The coronavirus pandemic has spawned a new space race. With offices and nightlife restricted for months on end, the appeal of Walk Score has yielded to the allure of front lawns and home offices. But where can Seattle's city dwellers find an airy three-bedroom—one that doesn't bust their budget—in a housing market this hot?
Plenty of places, it turns out. Whether you want to stick in the city or uproot to suburbia, a handful of options based on Redfin data should help you decide whether a bit more elbow room for that Zoom call or pool table is really worth it.
Note: Redfin data is through late November; suburbs defined as cities and towns with roughly 25,000 or more people and/or within 25 miles of downtown Seattle.
Seattle’s southernmost neighborhood is also its least expensive on a price-per-square-foot basis. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to find a three-bedroom by the light rail stop; few homes hit the market in this Lake Washington-adjacent pocket of town, creating a “Very Competitive” shopping climate, per Redfin. But did we mention the lake? Or the lovely Kubota Garden? If such natural splendors sound appealing, you may want to join a community that strives to develop responsibly.
Median list price per square foot: $311.88
Median sale price per square foot: $311.88
Median sale price: $649,990
Had it with landlords and makeshift room dividers? Go west, first-time home shopper. You’ll find plenty of selection in this swath of West Seattle, and unlike some coveted points north on the peninsula, you won’t get sticker shock. Puget Park offers ample elbow room for urban hiking. And you can bear witness to the Duwamish River’s healing.
Median list price per square foot: $375.50
Median sale price per square foot: $381.36
Median sale price: $568,000
This acclaimed ridge south of downtown touts some of the city’s top restaurants and cultural institutions. These attractions converge in North Beacon Hill, where a light rail stop’s arrival presaged skyrocketing home prices. But venture south in this sprawling neighborhood and you’ll find more affordable plots with enough space for a starter home or something more permanent.
Median list price per square foot: $395.72
Median sale price per square foot: $397.47
Median sale price: $630,000
For the condo owner who’s grown tired of staring down building facades and trudging cramped sidewalks, this coastal stretch of West Seattle along Fauntleroy Cove won’t disappoint. It’s not an especially affordable part of the city—making the jump from monthly rent checks and makeshift room dividers to one of the midcenturies here might be a stretch—but it’s not a veritable bank-breaker either. And if you want to put some more distance between you and the skyscraper set, you can hop the ferry to Vashon or Southworth.
Median list price per square foot: $398.40
Median sale price per square foot: $404.94
Median sale price: $847,000
Hey, high roller. Perhaps your Capitol Hill four-bedroom doesn’t quite afford you space for a pool table or a, you know, actual pool. If so, consider setting down roots where the Gates clan did all those years ago. This neighborhood just east of the University of Washington provides more bang for your buck, square footage–wise, than similarly cushy enclaves like Madison Park and Windermere. You won’t actually need a pool, either—Lake Washington is at your doorstep—but to keep up with the Joneses here, you may want to invest in a dock.
Median list price per square foot: $546.62
Median sale price per square foot: $561.25
Median sale price: $1,575,000
Outside of Seattle
The city with the lowest price per square foot in Seattle’s immediate vicinity is just a fast ferry’s ride away. The 30-minute boat trip from this Kitsap County hub to Seattle’s downtown (or the traditional ferry voyage) may not pay immediate dividends with offices and nightlife dimmed, but you’ll be glad it’s there if and when your boss sends the back-to-your-desk missive post-vaccine. Who knows, the commute may even be entertainment in its own right. In the meantime, use lunch breaks to familiarize yourself with an area that started drawing Seattleites en masse before the pandemic thanks to a burgeoning food and arts scene—and plenty of green spaces. A permanent remote situation here wouldn’t feel like getting stranded.
Median list price per square foot: $216.69
Median sale price per square foot: $215.44
Median sale price: $360,000
Bremerton aside, if you’re a renter aiming to claim some turf of your own outside Seattle, you generally want to head south. SeaTac, Federal Way, Kent, and Des Moines can all tout price-per-square-foot deals, but this city of about 80,000 tops them all. You don’t have to leave town to fill your new closets. And Route 18 offers an easy commute to ski mountains and other forms of outdoor revelry.
Median list price per square foot: $233.46
Median sale price per square foot: $232.15
Median sale price: $450,000
A bit farther east on Route 18, you’ll find more space, and a bit more cost, in this small but growing city. As the name suggests, the area is rustic; reclaimed wood from your leafy neighbors might spawn countertops elsewhere. If a move here doesn’t cure your backyard envy, Lake Wilderness Park and its 100-plus acres should suffice. Beware this outpost’s Google-friendliness to the tree-seeking urbanite; discount prices may not last.
Median list price per square foot: $253.86
Median sale price per square foot: $255.25
Median sale price: $575,000
Wary of venturing too far south on I-5, should traffic return to normal levels? Consider this community along Lake Washington’s southern shoreline. It offers an alternative route to Seattle—405 to 90—and proximity to Bellevue that may become increasingly relevant as companies lock up Eastside developments. One of the most diverse school districts in Washington state draws some young families here; other aging rock ‘n’ roll moms and dads may just want to regularly pay homage to one of the greats.
Median list price per square foot: $283.60
Median sale price per square foot: $281.22
Median sale price: $522,697
No, this isn’t where you should look if you’re in the market for a cheap home. But don’t sleep on wine country if you want to add another bedroom or two to your quarantine quarters. Besides, after 2020, the nearest glass of pinot is a Walk Score we should never undervalue.
Median list price per square foot: $361.83
Median sale price per square foot: $357.14
Median sale price: $850,000