The local housing market isn’t so much hot as it is blazing at temperatures only measurable by NASA. Between 2015 and 2016, Seattle grew more than it has in any single year in the past century, adding nearly 90,000 new residents in just 12 months, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing cities and its single hottest housing market. The reasons for this historic influx are no secret: a thriving tech industry, distinct and lively neighborhoods, breathtaking summers, and really good oysters.
Many pockets of the city are heart-eyes desirable for families looking to put down roots in traditional neighborhoods while taking on a relatively short work commute to one of the many booming companies that call Seattle home.
It’s expected that central neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Ballard would continue to blind prospective homeowners with the radiance of their respective markets. But this growth also means neighborhoods that were once considered sovereign outliers are being inducted into Seattle Proper.
The following 10 neighborhoods are some of the hottest, picked for either rises in home value, drops in inventory, new attention from developers, or all of the above. Voices from within these communities—longtime residents, transplants, local business owners—illuminate what it’s like to live surrounded by such rapid expansion.
Nordic Fishing Village Turned Urban Hub
Est. population: 13,000
Median Home Value: $499,100
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 12.5%
It was 2001. I was a transplant from the Southwest and had answered a rental ad in a neighborhood I’d never heard of. Ballard? My Seattle friends scoffed. That’s Scandia Land! This is how a young Mexican American ends up in a neighborhood filled with the descendants of Scandinavian immigrants.
I loved it. I loved the gritty working fishing terminal and how you could rub elbows at the grocery store with scowling, grizzled fishermen. I loved the 24-hour Denny’s, the bowling alley, the small, motley downtown. Ballard was funky, and it was real.
Whatever it has lost in its explosive and sometimes challenging growth since, it has gained in cosmopolitan pleasures: a new library, a huge farmers market, the dizzying array of upscale restaurants that arrive when condos rise at the side of century-old homes.
Senior citizens still march in Nordic heritage parades, but other populations—Asian, South Asian, African American, Latino, among others—have forged a small but visible presence. Call it hope: If Ballard is an espresso drink that’s been poured to the very brim, this influx of life and motion could be the spoon that blends it. —Alma García
Alma García is an editor and writing teacher. Her stories have appeared in Narrative Magazine and elsewhere.
The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks, for short) turn 100 this year. Built with help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the locks were added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978 and remain the best place in Seattle to witness spawning salmon make their annual journey.
Family-friendly Populuxe Brewing is an ideal locale to sip on Ballard-brewed beer and let the kids play pinball and/or run around the unfussy warehouse.
The Quiet Hilltop
North Queen Anne
Est. Population: 11,300
Median Home Value: $826,900
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 5%
My parents still live in the same house I grew up in, on Fifth Avenue West, right on top of Queen Anne. I had a Seattle Times paper route here. Now that I have this store, seeing the different people who come through, all the different families I’ve met and known and grown up with, it’s all kept me here. Things have definitely changed, especially in the last year or so. But on these few blocks, you still get that quaint feeling. We have a little niche. People who are family oriented, who want to get to know and support the local small businesses—they’d do well here. —Joe Vizzarre, as told to Darren Davis
Joe Vizzare is the co-owner of Ken’s Market.
In 1898, Anna Herr Clise, wife of a prosperous real-estate developer and recent Seattle transplant, lost her six-year-old son to inflammatory rheumatism. At the time, the closest children’s hospital was in San Francisco. Nine years later, Clise helped establish the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Upper Queen Anne—an institution that would eventually grow to become Seattle Children’s.
Just a few blocks west of Kerry Park’s famous view (and crowds), Parsons Gardens lacks the breathtaking panorama but makes up for it with secluded greenery. 650 W Highland Dr
A Little Something for Everyone
Est. pop: 13,000
Median Home Value: $499,100
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 12.5%
My favorite neighborhood in the city is Beacon Hill. Everything about it is in tune with my mode of urban existence. One of the deepest subway stations in the U.S., the Beacon Hill Station, is near the Station, a cafe run by a lovely couple.
The Station is a five-minute walk from the fried gizzards in the Shell gas station; and those gizzards, which are served by men who listen to Middle Eastern music, are near a small bar that’s attached to the Baja Bistro, a Mexican restaurant. Many of the patrons here are gay and loud and very generous drinkers.
This bar is not alone. It mirrors the Fou Lee Market, on the other side of Beacon Hill, which also sells gizzards and is easily reached by the 36 bus. You will not find a better and more useful bus route in this city.
And next to the market is a street that’s at once busy with cars and very friendly to pedestrians, shaded by deciduous and evergreen trees. Every sidewalk in Seattle wants to be like the sidewalk in this part of Beacon Hill. —Charles Mudede
Charles Mudede is a writer, filmmaker, and the film editor for The Stranger.
