With an overabundance of new apartment units and drops in median home prices—down $116,000 since last spring—the real estate market has softened in the last year, according to a Seattle Times analysis. Yet Seattle itself has not come to a halt. Construction continues and new studio dwellers roll up laden with moving boxes and a sense of possibility. Just count the out-the-door cafe lines to circumvent on the way to the bus stop. The hunt for housing in Seattle has shifted, bringing attention to neighborhoods once overlooked and new vitality to longtime favorites. Using real estate data and following the lead of agents and residents, this list features places that exemplify some kind of way forward for the city. Seattle has always been a desirable place to live. Nowadays, however, newcomers and lifelong residents have to reckon with a rearrangement of the board.


Glossary

  • Walk Score: A 0–100 metric that reflects a neighborhood’s “walkability,” or its proximity to restaurants, shops, parks, and other amenities.
  • Transit Score: A 0–100 metric that reflects a neighborhood’s accessibility via public transit.
  • YOY: Year-over-year percentages show changes in real estate data from data collected the previous year.

West Seattle (and neighbors)

Median Sale Price: $592,599  •  Median Sale Price YOY: -1%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 416  •  Average Rent: $1,832  •  Walk Score: 68*  •  Transit Score: 40*

West Seattle has remained popular in the last decade for a few basic reasons: an expansive waterfront, suitability for child-rearing, distance from city noise that doesn’t compromise urban living. Lately, however, that desirability has broadened. When Redfin realtor Julie Granahan started covering the southwest in 2012, places like White Center, Delridge, and Burien didn’t stir much interest. Now, she says, buyers are getting priced out of West Seattle and people are clamoring just to live near it. Hence a new wave peopling the southwest, White Center and Delridge especially, that has raised the status of lesser known territories on West Seattle’s margins. Few have even heard of Pigeon Point, the perch that boasts downtown skyline views and backdoor West Seattle Bridge access that cuts in front of the poor souls lining up at the Fauntleroy or Admiral Way on-ramps. Granahan says developers are tucking townhomes here on the ridge’s tree-laden slopes, but they’re getting snatched up quickly. For all the growth happening within West Seattle’s borders, those looking southwest have a wider range to peruse these days.

► The Standard: Part sublime PNW waterfront, part Californian boardwalk—complete with burger shacks, rollerbladers, and even swimmers and sandcastles—Alki Beach offers a summery way of life not found elsewhere in the region.

► The Secret: At the mouth of the Duwamish, Jack Block Park stands as an oasis of tree-lined walkways and beach access nestled within shipyards. Farther southwest, Lowman Beach and Me-Kwa-Mooks Park feature grassy, less industrial coastline ideal for picnicking sans crowds. And while you’re over there, hit La Rustica for some of the most inconspicuous Italian in the city.

*Score pertains to a portion of the neighborhood.

Beacon Hill

Median Sale Price: $585,750  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 2%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 80  •  Average Rent: $1,634  •  Walk Score: 63  •  Transit Score: 56

There was a time when the Dr. Jose Rizal Bridge, breathtaking skyline view and all, seemed like Beacon Hill’s single link to Seattle’s central neighborhoods. First Hill, the Chinatown–International District, Downtown—they were enticingly close but held at arm’s length. The light rail station has invigorated what was already a steadfastly diverse community, and with each year Beacon Hill attracts more seekers of culinary delights and fans of southeast Seattle’s relaxed pace. There are the exciting newcomers, of course, adding to the mix, like Tacos Chukís and Homer. They stand next to institutions that preserve community, like El Centro de La Raza and its events facility, the Centilia Cultural Center.

One building stands tall above the rest of the neighborhood on the tree-shaded north end, Beacon Hill’s signature landmark. Today it’s strange to catch a glimpse of the spectral art deco structure, born a hospital in 1933, and be reminded that as recently as 2011, Amazon called it home. Yet in the years since the tech giant decamped to South Lake Union—and forever transformed that neighborhood—Beacon Hill has done more than fine on its own.

► Transit Tip: While Beacon Hill is a long way to travel lengthwise, its slender shape means King County Metro’s 36 can efficiently bus passengers along the ridge’s north-south axis. Plus, the line continues on to downtown, as well as to both the Beacon Hill and Othello light rail stations.

Image: Daniel Zalkus

Ravenna

Median Sale Price: $838,500  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 1%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 36  •  Average Rent: $1,598  •  Walk Score: 77  •  Transit Score: 58

In a city that tends to pride itself on craftsman charm—really, is there any other metropolitan area that relishes its spare bungalows more?—Ravenna may just be the quaintest single-family cluster of them all.

The neighborhood’s permeable border with the University of Washington lends it a college town vibe, marked by diligent grad students, verdant yards, and the offspring of faculty members—the kind of place upon which novels about bookish, elbow patched professors who favor old Volvos are based.

