Posted by: The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

74 responses to “List Prices: Seattle vs. Other Large Cities”

  1. David McManus

    Oh my gosh, you mean Seattle really DOESN’T have a million residents like they always claim?

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  2. patient

    From the median price list it seems like the cutoff for “special” is Boston. There we have a diff of +100k to the next city, Chicago. There is also a similar wide gap at the bottom for being “especially bad”. Wow, that Detroit median is an eye opener. The question is does Seattle really belong on the “special” list from an overall point of view and not just “special” to the individuals who already live here? I’d say no.

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  3. B&W NIkes

    my favorite comparison is here…
    http://www.city-data.com/top2/h32.html
    vs.
    http://www.city-data.com/top2/h28.html

    The estimated median house or condo value in Guttenberg in 2007 was $428,417 where the estimated median house or condo value in Centerville in 2007 was $127,709. This would seem to indicate that wherever there are trolleys property is valued more highly than where there are high percentages of people driving solo. Go team S.L.U.T.!

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  4. softwarengineer

    RE: patient @ 2

    Employer Stability is a Good Factor to Add too

    Let’s see: Boeing, it lost its managment base to Chicago years ago. Its CEO behind the 787 mess skipped to Detroit to implement his outsourcing managment style to Ford? South Carolina will grab all the 787 jobs anyway? Airline companies on verge of bankruptcy this year:

    http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/29/airlines-media-paper-markets-bonds.html

    More on Boeing butcher axing in part:

    “….On the military side, which makes up half of sales, Boeing is in the cross hairs of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ planned restructuring of Future Combat Systems – a $2.5 billion program for Boeing.

    “And its cash flow is a worry through 2010. Boeing will put $500 million into the pension plan this year, which is underfunded by about $8 billion. The last time it was underfunded close to this level, Boeing put an average of $2.7 billion in it for the next three years.

    “In the stock’s past down cycles, it has underperformed for 10 to 12 quarters. Right now we are six quarters in.

    “Also, at this point I would say the 787 Dreamliner is a mixed bag. While sales have been great, its delivery build in 2010-12 is set to be only modestly profitable given the additional costs of its 18-month delay. And the planes on which Boeing makes money – the 737 and 777 – will be heading south….”

    The rest of the overly optimistic May 2009 URL [787 failed tests miserably]:

    http://money.cnn.com/2009/05/11/pf/boeing_stock_take_off.fortune/

    How about Microsoft, its Seattle stability has to be slam dunK?

    Nope, that’s not the case at all, they had a very grim Q2 per article in part:

    “….The same grim conditions that plagued the world’s largest software maker in the first six months of the calendar year — weak computer sales, frozen corporate technology budgets — may not get worse from here, but they are not going to dissipate any time soon. However, the company expects business to brighten in the first half of the next calendar year….”

    The rest of the URL:

    http://cbs11tv.com/technology/Microsoft.Earnings.Report.2.1099587.html

    We need some good Orwellian Newspeak lies to cheer us all up in Seattle again; these truthful news stories paint Seattle a possible Detroit; especially with 737/777 and maybe the 787 [if it flies] too all going south with the defense budget.

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  5. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: patient @ 2 – Yep, only people who don’t know how to build airplanes think Chicago is special. ;-)

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  6. prudy

    Seattle home prices are high because Seattle is considered a very desirable place to live by people who have the money and the want to buy homes.

    I have lived in San Diego, Chicago, SF, Detroit and visited and moved to many other cities and states and I can tell you that Seattle is considered a very desirable place to live because of the type of jobs and new industry that exist here and also because it is beautiful.

    As long as Seattle has those things going for it it will be expensive to live here. I specifically moved here from SF where I could not afford to buy the type of home I wanted to buy because I could in Seattle. I did. I’m very happy. I have a great job here and so does my wife.

    There are lots of others doing the same thing.

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  7. CorkyAgain

    “Oh my gosh, you mean Seattle really DOESN’T have a million residents like they always claim?”

    These numbers are probably for Seattle proper, and don’t include any of its suburbs. I expect the same is true for the other cities listed.

    It would be interesting to see if the same pattern holds when looking at the greater metropolitan areas for each of these cities.

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  8. alex

    RE: prudy @ 6

    Take a step back, cover your ears and eyes, then uncover… you’ll hear an argument that goes like this:

    SeattleBubble: – “Seattle is way more expensive than it should be”
    prudy: – “I just paid a lot of money for my house, and I refuse to listen to anyone who says it isn’t worth all that”

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  9. softwarengineer

    RE: prudy @ 6

    When did you buy into Seattle RE?

