Home LoansMortgage

Best Cities for Homeownership in Washington

Depending on where you live, your choice to own a home in Washington may have paid off over the past few years. Median home prices were $348,900 in 2017, the most recent year for which this data is available. That was a 17.2% jump from $289,100 in 2015, according to Washington’s Office of Financial Management. (The U.S. Census Bureau has a lower number for median home values: $286,800 as of 2017.)

Of course, home value is not the only factor to consider when it comes to judging a community for its overall friendliness to homeowners.

To reveal the best spots for homeownership in the Evergreen State, LendingTree combed through data points including home value appreciation, average commute times and unemployment rates. Results include both metro and micro areas, using data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey for 2013 through 2017.

Key findings

  • The Ellensburg micro metropolitan area is the best place for homeownership in Washington state. It has low unemployment (5.3%), increasing home values from 2013-2017 (6.18%) and decreasing housing costs during the same time period (-1.06%).
  • The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area is the second-best place for homeownership in Washington state. It has the highest median home value ($370,200), low unemployment (5.5%), increasing home values from 2013 to 2017 (13.84%) and stable housing costs during the same time period (-0.14%). It does have the third-longest average commute time out of all the areas surveyed (30 minutes).
  • The worst place for homeownership in Washington state is the Aberdeen micro area. This place has a low median home value ($170,000), high unemployment (10.1%) and increasing housing costs from 2013 to 2017 (2.12%).

The best cities for homeownership in Washington

1. Ellensburg micro area

With a median home value of $257,900 in 2017 and appreciation of 6.18% between 2013 and 2017, Ellensburg is the No. 1 city in Washington for homeowners. This more-rural town is known for its “old rodeo” and is also home to Central Washington University.   The 2017 unemployment rate was 5.3%, the second-lowest on our top 10 list. Ellensburg residents’ average commute time is a relatively low 21.3 minutes. Meanwhile, median housing costs over the past few years declined 1.06%.

2. Seattle-Tacoma metro area

Seattle is one of Washington’s main attractions, with the famous Pike Place Market and neighborhoods that range from trendy to quirky. Tacoma, meanwhile, is known for Point Defiance Park and the Museum of Glass. Together, the area had the highest median home value, at $370,200, one of the lower unemployment rates, at 5.5%, and one of the highest rates of home value appreciation, at 13.84%.

3. Bellingham metro area

Bellingham is closer to the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, than it is to Seattle. Bellingham’s rank on the median housing value component is 18 (21 is highest), with a median housing value of $301,400 in 2017. The 2017 unemployment rate was the second-highest on our top 10 list, at 6.8%, and its median home value appreciation was 7.03% from 2013 to 2017. The commute time is a relatively low 21 minutes.

4. Wenatchee metro area

Wenatchee is situated on the banks of the winding Columbia River. By almost every metric in the study, Wenatchee achieved a top ranking. One of its strongest features was an unemployment rate of of 5.1% in 2017, tied for the lowest of all the cities surveyed. Its average commute time is 18.4 minutes, the second-best on the top 10 list. The area didn’t, however, have the highest home value appreciation; from 2013 to 2017, the median was just 2.8%.

5. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area

Much of this area is just across Washington’s state line to the south, into Oregon. It has one of the highest median home values, at $317,900 as of 2017, and its unemployment rate in the same year was also relatively high, at 6.2%. The median home value appreciation was 17.52% from 2013 to 2017, the highest increase of any area surveyed. The increase in housing costs during the same period was just 0.93%.

6. Mount Vernon-Anacortes metro area

The Skagit River winds through the Mount Vernon-Anacortes metro area, which had a median home value of $269,800 in 2017. The area also saw a 4.15% drop in housing costs from 2013 to 2017. The median home value appreciation during this same period was not as robust as some others on the list, at 2.39%. The unemployment rate for the area was a relatively high 6.4%.

7. Oak Harbor micro area

Oak Harbor’s median home value was $311,200 in 2017, one of the highest on our list. However, unemployment was also high, at 6.7%, and the area features one of the worst average commute times on the survey, at 27.8 minutes. The median appreciation of home values in Oak Harbor was 7.61% from 2013 to 2017, one of the best in the survey. The housing cost change came in essentially flat, at -0.40%.

