High End Real Estate: Seattle vs. Wisconsin

An example of a $2.5 million property in Seattle:

  • 4-bed, 4.5-bath 2-story in Magnolia
  • 4,440 sqft
  • 5,029 sqft lot
  • 2008 property tax bill: $18,286
  • “sweeping sound and mountain views”

An example of a $2.5 million property in Wisconsin:

  • 2-story stone lodge in Couderay
  • 407 acres
  • 37-acre private lake
  • 2008 property tax bill: $14,948
  • 8-car garage
  • guard tower
  • “massive fireplace, a caretaker’s residence and other outbuildings”

Oh, and the second one happens to be formerly owned by one Al Capone.

When I do finally decide to jump into the housing market, I think I’d be doing myself a disservice not to seriously consider other parts of the country where your housing dollars seem to go a bit further than they do in Seattle.

Hat tip: Calculated Risk.

P.S. – Yes, I realize the $2.5 million price tag on Capone’s hideout is the starting bid for a foreclosure auction which is not really directly comparable to the price of a MLS-listed home. This post is meant to be light-hearted. Note the “Humor” tag.

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About 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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.

53 comments:

  1. 1
    drrew says:

    Lighthearted or not, my wife and I are absolutely starting to look at other parts of the country as we think about buying a home/starting a family sometime over the next five years or so.

  2. 2
    waitingforseattletocool says:

    The Tim,

    If you are willing to go 100 miles out from Seattle metro, why don’t you consider Ellensburg?

    http://www.redfin.com/WA/Ellensburg/971-Westridge-Ln-98926/home/18968305

  3. 3
    D. in Ballard says:

    Is that house supposed to make me want to move to Ellensburg? It doesn’t.

  4. 4
    TJ_98370 says:

    .
    Look what $1.6 million buys you at Lake Pend Orielle, Idaho

    Sandpoint Area Home

  5. 5
    TJ_98370 says:

    .
    Look what $119,000 buys you at Gorst, WA, and it’s within walking distance of the only topless establishment in Kitsap!
    .
    Gorst
    .

  6. 6
    waitingforseattletocool says:

    RE: D. in Ballard @ 3

    Does The Tim’s house want to make me move to the frozen tundra in Wisconsin? It doesn’t.

    The point is if you want to live in the middle of nowhere, I’m quite sure that $2.5M buys you quite a bit, whether it is in Washington or Timbucktoo.

  7. 7
    waitingforseattletocool says:

    RE: TJ_98370 @ 4

    That one I’d buy. Anyone willing to loan me about $1.3M?

  8. 8

    Yes Tim, but the Seattle one has warmer winters…..ooops, I forgot all about the horrifying blizzard we had last year with no road salt…LOL

    I’ve been down in Minnisota and Wisconsin the winter; the roads are much flatter and 50 mph on below zero sticky ice isn’t scary at all in the country…..unlike Seattle’s dangerous/slippery hills….

    My relatives got irritated with me for driving so slow, so I sped up, they were right….didn’t slip at all…

  9. 9
    Scotsman says:

    Wait, it will only get better. Seattle may even become affordable, but if not, they will be giving homes away in lots of other places. You may even be able to buy two, thus avoiding any nasty climate extremes that stress you out.

  10. 10
    anonymous says:

    Can somebody add the Property Tax to the article. I’m thinking Seattle might improve in this situation.

  11. 11
    Hector says:

    Not to take it too seriously, but you’re missing the point if you pull property tax into the argument.

    The fact of the matter, the Midwest, particularly the Twin Cities, are a very tempting move. I love Seattle, but the prices are still through the roof when compared to places such as Salt Lake, Denver, Minneapolis, etc.

  12. 12
    ray pepper says:

    “When I do finally decide to jump into the housing market, I think I’d be doing myself a disservice not to seriously consider other parts of the country where your housing dollars seem to go a bit further than they do in Seattle.”

    I think the same thing when I travel but when you look at all the old cars and realize there are no jobs/economy you will come back. Nobody will read Wisconsin Bubble, Gorst Bubble, Reno Bubble, Couer D’Alene Bubble, or Tucson Bubble. At least not enough to generate any income.

