With the mighty Columbia River, the bustling city of Vancouver, and idyllic towns along the Pacific coast, the region that includes Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon is a beautiful place to call home. In the east, proximity to Portland offers all the amenities you could possibly need, including an airport for convenient travel. The farther west you go, the closer you can be to the water and the forested areas that offer ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. No matter where you live in the region, scenic views are not far—maybe even right outside your window.
Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon
The Adair Homes Southwest Washington branch services six of the counties that border the Columbia River on the southern edge of the state and the two northwestern most counties in Oregon.
Size: 1,223 square miles
Major cities: Ilwaco, Long Beach, Raymond, South Bend
Median property value: $159,200
Known for its oyster harvesting industry, Pacific County is naturally surrounded by water. The protected Willapa Bay is a prime area for aquaculture and a major producer of oysters for the entire United States. The two largest cities, Raymond and South Bend offer cultural activities such as museums; theaters; and, of course, tours of shellfish processing facilities. Seasonal tourism is a major economic driver in the area, especially during the warmer months.
Many retirees live in the area, and the median age is relatively high. The school systems are also above average, making it a good place for growing families. However, young professionals might have a difficult time finding others to connect with because there are not many people their age in the area.
Size: 287 square miles
Major cities: Cathlamet
Median property value: $197,000
The smallest by area and the second-least populated in the state, Wahkiakum County is a scenic, peaceful place where residents enjoy the occasional adventure on the Columbia River kayaking, boating, camping, hunting, or fishing. The county’s natural beauty is a draw for filmmakers, artists, and writers. A car ferry crosses the river, so visitors and residents can get to and from Oregon easily.
Historic Cathlamet, the only incorporated town in the county, is the main center of commerce. The old buildings are now home to community events, live performances, museums, and a modern marina within walking distance to downtown. This area is perfect for people looking for a quiet lifestyle with a small-town vibe, a relaxed pace, and access to outdoor activities and historic sites.
Size: 1,166 square miles
Major cities: Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, Woodland
Median property value: $180,000
Cowlitz County is a popular region for retirees because it is known as an area that is affordable for people living on social security. The relatively low cost of living and no state income tax make the county a draw for the aging population in Washington and beyond, especially California. Popular healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente extends as far north as the Kelso-Longview area, so Cowlitz County is often as far as retirees moving from California are willing to go. A quieter, relaxed lifestyle with little traffic makes it an easy place to live at any age. The eastern part of the county is a popular tourist area with access to Mount St. Helens National Monument.
The Kelso-Longview area is the primary population center. Built on the lumber industry, the towns maintain historic buildings. The economy still depends on forest products, with two of the largest employers being timber product manufacturers Weyerhaeuser and Kapstone.
Size: 656 square miles
Major cities: Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Woodland
Median property value: $294,400
Home to Vancouver, one of the largest cities in the region, Clark County sits just across the river from Portland, Oregon. This area is suitable for families who want to be in or near a larger city and all of the amenities it has to offer. Of course, this comes with a higher cost of living and more population density, but a quick weekend escape or day trip for an outdoor adventure is easy with proximity to national forests and water recreation.
One of the reasons residents choose to live in Vancouver versus Portland is the lack of income tax in Washington. However, the absence of a sales tax in Oregon is a big shopping draw for people who live near the border. Named as one of the best places to retire, Vancouver skews older than nearby Portland. No matter what age you are, building a home in the Vancouver area is typically less expensive than in Portland.
Size: 1,683 square miles
Major cities: North Bonneville, Stevenson
Median property value: $243,000
Just east of Clark County, the southwest tip of Skamania County is also relatively close to Portland for commuters who would rather live in Washington. However, the population is much smaller, which is not surprising considering the majority of the county is comprised of Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
The towns are small, typically with fewer than 1,500 people, and the area is characterized by its stunning landscape and rural feel. Although the county has historically depended on the timber industry, the economy has evolved to include tourism and manufacturing. Residents enjoy outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, cycling, and cross-country skiing.
Size: 1,904 square miles
Major cities: Bingen, Goldendale, White Salmon
Median property value: $197,500
Klickitat County is a primarily rural region that prides itself on country living and small, close-knit communities with neighbors who help one another out in times of need. Farmland for growing crops and livestock covers the countryside, and although there is plenty of available land, it’s not all suitable for building—so it’s important to do some research on permitting and site development requirements before you buy.
Just because it is relatively secluded doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do in Klickitat County. Year-round mild weather enables recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, rafting, horseback riding, and more. Families looking for a quiet, rural lifestyle with scenic views and access to outdoor activities should consider this area of Southwest Washington for building a new home.
Size: 1,084 square miles
Major cities: Astoria, Cannon Beach, Gearhart, Seaside, Warrenton
Median property value: $245,400
The northwesternmost in Oregon, Clatsop County is a major draw for tourists in the area, especially in the region surrounding Astoria. Museums, a trolley, a fort, and an aquarium provide historical and cultural experiences for both residents and visitors. Miles of oceanic coast also offer opportunities for beachgoing, clam digging, and peaceful strolls.
The county has excellent schools, making it an ideal place to raise a family. This is especially true for families who enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, fishing, and more. Ample rainfall and mild temperatures keep the region looking lush all year long, making the quiet coastal towns a perfect area for retirees who want to take in the scenery.
Size: 688 square miles
Major cities: Clatskanie, Columbia City, Prescott, Rainier, St. Helens, Scappoose, Vernonia
Median property value: $213,200
Just east of Clatsop County, skirting the southern banks of the Columbia River, Columbia County continues to be supported by the timber industry. However, much of the population, especially in the southeastern part of the county, commutes to Vancouver or Portland for work. The western part of the county is 30-60 minutes from the Pacific coast, making it easy to escape for day trips to the shore, and the inland areas are primarily agricultural in nature.
This area is well-suited for families who want to live a relaxed lifestyle in a smaller town. Although there is plenty of outdoor recreation, there are limited cultural activities available. However, living in Columbia County while working in a nearby larger city allows families to maintain a lower cost of living and get more house for their budgets.
If you are considering building a new home in Southwest Washington or Northwest Oregon visit the Adair Homes office in Woodland to learn more about our unique process. We’ll work closely with you every step of the way to help you determine your budget, secure financing, and customize the floor plan that works best for your family’s needs. Contact us today to get started, or explore our free resources to learn more about the homebuilding process.