    Also, it would help too….did you pay cash or do you still owe more than 50% of the current home’s value?

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  10. AaronF

    Such a great analysis – by far the best illustration I’ve seen of how inflated prices are in Seattle. When I moved to Seattle from New York City, I knew something was wrong when prices were the same. My feeling has been that the median price should be closer to $250k, and it’s quite interesting that Seattle’s population density ranks it #8, which would equate to Chicago in medium list prices, which is in this range. Question: can you also post a table of medium income?

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  11. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: B&W NIkes @ 3
    Great theory, but: Kenosha, Wisconsin has streetcars, every bit as cool as the S.L.U.T. and the median home price there?
    http://www.zillow.com/local-info/WI-Kenosha-home-value/r_39220/

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  12. Kary L. Krismer

    Alex and softwarengineer, nice way to try to refute an argument when you don’t have an argument. Seattle is considered a desirable place to live. Back when I was in law school jobs working for even legal aid entities in Seattle were hard to get, even though they paid squat.

    Also, keep in mind that much like my move from Skyway to Fairwood, Pruddy’s move from SF to here could have actually save him from larger losses. Not everyone is willing to be a tenant or worries about the price of their property when they aren’t even selling.

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  13. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 12
    I Understand and agree, Kary, but how does that relate to Skyway and Fairwood? ( And interesting that you moved from one unincorporated area to another. What are you, some kind of anarchist?)

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  14. Dave0

    RE: patient @ 2 – Speaking of wide gaps, what’s up with San Fran!?! $300k higher, a 60% jump, above second place?!? That sounds like an “extra special” category to me.

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  15. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 13 – I was just barely within the city limits for Seattle. One of my goals was to get out of that city. Anyplace that has people who vote for a monorail is a place I want to move out of, especially when in doing so they penalize people who don’t buy new cars very often.

    The comparison though was I think SF has fallen more than Seattle, and Skyway has fallen more than Fairwood. Skyway was really taking off price wise the last couple of years before the peak, and it’s given a lot of that back.

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  16. Kary L. Krismer

    By Dave0 @ 14:

    RE: patient @ 2 – Speaking of wide gaps, what’s up with San Fran!?! $300k higher, a 60% jump, above second place?!? That sounds like an “extra special” category to me.

    I would guess San Fran proper is pretty small for the population. That other cities formed around it earlier than in this area. As Ira just mentioned, there are unincorporated parts of King County in between Seattle and Renton.

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  17. Dave0

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 16 – Agreed. And for that reason I would expect San Fran to be around the same or lower than NYC. Either SF is too high, or NYC is too low, but something doesn’t line up there.

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  18. patient

    RE: Dave0 @ 14 – I would argue that SF is viewed as one of the most desirable places to live in the world ( true or not ) should you run a totally open poll without giving any list of cities to choose from. I doubt Seattle would have many votes. NYC would be up there with the other classic world cities and probably places like Sydney Australia. It has little to do with if they truly are the best places to live and a lot with expectations, hip factor and history. It’s perception and that plays a major role. I suspect that by the ones that even know Seattle exists it’s viewed as nice but with gloomy wet weather.

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  19. patient

    RE: Dave0 @ 17 – Perhaps the financial melt down has taken an especially big chunk out of the NYC median with the demise of many high paying Wall Street power houses?

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  20. AMS

    Think of all the money you could be saving by living in Detroit.

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  21. AMS

    The Tim-

    Regarding the Median Price Chart.

    The #3-5 spots are so close that one could not suggest it’s beyond a bit of randomness. Sure it looks good on some chart, but $100 difference between positions 3 and 4? Simply put, that’s close enough to be the same.

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  22. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: AMS @ 21 – Not to mention it’s list price.

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  23. Aubrey Cohen

    Hey Tim,
    Wouldn’t it be better to use price per square foot, instead of median? Given the difference in the makeup of homes between Seattle and New York, for instance, I think comparing median sales prices is apples to oranges. Put another way, I doubt a three-bedroom, 1,500-square foot house on a 5,000-square-foot lot would have a lower median price in New York than in Seattle, assuming New York even has such things. Of course, I haven’t researched it, since I’m paying attention to aerospace these days.

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  24. WestSeattleDave

    the Tim — why does your chart show median “list” price? I would think the more appropriate number would be the median “SALES” price. We all know how WTF Seattle listing prices are!

