Where to Live in Portland and the Surrounding Area

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Portland is a BIG little city with a lot of hearth and charisma. The city has an abundance of unique areas that offer both cozy and busy atmospheres. Generally speaking, if you are looking for a mellow landing spot, head to the east side of town, and if you are looking for action, nest in the north and southwest where you will find a faster-paced feel. However, every cardinal direction has a unique feel to it, while maintaining a distinct Portland vibe.

Portland’s cost of living is higher than the national average. In particular, houses are expensive in Portland proper. There is no sales tax in the state, but income tax rates are among the highest in the country. Many people who work in Portland look to the outlying areas in order to stretch their dollars. These cities include Beaverton, Gresham, or Vancouver, Washington.

Living in Downtown Portland

Downtown Portland is on the west side of the Willamette River. While much of the housing is condos, there are other options. The condos range from new high-rise developments to historic buildings that are more than 100 years old. You can get a 300 square-foot studio for $250,000, or spend $1.5-2 million on a 2,600 square-foot penthouse. The average cost of a two bedroom and two bath condo ranges from $600,000-$800,000.

There are detached homes on the west side of I-405 in neighborhoods like Kings Heights, Nob Hill, Goose Hollow, and Alphabet District. The average home in Portland runs around $349,000, which is far above the U.S. average of $222,408. Downtown prices are event higher.

Living on the Westside of Portland

The Westside includes Northwest Portland and Southwest Portland, near downtown. It is the area where the “bedroom communities” are located, which are also called the suburbs. Portland has very little new home construction, but when new homes are built, they are built on the Westside. Most of the homes in this area are less than 30 years old and include condominiums, patio homes, and single-family detached homes.

The demographics consist of young, affluent and diverse folks, and many of them work in the “Silicon Forest,” a high tech corridor along Highway 26. If you are looking for a big yard, you have very few options on the Westside, though many of the homes are huge, and the schools are great here.

Past west Portland, you will find the cities of Aloha, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, West Linn, and Wilsonville. These suburbs to the west of Portland have homes on large lots, have great schools, and are more affordable than homes in Portland proper.

Beaverton, in particular, began Portland’s urban sprawl. In the early 1970s, iconic businesses like Nike, Tektronix, and Intel planted roots in the area, as well as planted “literal” trees that would become known as the Silicon Forest. Beaverton’s suburban area grew from there, providing homes for the employees who worked at these companies and others. It was the first legitimate Portland suburb and now has a population approaching 100,000. The communities in Beaverton were planned, and it shows. The newest developments have huge homes on small lots with adjoining parks and community swimming pools. Typically, the homes cost $600,000 to $800,000.

In Aloha, homes are more affordable with starting prices at $350,000, but the city is further west past Beaverton. There was no planned development in the city and it is a mix of older homes with some rundown multifamily complexes. If you are looking west, Hillsboro is a much better option than Aloha, though it is further west along Highway 26 to the north and Oregon Route 8 on the southern border.

In particular, the residential community of Orenco Station in Hillsboro has a beautiful and progressive style from its homes to the overall area layout. The community has won numerous national design awards, and the residential areas, parks, retail, and entertainment is all within walking distance of one another. There are rows of town homes, apartments, and small family houses with tiny yards, picket fences, and garages in the rear. There are also condominiums with parking below ground and retail shops at street level. Public transportation takes residents to downtown Portland, and Orenco Station has more public transportation participants than any other community outside of Portland. There is a wide range of prices for housing in the community, but one bedroom condos run about $350,000 and detached homes reach $650,000.

Living in the Southwest Suburbs of Portland

The southwest suburbs of Portland include Tigard, Sherwood, Tualatin, and Wilsonville. Sherwood is a rapidly developing city with an old history that dates to the late 1800s. Homes average $375,000 to $600,000, the schools are great, and it has a superb collection of restaurants, shops, and antique stores. With only 20,000 residents, it is a small community with a lot of pride.

Tigard is bigger with just over 50,000 residents, and it is closer to Portland proper. The area has become a high technology hub, and growth had accompanied the development. Three bedroom and two bath homes built in the 1970s cost around $375,000, newly-constructed four-bedroom houses with 2.5 baths have prices around $550,000, and larger 4-5 bedroom homes run from $600,000 to $900,000.

Tualatin, which locals call “Tree City USA,” is a residential community of 27,000 people with a highly-rated school district. The Tualatin River runs through the cities core, adding natural beauty to a small amount of prestigious homes that cost around $800,000 and numerous, more modest homes built in the 1970s that run in the $350,000-$400,000 range.  

Finally, Wilsonville is the gateway to Oregon’s wine country. Located in the lush horticultural area of the Willamette Valley, the area now hosts high-tech companies that include Mentor Graphics, Tektronix, Xerox, and Flir, along with the Oregon Institute of Technology. The Willamette River flows through the city and its parks and gardens.

Wilsonville is 17 miles south of Portland, which is quite a haul for people who work in the city, but the farmlands and small acreage properties make it appealing to many people looking to get away from the city. Town homes start at $350,000, small family homes start around $400,000, larger homes get into the mid-$500,000-$600,000 range, and rural property runs from $700,000 to multi-million estates.

Living on the Eastside of Portland

The Eastside of Portland includes North Portland, Northeast Portland, and Southeast Portland, and contains older homes built between 1910 and 1950. The streets have the typical grid pattern, and these “Old Portland” style homes and bungalows sit along beautiful tree-lined streets and have detached garages that hide in the back. These homes comprise the “walking neighborhoods,” and the neighborhoods and houses have a certain charm about them. And Eastside is filled with small, individually owned shops and restaurants.

