Thinking About Making the Move to Washington State? Read This Guide.
Table of Contents
- Where Are The Best Places To Live In Washington?
- How Is The Job Market In Washington?
- How Is The Washington Real Estate Market?
- How Much Does It Cost To Live In Washington?
- Is the State of Washington a Good Place to Retire?
- What Are The People And Culture In Washington Like?
- What Are The Coolest Things To Do In Washington?
- The Pros And Cons Of Living In Washington State
- Washington State’s Fun Facts & Strange Laws
Washington State, not to be confused with Washington DC, is situated in the majestic Pacific Northwest. It’s famous for being one of the most incredibly beautiful states in the country.
Known as “The Evergreen State”, Washington is sprinkled with sprawling evergreen forests that can stretch for hundreds of miles. These forests are home to everyone’s favorite mythical giant, Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot. Allegedly he’s been spotted roaming around Washington an incredible 2,032 times (yikes lol).
The state is also home to two volcanoes, Mount St Helens and Mt Rainer, and has 449km of glaciers, more than any other state in mainland USA. But don’t worry about these exploding any time soon.
As you can imagine, the state’s natural beauty means that it is a highly sought-after destination to relocate to. This is reflected in the number, with 2017 to 2018 showing net migration (people moving in versus moving out) topped a whopping 83,700.
So what is Washington State all about (hint: it’s not just coffee, grunge music, and cloudy skies), and what do you need to know before making the move? Get comfortable and dive into our comprehensive guide on moving to The Evergreen State.
What Are The Best Places To Live In Washington?
When you hear the words ‘Washington State’ you perhaps automatically think of Seattle. It’s a vibrant city full of opportunities for people of all ages who want to get a taste of big city living while embracing the state’s focus on nature and the outdoors.
Seattle is an environmentally conscious city, full of coffee lovers and bicycle riders. It’s also one of the best cities in the country to own a dog, as they’re welcome inside many of the city’s shops, bars, and cafes.Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (March 31, 2020)
Here are the best Seattle neighborhoods to call home.
Centrally located Wallingford is the perfect blend between a cozy suburb and a bustling urban center. There’s a great mix of pretty tree-lined streets and large family homes, along with super trendy bars and restaurants, record stores and coffee shops.
The icing on the cake is Gas Works Park, which gives awesome panoramic views of downtown.
Like most places in Seattle, living here doesn’t come cheap. The median sale price on a home is $890k, and renting here costs an average of $2,980 per month.
North Admiral is one of the oldest communities in West Seattle and has a great mix of suburban block homes and beachfront mansions. It used to be considered a little too far out of town, but nowadays it’s super accessible since the opening of a large scale bridge connecting it with downtown.
This all means there’s plenty of competition for homebuyers in North Admiral. The average price of a home here is $716k, and renting will cost around $2,820 per month.
Fremont, the self-proclaimed Centre of the Universe, is a popular neighborhood packed with hippie clothing stores, trendy coffee shops and modern condominiums. It’s a unique area with a relaxed, carefree vibe that’s especially popular with the alternative crowd.
Renting a place in Fremont will set you back around $2,628 per month, and the average home price here is $800k.
The city of Ballard is a healthy mix of old apartment blocks, new condo developments and leafy family-oriented neighborhoods, which all make for a varied community. Ballard Avenue is packed with trendy bars and restaurants that are popular with Seattle residents all over, especially on the weekends. There’s even a beach, where, when the sun makes an appearance, people gather to picnic, barbecue, kite-surf and take in the ocean air.
The average house price in Ballard is $760k, and renting costs an average of $2,296 a month.
Just 15 minutes from downtown, Greenwood is a great, slightly more affordable suburb that’s popular with young families. Its grid-like formation sets it apart from much of the rest of the city, and there’s a mix of older, traditional single-family homes, and modern construction. There’s plenty of family-friendly restaurants as well as a healthy dose of trendy cocktail bars and coffee shops.
The average house price here is $635k, and renting costs around $2490 a month.
Magnolia is a nature lover’s dream, full of forested areas that extend down to the coastline. It’s home to the picture-perfect Magnolia park, which has some pretty stunning panoramic views, as well as the much grander Discovery Park, the biggest park in Seattle, where you can find pretty stretches of beach, forest trails and even a historic fort.
The average price of a home in Magnolia is $868k, and the average cost of renting is a pricey $3,056 per month.
Montlake is a quiet, super affluent neighborhood, where the median household income is well over $200k per year. It’s bordered by Portage Bay and Montlake Cut to the north and Interlaken Park to the south. Montlake is full of beautiful single-family homes, which are nestled among tranquil tree-lined streets.
