Home buyers with limited housing budgets often move from pricier coastal areas to more affordable inland cities. It’s a common migration pattern that has been well documented over the years. And as it turns out, many Seattle-area residents are now looking at Spokane as a place where they might get more housing bang for the buck.
Seattle Residents Eyeing Spokane for Lower Home Prices
In December 2018, Realtor.com CEO Ryan O’Hara spoke with CNBC about some of the home-buying-related trends his company has been seeing lately. As you probably already know, Realtor.com is one of the leading property listing websites in the U.S. What you might not know is that their research team regularly analyzes website traffic and behavior to identify trends related to the housing market.
O’Hara pointed to one notable trend in particular. These days, more people are moving from larger coastal cities to smaller inland markets, in search of lower home prices and mortgage payments.
He singled out Seattle and Spokane, Washington as a prime example:
“People in Seattle are looking at Spokane, Washington. Can they move there, can they find a job there, can they get more house. So we’re seeing these trends where people in the big markets, they’re seeing the pricing rise to levels they can’t afford … and looking into smaller cities.”
In other words, an increasing number of people who reside in the Seattle area are using Realtor.com to look at homes and prices in the Spokane area.
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In Pursuit of More Affordable Housing
This trend really isn’t surprising, when you look at the data.
Over the past few years, home prices in the Seattle area have risen at a much faster pace than incomes and wages. As a result, it has become harder for someone with a median household income in the area to afford a median-priced home. Residents with below-median income levels have an even harder time purchasing a home.
But that’s less of a problem in Spokane, and in other parts of central and eastern Washington.
Here’s how home prices stack up in these two housing markets:
- Seattle: As of December 2018, the median home value in Seattle was around $728,000.
- Spokane: The median home price in Spokane was around $202,000 at the end of 2018.
The median price point within the Seattle housing market is pretty steep for an average earner in the area. By contrast, Spokane offers much lower housing costs — even by local income standards. The bottom line is that people moving from Seattle to Spokane could have an easier time finding a suitable home within their budget.
The outlooks for these two real estate markets are also very different. For instance, Zillow recently predicted that home prices in the Seattle area will basically level off in 2019. Prices in the Spokane housing market, on the other hand, are expected to continue rising at a pretty steady pace this year. Perhaps this has something to do with demand shifting from one city to the other.
A Tale of Two Cities
Seattle and Spokane are two very different cities. The climate, the topography, the job prospects, the sheer number of people — these factors differ quite a bit. So there’s obviously more to consider here than the typical home price or mortgage payment in Spokane versus Seattle.
But for those who want to buy a home in Washington (and are open to moving inland), the Spokane metro area definitely offers more house for the money.
As of 2017, the population of Spokane was around 217,108, according to the U.S.Census Bureau. In Seattle, around 724,745 currently call the city home.
But the unemployment rate is higher in Spokane. Seattle’s unemployment rate was around 3.5% in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was slightly lower than the national average for that same month. In contrast, Spoken had a jobless rate of around 4.6% in October 2018.