What You Should Know About Moving to Seattle

Consider cost of living and your love of the outdoors if you're thinking about a move to Seattle.

U.S. News & World Report

What to Know About Moving to Seattle

Frost covered grass on the hillside of Kerry Park in Seattle, Washington.

You should prepare for sticker shock when you start searching for a home in the Seattle area.(Getty Images)

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.”

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