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Your Guide to Moving to Seattle

Seattle skyline against clear blue sky
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Moving to Seattle at a glance:

  • Seattle has a population of 837,792, with 57 people moving to the city each day.
  • Seattle’s cost of living is 57.6% higher than the rest of the country. But there’s a 0% state income tax.
  • Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and Amazon all began in Seattle.
  • Famous Seattleites include Bill Gates, Kurt Cobain, Ryan Stiles, Macklemore, and Chris Cornell.
  • Located on the Puget Sound, Seattle has easy beach access, and Mount Rainier (a 14,411-foot-high volcano) is a mere hour away.

Moving to Seattle: The basics

What’s the population of Seattle?

Seattle is home to 837,792 people. It’s a diverse city, with foreign-born residents making up 18.5% of the population. It’s a pretty young city, too, with a median age of 35. If you’re a young professional, you’ll be in good company in Seattle — more than 40% of the population is between the ages of 20 and 39. There’s a pretty even gender split, with 57% of the population married.

People are flocking to the city. Estimates point to Seattle’s population growth as 22% higher in 2019 as it was in 2020. Seattle is a well-educated city, too, with 65% of people holding at least a bachelor’s degree — a number achieved, in part, by the growth of local companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

What’s the cost of living in Seattle?

The cost of living in Seattle is over 57.6% higher than the rest of the country. To keep up with the higher cost of living, the average salary is $60,258 — about on par with the national average household income. But since the median home price in Seattle is $370,000, homeownership can be an elusive goal for many people in the city.

If you want to wait to purchase a home, Seattle apartments win the “smallest apartments in the country” award, with the typical apartment size of 711 square feet. Rent for an apartment in Seattle is $1,352/mo.

When you grocery shop in the city, expect to pay about $4.71 for a loaf of bread, $1.59 for a half-gallon of milk, and $1.98 for a dozen eggs.

To really gauge the cost of living in Seattle, compare it to a city with a slightly smaller population, like Portland, Oregon, and a bigger city, like New York City, New York. Here’s how Seattle stacks up:

City Name Cost of Living (Compared to National Average) Average Salary Median Home Price Median Rent
Seattle, WA 57.60% $60,258 $370,000 $1,352/mo.
Portland, OR +16.80% $52,296 $383,600 $1,187
New York City, NY 141.40% $53,996 $376,900 $1,272

*Data sourced from the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index.

How’s the Seattle job market?

Employment in the city remains stable, as technology continues to lead the job market in Seattle. From February to May 2020, the unemployment rate jumped from a fairly low 2.5% to 14.8%, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re job searching in Seattle, you’ll be happy to know that the city boasts 7 Fortune 500 companies. Some of those top companies include Amazon, Nordstrom, Expedia, and Starbucks.

The average salary is $60,258, and the minimum wage in the city peaks at over $15/hour.

What do I need to know about Seattle education?

Seattle Public Schools is the largest K-12  school system in the state and consistently ranks high in academics and college prep. There are 104 schools in the district, with placement in those schools running on a location-based system. To figure out where your child will attend school, you can input your address (or prospective address) on the system website.

For parents of young children, you’ll be happy to know that Seattle Public Schools offer a preschool program that’s application- and tuition-based. Tuition is on a sliding scale, but admittance can be free for families that qualify.

If you’re looking for an alternative to public schooling, more than 1 in 5 students in the Seattle area attend private school. There are also a number of higher ed institutions in the city, including the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Cornish College of the Arts.

What are the safest areas in Seattle?

Finding a safe neighborhood is a priority for most people. Consider one of the top three safest areas. Those include Bryn Mawr in the southeastern part of the city, the areas surrounding 45th Ave NE and NE 95th Street in the north, and Lake City, a neighborhood made of Victory Heights, Meadowbrook, Matthews Beach, Cedar Park, and Olympic Hills in the northeast.

According to Neighborhood Scout, Seattle is safer than just 2% of other U.S. cities. But that’s just a high-level view of safety in the city. If you want to learn more about the crime rate in Seattle, look at reports and data on the Seattle Police Department website.

How do I get around Seattle?

If you want to take Seattle by car, expect an average commute time of 31 minutes.

But with so many transportation options in Seattle, you may not need your own wheels. With the ever-expanding Link Light Rail, you can get from Angle Lake Station to the University of Washington, with stops that go through downtown and to the airport. You can also take the King County Metro Transit, which hits downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. If you want to travel by train, you can use the app for the current schedule.

You can also take the Seattle Streetcar on the South Lake Union or First Hill Lines, both of which take you to an array of places downtown. If you don’t want to stay on land, jump on a ferry that heads to Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, or Whidbey Island.

Bikes (and bike rentals like Lime) are encouraged, with frequent updates to the already extensive network of dedicated bike paths and roadways. Rideshare apps, like Uber and Lyft, and taxis are available, too.

What’s the weather like in Seattle?

True, Seattleites scoff at umbrellas, but everyone else will want them during Seattle’s gray, misty days. While Seattle does have more frequent rain than New York or Miami, the light rain results in low totals. And expect overcast days to be the norm in the area, as Seattle is the third-cloudiest city in the U.S. Still, Seattle’s temperatures aren’t too hot or too cold.

What are Seattle’s fastest-growing neighborhoods?

