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As one sketch on the TV show “Portlandia” declares half-jokingly, “The dream of the ‘90s is alive in Portland.” And while that show spent a lot of energy teasing the Pacific Northwest’s second city, it stemmed from an abundance of love for this hip and cozy hometown to many.
Indeed, the city celebrates bespoke boutiques, third-wave coffee shops, and books over tablets. The tech, manufacturing, and athletic apparel industries based here mean the city is never stuck too far in the past. Its proud weirdness could make it the perfect place to call home for anyone looking to boost the “life” part of work-life balance.
Conveniently, Portland proper is already delineated into five tidy regions with even tidier names: we’ve got Northwest, North, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest. So… not the most creative names ever, sure, but all the time saved on wacky nomenclature has been spent on developing diverse, eclectic, exciting places to live for people of all ages.
Let’s dive in! (Or bike in, as many Portlanders prefer to do!)
The best neighborhoods to live in Portland
If the thought of a food truck festival, a lush public park, or a perfectly made cappuccino gets you excited, you might want to consider buying a home in Portland proper. The city is manageable, with transit options, a layout that is kind to car commuters, and plenty of walkable neighborhoods.
We’ve assembled a list of some of the best neighborhoods in Portland whether you’re looking to meet fellow young professionals new to an exciting town or have kids that you’re hoping to send to great schools. The dream of a perfect home is alive in Portland!
If you’ve visited Portland as a tourist, chances are you’ve already been to Nob Hill, home to one of the city’s most famed destinations: The International Rose Test Garden. Located in Northwest PDX, Nob Hill is a walkable, shoppable tribute to Old Portland, replete with converted Victorian homes, trendsetting boutiques, and plenty of options for fine dining and trendy bars alike — many along NW 23rd Ave.
If shopping and drinking aren’t your vibe, and you’d rather go outside than just “out,” you’ll also be close to lush Forest Park, which houses 70 miles of trails in over 5,000 acres. Run, bike, or just walk these paths for an escape that doesn’t even require you to leave city limits.
For young professionals looking to dive headfirst into the best of both urban and nature, Nob Hill is a fantastic place to buy a home. It’s bustling, central, and filled with other excited transplants looking to hang out, explore, and strike the perfect work hard-play hard balance.
Close to Nob Hill in Northwest PDX and boasting a more modern aesthetic, the Pearl District is, true to its name, a luxurious enclave where young professionals flock to join a cool, trendy scene. If you’re looking to buy a home here, expect to land at a high-rise condominium and plan to run into your neighbors — young urbanites and retired empty-nesters — at one of the many breweries (like the nationally-known Deschutes) or bookshops (Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore in the world!).
Folks who would prefer not to drive will find The Pearl pleasantly walkable and enjoy the iconic Portland Street Car winding through the town. If you’re looking for a place packed with activities, amenities, and other PDX transplants, you can’t do much better with The Pearl. Just make sure to have a guest bedroom ready — it’ll be hard to keep your friends and family from wanting to visit and join you in the center of Portland’s action!
Locals argue about whether or not the namesake of this neighborhood was in fact a saint, but nobody can dispute that this neighborhood is ideal for families looking for an affordable single-family home.
Far from the Victorians and uber-luxe new developments in other areas, houses in St. Johns are more commonly ranch-style or small cottages. These practical properties are ideal for a starter home or for a couple of empty-nesters. Pier Park caters to any type of sportsman, whether drawn to disc golf, skateboarding, or just long runs around the 87 acres.
Note that taking public transit to downtown from here will require a few transfers. If you’re looking to settle in St. Johns but need to get downtown for work, expect about a 20-minute commute. Not a bad trade for a quiet, lovely area of the city.
Moving clockwise through the city, we find ourselves now at Healy Heights, a family-friendly gem in Southwest PDX. Despite spanning a range of terrain — from the banks of the Willamette to downtown to Goose Hollow (a charming corner of Old Portland) — Healy Heights feels remarkably central. Plus, its peacefulness lends an air of suburban peace without sacrificing the amenities of being in a city.
What does that really mean? It means excellent schools and low crime rates but also a happening nightlife and decent commute. Of course, this level of everything-for-everyone comes at a price, and home prices in Healy Heights can edge up to $1M. If you’re ready to buy a home for your family and want the best the city has to offer, you can’t do much better than Healy Heights.
It’s right there in the name: Far Southwest is a bit, well, far! If you work in the city but proudly identify as a weekend warrior, Far Southwest might be the perfect compromise. Residents here would agree that quiet streets lined with lovely homes, gorgeous hiking trails, and ancient growth forests make up for any lack of trendiness.
Alberta Arts District
True to its name, the Alberta Arts District in Northeast Portland prides itself on an abundance of arty “only-in-Portland” events. There’s Last Thursdays, a monthly street fair, a packed slate of shows (film, theater, and comedy alike) at the Alberta Rose Theater, and a number of bars that feature live music. Homebuyers looking for convenient access to the airport will love this neighborhood’s proximity to PDX, which is just a breezy 15-minute drive away.