Along the major streets, the City of Portland allows five-story, multi-family buildings that usually have retail shops on the street level and apartments and condominiums above them. The area is a short distance to downtown, so many residents who work there ride bikes or take the bus. To 60th Street, the schools are good, but the further east you live, the quality drops quickly.

Clackamas and Happy Valley are two suburbs to the southeast of Portland. On the western edge of Clackamas, one will find Clackamas Town Center, which is Oregon’s largest indoor mall and other shopping centers along Interstate 205. Happy Valley is on the east side of Interstate 205, and until about a decade ago, it was comprised of mostly farmland. Now, new neighborhoods have cropped up from $500,000 homes to very high-end developments with views of Mount Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon. The area is growing quickly along with the traffic issues, making a long commute into downtown Portland even longer.

Living in Southeast Portland

Southeast Portland has great access to downtown, and Division Street in the southeast has become the Mecca for new restaurants. While it costs a lot to live in Southeast Portland, it is not as expensive as Northeast Portland. Homes in the southeast were built from the mid-1920s to the 1950s, and there is great variance in prices, but they start around $500,000 and reach a million dollars for large, remodeled bungalow home. The houses are unique and beautiful, but old, and are surrounded by neighborhood bakeries, coffee shops, music and bookstores, restaurants and pubs, which mostly run along the 30 blocks of Hawthorne Boulevard.

Also in Southeast Portland, the Sellwood Historic District is located just south of downtown right across the Sellwood Bridge. The homes in Sellwood were built in the very early 1900s and consist of a mix of Victorian mansions and more conservative working class homes. In the 1980s, the neighborhood was revitalized. It is now home to more than 30 antique stores, the Oaks Amusement Park, which is a Portland landmark, and the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Sanctuary, which runs along the river. The average price of homes in the Sellwood Historic District is $650,000.

The wealthy founders of Portland built beautiful bungalow homes with planted medians along winding streets in the Southeast Portland neighborhoods of Westmoreland, which is part of the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood, and Eastmoreland, which boasts a public golf course. The homes in this particular spot are highly desirable and run from $700,000 to $1.2 million.

Just south of Eastmoreland lies the city of Milwaukie. It borders the Willamette River on the west and has a large footprint. From the 1950s, Milwaukie began to grow from a few planned neighborhoods with large-treed lots to more homes on an as-needed basis. Since it grew in a hodgepodge fashion with no real plan, it has an eclectic look and feel, but many think that the ares is an unattractive as a result.

In 2015, the light rail reached Milwaukie, assisting folks who commute to downtown Portland. Then, when home prices skyrocketed in Southeast Portland, first-time buyers began looking to Milwaukie for more affordable prices. Older homes and new developments start at $300,000, and four-bedroom homes reach to $450,000. The schools are good in the north of the city and the ones in the south neighborhoods are improving. There are many bargain homes as well that need some love for those willing to put in the time for home improvements.

Living in North Portland

North Portland is where one will find the city’s most affordable housing. This once undesirable area has recently seen an infusion of investment and rejuvenation. As a result, the area has gained in popularity. North Portland runs along both sides of Interstate 5. On the west side, there is the University of Portland, and the neighborhoods of St. Johns and Kenton. Most of the homes in this area have less than 600 square feet, and larger homes are rare. However, some of the smaller footprint homes have renovated basements and attics to give them more space.

Originally meant to house shipyard workers, the North Portland homes now house a young, diverse generation of homeowners, who pay $325,000 to $600,000 for the property. The schools aren’t as good as Portland citizens find in the Northeast and Southeast.

Living in Northeast Portland

Northeast Portland is home to the Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden), Lloyd Center Shopping Mall, and several high-rise office buildings in the Lloyd District. Located on both sides of Interstate 84, the three most popular neighborhoods in Northeast Portland are Alameda, Irvington, and Laurelhurst. The large, beautiful, and expensive homes in these neighborhoods were built by early Portland’s upper crust, and they now run between $700,000-$1.2 million.

The Alameda/Grant Park area consists of older Tudor homes that are unique and architecturally interesting. The neighborhood has a great collection of trendy shops and a citizenry that is heavily involved with the community and schools. The Northeast Portland neighborhood of Irvington consists of mostly restored Victorian homes, and has a quaint downtown along NE Broadway. \

Along with the Moda Center and the Rose Quarter, you will find the Oregon Convention Center at the western edge. Within walking distance of most homes, there are clusters of small, indie restaurants. Only 30 percent of the residents of Irvington have children. Laurelhurst consists of 1,817 homes with Laurelhurst Park as its center. Unlike Irvington, Laurelhurst is a family community who live a slower-paced existence. Modest bungalows with big prices cost around $650,000 and large Georgian mansions at $1.2 million are typical of the neighborhood.

Living in Northwest Portland

Northwest Portland lies on the north side of Highway 26 and west of downtown Portland. The area provides great access to the Sunset Corridor, which houses the high-tech business community, as well as downtown. Just west of the city, the mountains rise up, and many of the homes in the area have speculator views of the range. Not only will you find executives homes from $750,000-$1.5 million, but Northwest Portland also has a few small acreage estates just outside the border that marks the urban growth boundary.

If you continue west, you run into the communities of Oak Hills and Rock Creek with homes that were built from the 1970s into the 1990s. These homes start at $550,000 for three bedrooms and two baths. There is also an upscale senior community for people 55 and older called Claremont. It lies on a premier knoll and has a fantastic private golf course and clubhouse. The light rail system serves the entire area.

A newer part of the area is called Bethany. It has good mix of residential and retail, great schools, and the community is affluent and diverse. In fact, several new neighborhoods dot the Northwest Portland neighborhood. However, the lots are small, so there is not much in the way of a yard. Most of the garages are at the rear of the house with access from an alley.

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