Press Room for Hood River Real Estate & Columbia Gorge Area
Ten Reasons Why Hood River Real Estate is Still Hot
In years past, resort towns like this on the Columbia River Gorge, in the shadow of Mount Hood, were seen primarily as places to go to play outside for a vacation or a weekend. Flocks of tourists would escape to the Columbia Gorge for the skiing, windsurfing, hiking or bicycling, and then high-tail it back to their full-time homes in the cities or the suburbs.
But with the advent of telecommuting, the growing appeal of small town rural America after the metro-area attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the increasing attraction of healthy living and natural resource amenities in the outlying areas, that trend is changing. More and more, as priorities shift, Hood River Oregon and towns like it are becoming popular hometown or second-home destinations.
In August 2007, the New York Times noted a new tribe living in the bucolic mountain town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. As technology enables people to live and work wherever they want, increasingly, they are clustering in resort playgrounds like Steamboat Springs (pop. 9,315), that have natural amenities, good weather and, now, lots of people like themselves, wrote the Times John Leland.
Hood River, with a population of 6,580, is experiencing a similar influx with an added draw of people who appreciate its focus on green living and preserving natural resources. Yes, windsurfers, skiers, bikers and hikers are still coming — in droves. But along with those are many families and individuals drawn to a friendly, small-town atmosphere where agriculture is supported and community resources are treasured.
Here are 10 things about the area that might surprise you:
1. Sustainability In The Hood River Area
As Hood River County Commissioner and Copper West Properties, Hood River Real Estate broker, Maui Meyer notes, athletes were not the only people moving into the area when he began building his network of two restaurants, a farming cooperative and two real estate businesses in the early 1990s.
The long term success of a town like Hood River is based almost entirely upon the success of our regions agriculture, he wrote in a Copper West blog entry in November 2007. Not entirely for its output, but rather, its ethos. Meyer, a former world-class windsurfer and a writer for American Windsurfer magazine, started in 1991 by co-founding The Sixth Street Bistro, which was Green Smart certified in 1998. In addition to recycling food-scraps, serving meals that feature local produce and re-using cooking oil for automobile fuel, Sixth Street has led to the support and founding of six family farms.
A second sustainability move was Meyers’ founding of Oregon Growers and Shippers, which draws products from area farms, packages them and ships them across the nation. More recently, Meyer and others opened Celilo restaurant, named for a Native American fishing village that used to be on the Columbia River banks nearby. The restaurant, which concentrates on using local produce and responsible resource production, is housed in the Yasui building, Hood River’s first LEED-compliant building and one of the first major investments in the Hood River downtown in 30 years. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green-building rating system. It is based on such items as the use of reclaimed building materials like salvaged timber. This once-pastoral farming and logging community now has a half-dozen or so fine restaurants, mostly because some of the food-conscious athletes, attracted by the quality of life, decided to make it their home, wrote Susan Hauser of the New York Times, in November 2002.
2. Mega Outdoor Recreation In The Gorge
When you go to see a lawyer in Hood River, don’t be surprised if, after you’ve gotten advice on hood river real estate investments or a will, that the talk turns to wind velocity, river currents or the best deals on sails for surfboards. Many professionals have moved into town just to be near what is known, without exaggeration, as the windsurfing capital of the world.
On a clear summer day when the air is moving at a clip, the Columbia River is a sea of brightly colored sails navigated by wetsuit-clad windsurfers traveling back and forth from the Oregon to the Washington river banks. In January or February, look for skis, boots and poles stacked in the closet at many Hood River offices and workplaces. With 11,239-foot-elevation Mount Hood and its numerous resorts just minutes away, a good snow day may be cause for automatic personal leave time en masse.
Any other time, check the road and mountain biking trails along the Historic Columbia River Highway or on the Fruit Loop through pear and apple orchards. Or go hiking along Eagle Creek, where the Punchbowl Falls are legendary.
According to Outside Magazine’s April 2006 issue, Hood River is one of the nations 100 Adrenaline Hot Spots, and rates the name, Adventure Mecca Ultimate Cascades. Not to be outdone, Men’s Journal Magazine in their April 2006 issue said Hood River was among the Best Places to Live: The 50 Healthiest, Sexiest, Most Adventurous Towns, due, it said, to the towns status as a Multisport hub with something for everyone. And, to be more specific, Skiing Magazine in 2005 ranked Hood River #5 in its Top 10 Ski Towns. That was right behind Jackson Hole, Wyo., Steamboat Springs, Co., Vail, Co. and Bozeman, Mt.