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  25. Packet

    Shenanigans. There is no possible way Seattle is more expensive than NYC when $200k buys you this in NY:
    http://nymag.com/realestate/vu/2009/09/59211/

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  26. cc12

    With respect to posting median income for these 25 metros, it might also be interesting to see what % of households have >$100k income or >$1M net worth. Seattle (and to a larger degree, the SF Bay Area) have benefited the last 20 years from booming tech companies (e.g. “Microsoft Millionaires”) which I think has contributed to pushing home prices in each to levels beyond their peers. At least that would be one hypothesis. It would also be interesting to see population growth and job growth over the last year (or even better since 2000 or 1990 census), since arguably these factors impact house prices, at the margin, too.

    I think Seattle is desirable and has a lot going for it, but I am just as frustrated as others here with where prices are today and an inability to find, with my wife, a home that really works for us in Seattle, at a rational price.

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  27. AMS

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 22 – Even if it were the closed price, any sample has some randomness to consider.

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  28. Gameboy

    Packet, that is because NYC includes its outer boroughs; Queens, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Islands in addition to Manhattan. While prices in Manhattan may be stratospheric, the outer borough house prices are much more reasonable (relatively).

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  29. Scotsman

    Seattle- world-class city, four months of the year.

    When the jobs are gone, but the rain remains, then what will be be?

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  30. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Scotsman @ 30
    World class drizzle?

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  31. Kary L. Krismer

    There’s a difference between being a world class city and being a desirable city.

    Actually, I doubt there are any world class cities I’d want to live in, because they’re all probably too big.

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  32. Packet

    By Gameboy @ 29:

    Packet, that is because NYC includes its outer boroughs; Queens, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Islands in addition to Manhattan. While prices in Manhattan may be stratospheric, the outer borough house prices are much more reasonable (relatively).

    Even when you include the outer boroughs, the vast majority of the city isn’t sitting around $300/sq ft like seattle. Maybe outer queens and staten island, but NY as a whole? not happening.

    Ditto for san francisco. Unless you’re including the parts of the city that will get you shot, it’s just not anywhere near the same price. I recently moved from SF partially because for the same price as in SF, I can get a place 3-4 times the size here in seattle.

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  33. buystocks

    I’ve pretty much spent some time in most of US (including SF), and Seattle has been the better of all places. Everybody has their own opinions, but to say it’s not one of the more highly sought out places to live in the US is just plain denial.

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  34. WestSideBilly

    By Gameboy @ 29:

    Packet, that is because NYC includes its outer boroughs; Queens, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Islands in addition to Manhattan. While prices in Manhattan may be stratospheric, the outer borough house prices are much more reasonable (relatively).

    And “Chicago” includes the gold coast ($$$$) but also South Chicago (dirt cheap).

    About the only thing I would take from this is that the top 6 (maybe 7) are significantly limited in their expansion by geography. The rest, except Philly and Baltimore (which are both basically ghettos), are not. No water, no mountains, no other cities to compete against. This might be interesting if you measure the MSA, and not the city limits. As it is, this is a worthless comparison.

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  35. bk

    RE: patient @ 2RE: patient @ 2

    One theory for the jump in price between Chicago and Boston is the coast. All of the top seven places are on either the East or West coast. All other entries are, more or less, not directly on the ocean.

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  36. Leighpdx

    I thought EVERYONE wanted to move to Portland?!?!?! Hey neighbors to the north, just recently joined the blog. Fascinating hearing your perspective. As for Portland, we are still way overvalued compared to incomes but many will still argue that is because 1) everyone wants to move here (can’t buy much when you work as a barista/band member) and 2) the urban growth boundary. No matter how many stats and research pieces you post it won’t change some minds. Portland is special;O)

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  37. Sid

    By Scotsman @ 30:

    Seattle- world-class city, four months of the year.

    When the jobs are gone, but the rain remains, then what will be be?

    Do you consider Dubai or Toronto world class cities? Seattle has better weather than these cities. I prefer Seattle weather over even Chicago’s.

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  38. SpringStreet

    This kind of display is interesting.

    This past weekend, I was out-of-town for a wedding near Chicago. I had some great conversations with people of many different ages, and a surprising topic of conversation was effectively “why are you living in Seattle?” – I’ve never had to justify this to anyone on the west coast.

