$400K Showdown

Price Point: Central Luxury Studio vs. Quiet One-Bedroom Condo

What's your vibe: The relative quiet of Lower Queen Anne or the hustle and bustle of the Chinatown–International District?

By Sarah Anne Lloyd March 14, 2022

This month on Price Point, where we compare two properties on the market for around the same price, we’re looking at a couple of homes in the elusive $400,000 range. With that budget, which of these centrally located condos would you choose: a brand-new studio with modern amenities on the edge of the Chinatown–International District, or a one-bedroom condo on a (comparably) quieter street in Lower Queen Anne?

Home 1: Big amenities in Chinatown–International District

This second-floor studio in the brand-new KODA building boasts high-end appliances and industrial vibes. It’s right in the center of a bunch of food, nightlife, and culture near both Pioneer Square and the C–ID.

At 516 square feet, it’s on the larger side for a newer studio, although its floor plan is longer than it is wide. Working with one dimension means it’s relatively easy to designate specific spaces, but it also means the windows are confined to one shorter wall. To be fair, the windows it does have are huge.

The long kitchen sits along one wall, but a pillar provides some visual separation from the rest of the unit. Other areas are surprisingly spacious: The bathroom has a wide vanity and a large tub. The washer and dryer live in a wide entryway closet with plenty of room for clothes, laundry supplies, and some extra storage.

KODA has a full slate of amenities you’d expect from a new luxury building. Two guest suites can comfortably host out-of-town visitors. It doesn’t just have a gym, but offers an attached yoga room. It has a dog park and a dog-washing station. For long-term remote workers, there’s office space and a conference room with AV equipment. The top level has the fanciest features, though: a fireside lounge, a screening room, a private dining room, and a much larger kitchen than you’d find in-unit. All of those amenities will run you $429 a month in HOA dues.

The central location means downtown offices (and lunch spots) are just a short walk or quick bus ride away—and it helps that it’s super close to major transit hubs. This home doesn’t come with parking, but all owners have access to a shared Tesla Envoy.

Listing Fast Facts

List price: $389,950
Location: 450 S Main St
Size: 516 square feet
Year built: 2021
Listing agent: Erik Mehr and Tatum Spalding, Erik Mehr and Associates

Home 2: A bedroom and a fireplace in Lower Queen Anne

Image: JMC Visuals

This top-floor one-bedroom is actually smaller than the other studio, but it has a legit bedroom with four walls, windows, and a door (we hate that we have to specify this). A balcony stretches across the entire width of the unit, giving ample opportunity for fresh air.

Image: JMC Visuals

Just a few blocks from the Space Needle and Climate Pledge Arena, it has its own set of neighborhood bars and restaurants. The vibes are just a lot mellower over here, although the vibrant theater and art found at Seattle Center is within an easy walk. The bustling food and drink options on Roy Street are an even easier walk.

This complex is from 1991, but there are some advantages in living in a well-established building. The HOA here (dues: $340 a month) is well-established and has plenty of cash in reserves. The structure isn’t super old and probably doesn’t require expensive regular maintenance. Most of the issues that could arise have already arisen.

Image: JMC Visuals

While the '90s isn’t the best-regarded era for home design, earlier building trends can work in your favor; in this case, it comes through in the electric fireplace and a wider floor plan that accommodates more windows and a generous amount of outdoor space. The kitchen is semi-open.

While it doesn’t have an on-site dog park, it does have a shared rooftop deck with some picnic tables and an up-close-and-personal Space Needle view. It’s a relatively easy walk to both Belltown and South Lake Union employment centers, and a doable walk to downtown. It’s on transit lines—the 3 and 4 stop across the street—and has a reserved, garage parking spot.

Listing Fast Facts

List price: $379,000
Location: 420 Valley St
Size: 460 square feet
Year built: 1991
Listing agent: Cristina Zalavarria, Windermere

Final notes

At this price point, you’re going to find smaller homes, including a whole lot of condos. Both of these properties are small, centrally located, and pet-friendly, but their differences outweigh their similarities. On one side, you have a brand-new studio that’s big on luxury, but maybe a little lacking in natural light, in a very busy neighborhood. On the other, you have an older one-bedroom on a much mellower street just outside a major tourist destination. While the latter has more windows, it’s also 56 square feet smaller, which makes a difference when you're already limited in that department.

It really comes down to preference and priorities. Neither of them are exactly quiet—and both have plenty of bars and restaurants nearby—but one of them is literally just a few blocks from a football stadium. Maybe that’s a feature, maybe that’s a bug. Maybe you like hockey instead, which you can find a short walk from the other home.

Outdoor space is another thing to consider. Do you like growing your own plants and having private space to bask, or do you prefer luxurious, social surroundings?

Each of these homes rate lower or higher depending on which metric you’re checking. With all of these comparisons, it really boils down to what you’re looking for in a home—and you’ve probably already made up your mind about what makes sense for you.

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