“Should I Move to Bend Oregon?”

“Should I Move to Bend Oregon?”

I left my urban existence behind and moved to Bend a year and a half ago. I love this place and I imagine I’ll love it for a very long time. When folks ask, “Should I move to Bend, Oregon?” I used to respond with an enthusiastic, “Do it!!! It’s amazing!!” But, the truth is, Bend isn’t for everyone. You kinda have to be ready to ease into the pace and vibe of Central Oregon. If you’re currently living in a big city, this is the post for you. Should you move to Bend, Oregon? It depends…

Should I move to Bend Oregon

If you’re on the fence about uprooting your life and heading this way, I can tell you a few things you should consider, though the best way to answer that question is to spend a week or two here. This place will either call to you or it won’t.

There are a few things that I’d tell my closest friends to consider before moving to Bend. Keep in mind that my non-Bend friends live in bigger cities by comparison. With a population of 80,000, Bend is still small potatoes.

Before you move, first, stop and think about what you enjoy most about big-city life. Chances are you won’t find it here. Be realistic about what you’re ready to leave behind.

Does Bend have….

  1. Ethnically diverse neighborhoods or ethnically diverse anything? Nope.
  2. Year-around access to world-class arts, music and cultural events? Nope.
  3. Easy access to a smorgasbord of Michelin Star chefs/restaurants? Nope.
  4. Nonstop flights to most major cities in the world? Definitely not. Bend’s airport has direct flights to 6 cities (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City). That’s it.
  5. A wide range of people from around the world, with varying viewpoints, customs, first languages, etc. Yeah, not so much in Bend.
  6. The ability to get just about anything you want, when you want it? Matzoh ball soup at midnight? Uh, you’d have to drive three hours to find a Jewish deli. If you just want a bowl of soup, good luck finding a kitchen open after 10 p.m. in this town. Your check at the end of dinner without flagging down your waitperson? Sorry, we can’t guarantee that. A bottle of artisanal tequila at 10:30 p.m. No dice. (You can only buy booze at state-owned liquor stores, and we have four, total, in Bend, and if it’s the right time of year, you might find one open until 10 p.m. After that, you’ll have to settle for beer or wine).
  7. An orgy of weekly farmer’s markets teeming with local produce any day of the week, any time of the year? Uh, no. Farmer’s market season around here is only June – September. We do have an awesome year-round farmer’s cooperative, Central Oregon Locavore, but this is the High Desert, we’re happy for what we can get in December, even if it’s not exactly a bountiful selection.

If the lack of any of these things will eat away at you, or induce whining once you live here, cross Bend off your list.

Be aware that if you get your heart broken here, or break a heart, or inadvertently make an enemy, the town can start to feel a little claustrophobic. You must be prepared to live in the same fishbowl with many of the same people, for a very long time. Which means you have to be nice, choose the people you associate with wisely and generally be accountable for any douchebaggery you either dish out or put up with. If you tend to burn bridges or leave a trail of alienated friends/lovers/business associates in your wake, Bend is a terrible choice for you.

If Bend is still singing its siren song in your dreams, make sure you’re ready to surrender to a simpler, small-town existence. For me, the benefits of living here FAR outweigh any drawbacks. I’ve written elsewhere about the things I love about Bend and those all still hold true. Yep, I love living here. People are friendly, it’s a gorgeous place to live, it’s more affordable (more on that in a second), it’s “real” — there’s not a lot of pretense. You can drink the tap water. You can hike, camp, kayak, ski, climb, run and bike your brains out. There’s plentiful street parking (except downtown on first Friday). It’s a relaxed life, totally free of traffic, smog and paparazzi.

Now let’s talk practical matters. First, I strongly suggest you either bring your own work with you (freelance, telecommuting, etc) or secure a job before you arrive. Bend is NOT the kind of place where you just show up and find something, unless you’re cool with a service industry job and can live on $12 an hour. Which you probably can’t.

Where to live? Well, that’s totally different for everyone. I like pre-War homes. You’ll only find those on the Westside, mostly in Old Bend and River West. But let me back up a bit. Bend is divided into the four basic quadrants: NW, NE, SW, SE. (The Eastside is more affordable, FYI). Here’s a map of the basic neighborhoods of Bend, courtesy of The City of Bend:

moving to Bend, where to live in Bend Oregon

You may be tempted to find some little cabin out in the woods, or in Sunriver, Redmond or Sisters. Don’t do it. Trust me. Settle in close to amenities and other people. You’ll be glad you did. If you can, choose a spot that has easy access to the awesome Deschutes River Trail. You think you’ll drive to it every day to hike, walk, bike, etc, but once the novelty wears off, you won’t. Oh and regarding driving, remember that right now, a 20 minute drive anywhere seems like a dream, like NOTHING. When you’ve lived here for 6 months, a 20 minute drive seems like an eternity and you’ll do just about anything to avoid being in your car for that long.