    Once I started to share some of the negatives, including the rather expensive square footage for housing, “company town” atmosphere, and the attitude of many residents, I found myself wondering the same…

    Then I’d hear about the beautiful condos in downtown Chicago that can be had for $350k, up 50 floors, beautiful furnishings, and a world-class city… or the suburban neighborhoods with great schools, outdoor activities with plenty of biking, hiking, and Bravern-style shopping… and 4,000 sq. ft. for $400k.

    Actually, this always happen when I visit a cooler place, and then try and come home. It’ll wear off in another few days… feel free to ignore me.

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  39. AMS

    RE: Leighpdx @ 37 – Let’s not even start on the UGB!

    Also do you participate in any PDX blogs? Which ones?

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  40. deprogram

    By SpringStreet @ 39:

    This kind of display is interesting.

    This past weekend, I was out-of-town for a wedding near Chicago. I had some great conversations with people of many different ages, and a surprising topic of conversation was effectively “why are you living in Seattle?” – I’ve never had to justify this to anyone on the west coast.

    Once I started to share some of the negatives, including the rather expensive square footage for housing, “company town” atmosphere, and the attitude of many residents, I found myself wondering the same…

    Then I’d hear about the beautiful condos in downtown Chicago that can be had for $350k, up 50 floors, beautiful furnishings, and a world-class city… or the suburban neighborhoods with great schools, outdoor activities with plenty of biking, hiking, and Bravern-style shopping… and 4,000 sq. ft. for $400k.

    Actually, this always happen when I visit a cooler place, and then try and come home. It’ll wear off in another few days… feel free to ignore me.

    Chicago is NOT cooler than Seattle.

    Not even close.

    I’d rather live in Cleveland. What? Yeah, you heard me. If I have to endure the Midwest weather, I at least want to be in a manageable city, without the insane population pressures of Chicago. Plus Erie is just plain better for windsurfing. Oh, and drinks are cheap… housing is close to free these days.

    Everyone wants something different from their city. I suppose if you never take advantage of the incredible geography of the Puget Sound region, and live most of your life indoors, Seattle would be a pretty bad choice. For me, it offers the sophistication of a big city without the sprawling, ugly mass of suburbia that surrounds virtually every other large city in the States – with old-growth forests, glacial lakes, and incredible back-country snowboarding only hours away. Win.

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  41. ananda

    The Tim:

    Regaring your comment: Seattle is still special (at least in the minds of sellers)!

    Buyers are equally, or more to “blame”. Someone’s buying at these prices. Demand has to fall for prices to fall. People want to live in Seattle so bad they’ll seemingly pay anything to do so. It’s not simply the mind of sellers that makes the prices high, some buyer is willing.

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  42. patient

    Here’s a test of universal desirability. Remove the top 5 employeers in the area and see what happens. I’m pretty sure the truly “special” cities quickly replaces the loss and shrugs it off without to much damage to the price of homes etc. How would Seattle do?

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  43. Leighpdx

    RE: AMS @ 40

    The Portland Housing Blog http://portlandhousing.blogspot.com/ seems to be the most popular though I think Clint, the originator, is getting burned out like a lot of us are. I like to use my RN ICU reference in explaining the bursting of the RE bubble: no matter how many meds, how many tubes, or how many machines we have hooked up to this patient they are gonna die. It may take two days or 2 months but it’s gonna happen. But they are fighting it ever inch of the way with interest rates, $8K housing credits, etc.

    I have learned sooo much from the bloggers and posters. I feel like I have an honorary economics degree/psychology degree/BS spotter degree! I can only contribute my own personal experience in RE, ie buying too much mortgage w/ a VA loan, no savings, no plans for layoffs which occurred 3 years after move-in, no plans for kids/childcare expenses…we did sell at the peak, though:O)

    I head over to a few realtor’s blogs just to see what BS they are spouting…it always seems to be a great time to buy, huh? http://portlandrealestateblog.com/ Turner’s blog was popular during the run up and through the peak. Some posters swearing that Portland had strong fundamentals, special, blah, blah, now not too many comments if any these days.

    The Oregonian’s Front Porch by Ryan Frank has some interesting posts though not many comments
    http://blog.oregonlive.com/frontporch/index.html

    And Ian has a different approach to Portland though he is a busy guy with not much free time on his hands. I think both of the Portland housing blogs are run by guys in their early 20’s.

    http://portlandrealestateoutsider.blogspot.com/

    Two realtors that I think I could trust, Ron Are and Scott Quick, have blogs.
    http://www.portlandwaterfront.com/ (fairly new blog)
    http://repdx.com/

    Yeah, hard time blaming the UGB when we have thousands of vacant homes on the market….and they are STILL building!

