Portland, OR vs. Vancouver, WA? (Salem, Beaverton: appointed, sales, condo)
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Ok I have seen a lot of these posts but none that have really helped us with our quest to move out West! So bare with me if this is a repeat thread! We currently live in Chicago in the Andersonville neighborhood. No kids, 2 dogs. No plans to have kids. We both are in our mid 30's. Wife is a teacher at a really good school and tenured. I have a good sales job and we make well over 100K a year. The problem you ask? We want a house. And the only way to afford a house is to move to the suburbs of Chicago. Not sure if any of you are familiar with the suburbs of Chicago, but they are BORING and cookie cutter. Nothing to do. You can't walk anywhere. You have to drive everywhere. And no personality. They are just that..suburbia. We are also sick of the weather out here. 6 months of crap Winter. I don't mind the cold or rain, but the midwest Winters are the worst. Below 20 degrees with wind chill and all that crap for months and months. I don't mind grey and cold, but the below temps and crap snow/ice is brutal..Here is the thing we like about Chicago. We go to a lot of shows (most indie bands play here), there are a ton of good restaurants, downtown is only 10 minutes away, our neighborhood is an actual treelined street and quiet so it doesn't feel like the city but still is in the city, so it is cultural and not mega suburbia. There are tons of local bars and pubs and places to go if you want to. AND there is actual public transportation if we want to take it.
We have friends that live in Portland and I have been there once and I loved it. So I have been looking to see if we can actually afford the move and make a living out there! I want to be close to the mountains and ocean. The more I read the more I am understanding that either Portland or Vancouver are the way to go but there are mixed reviews. First off would it be hard for my wife to find a teaching position and what is a typical teachers salary in either Portland Or Vancouver? Portland is sounding overpriced and Vancouver sounds affordable but sounds like the western suburbs of Chicago. We want decent house with a backyard, and I would like to be able to buy for around $200,000 - $300,000 with the option of public trans to go downtown and kind of close to restaurants bars and grocery stores. And also would like the urban feel of the city but in a decent neighborhood. I know it's a laundry list of things to want, but we have most of that in Chicago, minus the brutal winters, and no mountains or ocean!
We live in Northern Michigan, but have family in the Chicago area (West burbs) as well as Portland. In fact, my husband's brother is in Portland. We lived in OR for many years, before moving here to be closer to family, and now are looking at moving back. In fact, DH has applied for jobs both in Portland and Vancouver.
As far as winters, I personally prefer winters here, except that they're too long. The snow actually reflects a LOT of light back at you, and makes things better. Chicago actually gets quite a bit of sun during the winter, compared to Portland. But in general Portland will be MUCH milder winter-wise, if that's what you're looking for.
I agree that the suburbs of Chicago are incredibly boring. DH's dad used to live in Oak Park, and it was SO much nicer visiting when he was there vs the suburbs. We got to "Chicago" 3-4 times a year, and my kids have still never seen hardly anything that Chicago is famous for. It's just too long to drive there from the burbs. They didn't' even believe that there were skyscrapers until we decided one time to drive into the city "on our way our". That detour added a few HOURS to our trip! Chicago is just so incredibly BIG!
You just wont' find that true in Portland. You'll think that the entire metro area of Portland is one "burb" in Chicago. No matter where you live you'll be in close driving distance to Portland. Lots are much smaller there. Don't expect a home with a big yard.
And yes, Oregon is so beautiful, you can't even compare it to Chicago.
As to teaching, the schools in Oregon have been suffering for years. Most teachers I know there burn out fast. In the Portland area there are some good schools, so she may have some options. OTOH I'd think that those schools have very little teacher turn-over. But your perspective coming from Chicago may be totally different. If she teaches inner city Chicago, Portland schools may seem like a cake walk. The big issue is funding though.
As far as income, I know tons of people who make less who've done fine in Portland. Our income is far less than 100K and one reason we left Oregon was so that I could afford to stay home with my kids. It's do-able here, but not so much out West.
Oh, and I think the schools are better in Washington. Houses cheaper too, but no sales tax in OR, but 9% income tax. It's a trade-off. Vancouver doesn't sound like what you're looking for though.
Thank you for the reply Bluebird! I forgot to ask everyone if you can suggest areas to look in for houses in Vancouver or Portland that fit any of the criterias above mentioned? I also don't mind "suburbs" as long as they are within reach of most of the things above and maybe up and coming?
The Belmont neighborhood might work for you as well as Lloyd district. Sellwood East Moreland and Laurelhurst would as well, but I think you would be priced out. I don't think Vancouver is what you are looking for since it is more suburbia-ish, I think. All the culture is in Portland and traffic stinks over the bridge.
You could also head out to the burbs towards Orenco station (Hillsboro). It is more cookie cutter out there (but nice cookie cutter) and it is on the max line so you can be downtown quickly.
