13 Eye-Opening Scouting Visit Discoveries Online Research Did Not Reveal

How much can a scouting visit tell you about a prospective place to move that your online research either can’t or won’t reveal? A whole lot!

To illustrate this point, I’m highlighting 13 eye-opening discoveries I made on my recent scouting visit of Eugene, Oregon that did not surface during my online research.

Online research can yield a lot of information about a place, but it’s sketchy and one-dimensional. It’s like the outlined pictures in a coloring book before they are filled in. A scouting visit provides the colors that allow you to fill in significant details about a place that may have been previously ill-defined or unknown.

Your scouting visit take-aways can also lead to an even deeper dive with your online research, so that you learn more — both positive and negative — about a place you’re considering moving to. Like getting to know someone well before you marry them, you want to get to know as much as you can about a place before you move there.

So, what did I learn about Eugene on my scouting visit that online research did not reveal? Some of these discoveries may surprise you!

No sales tax

This was a welcome surprise, especially since I’ve always lived in states that collect sales tax. For example, the sales tax rate in Washington County, Iowa is 7%. While it’s definitely a perk not to have to pay sales tax, it’s important to note that Oregon has one of the highest state income tax rates in the U.S.

Oh, well — good news, bad news!

You can check out sales tax rates by state here and by Canadian province here. To get an accurate rate for U.S. locations, be sure to add any additional city and/or county sales tax.

Gas station attendants

One-way streets galore

Low-ish property taxes (a lesson in perception vs. reality)

The average property tax rate in Eugene/Lane County is .87% of the property’s assessed fair market value. For comparison’s sake, I looked up the average property tax rate in Washington County, Iowa (where I currently live) to discover it’s a staggering 1.29% of the property’s assessed fair market value. That’s almost 50% higher!

It’s mind-boggling how much higher property taxes are in a tiny town in Iowa than in the second-largest city in Oregon! And it’s amusing that, no matter where you go, it seems people like to complain about how high their property taxes are — even when their rates are comparably low!

You can check out property tax rates by state here. Keep in mind that property tax rates can vary by city and/or county within each state.


You can learn more about Point in Time Counts by location in the U.S. here and in Canada here.

A love of signs

It was apparent from my scouting visit that Eugene residents love their signs! I noticed a lot of signs around the city that said, “Choose Kindness.” How can you argue with that sentiment? Many signs were refreshingly silly, from “Now open. Beer colder than your ex!” to a sign for tie-dyed clothes that read, “Made by REAL hippies!” Most signs I saw were indicative of the warm, friendly — and funny! — people I met on my scouting visit.

Directional signs like the one above here are especially popular. I noticed this silly sign while walking around the coastal town of Florence. Then, on the road from Newport to Eugene on Highway 20 East, I saw a sign that read: Boston 3,365 miles. I found out later that Highway 20 has the official designation of “America’s longest road” and that it does indeed end up in Boston.

Tsunami danger zones

Speaking of signs…how about this one?

Signs warning you to immediately head inland or to higher ground in case of an earthquake were ubiquitous on my day trip to the coast. Tsunamis can travel as far as 10 miles inland. Fortunately, Eugene is 60 miles inland!

Just how often do earthquakes and tsunamis happen in Oregon?

According to the U.S. Geological Service website, Oregon’s most recent 4.7 and 4.9-magnitude earthquakes took place offshore in summer of 2004 and did not produce any tsunamis. The most recent tsunamis occurred along Oregon’s coastline in 1960 and 1964.

A high-priority characteristic on our ideal place profile was that it had to be tornado-free. Oregon and Washington are the only two states that do not get tornadoes, which helped to narrow down our possibilities considerably. But it just goes to show there’s always going to be something to worry about, so pick your poison!

Click here to get information about earthquakes across the U.S. and the world.

Mobile veterinarians

Funky airport


Sense of community

Courteous drivers (and lower speed limits)

Stunning scenery

Why scouting visits are a worthwhile investment

Getting to know a place online is nothing like scouting it out in person. By getting eyes on the ground, I was able to both confirm and supplement our online research findings and to establish Eugene, hands-down, as our best place to move. We finally found the place we’re meant to be and are making plans to move — and the scouting visit is what sealed the deal!

Ready to find the place you’re meant to be, too? Let’s talk!

Margaret Vandergriff is a consultant and founder of Your Place Finder, which helps location independent midlife women find a new place to live that they love.