The name Beacon Hill is widely attributed to real estate developer M. Harwood Young, who in 1887 reportedly christened the hill south of downtown after Beacon Hill in his native Boston, site of the Massachusetts capital building.
The Beacon Food Forest is a public edible landscape where you are free to pluck an apple or pull some leafy greens on your way home to make dinner. beaconfoodforest.org
The Other International District
Est. population: 13,500
Median Home Value: $347,800
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 14.1%
White Center might be considered a real up-and-coming neighborhood, but I want people on the outside to see the value in White Center the same way we do. I refer to it as the other International District. We have a huge immigrant population, a very global atmosphere, rich in history and culture and community. It’s all about relationships. Come and get to know the people who own the businesses. Come and just hang out at community events. That’s a really great way for newcomers to get to know the families who have lived here for generations. —Sili Savusa, as told to Darren Davis.
Sili Savusa is executive director of the White Center Community Development Association.
White Center was very nearly called something else entirely. Story goes, when early community investors George White and Hiram Green were in talks to name the land they had bought up, the choice came down to a coin flip. Had it gone differently, the neighborhood would have been called Green Vale.
Tres leches de chocolate at the celebrated Salvadorean Bakery and Restaurant often arrives on a paper plate under a canopy of piñatas for sale.
Storied Streets and Diverse Eating
Est. population: 7,300
Median Home Value: $671,700
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 11.7%
Before the sun is up, the smell of baking dough rises through the air; an olfactory reminder of life in the Central District. For years I was convinced the bready perfume came from the nearby Catholic church—Seattle’s oldest, its bell towers stretching above the neighborhood treeline. Maybe they were making sacramental bread in house. It took two years of commutes down 20th Avenue to finally pinpoint Franz Bakery as the source of the daily sweetness hugging the air.
Every block of the Central District comes seemingly with its own fragrance. Ezell’s Fried Chicken is a heavenly house of grease and family combos to go on Cherry Street. Past 23rd Ave, further along Cherry, Frank’s Smoked BBQ maintains the aroma of charred fat and alder wood. Further still, four Ethiopian restaurants sit on a single street, a minute’s walk between each. Hints of spiced lentils find you if you’re close enough. And I know when I’ve arrived at the Twilight Exit, where cigarette tendrils hang in the air by the side door entrance, a smoky end to an otherwise redolent day. —Rosin Saez
Rosin Saez is Seattle Met’s style editor.
Standing tall as a testament to its academic origins, the red-bricked Northwest African American Museum celebrates black brilliance, art, and history on a hilltop. naamnw.org
A number of celebrated athletes, musicians, and actors called the Central District home during their formative years: Quincy Jones and Sir Mix-a-Lot, to name two. The CD is also the childhood home of Jimi Hendrix, whose first gig was reportedly at the Temple De Hirsch, which still stands today.
Cozy Outskirts of the University
Est. population: 8,800
Median Home Value: $717,500
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 13%
I have lived in Roosevelt three times, punctuated by long installments in New Orleans, California, and Montana—but I always come back to what we call the Pink House. It was the nicest place any of my friends lived in at the time; by now, with the general rise of Seattle, it seems like a quaint cottage in the old country.
At a Mardi Gras party someone fell down in the bathroom and tore the shower curtain; but like New Orleans, where the rowdy public life is counterbalanced by reserve and grace, that house and that neighborhood also have served as zones of quiet reflection and stolid workaday order.
Roosevelt works and sleeps. I call Seattle cozy because Roosevelt has always been cozy, even when I’ve been broke. Forever just outside the blast zone of the University District, and even in the new Roosevelt, there may still be room for broke poets to wander from bookstore to movie theater to bar and throw a good party a few times a year, as long as it doesn’t go too late. People have to work in the morning and stand at the bus stop looking up Roosevelt Way for signs of imminent arrival. —Ed Skoog
Ed Skoog is a former writer-in-residence at Hugo House and author of three books of poems, most recently Run the Red Lights.
Cafe Racer’s OBAMA Room (Official Bad Art Museum of Art) acts as a local salon for good bad, bad bad, or just plain weird pieces.
Cowen Park and the adjoining Ravenna Park were part of the original Olmsted Brothers plan of 1903, in which famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted—designer of New York’s Central Park—and his nephew John Charles envisioned Seattle as a city of 16 parks and playgrounds.
Center of the Boom
South Lake Union/Downtown
Est. population: 24,000
Median Home Value: $666,400
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 6%
When we first moved to South Lake Union, nine years ago, you could shoot a shotgun down Westlake and not hit a soul. It was the first major residential construction down here in a long time. With rapid change comes challenges, sure, but the resources available for my wife and me have grown exponentially. There’s something new popping up all the time. We moved with two cars, but we didn’t need cars. We pretty much live and work and play within about an eight-block radius. This is my forever home. They’re going to have to cart me out of here. —Curt Archambault as told to Darren Davis
Curt Archambault is a member of the SLU Chamber of Commerce.
