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Can You Afford to Live in Seattle? What You Need to Know

There’s more to affording a home than the mortgage payment. You need to cover homeowners insurance, property taxes, and more. Find out about the cost of living in Seattle before you start house hunting.
There’s more to affording a home than the mortgage payment. You need to cover homeowners insurance, property taxes, and more. Find out about the cost of living in Seattle before you start house hunting.

The Emerald City, known for its lush green palette, was the fastest-growing city in the United States over the past decade. It’s a tech-mecca and home to a diverse and vibrant arts and music scene. But, as the population has skyrocketed, so has the cost of living.

While you may dream of living in Seattle, can you afford it? Before home shopping, it’s important to calculate all your expenses. It goes beyond a monthly mortgage payment.

If you’ve never lived in Seattle before, but are relocating, a local real estate agent will be an invaluable resource to help you learn the city and set expectations about its cost of living. Even Seattleites will discover that it has changed a lot over the past decade. Working with a professional ensures an optimal home buying experience.

2019 Seattle Housing Costs

The Seattle housing market has seen price appreciation over the past decade, driven by job and population growth and limited housing inventory. The city can’t expand to the east or west due to Lake Washington and the Pacific Ocean, which places a natural constraint on new home construction. Prices have increased by 54.03% since 2014.

 

According to May data from Zillow, the median home value in Seattle are $723,300, though it fell 3.5% last year. Median household income is $86,822 and the homeownership rate is below 50%.

Other Seattle Costs of Living

Property Taxes

Property taxes can be a significant expense for many homeowners. Because they’re calculated off your home’s value they’ll fluctuate over the period of time you own the house. The recent massive value increases in Seattle have become an issue for many older homeowners.

Luckily, there are caps on the amount that taxes can increase each year. The total tax levy in Seattle can’t increase by more than 1% each year. Special levies and annexation are exempt from this limit, however, so have your realtor check to see if there’s anything upcoming that could increase your taxes above the limit.

The effective property tax rate for Washington is 1.03% and within King County, it’s 1.025%.

Property values are reevaluated annually based upon market data. The county assessor physically inspects homes once every six years to ensure the accuracy of the number of outbuildings, for example.

Homeowners Insurance

Homeowners insurance is another cost that you should include in your budget. Mortgage lenders require that you carry insurance to protect the asset, your house, which serves as collateral on their loan. To ensure that you maintain insurance they’ll divide your annual premium by 12 months and tack it onto your mortgage, then pay your insurance company directly.

The average cost of homeowners insurance in Washington is $653, which is far less than the national average. However, the amount that you personally pay will depend upon your home’s value. You can lower monthly premiums by choosing to have a higher deductible but if you go that route be sure that you could pay the deductible if something happened.

Home Maintenance

Mold and moss are two of the biggest challenges that Seattle homeowner’s face. The damp climate provides a perfect growth environment for both, which is why you’ll see clumps of brightly-colored green covering many home’s roofs.

If your home has a moss problem you’ll have to hire someone to take care of it or plan on using moss-remover cleaner and a scrub brush to clean it off yourself. If not treated, it will significantly reduce your roof’s lifespan.

Mold can grow in dark and damp places such as a basement. Having it remediated can cost over $2,000. Use fans to remove moisture from the air if your basement gets damp, and dry any wetness immediately. You might have to install gutters to move water away from the house and plan on keeping them clean and maintained.

While these are some of the most expensive problems a Seattle homeowner contends with, homes will need regular maintenance on other fronts. Major systems such as the furnace should be serviced annually and you should have a reserve of funds in cause a big appliance suddenly breaks down.

Transportation

Seattle’s public transportation system consists primarily of buses and a monorail. Due, again, to its geographic location, commute time requires either using one of two bridges or driving far north or south to get around Lake Washington to get to the city. Most households must have two cars.

Find a Top Seattle Real Estate Agent

When you decide to buy a home in Seattle, you need a top-rated agent on your side. It’s a tough, and expensive, housing market. An experienced, local agent will know each neighborhood’s quirks and be able to find a home that meets your needs.

Clever Partner Agents work at top national brokerages such as Century 21 and RE/MAX. They’ve spent years helping home buyers in Seattle, and have the numbers to prove it. Clever Partner Agents also offer a Home Buyer Rebate which you can use to offset closing or other home-related costs.

 

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Reuven Shechter

Reuven Shechter is the Outreach Coordinator at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents to help save on commission. He spreads the word about Clever, disseminating studies to journalists and developing relationships with media outlets. Reuven is passionate about investing in real estate and creating lasting success for families. His writing has been featured in Max Real Estate Exposure, Leverage Marketing, and more.

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