Skyline High School

The view from Skyline High School in Sammamish? Pricey.

No matter how much has changed in Washington real estate over the last couple of years, one reason for buying a home has remained the same: schools. It’s no coincidence that the state’s priciest property sales in 2021 were in areas where kids can receive a top-notch education.

Last year, like basically every year, Washington’s most expensive school districts were concentrated in the western part of the state. Five of the seven costliest districts in 2021 were in King County, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. And the other two areas, both islands, are still within Seattle’s reach.

Mercer Island

A longtime magnet for those with deep pockets, Mercer Island tops the list of most expensive school districts again this year. The entry price to this exclusive suburb dotted with waterfront properties and pet yachts has always been high. Still, it continues to rise: Median home sale prices are up about $300,000 since June of 2021.

Median sale price: $2,222,500


Ever-expanding Bellevue—not quite a suburb, not quite a major metro area—may be hard to define. But it’s schools are definitely highly ranked. A healthy fusion of single-family homes and high-rise condos attracts current and future parents, as does the imminent East Link light rail extension.

Median sale price: $1,660,000

Lake Washington

Students in Kirkland, Redmond, and a patchwork of areas throughout Sammamish, Bothell, and Woodinville learn in the shadow of tech giants like Google, Tableau, and Microsoft. With those powerhouses next door, it’s no surprise that the school district made waves with its nationally-ranked STEM magnet school. The great outdoor access here is just a bonus.

Median sale price: $1,407,500


Want evidence real estate went wild in 2021? Look at Issaquah. In 2020, the median price for a home here was just over $1 million. But in less than 12 months, the price climbed more than 34 percent. Granted, a hike of any sort is fitting in this scenic city. The Issaquah Alps provide both a picturesque background for a vibrant arts scene and a playground for adventurous families. Paragliding from Tiger Mountain sure beats hanging at the mall as an extracurricular activity.

Median sale price: $1,375,000

Bainbridge Island

For some families, even the Eastside has a little too much hustle and bustle for their liking. Many consider Bainbridge Island a tranquil escape. A ferry commute requires some patience, but the rise of working from home means those Sound crossings are less of a necessity for some these days.

Median sale price: $1,250,000

Lopez Island

The price bump on this modest island is probably more tied to its popularity as a second-home destination than test scores (or maybe it’s just because everyone waves). Still, those who want to settle down here year-round can avail themselves of an educational throwback: a single-room schoolhouse on remote neighboring Decatur Island where one teacher instructs up to six students per year.

Median sale price: $1,030,000 


Buyers in Northshore invest in a staycation worthy area. The Lake Washington waterfront is just a recess trip’s distance from many of these schools in Bothell, Kenmore, and Woodinville. The area’s renowned wineries, meanwhile, can more than entertain the adults. Horseplay is a real thing here, as expansive lots lend themselves to equestrian neighbors.

Median sale price: $995,000

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