With Portland in the north and Salem in the south, North Willamette Valley is known for its lush landscape, scenic mountain views, and a strong sense of community connection. The region is home to the majority of the population of the state of Oregon and some of its largest cities. However, there are also plenty of new custom home opportunities for those who want to be surrounded by open spaces, vineyards, and the many other agriculture ventures that benefit from the life-giving Willamette River and countless waterways.
The climate has been compared to that of the Mediterranean, with warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Mild winters in which the daytime temperature rarely drops below freezing make this region attractive to families and retirees who enjoy predictable weather year-round.
Size: 466 square miles
Major cities: Portland, Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale, Maywood Park
Median property value: $367,700
Situated at the northern end of the valley, Multnomah County is the smallest in Oregon, but as home to the biggest city in the state, it also has the largest population. Families who want to be in or near a big city with a diverse culture, thriving nightlife, excellent restaurants, and ample educational opportunities will enjoy living in this area, which is also close to Vancouver, Washington. However, the cost of living is comparatively high relative to other areas in the state, which could be a drawback for some households. The county consistently ranks high as one of the best places to live in the state, especially for people who enjoy outdoor activities and live a healthy lifestyle.
Size: 726 square miles
Major cities: Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard, Forest Grove, Cornelius
Median property value: $361,400
On the west side of the valley, Washington County is the second-most populated and considered part of the Portland metro area. A combination of both suburban and rural areas, the county supports the agriculture, lumber, manufacturing, and tech industries, with Intel located in the large city of Hillsboro. Ranked as one of the best places for families to live in Oregon, Washington County has low crime and good public schools, but a relatively high cost of living.
Size: 718 square miles
Major cities: McMinnville, Yamhill, Sheridan, Amity, Dayton, Dundee, Newberg
Median property value: $236,300
Just south of Washington County on the west side of the valley lies Yamhill County, where you will find the largest concentration of wineries and vineyards in the state. Other major industries in the county include manufacturing, healthcare, and educational services. With above-average public schools and a reasonable cost of living, the county is home to both families and young professionals. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy scenic cycling routes and wildlife hikes in Sheridan Wetlands Park.
Size: 744 square miles
Major cities: Dallas, Falls City, Independence, Monmouth, Grand Ronde
Median property value: $215,000
At the southern end of the western side of the valley, with Salem bordering the east, you’ll find Polk County. Most of the county has a rural feel, especially in the forested western areas as you move away from Salem. With covered bridges, vineyards, wineries, family-friendly parks, and trails for hiking and cycling, there is something for everybody in this quiet corner of Oregon.
Size: 679 square miles
Major cities: Corvallis, Monroe, Philomath, Adair Village
Median property value: $276,900
Benton County is at the southernmost end of the Willamette Valley. Home to Oregon State University in Corvallis, the eastern edge of the county is more densely populated than the western side. Because of the university, the Corvallis area is rich in culture and has a thriving nightlife. The county has excellent public schools and is frequently rated one of the best places to live in the state. Not surprisingly, jobs in education are abundant in the county, especially in the area surrounding the university. In the more rural areas, jobs in the agriculture and lumber industries are more common.
Size: 1,194 square miles
Major cities: Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport
Median property value: $216,300
Just west of Benton County, Lincoln County extends all the way to the Pacific coast. With the county being peppered with quaint coastal towns, its primary industry is tourism, followed by health services and construction. The fishing port of Newport contributes to the abundance of seafood available in the area, and recreational fishing is also popular along the entire coast. With miles of beach and coastline, Lincoln County is ideal for families who want ocean views, easy access to the water, and all of the recreational opportunities that come with it.
Hood River County
Size: 533 square miles
Major cities: Hood River, Cascade Locks
Median property value: $325,200
Back up at the northern end of the Willamette Valley, just east of Multnomah County, you’ll find Hood River County. This region is most famous for its fruit production, including apples, pears, and cherries grown on family farms. If you visit, drive the scenic Fruit Loop to see the many lush farms and orchards. The location is also ideal for people who enjoy outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and river sports. Tucked into the Columbia River Gorge, the area is perfect for both viewing the scenery and going on outdoor adventures. On the downside, the cost of living in this area is relatively high, but the county is safe, quiet, and friendly.
Size: 2,395 square miles
Major cities: The Dalles, Dufur, Antelope, Maupin
Median property value: $182,300
Located east of Mount Hood, Wasco County is primarily rural, and the major industries are agriculture, lumber, utilities, manufacturing, and tourism. Rich in Oregon history and natural beauty, this region is ideal for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy rafting, hiking, fishing, cycling, or just taking in the view. If the sun fuels your lifestyle, The Dalles boasts 300 days of sunshine a year. With plenty of land and relatively limited housing stock available, Wasco County is the perfect place to build a new home.
Size: 1,883 square miles
Major cities: Oregon City, Barlow, Estacada, Sandy, Milwaukie, Happy Valley
Median property value: $374,900
Just south of Multnomah County, the northern edge of Clackamas County is in the Portland metropolitan area and an easy commute for those who want to work in the city and live in a more suburban area. Avid skiers will enjoy year-round access to Mount Hood ski resort and the many other outdoor activities the county has to offer. Although the cost of living is comparatively high, the public schools are excellent, and the area is well-suited for both families and young professionals. Outside of the Portland area, in the northwest part of the county, agriculture, manufacturing, and timber are the most common industries.
Size: 1,194 square miles
Major cities: Salem, Gervais, Aumsville, Silverton, Turner, Woodburn
Median property value: $224,300
South of Clackamas County and on the eastern side of the Willamette Valley, Marion County is home to the state capital, Salem. Named after the marionberry, this county has over 10,000 acres of orchards and leads the state in food production. If you want to be within a couple of hours of the coast without the higher cost of living associated with coastal towns, this is a good area to choose. As both the county seat and the state capital, the Salem area provides many government jobs and positions for young professionals.
Size: 2,309 square miles
Major cities: Albany, Lebanon, Sweet Home, Brownsville
Median property value: $173,100
East of Corvallis, at the south end of the Willamette Valley, Linn County primarily depends on the lumber and wood products industry. Like most other places in the state, Linn County provides ample opportunities for outdoor adventures and taking in the beautiful natural scenery. Many families live in the area, and the Albany area has the best school districts in the county.
Whether you want to build on a small lot in the Portland or Salem areas or have land in one of the more rural counties, Adair Homes can help you build your dream home. We offer both our traditional equity-building approach and our Turn Key Program in the North Willamette Valley. This means that whether you want to participate in the building process or have our team take care of everything for you, we’ve got a custom home solution for you. Contact us today to get started.