    I just walked through a Pre Sale of homes in Kent where they all sold for 250k+. In Nevada the same homes are maybe 100k. If you think the local economy is rough here cruise through Reno, Carson City, and Phoenix.

  13. 13
    The Tim says:

    By anonymous @ 10:

    Can somebody add the Property Tax to the article. I’m thinking Seattle might improve in this situation.

    Just for kicks, because you asked.

    2008 Property Tax Bill
    Seattle property (per Redfin): $18,286
    Wisconsin property (per Sawyer Co. records): $14,948

    (the WI property is technically 9 different parcels, the above is the total tax bill for all 9 combined)

  14. 14
    Tim says:

    RE: TJ_98370 @ 4 – was out there about three weeks ago. Some very nice properties.

  15. 15
    patient says:

    I glanced at the payment calculator on the Magnolia listing, $500k down and then $10k a month, tempting…but no thanks.

  16. 16
    DrShort says:

    One of the statistical groups that tracks housing prices had an article a few weeks ago that mentioned that Seattle is now the 2nd most expensive housing market. That can’t hold for long.

  17. 17
    isotope66 says:

    RE: DrShort @ 16 – Would love to see the article. If it is not too much trouble could you post the link?

  18. 18
    wreckingbull says:

    I moved out of Seattle, a couple of counties away, last November.

    It was by far, the best thing I have ever done. I am 100% happier. The small town (15K) where I live now is pleasantly devoid of traffic, self-important a-holes, and overpriced homes. When prices stop falling here, it will be simple to buy outright for what would have only been a moderate down-payment in Seattle.

    Just a reminder that you don’t have to go far to improve your quality of life. Yes, you will have to make some sacrifices and realize that you have to do more with less, but in the end, I’ll bet you will be happier with a simpler existence. I have not been back in Ballard for 10 months now, nor do I have any interest in returning.

    If you are thinking about it, just do it!

  19. 19
    TJ_98370 says:

    RE: Tim @ 14

    I really like northern Idaho. If I could figure out a way to support myself over there, I’d be gone.

  20. 20
    john says:

    PLEASE don’t buy here in Seattle. The prices will come down soon. Then you can buy in Seattle, til then look other places.
    Yes, go elsewhere, Seattle is too expensive.

  21. 21
    Leighpdx says:

    I grew up in Iowa, I’ll take expensive Pacific NW living any day over those hot, humid summers and 10 degree winters. I did check into working in my hometown of Sioux City and noticed I’d be taking a 35% pay cut. Add to it high property taxes on top of a sales tax and it all seems to even out somewhat. Besides, look how expensive flights would be to get you out of the horrid climate, just my humble opinion;O)

  22. 22
    ray pepper says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 18

    I strongly urge everyone to look in 98332 if you are leaving the City. I’ve lived everywhere it seems in King and Pierce County. Still the best in the Sound….In my opinion of course. As long as you can work from home and don’t need to commute into King County.

    If you MUST live in King County……………..98062…………..Seahurst “The Gem of the NW” and “3 Tree Point ” with a sweet commute into the City and airport.

  23. 23

    RE: ray pepper @ 21

    I’ll second Ray’s recommend of Seahurst and Three Tree point, and add that “Old Burien” nearby is every bit as cool as Wallingford. For years I’ve been saying “Burien is the next Ballard.” maybe not, but certainly an undiscovered area with art galleries, microbreweries, upscale Italian food, and more tacquerias per square foot than almost any other place around here..

  24. 24
    ray pepper says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 22

    You know Ira, I bought my first home in 1995 in Seahurst behind the Huckleberry Restaurant. Prior to that (1992)I was working for the USPS at the little Seahurst Post Office. In my opinion the entire area has gotten better. The downtown has become wonderful! The commutes are outstanding from that area to anywhere. Normandy Park/Gregory Heights is not to be overlooked either.