Preston Dahl, a Redfin realtor covering northeast Seattle, bears witness to the mushrooming interest in the area.

“Clients that would be looking in the Greenlake area, say, two years ago,” he says, “are kind of turned off by it now.”

Between the noise coming off State Route 99 and Interstate 5 and the steep price point in that area, those buyers are looking for more—and looking just to the east.

Like much of Seattle, Ravenna is holding its breath for the light rail expansion, specifically the underground Roosevelt station set to open in 2021, making the neighborhood, with its so-so walkability and bus access, instantly more accessible.

► Crash Course: Grab coffee and a pastry at Cowen Park Cafe, then walk through the gully of dense undergrowth in Ravenna Park. On the other side, pay a visit to Third Place Books. Set aside time for wait-worthy offerings at Wataru, from a wide array of sushi to locally sourced specials like sauteed geoduck.

Columbia City

Median Sale Price: $685,000  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 1%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 13  •  Average Rent: $2,272  •  Walk Score: 84 •  Transit Score: 61

When local food writer Jill Lightner moved to Columbia City in 2009, her friends reacted with confused horror: “You’re leaving the city?” Looking at the turn-of-the-century mill town landmark district—and the mere blocks separating the neighborhood from the lakefront idyll of Mount Baker and Seward Park—it’s surprising that Columbia City was a hidden gem as recently as a decade ago. When asked why she’s stayed for so long, Lightner cites small-town intimacy. “I have literally loaned cups of sugar to my neighbors,” she says. In her view, Columbia City residents care about camaraderie in a more extroverted way than most of Seattle. Recently, the growing number of renters choosing Columbia City for ideal public transit access has somewhat diluted this very personal community involvement. But that same increase in density could give a significant boost to the independent local businesses along Rainier Avenue, where cocktail bars, African restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, and entertainment venues offer compelling reasons to stay put.

► Crash Course: Spend a Wednesday afternoon at the Columbia City farmers market perusing snap peas and small-batch honey. Then hit La Teranga, which serves the Senegalese food the rest of Seattle has been missing out on, and afterwards grab a rummy cocktail at Island Soul before an evening showing at Ark Lodge Cinemas. Be prepared for a change of plans should Columbia City Theater have a burlesque show scheduled.

Ballard’s Nordic Museum.

Ballard

Median Sale Price: $769,000  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 1%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 155  •  Average Rent: $2,174  •  Walk Score: 87 •  Transit Score: 53

Ballard is getting bigger. In the last two decades, the village along Market Street has transformed into a hotbed of activity that bustles from the first espresso brewed at Bauhaus to the last boilermaker poured at Hattie’s Hat. But people see now that Ballard extends farther north—well beyond the 65th Street arterial that once felt like a border. As Redfin agent Demetra Apostolou puts it, this is largely driven by demand with no end in sight. “What’s already hot is getting hot and crowded,” she says of Ballard’s southern half. This, she believes, keeps the neighborhood exciting. The demographic gets younger all the time, and new faces turn up to take over storefronts, so nothing goes stagnant. Meanwhile, names of microneighborhoods like Sunset Hill and Loyal Heights now get recognized outside of esoteric zoning documents. Culinary outposts like new neighborhood cafe Lucky Santo have broken away from the southern herd, pushing that Ballard bustle ever farther toward its northern border. Others are sure to follow.

► The Standard: Ballard Locks, also known not-so-colloquially as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, is an engineering feat that can fascinate even the least mechanical among us. Between the fish ladder, the adjacent botanical gardens, and the aquatic traffic, it’s a uniquely Seattle excursion for visitors and locals alike.

► The Secret: Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage has become increasingly obscured by the shadow of its contemporary settlers. But the sleek new Nordic Museum reconciles this gap by paying homage to the neighborhood’s immigrant settler roots without ignoring its current hip-as-hell zeitgeist.

Interbay

Average Sale Price: $420,000  •  Average Sale Price YOY: 15%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 2  •  Average Rent: $1,525  •  Walk Score: 49 •  Transit Score: 49

Interbay has long seemed less like a neighborhood than a void between Magnolia and Queen Anne. That’s changing thanks to a 226-unit complex just opened in October.

Other signs of nonindustrial human habitation include Whole Foods, Red Mill, and Pagliacci. And don’t forget about the 5,000-worker Expedia campus opening on the waterfront in the fall. It’s true that between the confines of the hillside walls, the nine-hole golf course, and the train yards, space is undeniably limited. But those lucky enough to find themselves a spot reap the rewards most Seattleites have overlooked for years.

As much of the city struggles with development that threatens to steamroll historic culture, Interbay seems as blank a canvas as you could realistically hope for, ready to become something truly new.

► Transit Tip: The D line, one of the most efficient bus routes in the city, shuttles up and down 15th Avenue and—relative to Metro speed—gets you to Ballard or downtown in no time.

