Considering a move to Seattle from Midwest

10 Replies

I'm considering moving to Seattle (for personal, not investing reasons) but I wouldn't want to abandon RE to do it, and the heat of that market is a bit intimidating. I'm wondering what you all think would be some good areas to watch, websites, etc. to gain basic knowledge of the area with a specific focus on sub-markets that I might want to purchase a home in. 

A little about myself: I'm an investor in Champaign, a college-town market. I own 4 homes and house hack my current residence (which I would hope to continue to do if I move). I don't have the equity to liquidate and buy up to the $500K+ level the market seems to demand, and I am nowhere near a high earner. I make about $50K per year, which is decent in Champaign but seems like a pittance in Seattle. I have a possible pool of up to 5 renters who have moved to the area recently - the friends/personal reasons I mentioned earlier. My tameframe is roughly 6-12 months from beginning of a job search to move I'm assuming.

Any thoughts on where I should focus my efforts in terms of tracking prices, building market knowledge, and learning about market trends? I'd like to remain within at most an hour of downtown (like everyone else it seems). Bonus points for strong nerd (D&D, comic, tabletop, etc.) culture in the area. 

Hello Shawn!

As a University of Illinois grad school alumni (mid 90's), I feel obligated to reply, even though I'm not sure how much I can help.  For background, I'm a military brat who went to high school in Ohio (another Big Ten state!), college in New England, grad school in Illinois, and have lived professionally in New York City, Seattle, California and a couple of other places (e.g., China).  The last 14 years or so I've been Seattle based (I still travel a ton).

Culturally speaking, Seattle is what I have for years called "the Midwest on the West Coast".  No offense, but I didn't always mean that as a compliment.  I usually meant it to imply "nice to your face, but passive aggressive behind your back".  This instantiates itself at work (in my field anyway) at people being nice in a meeting and telling you they are going to do something, but then they ignore you after the meeting is over.  I personally prefer the NYC "tell it like it is style".  In NYC, people will tell you to your face in a meeting, "I'm not going to do that.  I don't have time and it's a waste." I just love that directness :-)

That being said, the city has a ton of "immigrants" this last decade (and by using the word immigrants, I mean that to apply equally to "out of staters" as "internationals").  All in all, it makes for a great multi-cultural city(i.e., it is becoming more and more like NYC and SF every year, and to me that is a GOOD thing).

Economically speaking the numbers you threw out are indeed going to make it a bit tough (on the East Side of Lake Washington at least, where I live and invest).  Is the source of your income all rental income?  Or is it professional income of some sort that may increase by moving to Puget Sound?  My hunch is that going South towards the airport (Renton, Kent) or North (Lynnwood and above) would be best bets.  Pay attention too to the future ST3 (light rail) plans as that will give you a sense of where mass transit is going in (i.e., areas that will grow over the coming decades).  Of course, every developer in the COUNTRY is also well aware of Seattle's light rail investments and thus they are buying up and developing properties around those future stations/routes.

Feel free to privately message me if you have any questions.

P.S.  I still miss Papa Del's pizza and I sometimes feel like making the 2 hour drive from Chicago to Champaign every time I fly through.  I never do though.

Small world! Seems like there's U of I folks darn near everywhere! 

$50K would likely go up with a move, Seattle being the stronger job market, though I doubt I'd be able to hit the equivalent $90K from some of the estimate sites. I'm guessing $70K would be reasonable to expect. That's just W2 income - I wouldn't want to cannibalize my income from my Champaign RE for cost of living. That's why I'm hoping to leverage some built in roommates in the area (assuming I can build up the down payment and they're willing to move). I've been living with roommates and no mortgage for a few years, and I'd plan to execute on that if at all possible. 

The roommate model is extremely easy to execute in Puget Sound.  Lots and lots of folks group live as they are working hard while building cash nests.  Tech and retail workers in particular.  I guess check CraigsList for a sense of availability and pricing by region.  Real estate (both rental and buying) opens up a lot in the spring though, so don't necessarily be dissuaded by what you see in November/December. 

@Shawn Q. You may need to live further away from the city and commute, but it is possible to find a place that would work with a roommate. I lived in Bremerton (which has its own pros and cons, separate from Seattle), and plenty of people took the ferry over every morning into the city. A bit annoying, but at least you aren't driving.

@Joseph Delia I just moved away from kirkland to somewhere even more expensive. I think the advice should be to go to where you can leverage you highest and best use. That might not be investing but a high paid day job to get you the seed money to start.

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Roger - love the understatement! 

That 10%+ year-over-year change (for the past few years too, if I'm not mistaken) is one of the things that have me worried. Seems like it's like a San Fran market with a ton of money flowing in, and I don't see signs of that stopping anytime soon though a second Amazon headquarters might lessen the upward pressure slightly. It's not restricted by geography in the same way SF is so there's sprawl. I'm definitely looking outskirts, but trying to balance future potential and cost is going to be key - all while still being able to live of course! Moving would be an adjustment from my current 8 minute morning commute. 

Adding my 2 cents - pay attention to bus lines when considering commute. I've lived in a neighborhood that took me 45 minutes to get to downtown. My coworker's neighborhood looks like the same distance on a map, but it takes her 10 minutes

STARBUCKS: I attended tha National Real Estate Investors Association "Mid Year Leadership Conference" in Seattle a few years ago.  There is a Starbucks on every corner. 

The local Chapter of National REIA in that area is REAPS - Real Estate Investors Association of Puget Sound. Katherine Swangberg is a friend of mine and serves on their board. You should check with them.

You're headed in the right direction with thoughts of being an hour away from Seattle.  If you're willing to overlook the commute with even a bit more travel time, you can definitely find yourself in an area that is up and coming, giving yourself a head start.  Locals are even giving in.  

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