Bendafornia: The Great Northern California Migration to Bend

Sounding like a travel agent here, but in Bend, Oregon you really can ski down a volcano in the morning, ride your bike back to town late morning, then paddle board down a river in the afternoon–and still have plenty of daylight left for adventure. They even have a name for it: the Pole, Pedal, Paddle (PPP).

But the city’s accessible beauty is just one of the reasons more and more folks are visiting Bend—then staying.

I call it Bendafornia. A huge migration from Northern California has contributed to the almost 16 percent growth on average per year since 1990. An improved real estate market in the Golden State, active baby boomers looking for the next big adventure, and a bustling job market in Oregon are all driving the numbers.

Home values in California far exceed most areas of the country
That’s especially true in the Bay Area. As of June 15, 2015, the average home sale price in San Francisco is $833,000 versus Bend, Oregon at $293,000. A difference of $540,000! A lot of smart Bay area residents are doing their math, selling their homes paying cash for a nice place in Bend–and grinning over the $247,000 still in the bank.

Baby Boomers On The Go
Another driver of growth is the aging Baby Boomer population. According to Bend Chamber of Commerce President Tim Casey, over 40 percent of the population growth in Deschutes County is people 65 and older. “For those looking to save money and spend their golden years in the great outdoors, there’s no better place to move to.”

Jobs and Lifestyle
Jobs are the primary engine for driving growth, and in 2014, Oregon was the top destination state in the country, according to a survey conducted by United Van Lines.

Damon Runberg, Bend’s Regional Economist cites a Portland State University study that found Deschutes County was the fastest growing county in Oregon in 2014. In Deschutes County, the unemployment rate is 6 percent, while the State of California’s unemployment rate is 7.7 percent.

Many people who make the move are launching their own businesses. Bend is the sixteenth largest metro area in the country for high-tech startup density. Pretty amazing for a town with fewer than 100,000 people!

Bend–Boom or Bust?
A healthy housing market is always the foundation for future economic growth and all the signals indicate the boom for Bend, and really all of Deschutes County, is not over. The city is now the top inbound county in the top inbound state, with affordable real estate values, dynamic job growth, low vacancy rates, and that joie de vivre—PPP-style!

For an expanded version of this column, please go to my guest column at Oregon Business Magazine: