Bend OR Real Estate and Community News

Sept. 26, 2017

Is Bend, Oregon, Snow Country??

I woke this morning, March 7th, to a fresh couple of inches of powdery snow.  Typically I’ve already played at least a couple of rounds of golf by March, but not this year. The 2016/17 winter has definitely been one for the record books.  Bend usually doesn’t get snow like we received this year but don’t fool yourself Bend that this is a regular thing.

A snowy Mt. Bachelor.  Remember the snow also falls in Bend

A snowy Mt. Bachelor.  Remember the snow also falls in Bend

I’m frequently asked about snowfall in Bend.  Most people who ask believe that Bend receives very little, if any, snow in town.  I remind people that Bend is “snow country,” and we’re going to get snow every year.  We might not get feet of snow in town but we typically get enough snow to cause problems, especially if you’re not prepared.  I think it’s fair to say, “don’t expect anything but be prepared for everything, especially SNOW.”

 Given that snowfall appears to be on a few minds, here’s some info:

·      On average Bend gets about 23 inches of snow a year, but according to the data the snow doesn’t all come in one month. It’s more or less evenly spread over the core winter months (December, January, and February).

·      Bend gets 6 inches of snow in December, January, and February, according to   However, as someone who lives here, those accumulation numbers seem a little off.  It feels like in recent years we’re getting more and more of our snow in December, with maybe a supplementary dump in late February.  

Winter 2016/2017

Not Playing golf today!

Not Playing golf today!


Of course, just when I think we’re settling into an annual winter pattern everything gets turned on its head. Winter 2016/2017 is looking like a potential record setter. At my house in downtown Bend, we had close to two feet on the ground in mid-February.  Old timers keep telling me “this is how winters used to be.”  I don’t expect this winter to become the new normal, but I do think that Mother Nature is letting us know that she’s still in control.

My advice is “Be Prepared!” and consider snow when shopping for houses.   There are some crazy steep driveways up on Awbrey Butte and some super long ones out in Tumalo.   How are you going to deal with these when the snow starts to dump?

Each year is different, and you can’t really predict from one year to the next what the snow levels will be. All I know is that when I moved here from Eastern Washington I considered selling my snow blower because I had been told Bend didn’t get a ton of snow, and when it did, it didn’t stay. Needless to say, I’m glad I held onto the snow blower. What a terrible decision selling it would have been.

So, plan for snow, but hope it stays up at Mount Bachelor.

Winter items to think about when buying a house in Bend.

Do you think your car would get up this driveway?

Do you think your car would get up this driveway?


·      Is there an HOA that will take care of snow removal?  If you’re moving to Bend to retire consider buying a house in an HOA because then you don’t have responsibility for snow removal, which can be physically demanding and not a whole ton of fun.  When the snow really hits it can be extremely difficult to find someone to clear your driveway.

·      How steep is the driveway?  When it snows in Bend icy and slick roads are sure to follow.  Sunny days and frigid nights lead to black ice that might stick around for awhile.  Does your car have AWD? Think about buying snow tires.

·      What’s the elevation of your potential new house? The higher your elevation the more snow you’re going to get and the longer it’s going to stick around.  Sunriver gets more snow than Bend and Redmond gets less.

·      How much sun does your potential new property get?  Bend gets a lot of sun, with some folks boasting 300 days of sun a year. Your new location might not be that lucky.  Sun is the great equalizer in Bend. Our summers come late and our winters drag out.  Having clear southern exposure can really help melt snow and make winter temperatures feel a lot warmer than they actually are.

·      Who maintains the roads leading up to your house?  Bend has some serious issues with snow removal.  You might end up waiting days to have the city clear your streets.  Would you be able to go out for the necessities if there was 12” of untrodden snow on the ground?

·      What kind of roof is on the house, will it hold snow or shed the snow?  Where does the snow fall when it comes off the roof?

·      Does the house have gutters? How will they hold if ice damns form?

·      Buy these items so you’re prepared when it does snow: snow shovel, roof rake, snow melt, and a windshield scraper. Also consider some yaktrax.

Don’t let what you read in Travel magazine fool you, Bend is snow country!  Sure, we’ll go a number of winters without much snow but one of these years it’s coming.  The winter of 2016/17 is testament to the punch a winter can pack.   When looking for your new house, think about the impact snow will have on your new living situation.   Hopefully the snow stays in the mountains, but be ready for when old man winter pays Bend a visit.


