With the rise of social media, the culture of the Pacific Northwest has become novelty. Fancy toast, socks with Birkenstocks, shopping local, the hashtag #liveauthentic, and other PNW-isms are influencing our lifestyle. Imagery of the Oregon coast, lush forests, and mountain ranges draw in visitors from across the world. But did you know that along with this rich culture and natural beauty there is also a strong sense of community, competitive job market, and temperate climate? Rainy days, granola stereotypes and all, the PNW continues to be the latest destination for transplants from all over country. But is it right for you? A short visit is the best tool in making this decision… but, at the very least, consider the following before you reserve your U-Haul.
If you’re looking for a home devoid of unpredictable, natural disasters, the Pacific Northwest may not be calling your name. Ranging from Northern California to British Columbia, the Cascadia Subduction Zone leaves the PNW at risk for the “Big One”. In short, the PNW is due for a massive earthquake or tsunami. So when you pack your bags, be sure to include an emergency survival kit… just in case.
The Pacific Northwest is also notorious for its grey skies and heavy rainfall. In fact, this region experiences over 150 days of rain a year and, on occasion, weeks without sun. But don’t let that scare you off! While there is plenty of rain, there is very little snow. Temperatures in the winter rarely drop below freezing, but you can still enjoy winter activities by escaping to the nearby mountains.
The seasonal climate also brings beautiful fall color and welcoming spring blooms. Summer is the season that really brings this region to life, providing residents with perks that make the dreary winters worth it: long days, sunshine, warm temperatures, and low humidity.
Another point to consider before trekking to the northwest is the housing market. Will you purchase a home? Will you rent? The answer to these simple questions may determine where you would choose to live. For example, homes in Portland, OR average around $410k USD, while the largest Canadian city in the PNW, Vancouver, BC, has a median home price of an astounding $2.98 million CAD. The average Seattle home comes in around $720k USD, making it one of the more expensive American cities in which to purchase a home.
On the other hand, rentals in Seattle and Vancouver are comparable, averaging around $2,000/month for a one-bedroom apartment. A one-bedroom in Portland will run you closer to $1,400/month. Moving outside any of these cities will lower your monthly rent considerably, so it is important to determine your location and transportation needs before signing a rental agreement.
One major perk of living in a big city in the PNW is the possibility of living without a car. Public transportation in Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver is often enough to get by, given you choose a district close to your work with easy access to grocery stores. It is not uncommon for residents to rely on the metro, biking, and walking when getting around within PNW cities.
With the development of rideshare programs such as Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, and ZipCar, living a car-free lifestyle has never been easier! Keep this in mind while estimating your cost of living. Relying on public transportation is often much less expensive than paying for car repairs or a lease, insurance, and gas.
While it is possible to rely on public transport inside the PNW’s larger cities, many residents still prefer to have a car on hand for getaways. With natural rock formations, hot springs, mountain ranges, waterfalls, and some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, the PNW is an area that is meant to be explored.
Tip: When choosing a vehicle for this region, consider the terrain and weather in elevation. SUV’s and Crossovers with all-wheel drive and higher ground clearance are strongly recommended, if not necessary.
One of the biggest factors in understanding the lifestyle of any given city is knowing the cost of living. While the Pacific Northwest used to be one of the more affordable regions in the nation, its new popularity has driven up the cost of housing, groceries, utilities, etc. Seattle is now 48% higher than the national average while Portland is 28% higher.
If you prefer to be outside the city, you’ll likely experience a lower cost of living, but may face a long work commute and won’t benefit from the luxuries of public transit. If this is a better fit for you, consider Renton, a city that ranks a little closer to the national average for cost of living.
For years, Seattle has been one of the hottest job markets in the nation. With 2.9% job growth in 2017, Washington state offers a wide range of career options, though it is best known as a leader in the tech industry. In addition, education, health, and business services account for the high number of jobs in this area.
Oregon has also experienced growth in the job market with a 2.9% increase each year. Thanks to Intel, Portland is a leader in the tech industry while large companies—such as Nike—employ thousands of the state’s residents. The average salary in Portland is above the national average and shows some of the highest projections for growth in the nation.
While tech, health, and business are industry leaders, the PNW offers a variety of employment options. Even for those without a clear career path, there is a high demand for workers in restaurants, retail stores, and offices making the Pacific Northwest a region full of opportunity and with plenty of room to grow.