    Cheers!

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  44. cheapseats

    Weird DC is not on there…

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  45. b

    RE: cheapseats @ 44

    These are city limits specifically, which is somewhat distorting. For example, Atlanta is not on the list (but probably fairly close) despite the metro area having about 2x the population compared to Seattle metro.

    As for the move-ability of Seattle, I have never met anyone in the several cities I have lived in across the country who was remotely interested in living here. Maybe once you visit, and you like the scenery, you might move. My opinion is that most people who move here are just for their tech jobs and (slightly now) lower cost of living than CA. Most are from the bay area like myself, who will move back in a heartbeat if prices in Cupertino or Mountain View get down to Bellevue levels. An example of this is prudy above, and working in tech I can anecdotally tell you this is a common case.

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  46. 2kt

    The Tim,

    Since you publish all this info free of charge, one should be happy with the content regardless of what it is.

    If you are, however, interested in the actual analysis and price comparisons, perhaps you should spend little more time before putting out such info. For instance, median price in Tokyo is about $450,000, but one needs to remember that median dwelling there is about 400sqf.

    Take a look at reports by Canadian sources, they usually publish three sets of data, for detached, attached and condo units and those units also have specific sqf metrics. 900 sqf for condo, 1,200 for detached and 1,500 sqf for attached, if memory serves. This way the information is accurate and presents a clear picture. What you presented in this post amounts to statistical waste pile.

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  47. shawn

    I love Seattle, it is a desirable place to live. It is only second, in my book, to SF & NYC. Nonetheless it is overpriced. The question is “will there be more of a correction?” I think yes, so I am still waiting a bit longer. I have no issues with folks that know the risks and want to buy based on things other than money. The Tim has also voiced that. What I don’t care for are the arguments that buying is a good investment, better bye now or else, yadda yadda yadda. I saw CNN the other day AC360 with a commentator saying “some good news, home prices have risen.” That’s what irks me.

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  48. DrShort

    By 2kt @ 46:

    The Tim,

    Since you publish all this info free of charge, one should be happy with the content regardless of what it is.

    If you are, however, interested in the actual analysis and price comparisons, perhaps you should spend little more time before putting out such info. For instance, median price in Tokyo is about $450,000, but one needs to remember that median dwelling there is about 400sqf.

    I think you could find lots of little statistical faults with Tim’s posting, but I think his larger message is spot on — Seattle is among the highest priced cities for housing and is much more expensive to comparable cities in the country. Now maybe Seattle’s really #5 instead of #3 or whatnot, but you’d hard time compiling a list of lesser cities with a higher cost of living.

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  49. Ray Pepper

    RE: b @ 45

    Grew up in the 95124 and moved here when I was 19. I would never EVER move back home to San Jose. I spent two weeks this summer at Santa Cruz ,Marine World (Discovery Kingdom), and Campbell. Vallejo appears to be gangland territory and downtown Santa Cruz is horrendous. In returning home to Campbell and staying at the Pruneyard I was able to rest easy again but the Bay Area is not near what it used to be. No more Frontier Village…………Thats a crime. At least my High School Del Mar is still there…………You can keep the Bay Area!

    I tell you in all my travels through AZ, NV, WA, Bay Area, and Sacramento I have found no better, safer, healthier, affordable place to live then the 98322.

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  50. patient

    I think many here get hung up on the wrong aspect. It doesn’t matter how much we who already live here likes or dislikes it here when it comes to the universal appeal and attraction that validates high prices. I’m brought up with sailing and mountaneering myself and like it here, a lot. It doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if we have traveled around the country/world and prefer it here. What matters is that most people have never been to Seattle and never consider going here. Expanding corporations ready for international expansion is likely not not dreaming and planning of offices in Seattle together with cities like London and NYC, . For the other cities like NYC, SF and LA it’s different and that makes them special in the sense of more viable and sustainable high real estate prices. So don’t get me wrong Seattle is nice ( though not for everyone ) but it’s mainly a secret, which is mostly for the good IMO. Prices are way overblown here, if they were half I would say we would be much closer to be in balance with our universal appeal than we are today.

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  51. Madrona

    I think this is great. I concur with b @ 45 above too. How feasible would it be to pull this information by metro area? The whole of New Jersey basically would change if NYC wasn’t across the river…

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  52. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: SpringStreet @ 39 – I’m sorry, but you can’t hike anywhere near Chicago. You can walk plenty, but you can’t hike. Hiking requires mountains.