8. Walla Walla metro area

Walla Walla is located about 25 miles east of where the Columbia River and the Snake River meet and has made a name for itself as a wine town. Its median housing value was $202,000 in 2017. The unemployment rate was a relatively high 6.1%. The average commute time, at 16 minutes, is the lowest on our top 10 list. Housing costs from 2013 to 2017 were essentially flat, at -0.53%. The median home value appreciation during the same time period was 1.56%.

9. The Bremerton-Silverdale metro area

The Bremerton-Silverdale metro area is wrapped around the Dyes Inlet, off of Puget Sound. The area has a high-ranking median home value of $278,400 and an unemployment rate of 5.7% in 2017. The average commute time to work is a bit taxing, however, at just more than 30 minutes. Housing costs declined 3.91% from 2013 to 2017.

10. Olympia-Tumwater metro area

On the banks of the Budd Inlet is Olympia-Tumwater, where the median home value was $262,600 in 2017. Other measurements in the survey were less than stellar. For instance, the unemployment rate for the area came in at 7.7%, the highest on our top 10 list. The average commute time to work was 25.6 minutes, one of the longest on our list. What the Olympia-Tumwater metro lacks in these areas, however, it makes up for in other ways. Its median home value appreciation was 5.59% from 2013 to 2017, while housing  costs dropped by 2.39%.

Homebuying tips for Washington

Jack Hovenier, founder and owner of Weichert Realtors, offers three tips to help you on your house-hunting journey in Washington.

Get a knowledgeable realtor to give you sound advice. Having a realtor who understands how Washington’s property laws work and is well-versed on the local market is critical.

Secure pre-approval from a reputable lending source. Competition is stiff for homes in the top-ranked communities. Getting pre-approval from a well-capitalized lender is a critical part of being fully financially prepared to make an offer on a property.

Put together an offer that considers the seller’s needs. Hovenier says when he is helping buyers, he sometimes contacts the seller’s agent to ask questions, such as whether or not they are looking for a quick close.

“Sometimes, for instance, if a seller is paying double mortgages and needs to close right away, then a very short close is attractive,” he said. “Other times, if they don’t know where they are moving, then a longer close is attractive.”

Remember that Washington might present stiff competition for homebuyers, but submitting a winning offer is not always about offering the most money. Put your research skills to good use and team up with a real estate professional who can help you tap into what sellers are really looking for in a buyer.

You can check mortgage rates for Washington here.

Methodology:

The methodology for this study was simple and straightforward.

1: Collect metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and micropolitan statistical areas from the U.S. Census Bureau using 2017 population data.

2: Each MSA and micropolitan statistical area was ranked on a scale from 21 (Best) to 1 (Worst) for five different metrics. Those metrics are:

  • Median Home Value (21-Highest Value, 1-Lowest Value)
  • Unemployment Rate (21-Lowest Rate, 1-Highest Rate)
  • Average Commute Time (21-Shortest Time, 1-Longest Time)
  • Median Home Value Appreciation (2013-2017) (21-Greatest Appreciation, 1-Smallest Appreciation)

Median Change in Yearly Housing Costs (2013-2017) (21-Smallest Cost Change, 1-Greatest Positive Cost Change) — The formula for this metric is:

(((Monthly Housing Costs for 2017 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2017))/ ((Monthly Housing Costs for 2013 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2013))-1)

3: An average score was then calculated for each MSA based upon the scores received for each metric.

4: The MSAs and micropolitan statistical areas were then ranked on a scale of 1 (Best) to 21 (Worst) based on their average scores.

5: All metrics were ranked equally.

Data:

All data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. More information on where the data came from is provided below:

2017 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2017 Unemployment Rate and Median Commute Time

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Selected Economic Characteristics – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2013 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
 

Today's Mortgage Rates

  • 2.869%
  • 2.53%
  • 3.033%
Calculate Payment
Advertising Disclosures Terms & Conditions apply. NMLS#1136