Hidden between skyscrapers and Interstate 5 is a public outdoor labyrinth aptly named Freeway Park—a haven for quiet lunches and a brief respite from bustling downtown. 700 Seneca St
Long before it was a booming tech village, South Lake Union was for a time known as the laundry capital of Seattle. After the Seattle Steam Laundry company opened in 1887, dozens of other operations flooded the neighborhood, each tasked with keeping the city’s workforce clean.
A New Neighborhood Built on Top of the Old
Est. population: 36,800
Median Home Value: $560,200
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 12.9%
Capitol Hill was probably not a site of importance before European settlers arrived—it doesn’t have a significant place in the Duwamish oral tradition. Yet for nearly a decade now, it has been the neighborhood always at the center of my life.
I’ll live here for four more months before moving to the Midwest, and I reside in one of those old brick buildings that are under no threat of demolition, except from the big earthquake. Elsewhere, the little world of the Hill is renewed every time I change my walking route. Glass and primary colors appear in place of facades abandoned to dinginess.
Still, century-old brick remains, as do turrets, marble entryways, and stained-glass monikers. My building’s interior walls are being knocked down and remade earthquake ready.
I am a visitor here, and this place was never mine, but even as blocks change while I watch and while I sleep, I know them: This land that wasn’t a site for sky burials or otherworld portals is now the city’s neighborhood most desired by new settlers. —Elissa Washuta
Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and author of two books, most recently Starvation Mode.
In 1987, Cal Anderson became Washington’s first openly gay legislator, representing the 43rd District in the state’s House of Representatives. Anderson’s district included Capitol Hill, and in 2003—eight years after his death—Seattle named the neighborhood’s own Central Park of sorts in his honor.
The stretch of East Aloha Street between Broadway and 19th Avenue East turns into a wonderland of fall colors every year, perfect for weekend walks.
Main Street, Seattle
Est. population: 10,000
Median Home Value: $513,700
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 15.3%
Columbia City still feels like a small town. First of all, it’s very small compared to other neighborhoods. Only five blocks long, really. And we have our landmark district, so physically we have a wonderful sense of place with some of these older buildings. There’s certainly been new development, but we’re working hard to retain our sense of connection. About 88 percent of businesses here are independent. Soon we’ll have our Columbia City Nametag Day, when customers wearing name tags get special deals. We want to emphasize the need to know our neighbors. —Robert Mohn as told to Darren Davis
Robert Mohn is a board member of the Columbia City Business Improvement Area and proprietor of the Shirley Marvin Hotel.
The Heater Glove Factory, opened in 1918 on the ground floor of what is now the historic Ark Lodge, specialized in not just gloves but an assortment of leather goods. The factory produced boxing gloves for storied fighter Jack Dempsey and, most notably, the helmet worn by Charles Lindbergh on his famous transatlantic flight.
The Columbia City Theater hosted Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald in its day, and still acts as the cultural epicenter of the south Seattle neighborhood.
Capital of the Westside
West Seattle Junction
Est. population: 10,000
Median Home Value: $613,100
Home Value Increase Since 2016: 13.3%
My family has called West Seattle home since 1911—you’ll know us as locals because we pronounce West without the t.
My great-grandfather, a Swedish immigrant, was the first full-time pastor at the Bethany Lutheran Church near Green Lake. After tending his flock across town, each evening, Gammelfarfar would return to our ancestral abode on the shores of Fauntleroy Cove, just south of Lincoln Park.
A harbor of calm, one step removed from the urban bustle. Such was West Seattle’s appeal a century ago, and so it continues for newcomers. The biggest draw—closest to the freeway and ripe with activities—is the Alaska Junction. I grew up in Seaview, an adjoining residential neighborhood at the end of sinuous Erskine Way.
To the north and just as close, Genesee Hill offers sweeping views of Alki Beach against a backdrop of the sound and the Olympics. A common form of after-work entertainment: sitting at home with a glass of wine and watching the devastatingly gorgeous sunsets.
Resist the temptation to stay in this world. Go toward the light! Borrow an outboard and troll for silver salmon. Grab a bucket and fill it with butter clams. Or explore the pincered denizens of the tide pools, preferably with kids in tow. —Jeff Encke
Jeff Encke’s poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Fence, and elsewhere.
On a warm day, the long line at the Husky Deli is probably for the milk shakes and ice cream cones, which come in dozens of housemade flavors.
Alki Point, a mile and a half west of the Junction, was the first land claimed by the Denny Party—the westbound American settlers credited with founding Seattle. A marker honoring the 1851 arrival of the party can be found at the corner of 63rd and Alki Avenues Southwest.