Where to live in Portland

Updated 2023-10-04 07:07

Portland is one of the nation's greenest cities, known for lush foliage and a commitment to sustainability. With a strong eco-conscious culture, it's a walkable city equipped with efficient transit — buses, light rail, and extensive cycling paths. Yet, the city's surging popularity poses housing challenges; expats should begin their search early due to low rental vacancies. While Portland is progressive, note that its diversity levels aren't the highest among American metros.

For general advice on searching for a home and signing a lease in the United States, see the article Accommodation in the USA.

Where to live in Portland: Neighborhoods

One of the most important things to remember when choosing a neighborhood in Portland is that downtown isn't the only area that offers a walkable lifestyle. Most cities require a car the further you get from the center, but Portland's walkable neighborhoods are equally spread. The city is grouped into five major zones which appeal to different lifestyles and stages.

North Portland

Formerly industrial, now revitalized with cool eateries and boutiques, North Portland is connected to downtown by light rail. It offers a mix of houses and condos and is favored by young professionals, creatives, and blue-collar workers.

Northwest Portland

Affluent area with restored Victorian homes, luxury lofts, gourmet markets, and upscale shopping, Northwest Portland is embraced by renters and families, rich in elegance and charm.

Southwest Portland (Downtown)

Encircled by the Willamette River, Southwest Portland is home to Oregon Zoo and Portland State University. Abounds with dining, shopping, Saturday Market, and cultural venues. It is best for singles or those seeking a bustling city center experience.

Southeast Portland

Evolving from bohemian roots to modernity, Southeast Portland is marked by rising rent prices and diverse cuisine. It offers new condos and a top public school district. Housing blends bungalows and luxury apartments.

Northeast Portland

Ethnically and culturally rich, Northeast Portland has eclectic shops, eateries, and known retailers. High-ranked public schools appeal to families, young couples, and singles alike.

Accommodation and cost of living in Portland

Portland's rental market mirrors the intensity of urban hubs like New York and San Francisco. Proximity to high-demand areas often results in reduced space and heightened costs. Housing options in Portland include apartments, townhomes, and single-family houses, with expenses varying across types and neighborhoods.

The average Portland apartment rent is $1,763 for an approximately 800-square-foot space. Studios offer affordability, while one-bedroom units align closely with the average. More space comes with a premium for two- and three-bedroom apartments. Suburban areas lean towards single-family homes, while townhouses dot the cityscape.

Apartment leases in Portland commonly include water, gas, trash services, and maintenance, though inclusion varies by owner. Heating systems and key appliances, like refrigerators and stoves/ovens, are typical. While Portland boasts walkability, driving remains prevalent; thus, parking is often provided, accommodating both pedestrians and motorists.

Here are a few other things to consider when renting in Portland:

  • The majority of rentals are smoke-free. According to Oregon's Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA), smoking is not allowed within 10 feet of any entrance, exit, window, or air intake vent of any apartment building. Moreover, most property management companies won't allow any kind of smoking in their rentals, including vaping and marijuana;
  • Get ready to decide fast: Portland has a very fast-paced rental market. So much, in fact, that many properties are rented out the same day as they are listed. There is thus a chance that you may spend the day viewing apartments only to discover that some of the options you've seen are already gone by the end of the day;
  • Do a walk-through: Even though apartments in the city go very fast, it is still very important to see the place you are considering renting yourself to make sure that everything is as described in the lease. If you can't view the property yourself, consider asking a friend or colleague for help;
  • Check the guest policy: Before signing the lease, inquire about the guest policy: Are you allowed to have long-term guests (partner, family, friends, etc.)?
  • If you are a student or parent, review the guarantor clause: A guarantor of a lease is someone who will be liable for rent payments if the renter can't fulfill their obligations. This clause is often required when renting to students with parents asked to serve as guarantors;
  • Get all the essentials in writing: If your lease comes with specific rules and regulations, it's best to get all of these in writing so that you have clear guidelines in case of a dispute;
  • Get a professional consultation. If you have more questions or doubts about your lease, it may be best to get a professional opinion. Consulting a lawyer can help ensure that your tenant rights are protected and that the lease you are signing is legally correct.

Life in Portland

Portland is a favorite with outdoor enthusiasts with its vibrant garden havens, with easy access to the International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, and picturesque Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Beyond the city limits, there is some real, rugged nature to contend with, with Mt. Hood and the Oregon Coast both easily reachable, offering skiing, camping, and kayaking escapes. The culturally inclined will revel in the city's artistic offerings, boasting the Portland Opera, Oregon Symphony, and a flourishing ballet scene. The culinary landscape is equally tempting, positioning Portland as an up-and-coming spot for boutique restaurants, local produce, and seafood.

Portland's climate features warm, dry summers and moist winters. August claims the hottest average of 27°C (around 80°F), while winters remain gentle with lows around 4-9°C (roughly 39-48°F). Although generally mild, occasional snow or ice storms punctuate winters. Cloud cover is a hallmark, with just around 68 clear days annually and consistent rainfall gracing the months from November to February.

Useful links:

Oregonian housing ads
Craigslist - Portland housing ads
City of Portland - Crime map
Free and almost free things to do in Portland

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