As seen in Enquire Magazine
Seattle will always be the Emerald City. Our metropolis and its surrounding areas boast lush, year-round greenery, but such a moniker also befits this crowning jewel as an envied, regional economy with global significance. Once a modest shipping port for the Klondike Gold Rush, Seattle now hosts the largest population in the Evergreen State—aptly named as Washington has no state income tax. It also happens to be the fastest-growing large city (per capita) in the US. Considering its auspicious peer group comprising of Vancouver, BC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA, (among the most heavily-taxed regions in North America), Seattle offers a similar Pacific Rim perch, yet remains a noted bargain for employers and employees alike. Meteoric job growth, high incomes, unparalleled economic prospects, and relatively low housing costs are just a few lifestyle facets that make this unique West Coast city shine.
It’s no secret that tech titans and large corporations are planting roots in downtown Seattle, as well as Bellevue and Redmond, which are headquarters for Expedia and Microsoft, respectively. Most notable however, is Amazon’s expansion in downtown Seattle. This urban campus pioneer will soon comprise 12 million square feet of office space and host an estimated 50,000 employees in the Seattle area. Surrounding this Ama-zone is a growing bevy of Bay Area satellites including Google, Facebook, and Apple – each posturing in a beauty contest as they lure young, smart tech workers. Millennials are moving here in droves and are now, by far, the largest demographic segment in the Seattle region. Recent Census data reveals that King County as a whole was the fourth fastest-growing county in the nation, with the Seattle area gaining about 1,100 people per week since 2010. An explosion of retail, restaurants, and residential services have helped create that dynamic, 18-hour city that downtown Seattle aspired to become and is now home to more than 70,000 residents. The elixir, however, is far more than a happy hour. A survey by commercial brokerage JLL Research determined that Seattle’s software engineers simply get more bang for their buck. When factoring their average salaries, federal and state tax burden, and typical one bedroom rents; Seattle techies retained $56,911 of their pay check as disposable income – that’s 21% more than Portland; 26% more than San Jose; 30% more than San Francisco; and a whopping 68% more than New York.
Moving on Up
An influx of new tech jobs led to a corresponding boom of development. Office, hotel, residential, and other big city projects including the $2B+ HWY 99 deep bore tunnel and waterfront revitalization project, as well as the $1.7B Washington State Convention Center expansion, dwarf the past decades in terms of capital investment. Since 2011, more than 13,000 housing units have been delivered in the urban core, with another 20,000 units in some stage of planning. Yet remarkably, only 6% of this supply was offered for sale. Developers have enjoyed high rents and low cap rates, prompting an apartment building gold rush that puts the Klondike-era to shame. Despite the supply, however, demand for rental housing in Seattle is still greater as downtown lease rates have climbed 57% over the past six years, as reported by Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors. The Seattle Metro Area also vaunts the top position for median home price gains in the US for the past five months in a row – rising 11.3% year-over-year as of January 2017, according to S&P/Case-Shiller. A broadening search for affordability outside the city has led to the fourth worst traffic congestion in the nation. This daily commute is driving consumers to seek out urban life in what experts refer to as the Manhattanization of Seattle. Pent up demand was underscored at NEXUS – a 382-unit, high-rise condominium that recently commenced presales. In March 2017, more than 75-percent of the units were sold 30-months before occupancy, and most homes below $500,000 didn’t include parking.
Over the Rainbow
Unlike The Wizard of Oz, this Emerald City is not a utopian fantasy. Seattle has more than one influence behind the curtain pulling levers while a tech tornado spurs Seattle well beyond the cloud… way up high. Click your heels, Seattle – there’s no place like home.