3. Amazing scenery In The Northwest
If you drive east along Highway 84 from Portland out the Columbia River gorge about 60 miles to Hood River, and then continue east about 20 miles toward The Dalles, you don’t really need any explanation of what amazing scenery refers to. Suffice it to say that in certain types of lighting, at certain spots along the river, you might have a hard time recalling anything more glorious out of anywhere you’ve ever traveled around the world. Last year, Progressive Farmer Magazine placed Hood River County at #10 in their list of the Top 200 Best Places to Live in Rural America. The accompanying article, by Jim Patrico, explains: It’s almost unfair (to those of us who don’t live there) that one place could be so beautiful.
These lucky souls who live in Hood River County, Ore., awake each morning to vistas of snow-capped Mount Hood to the south, stately Mount Adams to the north and the gorgeous Columbia River gorge between. Through the beauty flows the Hood River valley, with its cliffs and crags and improbably round hills formed by volcanic bubbles.
Not to belabor the point, but in the recent book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, author Patricia Schultz puts the Columbia gorge and Hood River on the list, in spades. Here’s what Schultz has to say, in part:
The Columbia River’s enormous 80-mile-long gorge through the Cascade Mountains is one of the most dramatic destinations in the Pacific Northwest, so breathtaking that in 1988, Congress designated it the first of America’s National Scenic Areas. The mile-wide river, flanked by volcanic sentinels Mount Hood in Oregon and Mount Adams in Washington, flows beneath banded basalt walls rising 3,000 feet. Waterfalls tumble from the gorge’s edge, cascading hundreds of feet to meet the river. All this beauty — plus excellent hiking trails and world-class windsurfing — is just an hour from Portland.
4. Cool technology In The Columbia Gorge
In 2005, Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc., the search engine giant, announced it was buying more than 30 acres along the Columbia River at The Dalles to build a mega-computing data center complex. Now up and running, the center was described by the New York Times as being as big as two football fields, with twin cooling plants protruding four stories into the sky.
Somewhere between 50 and 100 new jobs have been created at the plant, which is competing with Microsoft and Yahoo in a multi-billion-dollar face-off that will determine dominance in the online world in the years ahead, according to the Times. Microsoft and Yahoo are building big data centers upstream in Wenatchee and Quincy, Wash., 130 miles to the north, the Times noted.
The article calls The Dalles region the intersection of cheap electricity and readily accessible data networking. While the Google presence has already injected a much-needed economic shot to the region’s economy, for many area residents further west, it is not as incongruous to the scenic, rugged natural area as one might think.
After all, Hood River, Bingen and White Salmon are already home to a cluster of ultra-high-tech Boeing Co. spin-off companies raking in millions of dollars in federal contracts for unmanned aircraft parts and production. The big player in that cluster in Bingen’s Insitu, but there are at least three others sprinkled on both sides of the two-lane toll bridge over the Columbia between Hood River and the Washington towns.
For a rural area, the gorge is well-wired, including having its own Internet service provider, Gorge.net. The dozen or so non-Starbucks espresso shops around the area feature some free Internet-accessible computer terminals and many a laptop-toting latte drinker.
5. Moderate Climate East Of Portland
For many people escaping rain-soaked Portland but unwilling to live in the desert conditions of eastern Oregon, Hood River is a sweet spot in the middle: less rainy, sunnier and slightly warmer than Portland, but not blisteringly hot and dry as in The Dalles or further east.
The average rainful in Hood River is 31 inches annually, compared to 37.4 inches in Portland, according to the Oregon Blue Book. The Blue Book lists the average Hood River low temperature as 29 degrees Fahrenheit; the average high temp is 81 degrees. In Portland, the average low is 34 degrees and 80 degrees is the average high temperature.
The touted winds are not often as apparent as one might think, although it’s wise to take them into consideration if you buy a house with an outdoor patio that seems pretty breezy.
6. Plentiful Resources In Hood River Area
If you’re coming from LA, don’t even think about water shortages or smog anymore. Here, we’re talking plenty of clean air and clear water, either ground water melted off the mountains or from underground springs. Forget about getting diverted water from the Colorado River. Think breathing in lots of refreshing, clean mountain air. San Franciscans will feel at home with the occasional fog over the Columbia, but most locals report an abundance of cloud-free, sunny days especially once you get through the rainy months of December, January and February. Outstanding crispy apples and pears are available often right off the tree, if you have friends with orchards. Hood River is one of the largest pear-growing districts in the world, especially winter pears. By bike or car, a tour called the Fruit Loop will take you past Hood River valley fruit orchards, roadside stands, country markets and wineries. The Hood River County Chamber of Commerce offers information on the Fruit Loop and other ways to see the countryside’s natural riches.