Should I Move to Bend Oregon?
The Deschutes River

If you’re buying a home, for a no-frills 2 – 3 bedroom starter home on the Eastside, think $200 – $300k (anything from cookie-cutter new construction to some funky ’70s and ’80s properties). If you want a nicer neighborhood or a home with some history/character, Westside properties start around $300k minimum ($500k if you want square footage and a view or a really fancy neighborhood), if you’re lucky and can find one. Inventory at this moment is pretty bleak.

If you’re renting, expect to spend $900 a month for a sweet but tiny studio apartment in a great location with hardwood floors and lots of light. At the other end of the spectrum, you can probably find a bland, carpeted, baseboard-heat, popcorn-ceiling apartment for $650 a month. For a well-maintained 2-bedroom house in a decent eastside neighborhood, think $1200 for starters.

Oh, and don’t expect anyone to return your calls when you call about rental properties. When you finally find a property in your price range that you like, you’ll be one of like 60 people who wants to rent it. You’ll have better luck dealing with landlord-managed properties than the rental agencies. When I was looking for a rental, I called and emailed about dozens of properties. 80% were represented by rental agencies. Not one single agency returned my call or email. Not one. I ended up buying the home I rented from the owner, so it’s not like I was an undesirable tenant, but that’s kind of how it works around here. You often have to beg people to give them your business/money. If this will drive you crazy, stay where you are. Most people moved here for a slower pace, and that includes the people who provide you with local goods and services. You get used to it, and, really, if you’re ready for Bend, you’ll relate to it.

So, should you move to Bend? Depends. Living here is a total joy for me, it’s my little corner of paradise… but I was ready for a simpler life. So, if you’re thinking about moving to Bend, just make sure you’re really ready for the semi-provincial life and are squared away with the income necessary to actually relax and enjoy all the natural wonders of Bend and Central Oregon. If you have a steady source of income, have the ability to see the small-townness of it all as charming and refreshing, and can play nice with the people you’ll be running into at yoga class, Newport Market, Back Porch, The Drake, Dojo and Barrio with alarming regularity, then do it. Settle in close to the Deschutes River and life will be pretty effing great.



17 thoughts on ““Should I Move to Bend Oregon?”

  1. My wife and I visited Bend July 2013 and instantly we knew this was the right place to be. We were fortunate to have a very reliable and knowledgeable real estate agent who helped us find the right house to buy. We are moving to Bend from Huntington Beach, CA in July 2015.
    Hello to Bend, goodbye to So. Cal forever!!

    1. Welcome to Bend, Frank! Hope you and your wife are settling in and enjoying this strange summer weather (I mean, hail when it’s 85 degrees outside? Pretty crazy, right?)

      1. Hello,

        What are your thoughts for a couple on their late 20s moving to Bend. We are sick of LA, Expensive, Traffic, pollution, taxes.. I can go on all night. We rarely go put anymore unless we go out for hiking or bike riding. Restaurants , I wish we could but I’m stuck in traffic for 1 hr an 20 min for 20 miles and no time is left. So we are more outdoors people. How safe is it to create family? And how are the school districts? Thank you in advance.

        1. Lum,

          It’s super safe here, at least in my neighborhood (NW Bend). And I can’t imagine a more idyllic childhood — and I grew up in Oregon, in the Valley, west of the Cascades. Bend is an amazing place to raise kids, a little oasis. And if you’re outdoorsy, I can’t imagine a better choice (maybe outside of Boulder?). I drove 20 minutes today for the most stunning trail run – up and down the cliffs along the Deschutes River in the Deschutes National Forest… I was pinching myself the whole way home. A raging river, waterfalls, geese, trails springy with fallen pine needles, marshes, snow flakes in the air, swans and frozen mini-lakes, all 20 minutes from my front door. The latest snowfall was last night and even in the vaguely remote river area where I was running, there were still bike tracks, so probably half a dozen people had ridden their bikes along that trail before I got there, even though it was 33 degrees. Yeah, we’re outdoorsy around here.

          I know nothing about school districts, but if the school options were terrible, I’d have heard about it. I think it’s pretty solid. I’ve been to events in the auditoriums of a couple of the local public high schools, and holy sh*t… they’re nice. Way nicer than my high school. Suggestion: Airbnb a place and check out the area for a 3 or 4 days. It will either fit or it won’t, you’ll know by the time you leave…

          1. Catrina, thank you so much for your help! You have no idea how happy it made me to hear from you. I hopefully get a job I applied. Again, thank you for your input and have a blessed holiday!