    If I were to ever return to King County I would definitely look in that area 1st but then most likely end up back in the 98332 Sea Cliff Area.

  25. 25
    BillE says:

    While I think the Seattle area is still overpriced, I don’t see the point in comparing Seattle with a small town in Wisconsin. There’s plenty of places in Washington that offer the same effect. Large cities demand a bit of a premium, though I’d likely eat a bullet if I had to live in one myself.

  26. 26
    Mike2 says:

    By wreckingbull @ 18:

    I moved out of Seattle, a couple of counties away, last November.

    It was by far, the best thing I have ever done. I am 100% happier. The small town (15K) where I live now is pleasantly devoid of traffic, self-important a-holes, and overpriced homes. If you are thinking about it, just do it!

    I left for the opposite reason. Wanted to be near a big city.

  27. 27
    Madrona says:

    I think LeighPDX @ 21 makes a good point. Typically when moving to smaller cities incomes will take a substantial hit. Looking at the map Tim provided the Capone hideout is about 60 miles outside of Duluth (hmm…) and 80 miles outside the Twin Cities. The direct correlation of fewer individuals willing and able to buy a property will dictate the price. It is pretty foolish in my opinion to use real estate in this way to decry prices in Seattle. Tim, you’ve done better in the past. This is rather reaching.

  28. 28
    mukoh says:

    The Tim,
    I bet if you also looked into La Paz Mexico you could get a casa that size for $200k. And NO TAXES!!. Maybe move there?

  29. 29
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: mukoh @ 28 – Very true. There is a massive U.S. retiree population in La Paz, as well as San Juan del Cabo and smaller towns like Los Barriles. Most of them have completely cashed out and live quite well down there.

    If I could pull that off, I would in a heartbeat. Some of the best windsurfing in the world during the winter months!

  30. 30

    RE: wreckingbull @ 29

    wreckingbull,
    Do you mean San Jose Del Cabo, or is there a smaller town I’m not aware of?
    Cabo San Lucas itself has become insanely expensive, even by Yankee standards. When I was there last, I saw a fat American waving a 100 dollar bill at a Mexican fellow, speaking slowly and loudly in English ” Where can I get a fishing boat, Jose?”
    At that point I really wanted to say I was from Toronto

  31. 31
    wreckingbull says:

    Sorry mistyped, San Jose.

    I agree; the tip of the peninsula is ruined. It may self-heal a bit now that all the funny-money is gone.

    That is why I like heading north to La Paz and beyond.

  32. 32
    deprogram says:

    By wreckingbull @ 29:

    RE: mukoh @ 28 – Very true. There is a massive U.S. retiree population in La Paz, as well as San Juan del Cabo and smaller towns like Los Barriles. Most of them have completely cashed out and live quite well down there.

    If I could pull that off, I would in a heartbeat. Some of the best windsurfing in the world during the winter months!

    You like to windsurf?

    Look what 134k buys you in Bonaire.

    I love the Netherlands Antilles. No issues with hurricanes, and Bonaire is the best of the three (in my admittedly biased opinion!).

  33. 33
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Madrona @ 27 – I think The Tim used hyperbole to prove a point. At some point, paying 3500K/month to hang on to your Seattle shack becomes a quality of life issue. That is at least how I see it.

    Even Rich Karlgaard, a guy I usually can’t stand, agrees.

    http://www.amazon.com/Life-2-0-America-Transforming-Happiness/dp/1400046076

  34. 34
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: deprogram @ 32 – Nice! I’ll go halfsies with you :)

  35. 35
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 30 – Cabo was cheap about 12 years ago, but the number of rooms has increased dramatically, without an increase in the number of restaurants, etc., resulting in a huge increase in prices. I don’t even go there anymore, but it’s mainly due to the relatively new airport also having become over-burdened by traffic.

    Maybe it’s better now with the recession.

  36. 36
    deprogram says:

    And, of course, there’s always Margarita. 110 AND 220 volt in each room! A live in groundskeeper(!).

    Man, that kitchen would go over well up here. Goodness.