A teaching position will be difficult. Teachers are being layed off due to the recession and lack of funding. If she is a special education teacher she might have a shot, but otherwise I'm not sure she could find a job.
As for you, Oregon is at 12.2% unemployment. Portland is a bit less than that, but there are a lot of sales people that got laid off and are looking for jobs. Unless you have a really specific degree and do medical sales or something, it will be tough for you.
I grew up in Illinois and went to Northwestern. I lived in the Portland west Hills for 10 years before moving to Salem. I like the weather here significantly better. I have no problems with our lack of snow in the valley because I can go to the mountains to get my fix. I have no problems with the gray in the winter because everything is green, unlike Illinois where it is dead looking.
As for a decent sized lot...what makes Portland so great, it's compactness, is due to urban growth boundaries (which all Oregon cities have). Lots are SMALL out here. If you want a house out here, you'll have to accept a small lot in that price range. No Chicago-esque sprawl comes with a price, and that is small lots. Homes with larger lots go for a premium because of the land restrictions here. If you like the outdoors at all, you will find that a small lot is not a big deal. You'll be taking your dogs up to Mt. Hood and hiking anyway.
Vancouver is basically a bedroom community to Portland, its very suburban and quite boring....but some people like it so I wont begrudge them for living there. "The Couve" is nowhere near reachable to anything...and there is major (by Oregon standards) traffic over the bridges....kinda a pain in the arse. I would advise against Vancouver in my opinion.
Portland has huge unemployment problems right now, and you and your wife's combined income will not be nearly what you made in Chicago, bare this in mind. You may have already done all the financial research and it pencils out....but better to error on the side of caution I say.
Look in these areas,
Southeast (Hawthorne, Mt, Tabor, Woodstock, Sellwood)
North (around the UofP, Foster Road, Alberta, Belmont, NE Broadway) sorry its been about 4 years since I left and my directions may be a little cloudy.
Stay away from...(Not because there is anything wrong or dangerous...at all, just much more suburban) Beaverton, Tigard, Milawaukie.... Those are all fine places and perfectly nice areas...just not areas you would walk around to anything in....
Portland is great town, not a big city, so dont expect those things and you wont be disappointed. I always love the people that move to Portland and then complain because it's not New York.....uh, yes, exactly.
Any specifics, Im happy to help, send a DM and I will give you some more info...
Thank you everyone for your input it is much appreciated. 5, thank you for the specific areas to look...We are trying to consider the $$ factor as I know pay isn't as high in Portland (as I have heard) BUT isn't the cost of living cheaper then Chicago? It has to be...Chicago is so friggin' expensive. We bought a 900 Sq. foot condo for $270K. Our taxes are through the roof and sales tax alone is 10.25% They are talking about uping income tax 50% too....But there are less jobs I imagine in Portland as well..I'm happy to make less money, all I want to be able to do is afford our mortgage and have a enough left over for to live. We are very non-materialistic people but of course we worry about leaving our nice jobs here and not being able to find new jobs! We also aren't worried about a big city. We rarely go into downtown Chicago as it is right now, we usually stick around the great neighborhoods surrounding the city where the more real bars and venues are. We are not interested in clubs and all that bulls**t. Just good neighborhood restaurants, shops, bars and things like that within distance...
It sounds like you want to be close to downtown. Vancouver is not close to downtown and the commute can be pure hell.
There are nice Portland neighborhoods just east of the river that have lot's of character. However the large midwest style backyards are pretty rare here but can be found at a price. (you better plan for $300+). The neighborhoods east of the river represent easy access to downtown. (MAX line, buses, bike or car)
This area is not utopia. At 12%+ unemployment there are no jobs, cost of living and taxes are high. We also get 6 months of crap weather. It's primarily gray, overcast and wet but when we get an artic cold spell and 50 mph gorge winds it'll remind you of Chicago's worst.
Boredom/happiness isn't generally cured by a move. It usually comes from within.
Thanks Dave, I don't mind the 6 months of grey and wet at all..or the occasional artcic cold spell. I am referring to the Midwest below 0 that we get here months on end. And we aren't bored or unhappy here, but if you knew the western suburbs of Chicago (which you might) you would know why we don't want to move there because yes we probably would be bored and unhappy because there is NOTHING around...The point is I want to be near the mountains and ocean but still be able to afford a "city" like atmosphere. And I realize we would not be able to afford a large midwest backyard even a backyard at all is lucky to find here in the city so not a big deal there...just A backyard at all would be nice
One thing to think about, is that while of course you would not move here without first securing a job, there is the very real possibility that you could lose that job since so many companies are folding. So you should look into the employment situation (12.2% here) to determine how the job market is. You may want to consider this.
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