Wikinvest Wire

Vancouver, Washington?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is anyone out there familiar with the Vancouver, Washington area and, if so, could they share a few thoughts either in the comments or via private mail?

We still haven't decided exactly where we're going to end up in a few months, aside from north and out of California, that is.


Adam said...

Hey Tim, I read your blog from Portland, OR which is just across the I-5 Columbia bridge from Vancouver, WA. Vancouver is often considered part of the Portland metro region. Anyways, here are my thoughts of the region. Weather is mild with average temps in the 60-70 range and except for short spikes below 40 and above 90 it stays in a small temperature range. The rain is not as bad as Seattle and not as bad as you might hear, but I think the more noticeable thing is that it can be grey for days at a time before the sun peaks out in the winter months. The "Couv" as it's known in the area is a cheap alternative to owning homes in Portland so lots of people commute across the I-5 or I-205 bridges, I would not recommend commuting across those bridges the traffic is terrible. So if you work in Portland, try to live there. There is little night life of interest in Vancouver but lots of stuff in Portland (pubs, music, restaurants, etc...), the drive into downtown from Vancouver is about 15-20minutes. There is a sales tax in WA, but not in OR. The income tax can be a bit high in Multnomah county. The beach is about 1:30 hours away and the Mt.Hood is about 2 hours away. That's about all I can think of, and being a Portlander, I tried to be as unbiased as possible about our neighbor to the North. Email me if you have any other questions. :)

Anonymous said...

No state income tax in WA. It is why a lot of techies working in the Portland area choose to live in Vancouver.

Tim said...

Thanks. One thing about the area that got us interested is that there are lots of homes on 2-5 lots north and east of Vancouver - still within 15 minutes of nearly everything but kind of out in the country. We're going to have a look in a couple weeks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

I enjoy your site a lot . . . I check it out a couple of times a day when I need a fix along with others . . . the economic news junkie kind of thing.

I grew up in Oregon, spent plenty of time in Portland and have lived in Seattle for 15 years. The thing about Vancouver is that Washington has no income tax and Oregon has no sales tax. So you kind of get the best of both if you live in Vancouver and are willing to drive 15 miles for major purchases. Funny story . . . we vacation on the Oregon coast and when we were purchasing appliances a few years ago we bought everything in Portland and just picked it up on our way home in a U-Haul. Saved a thousand bucks.
Good luck.

Anonymous said...

So, the situaution is essentially like Sarah Palin 'seeing Russia from our house'?...

BSR said...


You have not mentioned the reason for your move. Vancouver doesn't have much of an economy beyond what used to be real estate and related services. There is a Washington State University campus. For anything sophisticated, you have to depend on Portland (or Seattle).

There is much higher rate of distress in Vancouver RE compared to Portland metro (many more foreclosures, much steeper fall in house prices)

Tim said...

We're not that sophisticated... but we do have a few basic criteria which are also the reasons why we're moving:
1. Not too hot in the summer (highs < 85), not too cold in the winter ( lows > 30) - this rules out about 90 percent of the U.S.
2. Close to the mountains and the pine trees
3. Within 15 minutes of good shopping, restaurants, etc.
4. Good selection of nice homes on 2-5 acre lots that can be purchased for under $500K next year.

Anonymous said...

This would be you?

Thank you Arnold and Grey!

wise said...

3. Within 15 minutes of good shopping, restaurants, etc.
4. Good selection of nice homes on 2-5 acre lots that can be purchased for under $500K next year.

you may have to choose between these two... if taxes are most important to you, pick the couv, but if you'd like some variety, great food, and actual neighborhoods, pick portland (biased portlander's opinion, of course).

BTW, your picture is of portland.

Tim said...

