How to Move to Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon is frequently listed as one of the best places in America to live -- and for good reason: the city is distinguished by its eco-consciousness, superb urban planning, moderate climate, outdoor activities, and laid-back pace. It's no wonder the city has become a prime destination for those who want a high quality of life with a reasonable cost of living. Unfortunately, a growing population -- and plunging economic state -- make moving to Portland potentially difficult and expensive. If you're serious about relocating to the "City of Roses," follow these steps so you're thoroughly prepared.

Don't move to Portland without a job -- or enough money in the bank to get you through at least six months without income. It may seem easy enough to move to Portland and seek employment once you arrive, but the city's job market is one of the most brutal in the country: its unemployment rate is second only to Detroit. Jobs are hard to come by, and most are filled by "word of mouth" before even reaching job sites or the newspaper classifieds. Don't assume you can beat the odds, or you may quickly find yourself in a tough financial situation. Do yourself a favor, and wait until you have a secure job before relocating.

When it comes to getting that job, your best bet is to visit Portland and apply in person. Because Portland is such a desirable city, employers get flooded with applications from people all across the country who want to relocate. You can give yourself a leg up by taking a trip to Portland directly, and meeting employers face-to-face. Being in the city can also help you find jobs that are only advertised locally.

If you're moving from a sunny area, consider whether Portland's climate will be a problem. Though the city features dazzling, sunny summers, Portland is generally overcast and damp for the other three seasons, with sparse sun breaks and dark winters. Such a climate appeals to many people, but consistent lack of sun can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in certain individuals, which is characterized by depression and lethargy. If you find your mood closely linked to the climate, it may be worthwhile to visit Portland for an extended time during the winter; this way you can decide whether or not Portland's weather will be a problem for you.

Find out which neighborhood is right for you. Portland is divided into four quadrants: northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. Each area has distinctive qualities, different crime rates, diverse amenities, and unique neighborhoods. Before you settle on a place to buy or rent, explore Portland's different neighborhoods so you can find the neighborhood to best suit your needs. If you don't want to live in Portland proper, you can also check out Portland's suburbs, such as Beaverton, Hillsdale, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, and Gresham.

Enjoy Oregon's lack of sales tax, but remember that it's made up in other ways! Depending on where you're moving from, Oregon's income tax may be much higher than what you're used to. When applying for jobs, remember to consider how much of your paycheck will go to taxes; this will help you gauge whether a salary will be enough to live on or not.

Consider using a bike or public transportation for commuting. Portland is known for its bike-friendliness and excellent public transportation, which includes an extensive bus system, light rail, and streetcar. Going car-free -- at least some of the time -- can save you money, and also the grief of getting stuck in Portland's traffic.

When you get to Portland, make an effort to join clubs, social organizations, and meet-up groups that cater to your interests. Even though Portland is known for its friendly citizens, many Portlanders already have established social circles, making it difficult for newcomers to make new friends. Being proactive about socializing can help. So can scouting out other recent "transplants" who are also trying to find a social circle.


  • Keep in mind that even though Portland's cost of living is fairly low, wages tend to be low as well. Don't be surprised if a job you find in Portland pays considerably less than the same job elsewhere. Though Portland's climate does tend to be moderate, there can be heat waves in the summer and ice storms in the winter. Be prepared to encounter unexpected weather conditions.