Unsurprisingly, property is crazy expensive here. The average home costs more than $1.2 million, and the average renting price is a hefty $3,710 per month.
Even more upscale than Montlake is the coastal community of Madison Park. This is one of the most expensive areas in the whole of Seattle, and it’s easy to see why. The area is full of stunning beachfront mansions and luxurious family homes, and is super popular with residents all over Seattle, who come here to soak up the elusive summer sun on the weekends.
Madison Park is definitely not the place for people on a tight budget; the average home price here is a staggering $1.8 million, and the median rent price is $3,753 per month.
Consider Western Washington (west of the Cascades)
“Washington is an outdoor paradise. Water, national parks, mountains, hiking. It is beautiful, and all within a few hours of Seattle. Culturally, it depends on whether you are moving to the Seattle area or elsewhere. The cost of living in Seattle high, but it has all the amenities you’d expect from a large city. Theater, music, sports, dining, etc. Also, traffic in Seattle can be difficult, but if you can live close to where you work it is less of a problem. Job opportunities are plenty and our residents are extremely interesting and highly educated.”
Matt Dubin, Attorney – Law Offices of Matthew D. Dubin
Elsewhere in Washington
Leaving the big city of Seattle behind, let’s take a look at what the rest of Washington State has to offer. In no particular order, the following represent some of the very best places to relocate…
Not more than a pleasant 25-minute drive away from Seattle is Bellevue, which offers a quaint, small-town vibe, while also having plenty of entertainment options. There’s a great art museum, a sculpture garden, botanical gardens and a popular children’s science and tech museum.
It’s the fifth-largest city in the state, with a population of around 142,400 people. The average home price here is $562k. As you can see, as soon as you leave Seattle, things start to get a little more affordable.
Redmond is famous for being the home of Microsoft which, unsurprisingly, is the largest employer in the city. It’s recently been voted the #1 best place to live in Washington by Niche.com, due in part to its proximity to Seattle, sitting just 16 miles away. This gives Redmond residents the easy option of commuting back and forth from the capital, without having to pay the sky-high cost of living there. The school system here is also one of the best in the country, so it’s a popular choice for families.
The average home price in Redmond is $485k.
Sammamish, a more expensive option than Redmond, sits next to the beautiful Lake Sammamish and has a population of 50,200 people. It’s still relatively close to Seattle, just 25 miles away, but feels worlds apart due to its natural peaceful setting. Sammamish also has a top-notch public school system, and regularly ranks as one of the best places to raise a family in Washington State.
Living here doesn’t come cheap though; the average house price here is over $900k.
Beautiful Bainbridge Island has some gorgeous scenery and is the perfect place for nature lovers. Residents can often be found fishing, hiking, sailing and generally enjoying the great outdoors. It’s conveniently located just next door to Seattle, and was even once voted as the second-best place to live in the entire nation, in a poll conducted by CNN.
Again, the public school system here is fantastic, making it hugely popular with young families.
The cost of living is also relatively affordable compared with the capital, with an average house price of $548,000.
Tacoma, with its awesome views of Mount Rainer, is growing in popularity each year, as Seattle’s crazy house prices force people out to the neighboring cities. It’s famous for its Museum of Glass, which draws in visitors from around the state and beyond. Tacoma regularly ranks as one of the top cities in the US for young professionals; this is partly due to its much lower cost of living than Seattle. Here, you can rent a two-bedroom apartment for an average price of $1,200, and the average cost of a home is around $335,500, which, although high in national terms, seems like pocket change when looking at the prices across the state.
Spokane is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the state, with its views of the Selkirk Mountains in the distance and the picturesque Spokane River running through it. It’s just 92 miles from the US-Canada border, and within an hour’s drive from over 70 lakes and rivers, including the awesomely beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene.
The cost of living here is much lower than in many other parts of the state, with an average house price of $224,000.
Pullman, sitting just next to the Idaho border, is another great option for those who don’t have money to burn. It’s a quaint, scenic city of 31,500 residents, and boasts a low crime rate, a highly ranked public school system, and is home to Washington State University. The college town vibes keep Pullman vibrant and bustling, and means there’s plenty of trendy bars, restaurants and coffee shops in the downtown area.
The cost of living here is much cheaper than most of the rest of the state. An average house here costs $222,900, and you can rent a two-bedroom home for $710, which is actually below the national average. That’s pretty rare in a state as expensive as Washington.
Another much more affordable option is the city of Richland, with its numerous parks and endless options for enjoying nature. The city is home to 52,000 people, and has a very relaxed, small-town feel. Golfing is super popular here, with four 18-hole courses to choose from. The city boasts a low crime rate and a good public school system.
The average house price here is actually the cheapest on our list, at $207,100. Renting is also reasonable and, like Pullman, sits below the national average, at $886 per month.
Located in King County, Mercer Island has a population of 124,000 people and is often voted as being one of the best and most desirable places to live in the state. Its claim to fame is being the most heavily populated freshwater island in the US, and it’s also home to one of the best public school systems in the state. There’s a huge variety of restaurants and bars, many of them playing live music on the weekends. People come here from all over to fish, swim, sail, and generally, kick back and enjoy the great outdoors.
Due to its popularity and ranking in the state, property here comes at a hefty price tag. The average home will set you back over $900k.Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (March 31, 2020)
What Is The Job Market Like In Washington?
Business is booming in Washington State. It was voted the top state for business in the entire country back in 2017, and it’s still growing at a much faster rate than the national average today.
The state has become a massive and growing hub for innovative and cutting-edge start-ups in healthcare, finance, and technology, as well as other exciting businesses. The area is also home to a number of Fortune 500 companies including:
- Expeditors International
- Alaska Airlines
- Costco Wholesale
- Expedia Group
No matter if you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder, open up your own business, or start a new career, making the move to Washington is a great first step.
Industries Across Washington
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is huge here!
One of Washington’s most famous exports is the brainchild of Bill Gates, Microsoft. Then there’re other legendary businesses such as Amazon, Expedia, and Zillow who all call Washington State home.
Global giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and eBay also have engineering offices in the state. Overall, there are more than 220,000 people employed in tech-related jobs, from software engineers to game developers, and there’s no sign of the industry slowing down any time soon.
Washington definitely deserves its reputation as the second Silicon Valley.
The state also leads the way in the Aerospace industry, with more than 1,400 companies providing jobs in the industry, building products, and services for the likes of Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer. In fact, Boeing is Seattle’s top employer, with over 80,000 staff.
The Forest Products sector comes in at number three of Washington’s manufacturing sectors, and it’s been providing a plentiful assortment of jobs for state residents since as far back as 165 years ago. The industry is still going strong, as there’s always a demand for forest products such as paper, furniture, window frames and doors etc.
Farming and Agriculture
Farming is also big business here. Washington has an incredible 39,500 farms which grow over 300 different types of crops. The state’s most famous export is apples. Here are a couple of interesting apple stats from the Evergreen State…
- There are over 175,000 acres of apple orchards in the state.
- 6 out of every 10 apples consumed in the USA come from Washington State.
- Washington grows over 2.5 million tons of apples per year!
While apples are obviously a big deal in Washington, farmer also produces cherries, pears, raspberries and hops in abundance.
Top Employers in Washington State
Aside from Boeing, which leads the way in terms of employee numbers, there’s also the likes of Microsoft, who employ more than 20,000 people in the city of Redmond alone.
Walmart is another huge employer, with over 20,000 staff, along with the University of Washington, Amazon, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a US Airforce base with over 56,000 employees.
How Strong Is The Washington Real Estate Market?
As we’ve found out when exploring some of the top cities and neighborhoods in the state, the cost of buying a house in Washington often ranges from expensive to, well, even more expensive. That said, there are a number of reasons why making the investment into the move might make sense for you or your family. Not to mention there are plenty of areas where you can get more “bang for your buck” if you’re willing to tread off the beaten path a little bit when purchasing a house or renting.
The good news is that the local real estate market shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, as demonstrated by home values in the past year having shot up by 4.8%. According to Zillow’s calculations, they’ll continue to rise by 4% next year. So while housing may be expensive, a home purchase also represents a solid investment, increasing in value year over year.
A house in Washington spends an average of 75 days on the market, and the average cost of a home is over $400k. It’s a great market for sellers, but if you’re looking to buy for the first time in Washington State, you could end up paying through the nose. If you’re on a tight budget, it might be wise to consider looking outside of Seattle (which has an average home price of $760k).Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (March 31, 2020)
How Much Does It Cost To Live In Washington State?
Renting vs Home Ownership
Similar to housing, the cost of renting can also vary widely depending on where you live, and Seattle is obviously a much more expensive place to rent in Washington State.
Here’s an example of how location can make or break your budget: A 2-bedroom apartment in Lincoln County, Washington, could cost you as little as $800 a month, but a 2-bedroom place in Seattle rents for an average of $2,500 per month.
Your best bet will be to “shop” around. Consider areas just outside of major metropolitan centers or with a longer commute to find more affordable options.
For budding professionals and those early in their career, “co-habiting” and “co-housing” are highly popular in the area, with innovative communal housing projects popping up in and around Seattle that might be worth a look.
Common Living Expenses Compared
Home purchase and renting costs make up the biggest difference in the cost of living in the state, but let’s take a look at some other monthly expenses to see how they compare to the rest of the country.
Groceries cost the average Seattle resident almost $400 per month, which is $75 more than the national average. A dozen eggs from the grocery store costs a pricey $3.
Healthcare is one of the few areas where living in Washington can work out cheaper. People spend an average of 17% less on their annual healthcare and insurance than the national average.
Utility bills are also on the more favorable end of the price scale, they cost around 25% less than the national average.
Gas will cost you more in Washington, with a gallon currently costing around $3.53, when the national average is only $2.90.
Sales tax is Washington is 6.5%, but local municipalities have the right to raise this higher. The highest sales tax in the state is as much as 10.4%.Need cheap moving supplies? Fast free delivery (March 31, 2020)
Is Washington State A Good Place To Retire?
Washington can be a great choice of state to retire in, especially if you’re already relatively financially secure. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why so many retirees call the Evergreen State home…
- The weather. While it definitely does rain a lot in Washington, if you don’t mind the drizzle, and love a more temperate climate, then it’s the perfect choice. Many residents say they don’t even need AC during the summer, and if you live in the western part of the state, the winters are surprisingly mild.
- Washington has long been seen as a tax-friendly state for retirees, because it doesn’t tax social security or pension accounts. There’s also no inheritance tax for property worth less than $2.19 million.
- Seattle was named as one of the top 12 cities to retire for good health, based on a study by Kiplinger. Along with world-class health care, there are some seriously amazing hiking trails, beautiful shorelines and an abundance of locally grown fresh fruit and veggies. It’s a winning combination to help you stay healthy in your retirement years.
- Washington has an impressively low crime rate, with just 284 offenses per 100,000 people. You can spend your golden years in a state where you feel safe and secure.
What Are The People And Culture Like In Washington?
Overall, in true West Coast fashion, the people in Washington State live a pretty laid back and relaxed lifestyle. There’s a huge focus on enjoying the outdoors, and residents often spend their weekends hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking and surfing.
It’s a culturally diverse state, with large communities of Native American’s, Asians, Hispanics, and Scandinavians. This diversity means there’s plenty of exciting cultural events and festivals to get involved in.
Overall, Washington isn’t known as a particularly religious state, with only 35% of people claiming to be religious in the most recent census. Like many of its west coast neighbors, it’s also a pretty liberal state overall, especially when it comes to social issues. The environment is also a hot topic in Washington, and in general, more people recycle, take public transport and ride their bicycles than many other parts of the country.
Washingtonians are well known for being friendly, polite and welcoming to newcomers, however, they can sometimes be viewed as being a little more reserved than people from other parts of the US.Need cheap moving supplies? Fast free delivery (March 31, 2020)
What Are The Coolest Things To Do In Washington?
Washington is a relatively large state with some pretty incredible natural beauty to be explored. It’s also home to exciting, vibrant cities and cutting edge cultural activities.
Let’s take a look at some of the top things to do across the state.
- In Port Angeles, you’ll find The Olympic National Park with its mineral springs and gorgeous crystal clear water which is awesome for wild swimming. You can even stay overnight in the cozy cabins and lodges to enjoy a break away from the hustle and bustle of urban lifestyle to enjoy the outdoors and reconnect with nature.
- No trip to Seattle would be complete without visiting the iconic Space Needle. If you don’t mind heights, it’s the perfect place to get the very best views over the city and far beyond, including the incredible Mount Rainer in the distance.
- Speaking of Mount Rainer, this is a national park which is well worth a visit to take in the incredible scenery around this active volcano. You can try your hand at fishing, climbing, and hiking, as well as cross country skiing during the winter months.
- Foodies won’t want to miss the Pike Place Market in Seattle, where some of the freshest and best ingredients in the state are bought and sold daily. It’s one of the oldest and best farmer’s markets in the US, and you can sample some delicious local delicacies here.
- While in Seattle, take a stroll around Pioneer Square, a picturesque historical area that is the site of Seattle’s very first neighborhood. The pretty streets are packed with cozy and atmospheric restaurants and bars, along with plenty of trendy fashion boutiques, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon or evening.
- Heading back into nature now, the incredible Snoqualmie Falls are set in a two-acre nature park which is a great spot for picnics and gentle hikes. The falls themselves are stunning and rise up 268 feet from the ground.
- The Mount St Helens National Monument is an awesome way to gain a perspective on the power of mother nature and the sheer scale of the damage caused by the volcano’s 1980 eruption. There’s a great visitor’s center there where you can learn all about the geology and natural phenomena of the place through exhibits, tours and videos.
- Finally, taking a Washington State Ferry is a great way to take in the amazing views, as well as mingle with the locals who use this as an essential form of transport over the waters. You can hop on and off in downtown Seattle, as well as Mukilteo, Clinton and Bainbridge Island.
The Pros And Cons Of Living In Washington State
So now that we’ve taken a look at what Washington has to offer, let’s examine the pros and cons of moving to the state.
- It’s a nature lover’s paradise. Washington is definitely deserving of its nickname, The Evergreen State. There’re abundant forests, waterfalls, rivers, and lakes, with so many great opportunities for outdoor living, exercise and spending time in nature.
- It’s got a great education system. The University of Washington ranks as one of the best in the country, and Washington State University is known as a leader in agricultural studies. The public schools system is generally regarded as excellent too.
- There’s no income tax. Washington is one of the few states in the US where earners pay absolutely zero income tax, meaning it’s a great place to earn money, especially if you’re on a high salary.
- Washington has a super low crime rate, beating the vast majority of the rest of the US in police statistics, making it one of the safest places to live in the country.
- The weather, although rainy, is mostly temperate throughout the year, especially towards the western side of the state. A lot of people don’t even use air conditioning during the summer months.
- The job market is booming, especially in the tech industry. With so many huge companies like Microsoft and Amazon hiring, it’s a great place to further your career or start out in the tech world.
- If you don’t like rain, Washington might not be the state for you. It receives an average of 38.15 inches of rainfall a year, which is higher than most other states in the US.
- It’s expensive to live in Washington. House prices are well above the national average, especially in Seattle, and renting is also much, much higher than in most of the US.
- There’s a high sales tax in Washington. As income tax doesn’t exist, the sales taxes are overall much higher than most places in the US.
- Washington is due for a large earthquake. Like the rest of its west coast neighbors, western Washington State is in the danger zone, and there’s no predicting when a large earthquake might strike.
Strange Laws And Fun Facts About Living In Washington
Every state has its fair share of interesting and bizarre laws that can seem a little ridiculous. Let’s take a look at what Washington has to offer.
- It’s illegal to harass Bigfoot. Even though nobody knows for sure if he actually exists, he’s protected by the state, just in case.
- Criminals must make themselves known. Apparently, motorists must report to the local police chief when entering any town and share their criminal intentions before acting on them. We’re not sure how effective this law is, considering most criminals usually like to avoid police stations if at all possible…
- Don’t spread your germs. The lawmakers in Washington didn’t just want to leave it up to common courtesy to protect the public from the spread of germs. It’s actually illegal to enter a public place if you have a communicable disease, and that even includes the common cold. It’s a pretty great excuse to stay home and rest next time you get sick.
- In Wilbur, Washington, your horse must be good looking. If your horse is deemed as ugly, it’s an offense to ride it. We’re not sure who gets to decide the attractiveness of a horse, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
- In Lyden, Washington, you can’t drink and dance at the same time. Establishments can only offer one or the other.
- Life jackets are not allowed in Spokane, Washington. If the area around the river is restricted to swimmers, it’s actually illegal to wear one at all.
Fun Facts About the State
To wrap up our overview of moving to Washington, let’s look at some fun facts from The Evergreen State.
- It’s the only state to be named after a US president
- Washington has more glaciers than any other mainland state
- The richest man in the US, Bill Gates, is from Washington, and still lives there today.
- Seattle is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix
- The oldest working gas station in America is in Washington State.
- Washington State produces more apples than anywhere else in the US.
- Before Washington was a state, the area was called Columbia. They changed the name to Washington supposedly so people wouldn’t confuse it with the District of Columbia (which, of course, they still do).
Are You Ready To Make The Move To The Great State Of Washington?
We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide on what it’s like to move to or live in Washington state. From eco-friendly lifestyles, to laid back culture, plentiful outdoor activities, great education, no state income tax and more, there are plenty of reasons to consider the move. What are yours?
Further Reading: Looking For More Washington State Resources? Check These Articles Out!
About the Author: Kris Lippi is the owner of ISoldMyHouse.com and the broker of Get LISTED Realty. He actively writes about real estate related topics such as buying and selling homes, how-to guides for around the house and home product recommendations. He has been featured in Inman, Readers Digest, American Express, Fit Small Business, Policy Genius, Lending Tree, GoDaddy, Manta as well as other major websites. Read more about us here.