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Overview & Cost of Living in Salem, Oregon | Updated 2022

Are you considering moving to Salem, Oregon? You should know that your chosen destination is the largest small town in the Pacific Northwest. The city provides residents with a relaxed atmosphere and a peaceful setting you would never find in a larger city. 

While Salem, OR has a small-town feel, it has a lot going for it and plenty of excellent attractions, amenities, and opportunities. The location is central to the Portland metro area, making it a wonderful town to raise a family. Furthermore, you also gain access to many exciting opportunities to enjoy outdoor adventures and enjoy nature. 

Salem is close to Portland, but still far enough from the problems of city living. These and more qualities make Salem’s real estate market one of the hottest in Oregon. 

You need professional, fast-paced real estate agents like Eileen O’Reilly Realtors to secure your dream home for you and your family in Salem.

Here, we go over the location, population demographics, and Salem Oregon Cost of Living (COL) compared to Portland and other cities. You will also find a review of reasons that make living in Salem an excellent choice and things to do in the city. 

About Salem, OR

Salem is Oregon’s capital city and Marion’s county seat. The city is in the middle of Willamette Valley and the Willamette River, running north through the town. 

The river is the boundary between Polk and Marion counties, and West Salem’s city neighborhood is in Polk County. Founded in 1842, Salem has been Oregon Territory’s capital since 1851 and incorporated in 1857. 

Population Demographics

Salem boasts a mix of young to old residents. The estimated overall population is 175,535 and about 14.7% of them are over 65 years old, according to 2020 data. This means the city is familiar and comfortable for retirees. 

Over half of the housing units in Salem are owner-occupied, which also means that many people with properties enjoy living in the city. Community development is a major reason this town is an excellent place to live. 

Salem Oregon Cost of Living Against the State and National Average

The overall cost of living in Salem is about on par with the average cost of living in the U.S. Buyers and renters find the housing costs in Salem more affordable compared to the nearby Portland.

What is the Cost of Living Index?

The Cost of Living (COL) Index spans the country and has a baseline of 100. An amount higher than 100 shows that the cost of living in an area is higher than that of the national average. Below 100 shows that the living costs are relatively cheaper. 

What is a Cost of Living Calculator?

A COL calculator shows how much money you will need to maintain your current standard of living once you move to Salem, Oregon. 

Many online calculators use data from various sources to calculate the cost of living. Some sources include COLI from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Critical Cost of Living Indexes for Salem

Here is a table showing the cost-of-living indexes in Salem, Oregon. 

Cost of Living Indexes

Salem, Oregon

Overall

102.4

Groceries and food

100.3

Median home cost

$354,500

Housing

122.2

Transportation

96.1

Utilities

79.3

Health

92.8

Miscellaneous

95.4

Before you pack your bags, find out how much you should plan on allocating to your monthly expenses. 

Price of Food and Household Items

Food is a critical daily expense that has a significant impact on the overall cost of living. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows food prices vary from one city to another and from town to town. 

A single adult in Salem spends about $3,052 on food each year and a family of five spends $10,736 in the same period. For context, the average annual expenditure on food per year in Oregon and the U.S. respectively is $3,279 and $3,239 for a single adult and $11,565 and $11,423 for a five-member family. 

The median household income in Sale is about $53,619. Expect to spend 5% on dining out, 6% on groceries, and 11% on your food budget. Compared to the national average, ground beef costs 25.4% higher and potatoes cost 36.9% less. 

Salem Oregon Housing Costs

When purchasing a home, you will pay for it monthly. However, owning a home also means you are paying for property taxes, maintenance costs, property taxes, and insurance. Housing costs are also the largest component when looking at an area’s cost of living.

The median home value in Salem is $345,500, while the living index of housing stands at 122.2 against the state’s 148.9. Salem is experiencing some of the highest appreciation rates. The local housing market is appreciating at an average of 5.16% per year.

A look at the numbers shows Salem is within the top 10% of locations experiencing real estate appreciation.

Salem, Oregon, is also among the highest appreciating communities in the nation in the last quarter. Purchasing a house in the city right now means you will get an 80% higher appreciation rate compared to other localities in Oregon.

The most common types of housing in Salem are single-family detached homes at 59.79%. However, you will also find a sizable amount of high-rise apartments and large apartment complexes. Other housing types include mobile homes, small apartment buildings, and duplexes accounting for 14.67%.

Rental Rates in Salem, OR

The average monthly rent for apartments is between $800 and $1,772. A studio apartment will cost you about $800 and a 1-bedroom apartment $1,345.

The most affordable neighborhoods are:

  • Northeast Neighbors at $875 for a 1-bedroom apartment
  • Highland at $925 for an average 1-bedroom apartment
  • Northeast Salem with $930

The most expensive neighborhoods in Salem include:

  • Central Area with an average of $1,795 for a 1-bedroom apartment
  • Sunnyslope at $1,395
  • West Salem with $1,347

Close to half of the city’s population lives in rental properties. The average apartment size you will get is 889 square feet. Note that the rent and apartment size vary depending on the type of unit, neighborhood, and amenities.

Transportation Costs

When you move, you need to find out whether you can move around the new city by public transport or on foot. Considering the transportation system is a critical factor before you make the big move to Salem.

The city offers residents multiple public transportation options, including Amtrak trains and public buses. However, most people in the city prefer driving. You can also use the HUT Shuttle service to travel from Portland International Airport to Salem and vice versa.

Foot and bike are an easy way to travel if you are in downtown Salem. Other transportation options include the Willamette Valley Yellow Cab, Uber, Lyft, and bike-sharing Zagster services.

Moving around Salem will cost less compared to the state and national averages. Keep in mind that the average transportation cost in Oregon is higher than the national average.