That's funny - it showed up in a Google image search on Vancouver, WA

At risk of setting off a cross-state feud, could you expand on your "actual neighborhoods" comment?

wise said...

sure... portland has a ton of different neighborhoods where a lot of smaller, local businesses are clustered in very walkable and/or bicyclable neighborhoods. Portland has put a lot of effort into containing sprawl, encouraging density, and boosting public transportation, and the result is a great many areas that get the buzzword "livable" attached to them.

Areas around streets like Alberta, Hawthorne, Belmont, N Mississippi, or the Pearl District/Northwest Portland have all the necessities as well as luxuries within walking distance (5-15 block radius).

Portland also has had a great blooming of fantastic restaurants (somewhat blunted now by the economy, natch) serving produce and meat sourced from local farms. Eating local is a big movement up here.

In my experience, Vancouver has a much larger commuter and chain store culture, and while it has a decent downtown area, most of its appeal is lower housing prices and cheaper taxes. Aesthetically, it doesn't work for me, as most of it looks like generic suburbia (i could be exaggerating, of course, but that's my experience).

It may be harder to find your 2-5 acres of space in Portland, though. But both cities will have plenty (if not a majority) of houses available for sub-$500K.

Eric said...


You should check out Anacortes, WA, which is a couple hours north of Seattle. I'm not sure if it would meet your shopping criteria - Mt. Vernon is about 30 mins, and Bellingham about an hour, and those are each bigger cities. But since it's on an island (connected by a bridge) there's lots of reasonably priced scenic view property. Lots of outdoor activities, and they get less rain than Seattle.

Good luck with the search!

Tim said...

Thanks again everybody.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog site. I've lived in several large metro areas, both downtown and suburbs so maybe I can add some balance. One thing you will learn to laugh about, living in the Vancouver area is uninformed generalizations made by some of our friends in Portland. The "necessities" which draw some to Portland are not important to everyone, and do come with drawbacks. To each their own, and at this point in my life it is Vancouver for me. I live in Minnehaha(a real neighborhood) within easy walking/bicycling distance to groceries, coffee/donut shops, pharmacy, bank, a crappy cafe, tatoo parlor, auto repair etc. In my neighborhood we don't have panhandlers, bookstores, graffiti, a tea room, parking meters, a Peruvian restaurant, traffic, noise, antique stores, light rail thugs, trash, high-rise condos, nor a good brewpub. If I miss that variety I go to Portland between rush hours. Since you want an acreage, you will need to drive for most activities outside the home anyway. There is, in fact a healthy growing technology business presence in east Clark county. Vancouver has a Farmers Market, Amtrak station, an increasing number of bicycle lanes, Costco, Home Depot, a shopping mall and a few good restaurants if you seek them out. The area continues to grow, although at a slower pace recently. Because of growth and the traffic bottleneck crossing the river, amenities continue to improve so there are fewer reasons to go to Portland. I don't have children but understand the schools are considered quite good. You should have no problem finding an acreage in Clark County Washington in your price range, depending on how large or new the house is you want. I too am in the market for this very thing. Battle Ground, LaCenter, Camas and Ridgefield are some outlying areas in the county to scope out. Best of luck!

Nick said...

Good topic Tim, I think I might bookmark it for reference. I'm in basically the same mindset as you, and looking to move within a couple years (out of California), and considering Washington (although I was considering around Seattle). I'm also very interested to read people's opinions on areas/etc.

Anonymous said...

We left the Bay Area for Seattle in Apr07 when my wife got a job in one of the biotech burbs (Bothell). I still report to my Milpitas CA company via DSL and phone. This is a way better situation, especially if you consider the yet-to-be-felt fallout from the budget crisis. So, far we are still renting (within shelling distance of casa Gates to tempt me everytime this thing pukes) as the 'correction' in local house prices is just starting to pick up speed. Tim, of your requirements I think 15 minutes to urbane niceties and a <$500k price tage for 2 - 5 acres is tough one for now. Otherwise, there are plenty of options up this way too - perhaps in one of the rainshadow towns.

snarky in seattle said...

hi, umm, do they still have the trolls in portland? the little teen heroin addicts wandering the streets, under public protection? i remember that vividly from my 2 forays into portland's 'nightlife'.

reside in couv for the income tax, shop in portland for the sales tax. that way you're getting the services of 2 states, without paying for either. That's a long term view, right?

matt said...