  2. I really appreciate your blog. I live in San Jose, California (the Bay area) but have family that lives in Bend/Redmond, so I’ve been familiar with Central Oregon for as long as I can remember. I’ve been seriously thinking about moving here lately though… And the lack of diversity and small-towny vibes have made me a bit apprehensive, but I think moving feels right to me at this moment. I’ve heard it’s hard to make friends here and all of that, and this might be a little odd but you seem pretty cool and I’d love to get coffee sometime! Bend outsiders must stick together haha.

  3. I’m seriously thinking about moving to bend. Found an awesome place with trails along a river, great mountain view, amazing house. But it’s 20 minutes outside of town. I don’t work anymore, so there is no job to commute to, just time with (new!) friends and driving to trailheads. Is the 20 minute drive really going to be a killer?

  4. Hey Catrina, thanks for the great blog and resources on Bend, OR.

    My wife and I currently live in Seattle and considering a move to Bend to be part of a smaller, active community. I’ve skiied Bachelor a few times and spent an evening in Bend, but tougher to get a read on things in the winter.

    Any insight on the vibe and weather during the summer would be greatly appreciated!


  5. I love this area but I have to admit that people in this area sure talk a lot of smack about people from California and are not better themselves. People who have grown up here do nothing but complain about how people from California or anywhere else for that matter are ruining the towns. If you are from California…keep it to yourself. They are just as bad if not worse as far as egos go. Get a grip central Oregon homegrowns! New people moving in means better jobs and more money! If you dont like it then move to eastern Oregon to be one with nature again

    1. “Better jobs and more money”!?!?!?! The only way this is a true statement is if you are a realtor. The “newcomers” haven’t brought any new jobs here, most are early retirees or sold their overpriced home somewhere else, have a cushion and don’t need to actually work.

      Bend used to be slow placed, no traffic and a generally happy place. I guess if one lives in the uber desirable and overpriced per sqft NW part of town things may seem peachy. However, if you live in one of the MANY congested and multiple family house hoods, its not quite the same picture.

      Bend is still a great place, I haven’t left…yet. Everyday Bend is becoming more and more like Boulder, Vail, etc… Overpriced and full of the wealthy elite. It is VERY hard to find a job here that allows one to purchase a home. The medical field being great and realty, other than that one will be working a service/hospitality job that earns 10-13 bucks an hour.

      I guess i’m a bitter local. I remember the Old Mill as a running mill and the days before the Parkway were great. It’s hard to forget the days of totally empty trails and the ability to get into a restaurant with no wait, having to listen to vacationers swoon about the area and how they should move here..ugh, it gets really old.

      No amount of complaining from the few true locals will keep new folks from coming, enjoy it while it lasts and pack out what you pack in.

  6. Well as a resident of Bend and active in the Real Estate market here I have to say that only some of the authors comments are correct. Visiting for a week is nice and will give you a slight idea of what the area offers but in reality you need to spend a lot of time here, as in live here to find and fully enjoy the many faces of Bend & Central Oregon.

  7. While I would admit the west side has it’s frills, don’t count out the east side or think you’re “settling” by buying/renting on the east side. My husband and I (both late 20’s, active, trail runner types) set out to find a home in what we considered the most desirable area of Bend… the southeast (Old Farm District) on the edge of town. We found a unique, late 80’s (fully updated) home on a half acre lot with mountain views for 300k that would have easily cost 500K+ on the west side (but without the views). We chose this area because we wanted easy access to trails in the Deschutes National Forest (in the southwest) in summer/fall and Bachelor in the winter, and we wanted to be minutes away from the awesome trails off China Hat road in the winter/spring (when all of the west side trails are socked in with snow). I think every neighborhood in Bend has something to offer, depending on the vibe you want and what you want to be close too. Though I will say, we are farther away from Versante Pizza than I care to be, but maybe they’ll follow the restaurant trend and open a location on the east side.

  8. Catrina,
    Do you have any friends or family working for the Bend La Pine School District? My husband and I are contemplating a move back to Bend OR after 15 years of being in So Cal. Interested to hear thoughts on teaching jobs in this area.

  9. Cat,
    I noticed that your blog was created in 2014. Do you feel that it’s time you updated it? Seems to me, and I bought a home here in 2014, that Bend has taken one large step in terms of growth. Feels like there’s more entertainment, more places to eat, and even late night joints. My wife and I often find ourselves out at 10PM and there are at least three or four places we can get decent food. Granted, some are bars, but the quality of food seems pretty good.

  10. As someone who dines out often, and participates in local theater, (I put on shows in town) I’m glad to add my two cents, if you need it. Just as Bend rates third in per capita for coffee joints nationwide, I bet it ranks pretty high for restaurants. I’m picky, and between the first rate bar food and higher end dining, it’s getting hard to get a bad meal in town, excluding the chains of course.

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