7. Appreciating Property Values In The Gorge, Oregon
The national housing market slump in 2007 has resulted in a stronger buyers’ real estate market in Hood River as more homes are listed and more stay on the market for a longer period of time. This gives buyers more room for buyers to negotiate and less pressure to outbid competing potential buyers. According to the multiple listing service data, closed sales decreased 15.5 percent from January to November 2007 over the same period in 2006.
At the same time, sellers can note that housing prices have stayed fairly stable and even increased slightly. The average sale price was $264,4000 in the 12 months ending November 2007. That was a 6.2 percent rise from the $249,000 average price in the previous 12 months. The median sale price for the same 12 months ending November 2007. $225.000, was a 12.5 percent increase from the $200,000 median price of the prior 12 months. Single family home buyers have a wealth of new construction to choose from just outside the Hood River downtown. Alternatively, a number of older Victorian-style homes in the downtown area have been renovated and remodeled and can also offer good investment opportunities.
8. Small Town Friendliness In The Town Of Hood River
Did you ever have to give up on attending a party in downtown San Francisco because you absolutely couldn’t find a parking space? Well, locals in Hood River will tell you they leave for the movies in downtown Hood River about 15 minutes before show time. Once downtown, they are often are able to park within a block of the theater.
Since there are no traffic lights downtown, motorists go out of their way to surrender to pedestrians at intersections. In other words, you won’t ever if at all — need to use your middle finger for that classic big-city traffic statement.
Similarly, clerks in stores generally lack the rudeness gene, and in fact, will often go out of their way to be helpful.
Kids and families are top priority in Hood River, for the new residents as well as long-timers. As many professionals from other locales find they can live here year-round and still maintain their businesses via telecommuting, the schools and child-friendly infrastructure has been developing also. A new branch of the Columbia Gorge Community College is under construction in Hood River. Based in The Dalles, about 20 miles east of Hood River, the community college’s commitment to a new site in Hood River area is a testament to the influx of families and individuals that are discovering the Gorge and making it their home.
9. Upscale Amenities In The Columbia Gorge
With Portland only about an hour away, concerts, theater, dancing and other celebrations and events in the city are doable, even during the week. In November of this year, the New York Times lauded Portland as having a small-town feel in an urban atmosphere. The newspaper article, which featured a lead photo of Mount Hood, added that the Portland was one of the last affordable housing markets on the West Coast. There is a vibrant restaurant and cultural scene, accessible public transportation light rail, street cars and buses and a population enthusiastic about the outdoors and the environment, the Times said. Even without a trip to Portland, Hood River has its own vibrant entertainment and restaurant scene. First Friday, a monthly art and food event, offers gallery openings, shops, gourmet snacks, music and wine tastings in the downtown hub. First-class lodging is right at the doorstep. This year, for example, the sprawling Columbia Gorge Hotel was ranked #19 in a list of Top 100 Hotels in the U.S. and Canada by Travel and Leisure Magazine.
The historic landmark has twice before been named the Best Romantic Hotel in the Nation, and is considered one of the top 10 spots for weddings in the country. If you drive past the hotel on most weekend days, you can see cars from wedding guests lining the road for a long stretch.
10. Great Food Along with Real Estate In The Gorge
You don’t even have to go to Portland to find fine dining. Restaurants in the Columbia Gorge lean heavily on fresh salads and vegetables, as well as fine wines from abundant local vineyards. Some of them, such as Celilo and The Sixth Street Bistro, emphasize local produce and rely almost exclusively on area farms for their menus. No longer are visitors faced with the food-as-fuel quotient, where a cruddy hamburger or Americanized Chinese food was the only option after a long day of play, writes Ivy Manning in an October 2005 edition of Willamette Week. Chefs here are making the connection between the bounty of local ingredients around them and their sport, ecologically minded clientele.
And, for the basic wonderful all-you-can eat breakfast, you have several to-die-for brunch spots such as Bette’s in downtown Hood River, where overflow groups from two dining rooms spill out into the hallway every weekend.
Welcome to Hood River Oregon. Visit, enjoy and even stay if you like.
All in all, the Columbia Gorge and Hood River are no longer just the pass-through pit stop for people going up on Mount Hood or for those sailing on the river. As all the national newspaper and magazine accolades indicate, the area’s attractions are no longer the Pacific Northwest’s best-kept secret.