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  53. Cheap South

    By SpringStreet @ 39:

    This past weekend, I was out-of-town for a wedding near Chicago. I had some great conversations with people of many different ages, and a surprising topic of conversation was effectively “why are you living in Seattle?” – I’ve never had to justify this to anyone on the west coast.

    Once I started to share some of the negatives, including the rather expensive square footage for housing, “company town” atmosphere, and the attitude of many residents, I found myself wondering the same…

    Yeah; but the people that question the wisdom of living in Seattle are the ones that have never been there. All you hear is the same broken record….”I could not handle all the rain”.

    Here in the deep South, the people that have visited always ask me “tell me again why you left Seattle to move here??”.

    And as I tell everyone that wants to argue about Seattle vs. Sunny climates in the Southeast…”the day I can sell my Florida duplex for $300K and buy an equivalent unit in Seattle for $120K; I will be extremely happy to admit I was wrong; but unfortunately, as long as the opposite is the case, I am right!!!”

    The Tim’s price chart is nothing more that a “desirability table”. Argue all you want; but those top 5 cities are where most people want to live in. Might not be for you; but they are for most people.

    Sorry for the mood. Fall is around the corner; and while you’ll get a chill in the air and color foliage, I am getting daily highs of 92° and breathing water.

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  54. shawn

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 52 – a hike does not require a mountain. It is simply a long walk. Nonetheless, Kary your posts on this topic are a good read.

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  55. Kary L. Krismer

    Well, I’d disagree. You can walk 5 miles of flat with a heavy pack very easily. Add some significant elevation gain and one mile can be very tough even with a light pack. That to me is the difference between a walk and a hike. I would never say, for example, that I hiked 5 miles around the track at the local high school.

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  56. Oswald

    Sounds like some of you have never spent a winter in Chicago.

    Think, people. Different strokes for different folks. Your anecdotal evidence of a conversation at a cocktail party cannot reveal the desirability of any city, let alone Seattle. There is no one universal quality that makes one city better than another.

    I like mountains, rainy weather, and a small city (well one that feels small). That is why I live here. If I liked a giant metropolis with real cold weather I would move to Chicago. If I liked warm weather and the ocean I would move to Huntington beach. See how this works?

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  57. Kary L. Krismer

    By Oswald @ 56:

    Your anecdotal evidence of a conversation at a cocktail party cannot reveal the desirability of any city, let alone Seattle.

    Actually it merely demonstrates that people tend to like where they live. You could probably go to a cocktail party in El Paso and have people question why you live in Seattle.

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  58. prudy

    Well, i don’t work in tech and i sure as hell wouldn’t move back to the bay area to live in Mountain View or Cupertino, so – close but no cigar.

    I would love to live in SF but I would equally love to stay in Seattle – and in Seattle I can actually afford to buy a home in a neighborhood that I love and the home is much bigger than an 1100 sq foot box.

    Oh, and I can buy a home that’s exactly what I’m looking for – that’s key as well.

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  59. jay

    I haven’t seen anybody question the numbers, but we’re looking at some skewed data here in the third chart. If you look at the median sale price, or even the Zillow estimated value, Seattle drops several places down the list, far below New York, and below L.A. What the third chart shows is that there are a number of homes in Seattle that haven’t had their asking prices cut to fair value. The median sale price in Seattle is only 86% of the median list — a much larger difference than most cities have right now. Tim, could you post a chart of median sale price?

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  60. Hector

    Any chance we could add median income to the charts?

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  61. Gameboy

    By Packet @ 33:

    By
    Even when you include the outer boroughs, the vast majority of the city isn’t sitting around $300/sq ft like seattle. Maybe outer queens and staten island, but NY as a whole? not happening.

    Who said anything about sqft prices? There are thousands and thousands of places in outer boroughs where you can get tiny condos and duplexes for less than median quoted on the chart. While Manhattan is stratospheric, it is small compared to the outer boroughs and price plummeting quickly as you spread out from Manhattan.

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  62. san francisco or seattle

    Thought I’d chime in here as well, since some of the discussions are based around Seattle and San Francisco. I had the good fortune to grow up and go to college in Seattle, so I definitely get the weather patterns. Then just to see what else was out there I moved down to San Francisco for the next 6 or so years, and on to LA for the past 1+ years. That said, the wife and I are now looking to move back to Seattle or San Francisco, and the affordability and job market are the two biggest factors besides family. Here are my two cents:

    The job market in San Francisco/Bay Area is exponentially larger than the one in Seattle or the suburbs. Its not even remotely close, even if you are in the technical field. This is a big factor on why I don’t think housing prices in Seattle will be able to sustain their current prices. Just not as many high-paying ($100K+) jobs to support these prices.