Bus riders have several fare options, including:

  • Reduced fares for those with disabilities, medicare holders, and the elderly
  • Youth fare for kids between six and 18 years
  • Full fare for anyone between 19 and 59

The average gas price in Salem Oregon is $3.32 a gallon, which is higher than the $2.90 per gallon national average. But the commutes around the city are relatively short.

Car insurance costs $1,550 annually, again, more than the state and national averages. However, the rates you get depend on indicators such as your age and driving history. For example, teenage drivers have the most expensive insurance rates.

Utilities

Utility costs include water/sewage, gas, garbage disposal, and electricity. The expenses may include services such as cable TV, phone services, and the internet because they are now standard in most American homes. The cost of utilities can vary, depending on the climate, usage habits, location, and home size.

At 79.3 on the cost-of-living index, utility costs in Salem are lower than the statewide average of 81. Both indexes also lower the national cost of living index on utility costs.

Expect an average utility bill of $213 a month when you move to Salem and live in a 915-square-foot apartment. The Internet costs about $67 monthly.

Salem Oregon Health Care Costs

Basic health insurance coverage, out-of-pocket insurance and health care costs are lower than average nationwide. Salem is also below Oregon’s average.

Average healthcare costs for a single adult in Salem are $3,595 annually compared to $3,908 for Oregon and the national $4,266.

Childcare Costs

Child care can add thousands of dollars to the annual expenditure of families with kids. The average cost of child care in Salem for two kids is $16,359, which is $1,500 less than the statewide figure of $17,839. Childcare costs around the nation for two children are $15,853 annually.

Schools

Salem city offers residents plenty of education options, including traditional public and private schools, online schools, and higher education opportunities. The city is home to the Willamette Education Service District (WESD), which provides administrative, school improvement, technology, and special education services to 21 school districts in Oregon. 

The second-largest school district in Oregon is the Salem-Keizer Public Schools, serving 65 schools with over 41,000 students. Public charter schools in the area include Howard Street Charter School and Valley Inquiry Charter School. Higher education institutions in Salem include the Chemeketa Community College, Willamette University, and Corban University.

Pros and Cons of Living in Salem, Oregon

Now that you know how much it will cost to live in Salem, Oregon, it is time to find out the advantages and disadvantages of living in the city.

Portland and Eugene are the most popular cities in Oregon, and they have plenty to offer. But you cannot discount Salem.

Living in Salem is an excellent opportunity to enjoy beautiful outdoor environments. The city’s proximity to major metropolitan areas is spurring a positive economic curve.

If you are considering moving to Salem soon, check out the pros and cons below to see if it is the right move.

Pros

Salem, OR, has several perks going for it. Check out these benefits and see if they compel you to make the move.

Excellent Outdoors

The beautiful outdoors are among the top reasons people are moving to Oregon. It is easy to create an entire catalog of postcards from outdoor shots of Oregon!

Salem also has plenty of natural beauty to offer residents. Drop by one of the city parks whenever you feel stressed out and need to unwind. Visit the Minto-Brown Island Park, take a spot on one of the observation platforms, and soak yourself in nature.

Have fun canoeing or fishing at the Cascades Gateway Park housing Walter Wirth Lake. Another popular destination to check out is the Willamette Mission State Park. The park offers visitors a surreal experience thanks to its old structures.

A Great Economic Outlook

Salem’s economy may not be the best, but it is getting there. The unemployment rate stands at 3.6%, which is within the country-wide average. Salem’s job market has a bright future, making it a suitable destination for individuals who are starting their careers.

Current projections show the country’s job market will grow by 11.9 million jobs by 2030. Even economists are optimistic about Salem. Considering the major growth the city will experience, now is an excellent time to move to Salem.

Proximity to Major Oregon Cities

There is more to Salem life than the beautiful natural locals. The city is conveniently close to other important cities in Oregon.

For example, you can work in Portland and live in Salem. Driving between the two cities takes about 50 minutes, but heavy traffic can increase the commute time. You can also drive between Salem and Eugene regularly, but the drive is longer.

Cons

There are many reasons to love life in Salem, but there are some not-so-great aspects to consider.

Rainy Weather

Oregon’s climate is comfortable throughout the year. The summers are warm and the winters chilly—both are manageable and not excessive. However, Oregon receives an abundance of rain.

Dealing with constant rain for stretches of the year can wear a person down. Salem also experiences frequent rain.

The city receives 45 inches of rain each year, which is above the national average. While flooding is not an immediate concern, you need to maintain your home. Also, always remember to carry an umbrella when heading out.

Expensive Homes

Homes in the state are expensive, a fact you cannot ignore if you want to move to Oregon. Salem home prices are a testament to how sought-after properties in the area are.

Rural versus City Life

Salem is a rural small town. The area does not have a lot of nightlife when you compare it to San Francisco or Portland.

However, the city is experiencing rapid growth. But you do not have to wait in line, for now, at the restaurant. There are no packed bars and nightclubs, so the city may not offer you the type of opportunities you need if you prefer streets lined with abundant nightlife and restaurants.

Wrap Up

Are you considering relocating to Salem, Oregon? While this is an adventure, you must research and ensure the city is right for you.

This in-depth review of Salem Oregon cost of living is the first step to making a successful move. The city offers many opportunities for those interested in the outdoors. Plus, it is only a few hours from the coast and the mountains.

Are you looking for the best housing option in Salem, Oregon? Get in touch with Eileen O’Reilly today!

Eileen O'Reilly

Eileen O’Reilly is a Bay Area Top Producer, and one of eXp Realty’s most dedicated and successful real estate agents in Oregon. Committed to finding real solutions to the challenges buyers and sellers face today, Eileen draws from a heart-centered approach and tenacious drive to help clients transform their lives through real estate.

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