If you are moving to Seattle, WA or Bellevue, WA from out of state and think you might have a housing budget of $2 – $3 million or more, you should be able to unlock access to some of the area’s hottest addresses and zip codes. While you may not have the nicest house in these neighborhoods, you will be getting into the top locations.
$4 – $5 million brings you to the nicest homes in most places, but … of course you can always pay more. Some estates in this area have gone for $10 – $15 million, such as the Windermere estate of Far Side Cartoonist Gary Larson, and of course billionaire Bill Gates lives in the Medina neighborhood near Bellevue, where he built a $127 million dollar mansion.
There are certainly plenty of wonderful homes in Seattle for less than $2 million. The price point to get into SOMETHING resembling a 3-bedroom 2-bath house is about $600K or more, although condos, house boats, and mobile homes are some of the only “affordable” housing options available for people who want to own and not rent in the Seattle area.
What You Get For Your Money In Different Locations Around Seattle, Everett and Bellevue, Washington
LUXURY HOUSING PRICE POINTS: QUALITY VS LOCATION
As far as price points are concerned, a lot of what you’re paying for in the Seattle market is a good LOCATION. Because of slow traffic and long commutes, the city has focused on high-density urban housing and people are willing to pay for the convenience of a shorter drive to work. The farther out you go from Seattle, the more house and land you can get for your money. We tend to have more appreciation closer to the city as well.
Architecture note: A lot of the newer construction is along the modern lines, and somewhat “boxy” to take advantage of the available buildable footprint on smaller city lots. We also have many Craftsman style homes, too. Older, common, regular homes in the suburbs heavily feature 3/2 bath ranch houses, bungalows, and split level homes. Newer high-density construction relies primarily on attached townhomes, many without an HOA. Mediterranean, Colonial, and Cape Cod architecture is not common here, and especially will be hard to find in a newer.
Seattle Area Neighborhoods (North to South) —-
EVERETT (Snohomish County): Everett is probably the farthest North I would recommend going for commuting into Seattle or Bellevue on a daily basis. The downtown has a “poor/old” feel near the shipyards & train tracks, but there are nicer residential areas and historical homes in this area, even near the highways and industrial areas.
Some people do this drive daily, but it is a LONG haul. Most are out here because they work in Everett, or for affordability reasons. There is a naval base, the Snohomish county courthouse, historical homes, a prison, a small airport and a BOEING aircraft plant. North of this is along I-5 brings us to small-town Marysville, and then farm land and an Indian Reservation in the Marysville area. Starter homes here are $400K+ and may be 100 years old. In this area, you can get 4 bedrooms, 3,000 square feet, and a half acre lot with a view of the surrounding area for $750,000.
If you only wanted to go into the city 1-2 times per week, had flexible work hours so you didn’t have to drive during rush hour, or wanted more house for the money, this might make sense.
LYNNWOOD / NORTH BOTHELL (Snohomish County): This “top of Lake” locationis a good compromise on location and value, it has excellent commuter access to I-5 (Seattle & Everett) and I-405 (Bellevue). Bothell has a great reputation for schools in the NorthShore School District. A nice, 3/2 modern home in a newer development here will cost about $700K, at the time of this writing, although currently homes are getting bid-up $100K over asking price, so check in with actual homes for sale at the time you read this…
This website ranks and maps school districts: https://www.greatschools.org/ You can use it to compare schools in any area you’re looking at.
Shoreline, Washington – Looking South toward Seattle, street numbers get smaller as you get closer to the city. The Shoreline neigbhorhood, pictured in the map below centers at about 17th St. and here a 3-bedroom 1200 square foot older home will go for $600K+ and $750K will buy a 3bed/2bath, 2000 square foot home in Shoreline or Lake Forest Park. $1 million will buy a solid 2000-3000 sq ft. “move up” family home in a good, safe area.
South of Shoreline you enter the Seattle City limits, which has different ramifications for taxes, crime and schools.
Homes closer to Seattle are more expensive as you move south because commute times get shorter.
I recently did a “virtual open house” at a $1.3 Mil 4-bedroom 3,000s.f. 3-level house that felt like a townhouse, but was un-attached. It was on a “flag lot” very close to a variety of old homes and located near NE 130th and Lake City Way. I also recently showed a townhouse in this area that was priced $550K, a block off Lake City way and across the street from a homeless tent encampment.
What Can You Get For Over $1.5 Million In Seattle, WA?
Once you start shopping for homes priced above $1.5 million, this would start to put you into a 4 or 5 bedroom home in a larger lot, nicer location, or with a water view north of the city; or some of the Seattle/Bellevue neighborhoods which start to get pricey due to their proximity to the city.
Options for $1.5-$2mil:
Example: Edmonds “Bowl” with view of the water: $1.7Mil
City of Seattle (North of Ballard) 100th St.: $1.6 Mil
On the East Side of Lake Washington (north of Bellevue in Kirkland) there is a new construction development going in that looks like this (rendering): $1.8 Mil.
