Portland East Side vs West Side – Home Buyer’s Guide
Many Portlanders are dead set on which part of the town they want to live. Portland neighborhoods can be so different when you cross Willamette River it’s a different world almost. I have seen some diehard fans of the east side who swear they will never live on the west side and vice versa. I think most of us know what those appeals are specific to each side of the river. Simply put, the east side offers more entertainment and culture whereas the west side offers more privacy and safety. Many young people prefer the east side but it’s not always the young people. We have a variety of demographics in the Portland area who prefer one or the other. In this article, I’m going to not only talk about the obvious ideas of the east side versus the west side but also cover some considerations particularly for home buyers if you’re deciding to move to one side or the other.
General reasons to move to the east side
If you live in the east side, you are either in the middle of the action or very close to it. Most of the amazing restaurants, shops, and trendy streets are on the east side of the river. It’s where everyone meets up on weekends. There are many benefits to live on the east side even during weekdays. You can easily bicycle to work even if you work in downtown and you won’t be the only one on the road on a bicycle. Life can still be fun and easy during weekdays after work with a lot of great amenities from just around the corner of where you live. Living in a trendy urban area offers great lifestyles and experience. If you’re a social person, it will really add to the experience.
General reasons to move to the west side
If you live in the west side, you’re likely into nice things. Aside from the downtown area, you will enjoy quiet and private neighborhoods. In neighborhoods like Southwest Hills, Hillside, and Forest Heights, you will be literally living in a forest. There won’t be drunken yelling and shouting by somebody outside of your home and you won’t run into homeless tents on your leisurely morning and evening walks. If you have children, the west side offers the best school districts in Portland and it’s a safe place to raise a family. It can be a very short commute to Downtown Portland and you probably don’t have to battle the freeway traffic during rush hours. The west side is either very upscale and/or quiet and peaceful. There are also trendy neighborhoods such as Multnomah Village. Even if you live close to Multnomah Village, your home will still be in a quiet and peaceful surrounding. If your work is stressful and you need to get away in a nice and quiet place, the west side is your answer.
Buying a house on the east side
If you’re a home buyer and you gravitate towards buying in a east side neighborhood, you will most likely run into old houses. Many close by east side neighborhoods are older neighborhoods and most houses have been built in 1920’s. Popular architectural styles there include craftsman bungalows, cottage houses, tudor, and Dutch colonials. Most houses will come with a basement and more than half of these basements are unfinished. Due to the structure being so old, you will definitely run into issues related to the age of the house. To name a few, the issues can include settled foundation, structural issues, asbestos, lead paint, underground oil tanks, damaged sewer pipes, rusty water pipes, and radon gas. It’s a lot of inspection but that’s why you hire a professional inspector. You will probably have to live with some asbestos and lead paint somewhere in the house but they won’t kill you so long as you don’t disturb them. Radon gas can be mitigated with an installed system. There are also many houses without an off street parking option on the property. Many still have driveways and detached one car garages. Your house likely sits on a 5,000sf lot and you probably have a very small backyard. If you buy an old house in a nice east side neighborhood, your house may still be in a great demand nevertheless. The east side is densely populated and the housing demand is from a variety of demographics.
Buying a house on the west side
Other than the immediate downtown neighborhoods where it’s flat, if you live anywhere in the West Hills or beyond, your house will be a lot newer than houses in the east side. If you live anywhere on the West Hills, your house is likely a nice big house built after 1960’s or 1970’s. If you are thinking about buying a house in the West Hills because it’s close to downtown, your house will likely on a steep hill and one side of the house sits on engineered stilts. You won’t have a backyard because it’s steep but you probably have a great view of the downtown or trees. For homes built prior to 1978, it will likely contain lead paint somewhere. There is no real consistent architectural style in the West Hills neighborhoods. Once you move a little further out to a flatter area, you will see more typical houses. In Forest Heights (Northwest Heights), you will see even newer and luxurious homes with flatter yards. The area still contains hills but it starts to flatten out from the West Hills. On the southwest side, land gets flat once you get out of Southwest Hills. You will see lots of older suburb neighborhoods with homes built in the 50’s and 60’s including a lot of ranch houses. You still occasionally run into older 1920’s bungalows and cottages here and there.
Not to say that homes built in the 50’s and 60’s don’t have issues, but more people find those houses manageable than houses from the 20’s.
Suburbs in the east side vs. west side
The truth is that there are a lot more options as you move away from the city. Homes become more affordable and many people find better lifestyles in the suburbs. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in inner city neighborhoods, chances are you will find something within your price range if you are willing to commute for just a little longer.
On the west side, we have great suburban areas including Beaverton, Hillsboro and Tigard. Close to Beaverton, there are also unincorporated census designated areas like Raleigh Hills and Bethany that are very popular. Beaverton and Hillsboro offer a lot of employment opportunities especially in the tech industry. With MAX trains and an increasing number of restaurants and breweries, Beaverton has been a very popular place to move to. School districts are very decent in Beaverton, Hillsboro and Tigard. You will find a lot of newer homes in a nice and clean community. If you run into older homes, chances are it’s a ranch from the 50’s and those are also highly sought after by first time home owners and retirees.
On the east side, we have both suburban and less urban Portland neighborhoods east of I-205. Many of the neighborhoods here are very affordable and up-and-coming. East of 205, you will see residential neighborhoods that seem both urban and suburban in flat areas with houses like 1920’s bungalows to 1950’s ranch and a mix of mid-century and newer houses on the hills of Mount Scott towards Happy Valley and right around Powell Butte in Pleasant Valley neighborhood. Some commercial streets can be a bit rough still but you can see the transformation that has taken place in the last several years including the Lents Town Center. All the best Asian restaurants in the city are on the 82nd Ave. School districts are a bit challenged still in this part of Portland. There are still lots of homelessness along I-205. Outside of Portland, there is Milwaukie, Happy Valley, Clackamas, Damascus, and Gresham. Milwaukie is an older neighborhood that is affordable and still close to the city. Happy Valley and Clackamas are newer towns with nicer newer houses. They are more expensive and most newer houses are in HOA communities. SE Sunnyside Rd is the main road that splits the two towns. Both of those cities have great schools and offer a very nice and clean environment for families. Damascus has been a hot bed for new housing developments and outside of that area still remains very much rural.
Which neighborhood should you live?
It’s really up to what you like and your life needs. If you’re buying a house in a certain neighborhood whether on the east or west side, not only consider your lifestyle but also know the type of houses you will most likely run into. There are also other housing options including newer condos, townhouses, and occasional new construction homes in dense and older neighborhood areas. With a bit of due diligence, you can always find what works for you and your family.