Understanding Washington’s real estate market

The real estate market in Seattle, or really anywhere in western Washington, is a lot of things. But affordable? Not quite.

According to a recent survey done by the Census Bureau, the average income in Seattle is $110,000. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Services, the average price of a house in King County is $726,000 as of February 2023.

Matthew Gardner, the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, tells KIRO 7 that households with an annual income of $150,000 (assuming there is no debt and good credit) may qualify for a loan between $550,000-$570,000. In his words, “that doesn’t get you far in Seattle.”

So why is the market so hot here?

Well, many things control the market in Washington, but the biggest culprit? To put it simply, there’s more people and less land. Gardner adds, “when you limit the amount of land, that just forces home values up.”

Another factor to consider is out-of-state money. People moving from bigger and more expensive cities like New York or San Francisco find Seattle to be more “affordable.” The outside money “outbuys” local incomes.

But really, no matter where you sit on the pay scale, Gardner says a good start to the homebuying journey is simple: save your money.

The most important thing to save up for is a down payment, and good news: 20% down is “very old school” according to Gardner, who says, “in general we tend to see 5-10%.”

With debts paid off, a down payment saved, and a property that makes sense for you, remember that while it’s a lot to put up front, it’s a lot paid back in the end.

“If you’re renting every year, 18 months, whatever it is, then you’re waiting for the landlord to say how much they’re going to raise your rent,” said Garnder. “Now with a mortgage, you know what the payment is … The payment doesn’t change but the value of those dollars goes down because hopefully you’re making more money.”