Magnolia: Near Downtown Seattle, water view: $2Mil
This map roughly charts these locations
If you start going into Seattle city limits (South of 145th, you will run into more of an “urban” feel – in terms of mixed-use (residential and retail), more homelessness, etc. especially closer to the highway, thoroughfares, and parks. The nicer areas are generally closer to the water. This has become a problem particularly in Ballard (hip, urban bar scene, close to the city, lots of new condos going in there), on Aurora Avenue (Highway 99 where there is blatant 24/7 prostition at 130th St., and along Lake City Way where they have tent cities along the road way. To some extent, it is an issue in the University of Washington area as well (church parking lots, etc).
Seattle has some “exclusive” areas that are well thought of and in demand due to their proximity to the city or water. Water views and a short commute are both at a premium.
“Fancy” or “desirable” neighborhoods North of Seattle along Puget Sound Include:
– Richmond Beach (West Shoreline by Puget Sound) ($1-3 Million) and – Edmonds Bowl (up to $2mil), near the water- The Highlands (gated community in Shoreline, nothing currently for sale, last sale $3.9 Mil – this is considered very high end, Example: 3 acres, 8 car garage 1931 colonial, 8,000 sq ft.)
“Luxury” Neighborhoods Around Seattle, WA Include:
Puget Sound Area Near Downtown Seattle, Washington:
– Magnolia Bluff: $1-4M,
– Queen Anne $1-7Mil,
Lake Washington Area Near Downtown Seattle, Washington:
– Windermere – $1-$3 mil, up to $10 mil (this is where the mayor of Seattle lives and where Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson lives),
– Laurelhurst – $1-$3 mil, up to $7 mil- Mercer Island (between Seattle and Bellevue starts at 1.5M, goes to $17 Mil),
– Madrona & Madison Park ($1-3mil and more on the water)
– Broadmoor (gated community near the arboretum/Univ. of WA, starts at $2-3Mil)
Downtown Seattle, Washington:
– Capitol Hill (maybe too “urban” for your folks at this point, this is where the CHAZ/CHOP Antifa activity was taking place this summer. Walkable into downtown.)
– Bainbridge Island (West of downtown in Puget Sound), accessible to downtown Seattle via 20-minute Ferry boat ride.
“Luxury” Neighborhoods Around Bellevue, WA Include:
– Mercer Island (mentioned above, near Seattle, WA),
– Lake Sammamish – $2-3 Mil, East of Bellevue
– Medina and Clyde Hill – $2-$5 Mil available (Bill Gates’ house is in Medina), and
– Some areas of Kirkland, WA (water views, etc.) North of Bellevue
If you decide to go to the top of your $2-3 Million Dollar price range, they could be in some of the most desirable areas in the city.
If they want to be comfortable but not elite, they should be able to be very happy at $1.5Mil, and if they are more “millionaire nextdoor” and be modest and comfortable, there are great homes for $750-$1mil. It’s a matter of priorities – comfort and location.
Many of the “fancy” neighborhoods I mentioned have a lot of older homes, which may not be what they want. These areas are prestigious because they are in the best locations (developed first) and have been established for a long time.
If they like new, modern construction, I would look especially on the East side of the lake, north of Bellevue in Bothell and Kirkland, where a lot of those types of homes are being built.
If you want me to review areas more in depth, I’d be happy to, but I’d love a little more perspective on location and price point. As we start getting our bearings and narrowing things down, we can go more in depth. There are nice areas and bad areas all along here.
This crime map will give you an idea of areas to avoid, at least. (Blue is bad) You can view these on Trulia.com. You can see the problem areas tend to trace the urban areas and highways.
Commuting Into Downtown Seattle From The North (Shoreline, Lynnwood, Everett)
COMMUTE: The Shoreline area is where is where my husband and I live (Lake Forest Park), and he commutes into Seattle (South Lake Union area for Amazon.com) which takes 10 minutes to get to the park and ride (at 175th and Meridian), 5 minutes to wait for the bus, 20 to ride the bus downtown, and 15 to walk to his office). Anywhere along I-5, if you can get to a park and ride along the freeway, you should have a pretty good trip into the city.
Driving during rush hour might take about 40 minutes for a single passenger from this location. My mother did this drive daily as a downtown lawyer (pre-COVID) and would leave home around 7:15 to avoid the worst of the traffic. Parking is going to run about $300/month. You can use this app to look at parking spots available: SpotHero.com
The employment centers/downtown starts around the University of Washington campus (45th St.) and the high rises begin in earnest South of the Mountlake Cut (East-West Water-way) connecting Lake Washington to Puget Sound) and South Lake Union where the Amazon and Google buildings are.
You could also think about going East of Bellevue – out toward Lake Sammamish by 520 or I-90 (the East-West highways) go come into Seattle and go over the bridges to Seattle). Issaquah is the edge of civilization in that direction (East).
LIGHT RAIL: The light rail commuter train is being built along I-5 as well, but where it is currently in place (between SeaTac Airport (South toward Tacoma, WA)) and The University of Washington) I have found it much slower than driving because it makes a lot of stops and does not take a direct route. However, there is a lot of excitement about this coming through and a lot of high-density construction going in (apartments, condos, etc.) near the light rail stops.
Here’s a map (Below) and more info on the light rail development: https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion