The Pacific Northwest is calling your name, and you consider a major metro area to be your best option for finding the right job and entertainment. Naturally, Seattle will be on your shortlist.
Washington’s most populous city (and metro area) attracts people from all over the world for its job market, mild climate, laid-back attitude and proximity to just about any outdoor activity. But before you move across the country to make the Seattle area your home, there are a few things you should know first.
Should You Move to Seattle?
The decision to move to Seattle could be based on any number of reasons – but know that you’ll be among many other transplants in the area. The U.S. Census Bureau ranks the Seattle metro area at No. 7 on its list of the top 10 metro areas for numeric growth between 2010 and 2018. Over eight years, the Seattle area saw its population increase by nearly half a million people.
When considering Seattle, many potential transplants are also looking at major tech hubs like San Francisco and Austin, Texas, or other Pacific Northwest cities like Portland, Oregon. With about 1 million more residents than the Portland area, double the population of the Austin area and a lower cost of living than San Francisco or San Jose, California, Seattle might be the perfect blend of major city, climate and culture to make you put down some roots.
How to Move to Seattle
Planning your relocation to a new part of the country can be tricky, but with so many people looking to call Seattle home, there are plenty of professionals in the area who can help you get there – and with all your belongings.
John Manning, broker and owner of Re/Max On Market in Seattle, explains that it typically takes between two and three months to relocate, though that time frame can change depending on where you’re moving from, what your deadline may be and other details. Whether you’re looking to buy or rent a home, take advantage of online listings and information to check out individual homes, neighborhoods and other specifics that will help you find a place to live.
“Consumers have become very comfortable with virtual tours and livestream showings, and that acceptance of technology has shortened the time frame considerably,” Manning wrote in an email. “Covid-19 did not interfere with the process other than restricting the ability to physically travel here to see the home in advance.”
It’s not uncommon for new Seattle residents to rent initially, even if they’re planning to buy, says Paul Hurme, president of TeamBuilder KW, a part of Keller Williams Realty in the Seattle area. A six- or 12-month lease is a common first choice while they “get themselves settled, explore the city and get to know the suburbs,” he says.
Here’s what you should know before moving to Seattle:
- Housing is pricey.
- Working in the tech industry is standard.
- The rise of remote work may lead you to pick a different part of town.
- You don’t need to worry about the Seattle freeze.
- You’ll never tire of the outdoors.
Housing Is Pricey
Like other highly desirable tech hubs across the U.S., expect housing costs, and the general cost of living, to be higher than the average city. What surprises people most when they start planning their move to the Seattle area? “The biggest thing is the sticker shock,” Hurme says.
While Seattle doesn’t boast the highest cost of living in the country, home prices in the Puget Sound area are steep. Real estate information company Zillow reports the median home value in the Seattle metro area is $544,451 as of June. Narrowing down to just the city of Seattle, the median value is $767,906, according to Zillow.
Working in the Tech Industry Is Standard
To counteract the high price tag associated with Seattle-area housing is the fact that a big chunk of the workforce is dedicated to the tech industry, which is known for high salaries. Major employers in the area include Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google. Outside of tech, massive international companies with offices in the area include Starbucks and Boeing.
Even if you don’t work in the tech industry, expect to get to know people who do. Amazon’s Seattle headquarters sprawls across three neighborhoods in Seattle. Microsoft’s headquarters is outside the city in Redmond, and many of its employees opt to live east of Seattle, closer to work.
The Rise of Remote Work May Lead You to Pick a Different Part of Town
Like any other major city, Seattle suffers from traffic congestion during the typical workweek, and if you don’t live near where you work, you can expect a long commute.
But as companies have switched to remote options for many office workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, commuting was cut for many. “In ‘normal’ times the commute can be daunting. Right now (during the pandemic), it’s not at all,” Hurme says.
The transition to remote work, which many employers are considering as a potentially permanent or semi-permanent change, has encouraged some Seattleites to move farther out of the city.
“Seattle itself is seeing an exodus as many workers find themselves with an attractive opportunity to move closer to the great outdoors that draws so many people to Washington, while retaining the great employment opportunities we enjoy,” Manning says. “Not everyone can move to the country, however, but we are still seeing many people sell in Seattle and move outside city limits where they can secure bigger homes and lots for less.”
You Don’t Need to Worry About the Seattle Freeze
The “Seattle freeze” is a common way to describe how lifelong Seattle residents act toward recent transplants – not entirely unfriendly, but less likely to engage.
While it’s true that locals may want to stick to their own, if you’re out and about in the Seattle area, there’s a good chance you won’t even notice.
“I’ve heard (of the Seattle freeze) a billion times, and I think there probably was some merit, to some extent, 15 or 20 years ago. The reality today, though, is there are so many dynamic industries and companies in the Puget Sound that we’re attracting people not only around the county, but from around the world,” Hurme says. “I don’t think it’s anything more than a Portland freeze or a San Francisco freeze or anything like that.”
You’ll Never Tire of the Outdoors
A major pull for people considering a move to Seattle is the ability to get outdoors. Sailing and water sports are popular, as well as hiking, biking and skiing. And Seattle residents don’t hesitate to take advantage of the proximity and wide range of outdoor options available.
“My wife Liz and I moved here in 2000, choosing Seattle over the French Alps where we had lived for several years. I have never regretted it for a moment,” Manning says. “Twenty years later, although winters can be dreary, the appeal of the Pacific Northwest outdoors has not diminished for our family. We live in the city but can be on the beach or in our kayaks within 10 minutes of home. In winter, skiing is just over an hour drive.”
Where on the West Coast should you live?
For many people living in the U.S., the West Coast is the best coast. But when it comes to places along the Western Seaboard, there’s a wide variety of metro areas that offer a different climate, culture and cost of living. While some think of the West Coast as containing cities solely in California, we decided to look at all metro areas – out of the 125 most populous in the U.S. – that are within 100 miles of the Pacific Ocean, of which there are 14. Ranked based on where they fall on the U.S. News Best Places to Live list, the following metro areas make up the Best Places to Live on the West Coast.14. Stockton, California
14. Stockton, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 123
Metro Population: 724,153
Median Home Price: $352,350
Median Annual Salary: $46,770
Located 65 miles east of San Pablo Bay, which is just north of San Francisco, Stockton is an inland metro area with fairly easy access to the Pacific Ocean. Stockton ranks No. 123 out of 125 metro areas on the overall Best Places to Live list, ahead of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Bakersfield, California. The biggest contributing factor to Stockton’s low rank is the high cost of living. Stockton residents spend 27.42% of the area’s median household income on housing costs, making it the 12th-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.
Learn more about Stockton.13. Modesto, California
13. Modesto, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 120
Metro Population: 803,074
Median Home Price: $289,168
Median Annual Salary: $46,176
Modesto itself isn’t located on the coast, but you can still reach the San Francisco Bay with ease, as it’s just 75 miles away. Ranking No. 120 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Modesto is a pricey place, with 27.32% of the median household income required for the cost of living. The median home price of $289,168 is above the national median of $227,025. Additionally, Modesto’s unemployment rate is high at 7% – well above the national average of 3.9%.
Learn more about Modesto.12. Salinas, California
12. Salinas, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 117
Metro Population: 433,168
Median Home Price: $581,342
Median Annual Salary: $48,290
The Salinas metro area is home to ample farmland, but it also has desirable coastal areas, including Monterey, home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Salinas is the seventh-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., requiring 29.26% of the median household income. However, in the annual Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index – which surveys residents throughout the U.S. about their community pride, sense of security and overall health related to where they live, among other details – Salinas ranks fourth out of the 125 most populous places in the U.S.
Learn more about Salinas.11. Los Angeles
11. Los Angeles
Best Places 2019 Rank: 107
Metro Population: 18,585.594
Median Home Price: $526,214
Median Annual Salary: $53,803
Los Angeles and the beach cities within this Southern California metro area are often what people envision when they consider moving to the West Coast – and for good reason. The LA metro area is home to more than 18.5 million people and ranks No. 11 for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., based on a series of SurveyMonkey surveys that ask people where in the U.S. they would prefer to live. Requiring 30.28% of the median household income to cover the cost of living, Los Angeles is the third-most expensive metro area on the Best Places to Live list.
Learn more about Los Angeles.10. Sacramento, California
10. Sacramento, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 82
Metro Population: 2,268,005
Median Home Price: $389,858
Median Annual Salary: $55,010
The capital of California ranks No. 82 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Sacramento is located inland, but a drive of just 58 miles – about one hour – will get you to the San Pablo Bay. Sacramento residents benefit from a median annual salary of $55,010, above the national average of $50,620, and a below-average unemployment rate of 3.7%. Sacramento’s cost of living is high at 26.55% of the area’s median household income, but it is more affordable than many of the other California metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.
Learn more about Sacramento.9. Salem, Oregon
9. Salem, Oregon
Best Places 2019 Rank: 77
Metro Population: 410,119
Median Home Price: $269,367
Median Annual Salary: $47,240
Oregon’s capital is also located on the West Coast, offering a cooler, rainier climate than many of the California spots on the list. Salem is one of the smaller metro areas on the Best Places to Live list – home to just 410,119 people – but it’s seeing steady growth. Salem’s population increased by 5.05% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Salem residents spend 24.66% of the median household income on housing costs.
Learn more about Salem.8. Santa Rosa, California
8. Santa Rosa, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 500,943
Median Home Price: $629,917
Median Annual Salary: $53,890
The Santa Rosa metro area has a strong job market, with a median annual salary of $53,890 and an unemployment rate of just 2.7%, compared to the national average of 3.9%. However, people moving to the Santa Rosa area should expect to spend more of their income on housing. The cost of living requires 28.22% of the median annual household income, making Santa Rosa the eighth-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.
Learn more about Santa Rosa.7. Santa Barbara, California
7. Santa Barbara, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 73
Metro Population: 442,996
Median Home Price: $463,750
Median Annual Salary: $54,320
With a population of less than 500,000 people, Santa Barbara is nestled between the Pacific coast and the Los Padres National Forest. Santa Barbara ranks first out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for quality of life, which combines multiple data points, including property crime and murder rates, average commute time, college readiness among high school students based on U.S. News Best High Schools data, overall well-being and proximity to quality health care, based on U.S. News Best Hospitals data. Additionally, Santa Barbara ranks 17th for desirability out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.
Learn more about Santa Barbara.6. Anchorage, Alaska
6. Anchorage, Alaska
Best Places 2019 Rank: 70
Metro Population: 399,360
Median Home Price: $259,900
Median Annual Salary: $58,980
The northernmost West Coast metro area on the list, Anchorage ranks No. 70 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Living in Anchorage certainly has its benefits – the cost of living requires just 22.61% of the median household income – but a high unemployment rate of 6.1% is a downside to the area. It's a perfect spot for people seeking a cold climate compared to the warmer spots in Southern California. The Alaska metro area ranks 21st for desirability out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list.
Learn more about Anchorage.5. San Diego
5. San Diego
Best Places 2019 Rank: 36
Metro Population: 3,283,665
Median Home Price: $555,325
Median Annual Salary: $56,410
At the No. 36 spot on the overall Best Places to Live list, San Diego ranks fifth for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. As a popular tourist destination for its many beaches, the San Diego Zoo and year-round beautiful weather, San Diego also ranks No. 1 on the Most Fun Places to Live list. In addition to the attractions that keep free time fun for residents, San Diego has an unemployment rate of just 3.3% as well as a median annual salary of $56,410.
Learn more about San Diego.4. San Jose, California
4. San Jose, California
Best Places 2019 Rank: 14
Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180
It should come as no surprise that San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, has the strongest job market out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., with a median annual salary of more than $77,000 and an unemployment rate of just 2.6%. Of course, the area's popularity and high income comes with a trade-off – the cost of living is also much higher. The median home price in San Jose is over $1 million, and residents spend 26.08% of the area’s median household income on housing costs.
Learn more about San Jose.3. Seattle
Best Places 2019 Rank: 9
Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120
Ranking No. 9 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Seattle is located on the Puget Sound and is an ideal home for outdoorsy residents who love taking advantage of the proximity to Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. Best known for its frequent rainy days and many tech jobs, Seattle ranks seventh for desirability out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list. Seattle continues to grow steadily, having increased in population by 5.58% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.
Learn more about Seattle.2. Portland, Oregon
2. Portland, Oregon
Best Places 2019 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330
If a metro area with an emphasis on self expression – even embracing your inner “weird” – sounds ideal to you, look no further than Portland. The Rose City’s reputation precedes it, as the Oregon metro area ranks No. 1 for desirability, tied with San Francisco, Honolulu and Colorado Springs, Colorado. People keep moving to Portland as well, as the metro area's population increased by 4.85% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration. Portland’s job market also supports the ever-growing metro area, with an unemployment rate of 3.8% and median annual salary of $55,330.
Learn more about Portland.1. San Francisco
1. San Francisco
Best Places 2019 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700
The highest-ranking West Coast metro area on the Best Places to Live list is San Francisco. Tied for first for desirability out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., San Francisco also offers a strong job market. The metro area has a high median annual salary of $69,700, compared to the national median of $50,620, and an unemployment rate of just 2.7%, compared to the national average of 3.9%. The area's high income offsets the high cost of living, though new residents to the area may get sticker shock looking for homes in the area, as the median home price is $768,517.
Learn more about San Francisco.The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2019 include:
The Best Places to Live on the West Coast in 2019 include:
- San Francisco.
- Portland, Oregon.
- San Jose, California.
- San Diego.
- Anchorage, Alaska.
- Santa Barbara, California.
- Santa Rosa, California.
- Salem, Oregon.
- Sacramento, California.
- Los Angeles.
- Salinas, California.
- Modesto, California.
- Stockton, California.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.