The sheer number of things to do here, be it shopping, visiting food carts, strolling gallery openings, or seeing shows, makes it a great option for young people new to the city and looking to meet like-minded urbanites. Homebuyers will find condos just the right size for one or two, and enjoy getting their bearings in this bustling neighborhood.
For homebuyers ready to invest in a beautiful home in an even more beautiful neighborhood (what, yours doesn’t have old-growth trees lining the streets?) Laurelhurst is the top place to look. Turn-of-the-century-style homes, bungalows, winding roads, and an exquisitely landscaped park — all of this beauty might seem surprisingly tidy for a city that prides itself on weirdness and trendsetting. Well, that’s because scenic Laurelhurst was one of the first planned neighborhoods ever! As such, it holds historical charm and is truly a well-oiled machine.
This neighborhood, which spans Southeast and Northeast PDX, has a little bit of something for everyone: excellent public schools if you’re a family raising kids, but also a wealth of restaurant and entertainment options if you’ve got a babysitter on speed dial and can’t wait to get out! If you prefer a neighborly, settled-in vibe, Laurelhurst could be the perfect spot for you.
The best suburbs to live near Portland
If city life is behind you, or was maybe never really your bag, never fear. The suburbs of Portland proper offer a lot of the same emphasis on local flavor with an added bonus of extra space, access to even more nature, and yes, the oft-cited reason for moving to the ‘burbs: great schools. If you want a little more bang for your buck, consider buying a home in one of these Portland suburbs.
You’re probably catching on to the fact that Portland residents love getting outside. Why else would every neighborhood and city emphasize green space so much? Tualatin is no exception. A smaller community than some of the other suburbs in the Portland metropolitan area, Tualatin’s unique ecology means that residents have access to verdant rivers, tree-lined trails, state forests, and campgrounds. Don’t worry, on rainy days (which you can count on, this is the Pacific Northwest, after all) there is plenty to do in town, like browsing at the Bridgeport Village shopping center or hitting up the 22 breweries on the “Ale Trail.”
Most residents here own their own homes, and as such it’s a great place to consider buying if you’d like to put down roots, get to know your neighbors and your surroundings, and start raising your family alongside other young parents.
“Happy Valley” sounds like the name of a fictional town in a Disney movie, and indeed this suburb is a cozy town (around 20,000 residents) where most folks have put down firm roots — 84% of families here own their homes. If that’s not a vote of confidence in Happy Valley’s long-term guarantee of, well, happiness, then I don’t know what is.
This suburb is definitely better suited to families with a steady income (the average here is over $120,000) to support maintaining a larger house and property, and a preference for more conservative neighbors (especially compared to uber-liberal citydwellers). If you’re hoping for a home that offers both beauty and privacy, Happy Valley is an excellent option.
For retirees craving a denser suburban feel, look to Lake Oswego, another scenic suburb in the Portland metropolitan area. Why for retirees in particular? Well, Lake Oswego is rich with leisure activities. If you’ve got an abundance of free time, you’ll love taking advantage of the huge namesake lake, the thriving golf community (there are both private and public clubs here!), and the many events (picture yourself packing a picnic for a concert in the park).
Homes here are quite large and impressive, especially properties with views of the lake. If you’re ready to invest in a manse with room for family visitors, this could be a great spot to settle in.
Hillsboro is just 20 minutes from downtown Portland — if your work takes you to the city center every day, this could be the best place for you to buy a home. And yet, despite this suburb’s proximity to the urban center, it’s also just 45 minutes from the stunning Oregon coastline. There, you’ll find beaches and excursions worthy of both quick jaunts and long weekends. Hillsboro borders wetlands, forests, parks, and other pure Oregonian green space. Fear not, urbanites: it also nestles up against Beaverton, another fabulous suburb with plenty to offer.
Luckily, this lack of needing to compromise shouldn’t break the bank. Hillsboro residents pay a median monthly housing cost of $1,515 and bring home an average annual wage of about $89,000. A mix of townhomes and larger single-family homes, plus affordable options for large new builds, means you’ve got options. This suburb is proudly accessible, liberal, and beautiful. Consider buying here if you’d like to find yourself in nature as often as you’d find yourself in a brewery.
A lot of the time when someone says “Beaverton,” the next word to come to mind is “Nike.” That’s because this suburb is home to that behemoth athleticwear brand’s world headquarters. If you’re looking for a large parcel of property in a scenic wonderland (West Hills on one side, Tualatin Valley on the other) and are open to different varieties of housing, Beaverton could be your spot.
Median home value here is around $376,500. And if you buy here, you’ll have easy access not just to the walkable downtown, but to Oregon wine country, lush forests with best-in-the-nation hiking trails, and bustling farmers’ markets. Sounds dreamy, huh?
The word “livability” gets thrown around a lot, but the Portland metropolitan area makes a case for how apt it can be. Between the ample green space, the range of home types, and the job opportunities, there really can be something for everyone. Young professionals, newly retired folks, and families alike will find a wealth of options while looking to buy a home in the city limits or just outside. These are some of the best places to buy a house and start building your home in this gem of the Pacific Northwest.