    A little rich for my tastes to be honest, but that’s a lot of money in Margarita.

  37. 37
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: deprogram @ 36 – I think Margarita is where I would draw the line. The Crazy One did not think twice about nationalizing many private institutions. He just might nationalize your vacation home.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    deprogram says:

    By wreckingbull @ 37:

    RE: deprogram @ 36 – I think Margarita is where I would draw the line. The Crazy One did not think twice about nationalizing many private institutions. He just might nationalize your vacation home.

    Yup. Margarita is pretty scary. Incredibly cheap, but…

    I tend to prefer the Caribbean islands that are now or have been in the past a territory of a ‘western’ nation. Yeah, you pay for the privilege, but in terms of a real estate investment, well, I’d think the peace of mind would be worth the extra scratch.

  40. 40
    mukoh says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 29 – I like La Paz a lot more then Cabo, or Cancoon, granted I was there on a Baja trip, it was one of the nicest towns.

  41. 41
    Ray Pepper says:

    Not sure about all of you but I’m just waiting to see who Tim uses for his purchase……Hes kind of in a pinch…Heres my ODDS prediction:

    He buys in Kenmore or within 5 miles of it. Odds 2-1
    He uses an Attorney to represent him to prove a point. Odds – 3-1

    (He cannot use Red Fin (odds-6-1) because Findwell (Odds 4-1) -advertiser would feel jaded. He will not use Ira(15-1), David( 20-1), Brent (4-1), or any of the other bloggers/advertisers on this site. He will not use 500 Realty(Odds10-1) because I’m SOLD OUT of shirts. )

    **Wild Card Pick going off at 30-1 odds**…………………………I forgot his name ….The human predictor up in Everett who writes for the Everett paper.. I love betting on the long shots at the track. I’d put a buck on him.

    Place your bets. I’ll hold the cash.

  42. 42

    […] yesterday’s post comparing home prices in Seattle to a remote location in Wisconsin really wasn’t fair. […]

  43. 43
    The Tim says:

    RE: Ray Pepper @ 41 – Not interested particularly in Kenmore. Living here currently out of financial convenience, not geographic preference. I believe I’ve said on here before that I prefer south Snohomish Co. Although I guess there are still portions of that region that are within 5 miles of Kenmore.

    High likelihood I will go with an attorney. It just makes sense for someone willing to do so much of the legwork themselves.

    Little to no chance I’d go through Steve Tytler for the mortgage. Not because I don’t think he runs a great business, but because I know about 3 or 4 other people in my more immediate circle of friends that do mortgages.

  44. 44
    Ray Pepper says:

    Steve Tytler…Thats it!!!……………..He is a real estate agent. Hes on the NWMLS. Thats why I had him go off at 30-1.

    Good God if your looking for a Mtg Rep theres only 1 place to go, in my opinion. Westwood Mtg in North Seattle. You will see why when you speak to Tom Schwab. Visit your friends for Pre Approval but then you owe it to yourself to contact him.

    Tell me Tim….What is your plan with the Attorney? Obviously, you will negotiate the 3% commission on the Buyers side into your offer. You will also have your Attorney work with the listing Agent to get you into the homes *I assume*. What is this Attorney going to charge you? I hope its just 500.00-800.00. Don’t you dare pay 1%!!

    What I’m getting at is very astute Buyers such as yourself seem to always come back to us when we educate them that YES you can also use an Attorney. I want you to please blog why this is so. Why is it that you find Buyers end up going back to Agents? Is it rude listing Agents that won’t let you in? Is it you found an Attorney that doesn’t have MLS access. Is it Attorney’s just don’t have the time………..We have all our Agents attend the inspections. I know you don’t need this from your Attorney but I’m fascinated to see why so many people drop their Attorney?

    Educate me with what you find………

  45. 45
    td says:

    wreckingball I think you are living my dream. I can’t wait to leave this city (when partner is done w/ grad school)! Would love to hear more on how you did it.