    When looking at houses in Seattle I find the prices to be VASTLY disproportionate to the median income that people make. I mean $600K+ houses, $300K condos, who is going to buy these houses? Where is that money coming from? Its definitely not the young couple.

    When you combine the weak and lower-paying job market, with the fact that (as harsh as this sounds), not a ton of people are flocking to Seattle to live there, I don’t see any way the housing prices can stay as high as they are.

    I love Greenlake and Queen Anne but am I really going to pay $700K+ to live there in a house? Is anyone?

    I love Pacific Heights and Telegraph hill in San Francisco, and I can guarantee that someone will pay $700K for a large 1 bdrm condo there.

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  63. td

    LeighPDX thanks for all the Portland blogs. I grew up on the west side and then went to college in Seattle, ended up staying here for the job (which I am now trying to leave). I’d love to go back to Oregon and maybe close to Portland but I fear that it has changed a lot since I lived there, and that I would probably be disappointed and tell myself that “you can’t ever really go back home”.

    I have also been to many other great American cities and each one of them has their own special pride – Kary is right in saying that people tend to like where they live. To its residents, the city’s benefits outshine its defects.

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  64. WestSideBilly

    By patient @ 43:

    Here’s a test of universal desirability. Remove the top 5 employeers in the area and see what happens. I’m pretty sure the truly “special” cities quickly replaces the loss and shrugs it off without to much damage to the price of homes etc. How would Seattle do?

    There are probably only 3 cities (NYC, LA, Chicago) that could survive that.* Pull HP, Intel, Cisco, Google, and Oracle out of the bay area… not any different than having B, M$, Amazon, Starbucks, and Paccar (just picking 5 big ones, not sure who the 5 largest in either area are) leave here. The only difference is that many of the cities on that list (particularly the midwest and Texas cities on the list) have nothing to really offer if 10-20% of the jobs disappear – Chicago aside. Seattle and San Fran still have geography on their side.

    * Making the assumption that you exclude US Govt, State Govt, Local Govt, and School District which are typically 4 of the top 6 employers in any city, but are basically proportional to population.

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  65. WestSideBilly

    By b @ 46:

    RE: cheapseats @ 44

    These are city limits specifically, which is somewhat distorting. For example, Atlanta is not on the list (but probably fairly close) despite the metro area having about 2x the population compared to Seattle metro.

    As for the move-ability of Seattle, I have never met anyone in the several cities I have lived in across the country who was remotely interested in living here. Maybe once you visit, and you like the scenery, you might move. My opinion is that most people who move here are just for their tech jobs and (slightly now) lower cost of living than CA. Most are from the bay area like myself, who will move back in a heartbeat if prices in Cupertino or Mountain View get down to Bellevue levels. An example of this is prudy above, and working in tech I can anecdotally tell you this is a common case.

    I mentioned that we should be comparing MSA and not city population. Columbus is very aggressive in annexing suburbs; Seattle has two “suburbs” which are large cities in their own right.

    As for move-ability, I think the people reading this site take relocation for granted (common with techies and engineers). Many people never seriously consider relocation; they grow up somewhere and other than college never look at other places to live. I spent 5 years in a city that very few people would say they liked, many outright hated it, but most never did anything about it. People tend to be very complacent about where they live, especially once they have families. Without the dangling six-figure job on the other end, how many people would relocate anywhere?

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  66. patient

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 65

    ” Pull HP, Intel, Cisco, Google, and Oracle out of the bay area…”

    I don’t think that will leave SF in flames and prices in city plummet. Seriously I don’t. SF was very desirable and relatively expensive prior to those companies and it will continue to be if they go away. Other big employeers will move in pretty quickly and snew startups will form to suck up the competence. Seattle I’m not so sure it would ever recover should MS, Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon and Paccar leave.

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  67. san francisco or seattle

    RE: patient @ 67 – I agree with, even if those companies were to be removed. You would still have the entire Biotech industry, IBM, and Tourism. San Francisco is still a destination city.

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  68. deprogram

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 58:

    By Oswald @ 56:
    Your anecdotal evidence of a conversation at a cocktail party cannot reveal the desirability of any city, let alone Seattle.