Posted in Community News
Sept. 26, 2017

Is Bend Real Estate Underpriced?

Is Bend Real Estate Underpriced?


Bend home prices have been rising, so this might sound like a crazy question: is it possible that Bend real estate is (still) a bargain in 2017?

Bend median home prices are up around 50% since 2011, so I get that many of us are feeling like we missed the boat on buying during the dip.  Currently, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything for below $400K on the west side of Bend.

Let’s take a look at what’s in Bend:

The lowest price home I can find on the west side is $320K.  It’s a 960 square foot home, sitting on a 4800 square foot lot on the corner of Galveston and Lexington. The house appears to be rental quality and is on one of the busier streets in Bend.  However it’s located right in the thick of things, walking distance to downtown and pubs.  How can Bend be considered affordable or at least not over-priced if entry level houses are this expensive?

Entry level home on the Westside of Bend                                            Image from Zillow

Entry level home on the Westside of Bend                                            Image from Zillow

Now let’s compare Bend home prices to those in other cities:

In order to determine if Bend real estate is a bargain we need to compare homes in Bend to similar homes in similar cities.  Seems like an easy enough task but which cities best compare to Bend?   The cities need to have a population around 100K, a quality ski mountain, semi-vibrant town, great outdoor recreation (mountain biking, kayaking, golf, hiking etc.), breweries, and secondary education opportunities.


I started my search for cities most like Bend with the ubiquitous top ten list.   Bend ranks 10th on the USA Today 10 Best Ski Towns.   This should be a great place to start find a few similar cities and compare current real estate prices and trends.

#9 Stowe, Vt. – not going to work the population is only around 5000.

#8 Whistler B.C – well that’s not even in the US, how did that even make the list?

#7 Bozeman MT – population of about 45,000 (half the size of Bend), has plenty of skiing and other outdoor recreation, Montana State University, not super sure about night life but the students have to do something.  We’ll consider this a partial match.

#6 Taos, population around 6000, no match.

#5 Steamboat Springs, CO -  again the population is too small.  Steamboat has a population of 12,000.

#4 Lake Placid, N.Y. – population of 2500. Ditto.

#3 Truckee, CA -  maybe around 20,000 people.

#2 North Conway, N.H.- 2500.

#1 Crested Butte – population 1,500.

I’ll consider Bozeman MT to be the only match on this list.   This isn’t a perfect match since Bend is twice the size and has a lot more buzz surrounding it currently.  However if we look at median home list price from 2014 to the present you’ll see that the two markets are very similar.

Bend Median List Price Compared to Bozeman

Bend Median List Price Compared to Bozeman

From the raw data in the above chart it looks like Bozeman real estate is slightly more expensive than Bend real estate.  Does the data hold up when we look at actual listings?  On first glance it appears that the homes for sale in Bozeman are slightly more expensive than homes in Bend.  The homes around Montana State University tend to start at $400K and work up from there.  The entry level home in this location was an 1100 square foot home listed for $420K.  The house sits on a 5000 square foot lot and has a number of upgrades, with new flooring and cabinetry.  This house is slightly bigger than our comparative house in Bend and appears to be in better overall condition.  However these differences are represented in the price: the Bozeman house is $105K more expensive than the house we chose in Bend.

Entry level home in downtown Bozeman, MT

Entry level home in downtown Bozeman, MT


More Bang for the Buck in Bend


 When I initially looked at homes in Bend.  I chose the least expensive home in Bend that I considered to be located in a prime west side location (yes, it’s a busy street but the home is situated close to everything).  However after analyzing the Bozeman market it appears that a nice starter home near the university is going to start in the low $400Ks.  So now, what if I re-examine the Bend market and change my price point to <$450K? What do I find?

The Bend market opens up a bit after you cross that $400K threshold.  The new comp that I find in Bend is an 1800 square foot home on a 6000 square foot lot for $450K.  The house has a number of updates and has a mid-century modern feel.  The location is excellent, the house is even closer to downtown than the initial Bend home and is located on a relatively quiet street. 

