First Time Buyer Chronicles, Part 3: Choosing Where to Live


Anna ErwertMy husband Scott loves sleek, modern, capacious spaces. Since he’s a painter, he wants walls of glass, as much light as possible to soak the interiors. If we didn’t have a dog that we treat with as much affection and attention as an actual human child, we’d be living in a loft. And if we had all the money in the world, it would probably be in Greenwich Village or Paris. Or, we could have stayed in San Francisco where we’d rented for over a decade.

But that dog wants a yard and a low traffic street to live on. And our incomes want a lower average cost of living. We want the art, culture, natural beauty, and intelligent community we’d grown used to. We want decent proximity to ocean and mountain, open spaces, ecology minded growth, and quality education.

 And we wanted to be able to afford a house. A cute one. Big enough for us, our stuff, and of course, the doggy.

When we moved to Portland, OR last fall, the median asking price for a home in the metro area was a smidge over $258K. For that price, we could get 2 or 3 bedrooms in a neighborhood offering all those things we wanted, most of them within a mile’s walk. My San Francisco friends looked at the photos of houses I sent to them and responded with disbelief. “What, a whole house for only $220K? What’s the catch? Is it built on buried dead people?”

I could understand their confusion. I’d lived in San Francisco too, after all. I know what real estate costs there, and I know that unless my friends split a winning multi-million dollar lottery, none of them will likely  buy in that city. These are teachers, nurses, administrative assistants for non-profits.  If they ever want to stop renting, they’ll  probably have to leave San Francisco.

Portland may or may not lure them. Californians seem to think Portland is a city shrouded in 24 hour rain, where the sun nary makes an appearance, but I suspect this folklore was started by Portlanders themselves who don’t want a bunch of California people to immigrate here and drive up real estate prices.

This cartoon says it all for me:

life in Oregon


I did have to leave family and friends to come here, and that was the hardest part about moving, even harder than the physical and mental stress of an inter-state relocation. Basically, deciding where to live is a highly personal, heavy decision to make. Talk to friends, family, your partner. Make some calls to local agents for the most recent, most accurate inside scoop on lifestyle, cost of living, and employment options.  Visit these places and stay long enough to feel what living there might be like.

Finally, sleep on it. If you see yourself in a new place in your dreams and you wake up smiling, that’s definitely a place you should consider.