Seattle's Best...Family Housing?
June 5, 2007 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Where to start looking for older, affordable family housing in Seattle?

In mid-June, my wife and I will be in Seattle over the weekend (2-3 days). The visit is to both interview in person for a position and to scope out housing options. There are six of us and a golden retriever that are potentially moving from a 200 year old Victorian farmhouse with barn+outbuilding on a 1-acre lot. Despite how the property+house sounds, the whole deal was below $200K.

Where should we start looking for older/affordable homes in and around the Seattle area? I'd prefer not to have a hellish commute (for my current job here on the east coast, I drive ~50 miles one way to work...ugh) and we'd prefer non-newer homes (we just like older homes and see no need to perpetuate the environmentally & economically harmful building craze).

We don't need the land, per-se, but the 6 folks in question are mom, dad, daughter, son, toddler and grandma, so we need some room.

(Now that I've typed that question out, I'm calling my sanity into question for even thinking of moving...)
posted by hrbrmstr to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where is the job? Downtown or the Eastside (suburbs)? is the best place to start looking for Seattle-area homes. $200K, though...double that and then some, I fear.
posted by GaelFC at 7:18 PM on June 5, 2007

First of all, where is the company you're interviewing with? Is it within Seattle proper, or on the Eastside in Redmond, Bellevue or Kirkland? If you want to avoid a bad commute you'll want to live on the same side of Lake Washington as your workplace to avoid the bridge traffic. And you can still have a bad commute without having to cross Lake Washington.

In general, the older homes (oldest are about 100 years old) are within the city of Seattle. But these are in city neighborhoods, nothing like you have now. The lots are small and you're house will be usually be within ten to twenty feet of your next-door neighbor.

On the Eastside you can find larger lots but these are almost much newer houses.

No matter where you live, if you want space like you have now expect prices four to five times the $200k you paid for your current setup.
posted by ShooBoo at 7:27 PM on June 5, 2007

Where should we start looking for older/affordable homes in and around the Seattle area?

Define "affordable". In most neighborhoods in the city of Seattle proper, $200K will get you a condo. A small condo. On the ground floor.

If you want a house with any sort of land, you're probably going to need to be looking in the Mill Creek/Monroe area, I fear, not too bad if you're working on the Eastside but if you're working in Seattle, forget it.

If you're looking for housing for 6, unless your income stream is pretty large, you'll not find anything you can afford in the more desirable neighborhoods of Seattle itself (Ballard, Montlake, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne), but you'll probably be able to find something in the Beacon Hill neighborhood (or other areas south of downtown) - however, you're still looking at a big chunk of change.

Good luck!
posted by pdb at 8:15 PM on June 5, 2007

Well, this is FAR LESS TRUE than it was a couple years ago, but the neighborhoods in the far southern tip of Seattle- down where Tukwila, Renton and Skyway all snuggle close- have both much larger lots and lower prices than (IMHO) any other part of Seattle. Add to that the fact that commute times to downtown from here where I live run about 25 minutes *on surface streets* and you might wonder why everyone doesn't live here.

Well, it's because most of the reasons people want to live in Seattle (food, culture, art, nightlife) generally don't come farther south than Columbia City, which is 3 to 5 miles north of the neighborhood I'm describing (Upper Rainier Beach). But if you want a house for under $500,000 with a lot larger than, say, 10,000 sq. ft, I think this is the only place within the city limits where you'll find that.
posted by carterk at 8:36 PM on June 5, 2007

I will second the idea of MAKING SURE you know where you will be working before choosing a house.

The last thread like this was a poor fella who had accepted a job in Kent (south of Seattle) and had purchased a house in Everett (north of Seattle) without realizing the hellish 2-hour commute he had just committed to.

Take a close look at a map and you'll realize there are only a few major routes around the area due to all the waterways.

But that's part of what makes it so great up here. Good luck!
posted by Aquaman at 8:54 PM on June 5, 2007

Five years ago, the housing market was out of control in Seattle. I had friends who were renting and looking for a house for a year, and never found anything they could afford (they moved back to S. Carolina). I don't know if the housing bubble has started to burst in Seattle yet, but since the dotcom bust I would imagine it's at least stabilized.

Note that the I-5 corridor south of the city (between Tacoma and Seattle) is one of the worst rush-hour bottlenecks in the nation.
posted by zardoz at 9:12 PM on June 5, 2007

Where is the job, where is the job, where is the job?

That'll be the deciding factor.
posted by frogan at 9:34 PM on June 5, 2007

zardoz, in the last 5 years, prices in seattle have gone up dramatically, dot com bust be damned. I think things may be softening up, but when houses in my neighborhood go on sale, they still don't last long.
posted by Good Brain at 11:27 PM on June 5, 2007

The cheapest in-city house that you might fit in I can find right now is this one for $320k. What's scary is that when I saw that listing, I thought, "Hey, that's pretty reasonable!"
posted by hades at 12:27 AM on June 6, 2007

Of course, that particular house is in one of the higher-crime (trending more to violent crime than property crime) areas of town. I know some folks who live not too far away and say it isn't all that bad, but I'd rather live somewhere else, personally.
posted by hades at 12:34 AM on June 6, 2007

Depending on where your job is, of course, you might want to consider Shoreline, just north of Seattle. Parts of Shoreline were the last places in King County, north of downtown Seattle, that it was possible for a median-income family to buy, and it's still far cheaper than houses just a few miles away in North Seattle. The schools in Shoreline are generally considered better (whatever that means) than those in Seattle. But... like carterk said... we don't have so much of the "food, culture, art, nightlife" up here, either. (But we do have the Crest, and Central Market, and... no, that's about it.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:11 AM on June 6, 2007

When you interview, ask if you can talk to some of the employees about where they live and why.

I live in a Seattle city neighborhood (Ballard, representing, ya you betcha!) and commute to Redmond. My co-workers live everywhere from five minutes from work to West Seattle to Kent to Edmonds. I chose the city and am happy with it, but some of them chose land with acreage, like you seem to want, and have horses and spots to let their dogs run and so on. That was important to them.

We all have different reasons why we chose our areas --housing price among them -- and different tricks for making the commute work for us.

My commute tricks include park and ride and express bus, carpooling, shortcuts, telecommuting 1 day a week, and working non rush hours to avoid the traffic. Depending on how flexible you and your job are, you can live anywhere.

I live 17 miles from work but it involves crossing the lake, which has only two bridges. With no traffic I can do it in less than a half-hour. With bad traffic that can triple.
posted by GaelFC at 7:12 AM on June 6, 2007

If you're working downtown or at UDub, you have the bus system working for you -- Sound Transit runs an express bus system to both places, and Pierce and Community Transit run direct routes to both places too. Microsoft, it's more Seattle-Redmond and the 405 corridor to Redmond.

The buses use the express lanes and HOV lanes, so you avoid some of the traffic. Also, no driving, so less stress.

Being close to a park-and-ride will open up your options w/r/t where to live. If you live in Marysville, for instance, there's a direct line from their P&R straight onto campus. Still an hour each way in traffic, but that's an hour you can be reading a book rather than looking at someone else's bumper.
posted by dw at 7:17 PM on June 20, 2007

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