Mid-Century modern starter home in Bend, OR                                          Image from Zillow

Mid-Century modern starter home in Bend, OR                                          Image from Zillow

The Typical Buyer, and the Long Game

This is an extremely simple and non-scientific way to analyze real estate markets but this is how buyers typically act in the real world.   Most buyers only take small snap shots in time of the real estate market that they’re shopping in.   When I work with buyers I want them to play the long game.  Take their time, get all of their finances squared away, get pre-approved on a loan, target certain neighborhoods, and then wait for the perfect house to come on the market.   Don’t rush your decision even in an appreciating market, there are always good buys no matter the market.

If I had to buy a starter home, right now, in either Bend or Bozeman, I’d prefer to buy in Bend.  It appears you can get more home in Bend and I also expect the Bend economy will improve more than the Bozeman economy.  OSU-Cascades has just begun taking students and should continue to grow for years, if not decades to come.  Montana State was established in Bozeman in 1893 and has served as a focal point of the community since then.  Bend is just beginning to become a university town and I expect that OSU’s impact will overall be positive on both the community and real estate prices.

Sample Size of 1

 I’ve only found one city to compare Bend real estate price to.  There have to be more but I’m finding it far more difficult than I thought to find a sister city.

I didn’t do super well using the top 10 resort town lists but there has to be at least another city “just like” Bend.  After another minute or so of research I came across an article in the Bulletin “What City is most like Bend”.   This is the list the city uses, as these cities are of similar size and have similar overall demographics.

 Here’s the list:

·      Gresham, OR

·      Medford, OR

·      Wenatchee, WA

·      Missoula, MT

·      Fort Collins, CO

·      Fargo, ND

·      Sparks, NV

·      Nampa, ID

·      Prescott, AZ

·      Flagstaff, AZ

·      St. George, UT

·      Santa Fe, NM

·      Columbia, MO

·      Rochester, MN

·      Grand Junction, CO

·      Greeley, CO

The city that really jumped out on this list was Santa Fe, NM.   With a population of roughly 80K it’s very similar in size to Bend and has a vast array of recreational opportunities.  Sante Fe might not have a well recognized university (sorry Santa Fe University of Art and Design) but it checks all of the other boxes.  Sante Fe has about the same population, plenty of recreation, and a vibrant art scene.  Bend and Santa Fe are a good match.

If I pull the data from for median list prices for single family homes from 2014 to present we’ll see that Santa Fe list prices are $50K to $100K higher than Bend.  However does this play out when we look at actual listings?  What do we find when we look for a $400K starter home in a prime downtown Santa Fe location?

Santa Fe median listing price compared to Bend

Santa Fe median listing price compared to Bend

Here’s what you get for $400K in Santa Fe:


 The data doesn’t lie.  The current median listing price in Santa Fe is $548K compared to Bend’s $448K (March 2017 courtesy of  It’s difficult to find a home for under $500K in Santa Fe but we did it.  I was able to find a 995 sq ft one bed and one bath home within walking distance of downtown for $415K.  It’s on a busy street but it’s a cute, well-kept adobe.   The house is small but it sits on an approximately 13,000 sq ft lot.  We’d have to do further research to determine if the lot could be split.  However if we compare this property to our $450K Bend sample house, we’ll see we get far more bang for the buck in Bend.

The most basic comparison is that the Bend sample home is close to double the size of the Santa Fe home.  The Bend home has an extra bedroom and has a car port.  I might enjoy the feel of the Santa Fe home more but at half the square footage it’s hard to consider it a better deal.  However we still need to consider lot size.  It seems that every lot that can be split has been split in Bend.  A prime location, splittable lot in Bend will run you at least $400K.  If the one bedroom adobe lot is able to be split this home is a bargain.  Split the lot off and you’re in a cute home in a great location for under $300K.  I’m assuming that this is not the case for the adobe.

Small adobe home in downtown Santa fe                                                  Image Zillow

Small adobe home in downtown Santa fe                                                  Image Zillow

Does that mean Bend real estate is cheap?



I would never say to a potential buyer that Bend is cheap.  It might have been in 2010, but so was all other real estate in the U.S.  Most people that I speak with consider Bend to be an expensive real estate market—that is unless they’re from California! But is that actually true when you look at other real estate markets that are similar to Bend?  After reviewing both the Bozeman and Sante Fe real estate markets I’d say that Bend is a better buy at the moment.  Prices are slightly lower than either Bozeman or Santa Fe and Bend might have a bit more of an economic tail wind: first with the establishment of OSU-Cascades, and second with the growth of tech in Bend as Californians make their way up to Bend and telecommute to their jobs in the Bay Area.

Posted in Buying a Home