Image: Daniel Zalkus

South Park

Median Sale Price: $435,000  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 8%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 13  •  Average Rent: $2,310  •  Walk Score: 59 •  Transit Score: 40

A cool coffee shop’s sudden appearance in a historically immigrant and Latino, underserved neighborhood would normally sound the alarm of gentrification. The way Coté Soerens saw it, however, a cool coffee shop is precisely what this vulnerable hamlet—one of reasonably priced houses with yards and ample parking—needed to anchor longtime residents’ culture amid encroaching gentrification. In recent years, especially during the closure of the South Park Bridge from 2010 to 2014, many of the storefronts in the small business district suffered from disuse.

Hemmed in by industrial zoning, 509, and the Duwamish—advantageous features in other contexts—this left few places for people to meet in South Park, a place known for community loyalty and civic engagement. Soerens’s Resistencia Coffee opened in June 2018, hiring locals and hosting arts events that give people of color a platform.

Other newer tenants, like Left Bank wine bar and the HeadShed salon, both run by South Park residents, similarly bring fresh-faced enthusiasm to the local scene, inviting people to enjoy South Park’s walkability without overrunning it completely.

► Crash Course: Visit Duwamish Waterway Park to get a glimpse of the manufacturing activity deep within the estuary’s path. Then, do Jalisco for lunch, where Julia Ramos has made people salivate over her tortilla fixings since 1992. If there isn’t a record release or a wedding going on, drop in to the recently renovated South Park Hall for monthly yoga or square dancing.

Central District

Median Sale Price: $735,000  •  Median Sale Price YOY: -5%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 51  •  Average Rent: $1,948  •  Walk Score: 88 •  Transit Score: 72

As the result of racist policies like redlining in the early twentieth century, the Central District became the center of black culture in the city. And many of the institutions integral to Seattle’s history, like Garfield High and longstanding black churches, are still fighting for their legacies within its borders. Yet the influx of homebuyers seeking manageable price points not far from city center means gentrification is a very real fear here. It prompted institutions like the Africatown Community Land Trust to encourage emerging retail strips. Take for example the Liberty Bank Building, which repurposed the first black-owned bank west of the Mississippi into 115 income-restricted units, plus street-level space for small businesses. It’s outfitted with community-focused art, like portraits of the bank’s nine founders and murals with pan-African themes. The project is just one development showcasing the fight for the Central District’s soul. But the fight is certainly not over.

► Crash Course: Within the neighborhood’s emerging food scene, you’ll find the original Ezell’s Famous Chicken. And don’t sleep on Reckless Noodle House for destination-worthy wok noodle dishes and a cocktail menu with a deep bench. Pre or post meal check out the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, which hosts some of the city’s most exciting readings and arts events, or the Northwest African American Museum, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

Image: Jane Sherman

Georgetown

Median Sale Price: $495,650  •  Median Sale Price YOY: -17%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 10  •  Average Rent: $1,800  •  Walk Score: 69 •  Transit Score: 48

John Bennett already dealt in antiques as a collector, so when he started buying property in this neighborhood in the mid-’90s, he knew what he wanted to do with the boarded-up, but impeccably intact, brick remains of a boomtown: Preserve it. Now as a landlord, Bennett, who’s scrupulous about his commercial tenants (he wants noncorporate entities; bonus points for sole proprietorships) never has trouble filling vacancies, commercial or residential. That won’t surprise anyone who’s allowed themselves to be wooed by Georgetown’s bona fide saloons, the liveliness of the monthly art walk, or the worthy, if modestly sized, gastronomic scene. Housing here is competitive, but the southerly outpost is populated by bungalows. A slight flurry of rectangular townhomes and apartments, only a couple stories tall and often sporting roof decks amid the low skyline, has cropped up too. New homes come at the rate of only a dozen or so a year, Bennett points out, but, still, that’s part of the allure. “I like the fact that Georgetown’s an example of a place that doesn’t have to go big, doesn’t have to get overdeveloped.”

► The Standard: Carrying on the legacy of Seattle’s preeminent beer, Rainier, Georgetown Brewing creates the kind of stuff Seattleites can proudly call their own, for beer snobs and cheap-and-easy fans alike. Tasting room hours are limited, though nearby bar 9lb Hammer serves as its de facto brewpub.

► The Secret: Another link to Georgetown’s industrial past, the Georgetown Steam Plant, is a less explored touchstone of the neighborhood’s character. After decades of uncertain purpose, the mausoleum of steam-powered electricity will be given new life—local cartoonist David Lasky and writer Mairead Case have been commissioned by the city to produce a graphic novel about the structure, tentatively said to publish in 2020.