Tim, there's no way you're going to find a place in the United Sates where it doesn't get over 85 in the summer. When I lived in Portland, I found the summers to have weeks in the mid to upper 90s.

Tim said...

I didn't say it, but I meant average summer highs and average winter lows. See these Vancouver stats from the Weather Channel - I think coastal California and the northwest might be the only parts of the country that qualify.

Thanks for the Vancouver side of the story folks.

marku said...

We lived in the 'couv for 24 yrs before the unending winter grey drove us down to Klamath Falls area. I can't tell you how good it feels to see the sun on a regular basis (even in the dead of winter) and have adequate levels of vitamin D.

Yes, the no income tax/no sales tax thing is nice, as long as you don't have to work in Portland. Then it stinks, 'cuz you pay income tax to OR to drive on their crappy roads, and sales tax on all the routine stuff you buy local. Also, it gets really annoying after a while to live in a bedroom community in the wrong state. Want to read a newspaper article on what is going on in Olympia (capital of WA)? Forget it.

What would worry me as a CA refugee is---don't underestimate how depressing the winter is. The grey and drizzle can be unending. Also I think that Vancouver's 38 degrees and drizzling feels twice as cold as Klamath's 22 degrees, dry and sunny.

I'd rent to be sure your wife can take it.

Also 2-5 acres and 15 min to amenities is hopeless. It's 15 minutes (on a good day) to the freeway, then 20 minutes to the good stuff in Portland. There is not much in Vancouver.

PM if you want more.

And now for something completely different:
Mrs. Marku sez: My, I married a cranky fellow. The biggest problem with Vancouver is that it is a suburb with very little self-identity except that it's "not Portland." Google the discussion over the new I-5 bridge replacement on the Columbia and the tug of war between the states over light rail. Vancouver does not want light rail, has in fact voted it down multiple times, but Portland controls the purse strings. IF and when they get around to building/replacing the bridge, expect traffic across the two bridges (and there are only two bridges between all of Vancouver and the Portland side) to be snarled for years.

Growth is taking place out on the east (Cascade Park) and north (Salmon Creek) areas, and it's pretty much the model of big-box sprawl. In fact, the Mill Plain/Chkalov intersection got so bad, traffic-wise, that the county had to lobby the state to drop the allowable congestion standards so that they could keep green-lighting new development.

Anonymous said...

Property taxes in Clark County are high, but maybe not that high compared to Calif. Voters tried passing a Prop. 13 type measure but it was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. Expect future property tax increases.

Deano said...

Vancouver, WA, like Beaverton, is a classic case of a fantastic city (PDX) spawning zombie 'burbs. You might as well be anywhere, although you'll know you aren't in Phoenix with that cloud cover. The saving grace to all the gloom that pervades the Pacific Northwest is the coziness of its pubs & cafes in the cities, or at least authentic towns. Vancouver is a faceless drive-through zone.

Anonymous said...

You should consider Colorado Springs, CO. I understand the winter average may be just under your criteria. However, my wife and I are considering Portland vs Colorado Springs (or Denver). With all the rain, wet, gloom in Portland makes the 30 degrees feel a lot colder (like 5 degrees). With all the sunshine in Colorado Springs the 20 degrees average feels like 40 degrees! Plus the state of Colorado is more fiscal responsible than Oregon and Washington (do a search and you will see that Colorado could only increase spending by the cpi). Portland housing is overpriced (because of all Californian's move there) and you pay too much in property taxes. Colorado Springs meets all your requirements (except the average winter low - but I explained myself why the exception) including Costco and you will have a bigger house with more land to play!

Just a consideration.

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