In Seattle:

Westlake

Niche calls Westlake the best place to live in Seattle. Westlake is also ranked highly as an area in Seattle great for young professionals or raising a family. The median price of a home in Westlake is $457,231. Most everyone in Westlake rents their home, and the median rent price is $1,793. The public schools in the area rank well and the urban density gives residents plenty of options for bars, restaurants, parks, and cafes.

South Lake Union

Home to Amazon’s urban campus, South Lake Union has seen $668 million in infrastructure improvements in recent years, from the revamped Mercer Street to a new streetcar line and upgraded parks. The median home value in the neighborhood is $625,597, but the vast majority of residents rent their homes. Average rents run $1,889.

Belltown

Belltown is ranked as one of the top five neighborhoods in Seattle by Niche. With a median rent of $1,811, and median home price of $604,304, the majority of the area’s 14,143 residents rent their homes. It’s also rated highly as a dense urban area with great perks for young professionals.

In the Greater Seattle Metro Area:

Bellevue 

Ten miles from Seattle and across Lake Washington sits the fast-growing Seattle suburb of Bellevue. You won’t find any cost savings here: Bellevue’s median home price is a whopping $737,000. But the lure of an A+ school system and jobs at companies like Microsoft, Boeing, and T-Mobile, keeps the population of 142,242 growing. Locals love the Bellevue Arts Museum (or BAM) and the Mercer Slough Park, a huge 320-acre downtown wetland. The average rent in Bellevue is $1,855/mo.

Redmond

A mere 15 miles east of Seattle, Redmond is home to 63,197 people and is lovingly known as the “Bicycle Capital of the Northwest.” Since 1939, this Seattle suburb has held the nation’s oldest bike race. When not biking, Redmond locals enjoy the 29 miles of developed trails, and the 31 developed and 14 undeveloped parks spanning more than 1,345 acres. Microsoft and Nintendo are headquartered there too, contributing to its median home list price of $631,700. The average rent in the area is $2,183/mo.

Living in Seattle: The fun part

For the sports fan

Seattle still mourns the loss of the NBA team SuperSonics, who ditched the city for Oklahoma (don’t even mention it). Fortunately, Seattle still has the beloved Seahawks, WNBA team, the Seattle Storm. And with soccer teams like the Sounders FC and Reign FC, the Seattle Mariners (baseball), and Seattle Thunderbirds (hockey), you won’t be left hanging come game day.

For the culture-seeker

With 59 museums, Seattle offers history and art in big doses. If you want some culture close to your new home, check out one of Seattle’s 14 neighborhood art walks (which happen monthly). There’s no end to musical entertainment, either. “Rolling Stone” magazine named The Crocodile one of the best clubs in the U.S., and with 63 music venues, studios, and dozens of theater companies, you’ll have something to see or hear just about any day of the week.

If you’re looking for fun for the whole family, check out The Seattle Aquarium or one of two area zoos!

For the foodie

If you haven’t had salmon in the last few weeks, you probably don’t live in Seattle. It’s a common joke in this port city known for its fresh seafood.

Yes, coffee is important, too, with the oldest Starbucks location at Pike Place Market and local coffee shops on every corner. But the most unusual Seattle fascination has to be the Seattle Dog, a cream cheese-topped hot dog that’s an absolute must-have for anyone moving to the city.

For the traveler

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is 15 minutes from downtown, giving residents access to 30 airlines connecting to 91 non-stop domestic and 27 international destinations. And with 10 different cruise companies pulling into one of two cruise ship terminals, your next vacation could be closer than you think.

If you’re looking to stay close to home, find a spot in the sun on one of the many strips of Seattle’s beach on Puget Sound. You can also take a day trip to climb or hike Mount Rainier, which is 68 miles from Seattle but still towers over downtown.

For the outdoor explorer

Situated on Puget Sound, Seattle has one of the highest numbers of pleasure boats per capita. When you’re not fishing in Puget Sound or visiting nearby Mount Rainier, you can walk, bike, and play in Seattle’s 508 parks. Green Lake is great for swimming, and bikers will love the Burke-Gilman Trail for adventuring through Seattle’s northern neighborhoods.

What you probably didn’t know about Seattle

  • You can thank Seattle for your favorite coffee drink. Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, first opened in Seattle in 1971.
  • Seattle is home to the longest floating bridge in the world — the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge.
  • There are multiple hidden bars in Seattle. Knee High Stocking Co.and Needle & Thread in Capitol Hill; Bathtub Gin & Co. in Belltown; and The Pharmacy in Pioneer Square, just to name a few.
  • You’ll need good walking shoes: Seattle is hilly. You can thank ice age glaciers for the “seven hills” that make up Seattle neighborhoods.
  • Film buffs can see the actual sites of many movies filmed in Seattle. Gasworks Park, shown in “10 Things I Hate About You,” the houseboat in “Sleepless in Seattle” on Lake Union, Harbor Steps Apartments downtown, and the site of “The Ring,” are a few popular destinations.
  • Glass blowing is big in Seattle. There are over 100 glass blowing studios, where you can shop, take a tour, or participate in a workshop.

If you’re interested in moving to the area check out our city page on Seattle!

The bottom line

This might be a meaty guide on Seattle, but it barely scratches the surface of all that Seattle has to offer. Discover more about what makes Seattle a great place to move by checking out Visit Seattle, the city’s tourism department, and the Seattle Parks Department.

For the inside scoop, turn to the local newspapers, like The Seattle Times, Seattle Pi, or The Stranger (for a quirky look at the city). If all of the above sounds like your dream match, Seattle might be the place to call home.


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