  46. 46
    Lilypad says:

    I was born in Seattle, raised on the Eastside, and I would leave this area in a heartbeat if my husband would let me. (He’s too loyal to his company.) The quality of life here is nothing like I remember growing up, and I’m tired of worrying about earthquakes (wish I hadn’t taken Geology 101 a/k/a rocks for jocks at the UW all those years ago). And I’m too poor to pay for therapy for that. I bet I could if I lived somewhere with lower housing costs!

  47. 47
    Scott Weitz says:

    RE: Ray Pepper @ 44

    Ray, you’d be crazy to pay an Atty 1% to review a purchase and sale. It should cost $500…max.

    My general thought on buying a home right now: Any buyer who doesn’t buy their home from the massive inventory of REOs is doing a disservice to themselves.

  48. 48
    David Losh says:

    RE: Ray Pepper @ 44

    Yes Tim, that would be a good post about using an attorney. I know that an agent will get you a better, cleaner, and quicker deal than any attorney can. There are reasons that I say that, but am interested in why people think an attorney can do anything for you in a residential purchase.

  49. 49
    AMS says:

    RE: David Losh @ 48 – When dealing with real estate agents, agency is a problem… Also every document signed was created by none other than an attorney. Who represents you in court if something goes wrong? Let’s see, you are making one of the largest purchases of your life–why use an attorney?

    All that said, you stated “I know that an agent will get you a better, cleaner, and quicker deal than any attorney can.”

    What do you consider to be a better, cleaner, and quicker deal?

  50. 50
    David Losh says:

    Washington is an Agency State. There are reasons for that. I’m a strong advocate for Agency in residential Real Estate because as much as you are buying a property you are also buying a life style which is an intangible. There are sever problems with the system we have. Sales person ship rather than advocacy is by far the biggest problem and we are seeing now what that can do to people and families. A much bigger issue is attorneys who have no working knowledge of Real Estate and no desire to learn anything other than what University has told them. I actually look at the number of attorneys coming out of University with nothing to do as a separate problem all together.
    In commercial Real Estate an attorney can be very helpful. Number one, the contracts are much more open to interpretation. There again I think we have yet to see what havoc those commercial leases and sales will have on the economy and it should be clear very soon that attorney involvement isn’t any guarantee of a more solid position.
    In the week end open thread I would also like to discuss the coming sets of bankruptcy and foreclosures. The other thread got muddled up.

  51. 51
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By The Tim @ 43:

    Little to no chance I’d go through Steve Tytler for the mortgage. Not because I don’t think he runs a great business, but because I know about 3 or 4 other people in my more immediate circle of friends that do mortgages.

    That is an extremely poor way to pick a mortgage person. More often than not when that is a client’s basis for picking their mortgage person, there is a delay in closing due to mortgage docs not being timely.

  52. 52
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By Ray Pepper @ 44:

    Obviously, you will negotiate the 3% commission on the Buyers side into your offer

    I’m surprised you, as an agent, would say that. There simply is no way to take the 3% off the table. The only time we did that when we were buying was when the seller was the agent.

    As to your comments about attorneys out of law school, they don’t tend to teach specifics of anything. So no one out of law school could handle a specific situation, especially on something as localized as real estate. One of my favorite just out of law school topics (actually clerkship during law school) was my bewilderment when a partner came up to me and wanted an “Order Shortening Time.” My immediate thought was something out of Star Trek. I had no idea the courts had so much power! ;-)

  53. 53

    RE: David Losh @ 48
    I guess I’ll weigh in on this:
    For all intents and purposes, The Tim is a real estate professional, whether or not he’s licensed as such. He knows as much or more than most real estate agents about the local real estate market.
    So, in his case, I see no reason why he shouldn’t use an attorney for his real estate purchase.
    I don’t think using an attorney is appropriate for everyone. Some people don’t have the real estate knowledge and expertise that The Tim has, and most real estate attorneys are not intimately acquainted with the local real estate market as much as agents are. Most people will be better off with an agent.
    So my only advice to The Tim on this is to not let the attorney determine or even suggest what the offering price should be. You know more than they do. Let them stick to the legal stuff.

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