Moving to a brand new place can be exciting and fun. But it can also be overwhelming. There’s so much to consider, plan for, and research in order to make sure your move goes as smoothly as possible. Financial considerations are likely at the top of your list, and you’ve probably calculated everything from how much it’ll be to move, how much your down payment will be, and what your homeowners insurance will cost.
However, it’s also important to factor in the cost of living in your new location. This is a critical but often overlooked consideration that can dramatically impact your financial readiness to move.
There are a plethora of factors that influence the cost of living. Everything from the weather and crime rate in your area to local politics and district layout can have an impact. As you consider how much it will truly cost you to live in Seattle, you should consider everything from gas prices, grocery prices, and homeowners insurance rates to average repair costs, property taxes, and location-specific factors that may increase your need for certain utilities.
While estimating the cost of living in Seattle is best done with the help of a local, experienced real estate agent, the following information should help you get started.
Typical Home Prices in Seattle in 2019
If you’ve been watching the market, you’ll know that home values in Seattle are incredibly high when compared to the rest of the nation. However, you’ll also know that they’ve been steadily falling. This puts Seattle buyers in an excellent position because it’s a cold market — which also means it’s a buyer’s market.
According to May data from Zillow, the median home value in Seattle is $723,300. Home values have dropped by 3.5% in the last year, and they’re expected to continue this descent by dropping another 3.4% in the coming year.
The median list price is $699,950, and the median sale price is $692,400. The average home spends just 49 days on the market, as of March 31, 2019, and a whopping 15.2% of homes have discounts associated with them.
You might think the dramatically falling home values in Seattle mean that you’ll be able to afford a lower cost of living soon. However, that’s historically not likely to be the case.
The Seattle market has a habit of dramatically increasing, holding steady, experiencing rapid drops in home value, and repeating the entire cycle over and over. While the overall values have trended downward over the last several years, this is the ninth time this cycle of spiking, holding, and falling has repeated since 2011.
The basic message to take away is that buying now means you’ll be able to benefit from appreciation when prices rise again. But it also means that you should be careful not to find false comfort in the currently downward trending market.
Seattle is, and will likely continue to be, an expensive place to live. However, be sure to consult with your realtor for the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date information.
How Much Are Seattle Property Taxes?
In King County, where Seattle is located, the property tax rate is 1.025%. This is less than the state’s average of 1.083% and far less than the national average of 1.211%.
However, given the high median home value in Seattle, it’s unlikely that the lower tax rate will help much. Even with the lower than average rate, you’re still looking at annual property taxes of around $7,414 on a home assessed at the median value.
That being said, for senior citizens, those struggling with low income, and other specific demographics, King County offers multiple tax relief programs including property tax exemptions.
Be sure to work closely with your real estate agent. They’ll be able to uncover programs and tax relief opportunities that are available to you and walk you through the process of applying if you qualify.
Average Homeowners Insurance in Seattle
Another cost of living you’ll want to consider is homeowners insurance. In the state of Washington, homeowners insurance rates tend to be lower than in other parts of the country. The average annual homeowners insurance rate in Washington is $653, according to Insurance.com, which is 47% lower than the national average.
However, that’s not necessarily comforting when you realize that Washington homeowners insurance rates have steadily risen over the past decade and don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. While you’ll be unlikely to notice the incremental price hikes, it’s worth knowing that they exist since you’ll have to factor that into the cost of living.
That being said, there are a number of ways you can save money on homeowners insurance, as well. Anything you do to reduce the risk to your home, such as installing a home monitoring or security system, can typically afford you a discount.
Common Home Maintenance and Repair Costs in Seattle
One of the most common costs of living that people fail to consider is the cost of home maintenance. The repairs you’ll have to make to your home largely depend on where you live.
If you think of Seattle and automatically conjure up pictures of constant rain, that’s partly due to stereotype — but it’s also due to a bit of truth. Seattle does see quite a lot of rain, and while that rain is beautiful it also brings with it problems related to water damage, mold, and mildew.
Storms blow through on a regular basis, as well, and snow and ice in the winter can cause roofing damage, structural decay, and even flooding. It’s also a bit more difficult to keep the outside of your home looking fresh since the paint takes a regular beating from the weather.
If you live in Seattle for more than a few years and you don’t end up with some kind of water damage, you’re lucky. Usually, it’s minor, and if you know what to look for you can act quickly and avoid exorbitant costs.
Speaking of the weather, one of the home maintenance costs you’ll have to factor into your financial considerations is heating. You’ll be using your heat quite often, and the electric bill can suffer as a result. You’ll also have to count on regular painting, roof inspections and repair, and fixing any water damage that occurs.
One more thing. If you live in the suburbs just outside of Seattle and your home is close to a forested area, you might also have repairs due to wildlife. Deer love to scrape their antlers on the exterior walls, and if you have gates and other structures, you might end up having to replace them from time to time after a curious animal meanders through.
You probably won’t have to worry about this in downtown Seattle, but the further you get into the suburbs, the more likely it is that you’ll have to deal with wildlife-related maintenance costs.
The 1% Rule
It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much you’ll have to spend per year in maintenance costs. However, you can always follow the 1% rule. This rule states that you set aside 1% of the purchase price of your home each year to account for repairs and ongoing maintenance costs. Taking the median sale price of $692,400, that means you should set aside $6,924 per year for maintenance and repair costs.
Other Costs of Living in Seattle to Consider
How expensive Seattle is depends entirely on how you live your life. If you like to take public transportation and grow your own food, then your cost of living will be lower than it would be for someone who prefers to drive everywhere and has finer tastes.
Aside from personal preferences, though, everything in Seattle seems to be a little more expensive than it is in other places throughout the country.
For instance, gas prices in Seattle currently sit at around $3.57 per gallon, while the national average sits at $2.76 per gallon.
According to Best Places, housing-related costs are typically around four time higher in Seattle than they are nationally, but utilities are typically priced lower. Transportation costs more, but health costs are less than they are in other parts of the country.
Overall, aside from fixed costs like your property taxes and homeowners insurance, you have a lot of control over how much it costs you to live in Seattle. While many things are more expensive in the Seattle area, others are less expensive, which tends to act as a balancing force.
Find a Top Seattle Real Estate Agent
While researching information about the cost of living in Seattle can provide a wealth of information for you, there’s a cap on how far that knowledge can take you. In addition to conducting your own research, you should consult with a local, experienced real estate agent in your area.
Only a qualified realtor can guide you through the home buying process, help you determine the cost of living, and make sure you’re getting the best deal on a home.