About 25,000 people moved to Oregon between 2020 and 2021, according to data out of Portland State University. While that represents a slowdown, the state’s balance of remote outdoor opportunities and creative urban centers still entices new residents. Close to half the state is covered by forest, making it an ideal place for anyone who enjoys spending time away from big-city traffic and noise. For the amateur sommeliers, this state also has you covered: There are more than 750 vineyards here. If you’re planning to get closer to the Pacific Coast, here are our picks for the best places to live in Oregon.
Best places to live in Oregon in 2022
Job market: 9/10
If you spend a lot of time on your bike, you might just want to pedal to Corvallis and set up shop forever. The home of Oregon State University is the most bike-friendly city on our list, and edged Portland out of our top spot this year. While it only has around 60,000 residents, Corvallis is still one of the biggest cities in the state — a reflection of that fact that Oregon is less about hustle-and-bustle and more about calm-and-chill.
When you’re off your bike, line up a designated driver to help you tour what makes the region attractive to so many visitors: the wine scene in the Willamette Valley. The city also boasts the lowest unemployment rate of any of the cities on this list, thanks to major employers like OSU and Hewlett-Packard.
Job market: 8/10
When you think of Portland, your mind might turn to the city’s culture — craft breweries, bike-friendly streets and a music scene that goes toe-to-toe with those in Nashville and Austin. While all that is indeed true, the city’s places to play are matched by an equally impressive number of places to work. Major businesses like Intel, Nike, U.S. Bank and Boeing all have centers of operation here.
You’re also just an hour-and-a-half drive from the rocky Pacific coastline, but you don’t have to get in the car to take in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. The city ranks in the top 10 on The Trust for Public Land’s list of cities with best access to parks. Housing here isn’t cheap, but it’s generally more affordable than other major West Coast hubs like Seattle and San Francisco, without the sacrifice of big-city energy. If you’re thinking of calling Portland home, consider the surrounding area, too, which includes Hillsboro (Intel just expanded there), Beaverton (home to Nike’s corporate headquarters) and other suburbs with access to downtown.
Affordability: 3/10 (Bend), 6/10 (Redmond)
Job market: 7/10
If you want to trade traffic and skyscrapers for biking and ski slopes, it’s time to head to Bend. This home to Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus has become a shining star in the shift to remote work: LinkedIn’s recent study of the most work-from-home-friendly places put Bend in the top spot for small cities. While it’s a city of just over 100,000 residents, it has big opportunities to enjoy life, with skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking and fishing. If you can do it outdoors, you can probably do it in Bend.
You’ll notice that Bend is also tied with its smaller neighbor to the north. Redmond has roughly 30,000 residents (and growing), and the median cost of buying a home here was around $468,000 as of the end of 2021 — more than $240,000 cheaper than Bend, according to data from Redfin. Plus, if you’re a frequent flier, Redmond makes life easier: The regional airport is located here.
Job market: 7/10
Salem is one of the largest cities in the state, and it offers one main attraction for your budget: It’s the most affordable place on our list to buy a home. In fact, if Portland is at the top of your list but the cost is too much of a stretch, Salem might be a viable alternative. The Amtrak Cascades line runs multiple times each day, giving you a commuting option to Portland without the need to focus on the road.
When you’re back at home in Salem, you’ll have easy access to the outdoors. If you’re looking for something less grueling than a hike, stroll downtown along the Willamette River or visit a range of museums and historical landmarks before raising a beer, wine or a cider — the city has no shortage of tasting rooms.
Job market: 7/10
Further south along the Willamette River, you’ll find one of America’s great college towns: Eugene. Whether you want to cheer on the Ducks at a University of Oregon game or put your own athletic prowess to the test in Tracktown USA, this city offers the vibe of Portland in a smaller setting.
That smaller setting comes with a lower price tag if you’re hoping to buy a home, too. With a median home price of $440,000 (as of December 2021, Redfin reports), Eugene manages to be one of the more affordable cities to call home in Oregon.
We looked at data from the biggest cities in Oregon to get a clear picture of where you’re likely to find employment opportunities while also enjoying your time away from the office. What makes a city ideal for you will not be a perfect match for someone else, but there are common factors most everyone looks for when searching for a new place to call home. We assessed these areas:
- What it costs – We compared each city’s cost of living data from the Economic Policy Institute with per capita personal income from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to get a sense of how far a dollar can stretch. Then, we considered year-over-year home price data from real estate brokerage Redfin to learn where the real estate market is especially competitive.
- How it feels – We looked at overall wellbeing based on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index; employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (as well as the leading companies that are headquartered or have big operations in these places); culture and outdoor opportunities based on information from each city’s convention and visitors bureau; and safety, including crime rates. (While crime data for the city of Corvallis was not available, county-level data shows that residents there generally feel safe.)
- Who’s moving there – All of these cities have experienced positive net migration in the past year, which means that more people have been moving in than moving out.
Keep in mind: This list is simply a place to start for your search. Oregon is a state full of smaller cities and towns — in fact, there are just six cities with more than 100,000 residents. Consider what you value when choosing a location, such as access to the downtown energy of Portland or the ability to disconnect in the quiet wilderness. While you’re comparing different places to call home, compare multiple mortgage lenders, too, to figure out who can help you become a homeowner in Oregon.