Seattle: Sometimes it’s the Worst of Both Worlds

What’s worse than your friends in other cities thinking you live in South Alaska?  Paying major-city prices for housing, while living in South Alaska!

As someone who has been looking for a home for over 3 years, you can say that I am sufficiently fed up with the bloated asking prices for Seattle-area real estate.  For those who still think that “small-town” Seattle is still a bargain compared to other large cities, I recommend taking your housing budget on a multi-city vacation:  what can your money buy you in other cities? 

After plugging your numbers into other cities, you can then accurately determine if the premiums sellers in the Puget Sound area are asking are truly worth it.  You be the judge on the following examples – where would you rather call home?

RANGE:  $2,000,000 +

$3,700,000 buys you this palatial oceanfront home in Huntington Beach, CA.

16722 Baruna LN
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
CA MLS: S521828

Roughly the same amount buys you this projected new condo construction for $1,600 square/foot, Paris?  Manhattan? – no, its downtown Bellevue!?!

930 109th Ave NE #14
Bellevue, WA 98004
MLS: 27083805

RANGE:  $1,000,000 – $1,500,000

$1,339,000 buys you a piece of history – and a very nice property – in the heart of Georgetown.

225 30th St NW
Washington, DC 20007
DC MLS: DC6661660

Pay slightly more and this Bellevue tear-down could be yours!

9367 Sunset Way
Bellevue, WA 98004
MLS:  28015348

RANGE:  under $500,000

$499,900 gets you just blocks from the ocean in a spotless top unit condo in swanky La Jolla, California. 

5490 La Jolla Blvd #K206
La Jolla, CA 92037
CA MLS: 076069642

The same amount buys you a ground floor condo – complete with no natural light – on Mercer Island.

2940 76th Ave SE #B-102
Mercer Island, WA 98040
MLS: 28029483

  • Truwyn

    Although I think you make an interesting point, I can speak to your DC listing since I lived there for about 5 years and know exactly where that house is.
    There is no parking there and street parking is famously hard to come by in Georgetown. That house is miniscule, to say the least and on a busy thoroughfare. The metro is a bus ride away. Also, most government workers cannot afford to live in the district; that privilege is left to the lobbyists and lawyers, who also have a hard time affording it.

    When we left two years ago, a 2-bedroom apartment in a decent (not fancy) neighborhood cost over $2K per month- with parking another $250 per month, if available.

    Finally, if you have a child, DC public schools are notoriously awful, and a recent article in the Washington Post stated that even the very rich can no longer afford private school there. The average Kindergarden tuition starts at $30K per year. I lived 2 blocks away from one of those schools and it was completely average compared to Seattle public schools.

    That said, that’s why my family moved back to Seattle, and that’s why the prices don’t seem so terrible.

    Just my experience.

  • Susan K Rits

    I agree Susie! I moved here from NYC last September with the idea that the living would be cheaper. Not true! Condo prices are just as high in Seattle as they are in Brooklyn (Park Slope, Cobble Hill–really nice communities about 10 min from Manhattan) and rents are as high too.

    In NYC we rationalize the high living expenses because we are also buying the best city in the world to live in. So what exactly are we paying for in sleepy little Seattle?

  • Susie Naficy

    Truwyn – Thanks for your comment! Of course, you’re correct – there are several outside factors other than price that factor into the value of a home. Its nice to get your first-hand perspective, though many might argue that despite the downsides to living in an urban area like Georgetown – the fact that it is more urban, metropolitan and diverse than the Seattle-area, those intangible positives outweigh the negatives.

    Susan – Thank you for your message! I also lived in NYC prior to my move to Seattle. For that reason, I completely agree with you that it is pretty ridiculous that prices for condos in this area are comparable to a place like NYC. I don’t think it will last – condo supply is way up in Seattle and the Eastside – there’s no place for prices to go but down.

  • Redbot

    Susie, those are some great examples. Point well made!

    I’ve heard that plenty of early buyers of those Bellevue high-rises under construction are now trying to get out of their deals. It’s only a matter of time before prices crash.

    I second Truwyn. The Seattle area is comparable to NYC, SFO etc. when access to nature and general quality of life is considered. Where else in the country can you be so close to glaciers, waterfalls, and other Switzerland-like vistas, *and* be close to a plethora of high-quality restaurants, shopping etc.? We’re in the middle of three top-flight national parks here. Our summer weather is the best in the country. Plus the Seattle area has relatively great areas for kids to grow up in, and the job market is–so far–strong here. Lots of plusses, just different plusses than other “world class” cities.

  • Hair Farmer Joe

    You are totally right – prices up here have been inflated for at least the last 3 years. But the good news for us that have waited (and us brokers who have advised their clients to wait to buy) is that they are going to correct. We might not see huge price declines this year, but the next 2-3 years are going to see major reductions in value and many people who contributed to the current unreasonable price levels by paying way too much for their properties are going to get hurt really bad. My investor group and I will be here to help them out, pick up the pieces (foreclosures and short sales) and get ready to ride the next wave.