. Read on as we take a basic tour of what it’s like to be here and what you need to consider before moving to Bend.
Life 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.
That may sound a bit dramatic, but 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 run-of-the-mill, 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.
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 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.
Bend Population and Bend Demographics
We mentioned already that Bend is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. As recently as the early 90s, Bend was a sleepy little mill town with about 20,000 people.
Fast forward to 2022, and Bend has an estimated population of 108,824 people. That makes it the 5th largest city in Oregon.
Bend’s population, indeed, is one of the things that makes it unique.
On one hand, Bend has a lot of the flavor of a resort-slash-vacation-destination vibe that you’d get from places like Lake Tahoe and Aspen.
On the other hand, Bend is a small but thriving city, with all of the cultural, shopping, culinary, and other opportunities that implies.
In terms of Bend’s demographics, the average age is right in line with the U.S. national average. Bend is a destination for young folks and retirees alike. There’s something for everyone, as long as you can afford the price of admission (more on that later.)
Bend-ites are, on average, more educated than the national average, with 44% possessing a Bachelor’s degree or higher and 16% possessing a graduate degree.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics like Bend’s general vibe, population, and demographics, let’s take a look at the considerations you’ll want to make before you make a move to Bend.
What to See and Do Before You Move to Bend, Oregon
Before you commit to living in Bend 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.
That’s understandable, and really all of the above is just one facet of life in Bend.
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, and 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.
But no matter what’s going on in town, Bend is just a nice place to live – if you can afford to live here, that is. It’s a destination for retirees, young professionals, and families alike.
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.
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 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. If you’re interested, 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.
How to Relocate to Bend – First Steps
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 the 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 visit.
Going out on the town is an important part of any fact-finding expedition, but we also recommend that you tour neighborhoods and really get a feel for all the possibilities. Neighborhood tours are one of the many services we offer prospective clients – nothing beats having an experienced guide!
Some neighborhoods are more affordable than others. 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 $1,650 as of November, 2021.
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. Recently, inventory has climbed somewhat, following the steep mortgage rate increases we saw in 2023. But it’s still a very competitive housing market, especially at more affordable price points.
If you’re looking at, say, a sub-$600k price point (Bend’s median sale price through 2023 was $720,000), 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.
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, wherever you are in your decision-making process.