Image: Daniel Zalkus

Lake City

Median Sale Price: $683,000  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 17%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 89  •  Average Rent: $1,379  •  Walk Score: 67* •  Transit Score: 56*

If ever there was a corner of Seattle ripe for transformation, Lake City would be it. For one, the neighborhood’s on the cusp of enjoying—in 2021—the Northgate light rail station opening.

For another, what the far northeastern enclave lacks in centrality it makes up for in easy habitability. These quiet streets won’t wreak havoc on the blood pressure. Plenty of houses went on the market here last year and, with modern mid-rises sprouting along main streets, more move-in opportunities are imminent. Besides, in early 2019 Lake City seems undiscovered, but that will not hold long. Because this neighborhood is just flat-out pleasant.

Hellbent Brewing and Brother Barrel pour crafty but approachable brews, while establishments like Toyoda Sushi, Heaven Sent Fried Chicken, and Tubs Gourmet Subs don’t require week-ahead notice to get a seat.

Pair all this with an enviable combination of amenities: easy access to lakeside treasures like Matthews Beach and Magnuson Park—not to mention the mighty Burke-Gilman Trail—plus the convenience of living near (and maybe even the ability of walking right to) Northgate Mall, purportedly among the first indoor malls in the United States.

► Transit Tip: For car-less trailblazers itching to move north before the 2021 Northgate light rail extension, Sound Transit’s 522 commuter line offers direct downtown access. And King County Metro route 75 links UW and the Northgate Transit Center, which also connects you to pretty much anywhere else you need to go.

*Score pertains to a portion of the neighborhood.

Greenwood

Median Sale Price: $645,750  •  Median Sale Price YOY: 2%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 88  •  Average Rent: $1,820  •  Walk Score: 85 •  Transit Score: 54

Not too north, not too central. Not too crowded, not too insular. Accessible by a main thoroughfare, but one with less speed and noise than a freeway. Relatively affordable, but not suspiciously so. Greenwood hits the sweet spot. Newer apartments and older single-family houses adorned with gardens, porches, and driveways neatly line streets perfectly balanced between suburban quietude and urban accessibility. Its 85th Street boasts more than enough bars to keep you busy, plenty of family-friendly food options, and local-flavor entertainment like the Taproot Theatre, rivaling the best neighborhood commercial centers in the city. And according to Redfin agent Demetra Apostolou, more multi-unit complexes are on the way as the area’s demographic shifts younger. The neighborhood has increasingly become populated by creatives in need of affordable-ish housing and young families looking to raise kids somewhere they can play kickball in the street. Greenwood’s star has risen along with the rest of Seattle’s northern neighborhoods, and though proximity to Phinney Ridge and Ballard doesn’t hurt, it has enough to offer on its own.

► Transit Tip: You can easily work your way down Greenwood Avenue via King County Metro 5 bus to downtown; stay on that same bus as it turns into the 21 to ride all the way to SoDo and West Seattle. That’s in addition to the rapid E line, which goes through Greenlake, Fremont, and Queen Anne before arriving downtown.

The Capitol Hill light rail station.

Capitol Hill

Median Sale Price: $567,500  •  Median Sale Price YOY: -5%  •  Homes Sold in 2018: 92  •  Average Rent: $2,070  •  Walk Score: 91 •  Transit Score: 80

Capitol Hill came into its own as a place of contradictions—one where a countercultural scene could sidle up next to mansions owned by prosperous Catholic families. But the resounding noise of the night life—whether emanating from a metal club, one of the world’s premier cocktail bars, or the line for a fresh-grilled street hot dog—can drown out the neighborhood’s capacity to reinvent itself. Which it can, and does. It means more than just exciting bar and restaurant openings. Take the mixed-use and affordable housing complex due to arrive above the light rail station, which looks to keep Capitol Hill as accessible to service workers as it is to Amazonians. And a 15th Avenue community-oriented design workshop anticipates the coming wave of change, brainstorming improvements and redesigns that can make this stretch of cafes and low-key watering holes more pedestrian-focused. All have the potential to take some strain off the rampaged Pike/Pine corridors near Broadway—and keep the Hill kinetic.

► The Standard: Easy-to-access Cal Anderson Park, named for the state’s first openly gay legislator, draws every type of Seattleite, on temperate days especially. They come in droves for good-natured idling and mingling—whether that involves bike polo or concealing an open container.

► The Secret: Find relative quiet among the hand-rolled sushi at By Tae or the ramen at the off-street domain of Ooink. Along the Hill’s western slope, the hidden I-5 Colonnade bike park goes unacknowledged by most, best accessed by long flights of outdoor stairs.

Data provided by Redfin. Median sale prices were collected in December 2018. Data reflects all residential types, including single-family homes, condos, and townhouses.


Seattle's Hottest Neighborhoods by the Numbers

Here’s what the market looks like, including our top 12 neighborhoods.

View graphic in a new window here.

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