    Actually it merely demonstrates that people tend to like where they live. You could probably go to a cocktail party in El Paso and have people question why you live in Seattle.

    I’m not sure. I have lived several places that I just couldn’t wait to get the hell out of.

    Perhaps between two (somewhat) comparable cities that just have a different set of positives and negatives, I could see that working. There are some places that are just, well, dumps. Harrisburg, PA. Akron, OH. Yeah, I guess these are smaller cities. Cincinnati is pretty awful.

    I must say you are completely on the money regarding hiking. Hiking here is REAL hiking. You can die, or get seriously injured, without too much effort and in all sorts of interesting ways up in the mountains.

    I liked the warning sign at the bottom of the Mailbox Peak Trail we encountered last week. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

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  69. Esol Esek

    California is gangland, paradise lost, taxes gone wild, and so many other problems its mind-blowing. Most american cities are seriously scary compared to Seattle. Chicago does have great, cheap food, the kind of 70s nostalgia people would pay through the nose here for, and great comedy, and some good old museums, but LA and NYC it aint. NYC is still heinously expensive, but the culture does make Seattle look slow and dowdy. SF isn’t worth the cost. That city got narcoleptic ages ago. LA is very interesting if you can take advantage of its culture and beach, otherwise its a living nightmare. Seattle and Vancouver USED to be secrets, I remember when people overseas didnt even know Seattle existed, and the real estate was so cheap here people couldnt believe it when they moved here. You can still find houses for 250k and below, you’ll just be in that mass of seriously un-Seattle rotting suburbia to our south. Its only the nice areas that are so expensive. We do have milder winters, but we also have heartbreaking summers. Even this summer, which broke the usual June rain, threw some weekends of trash into August. Its pretty good, but it aint california or arizona or texas or florida, but those places are crime-infested or gated and quaint. America is overcooked. The fact is that population is growing worldwide, and more or more places are getting gross that used to be great. A lot of the people that own the choice RE in Seattle may need to sell it in the next few years.
    We’ll see if the demand keeps up. When you do a search of million-dollar houses, there are a ton for sale, and the mid-low end is dropping.

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  70. Lake Hills Renter

    I love Washington and the Pacific Northwest, not Seattle. I honestly couldn’t care less about Seattle itself, and wouldn’t care to live in Seattle proper any more than any other urban area. Urban life is just not what I’m after. The only reason I even live in the suburbs is because of the commute to work. If I wasn’t tied to my job, I’d move away from the Seattle metro in a heartbeat. And I love the climate here, even the rain. It’s part of what makes this place what it is.

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  71. Ron

    Interesting list however, did anyone notice that cities are missing from it. Where is Washington, DC?

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  72. Andrew

    I don’t think those lists tells the whole story. Plus, I’m not even sure if it’s accurate. San Francisco and San Jose’s median are not that far apart. If anything, just last year, I thought I heard that San Jose overtook San Francisco in median price.

    As for other things on the list. NYC on the list I’m sure combines all of the burroughs, and NYC as a whole is huge with lots of undesirable areas. Same with Los Angeles and Chicago. All of those areas are getting combined in these statistics, which doesn’t make it much of a fair assessment.

    I lived in Seattle for years, and now currently live in Chicago. Chicago proper is massive, with lots of “undesirable” areas with a lot less expensive homes, therefore affecting the median price. In comparison, Seattle proper doesn’t have as many of these neighborhoods where homes are priced at 80k. But if you compare areas on the northside of Chicago (or Manhattan in NYC), then it starts to paint a more accurate comparison. Seattle doesn’t have the southside of Chicago, the lower-income areas of the Bronx or Queens. Seattle is just not as big as Chicago or NYC. When you start going out further out from The Loop or Manhattan, those areas are more comparable to places like Tukwila, SeaTac, Renton. I’m sure the median for Seattle would also go down, if thoes areas are included.

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  73. Kary L. Krismer

    The one that sticks out to me is El Paso. Why would anyone pay so much to live in El Paso? That should be what people are willing to pay to get out of El Paso. ;-)

    The other thing that sticks out is that most of the bottom 15 are very flat areas, and most have little or no water. If you took the median price of houses in King County that have no view or water access, it would be much lower. My unofficial, not compiled or guaranteed by NWMLS number is about $340,000 list (and about $350,000 for “Seattle” addresses).

    Finally, I believe the top 8 are all major port cities, which not only has income ramifications, but also building limitations.

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