Moving to and Living in Seattle, WA – A Comprehensive Guide

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Why Seattle?

One of the most bustling and beautiful cities in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle in the state of Washington has it all — from abundant natural beauty to a booming job market and hipster ’hoods with artisanal coffee on every corner. And there are plenty more reasons this lush — and, yes, rainy — city should be your next home sweet home. 

For one thing, the great outdoors are right there. Feel like hiking through an old-growth forest, marveling at the mighty Cascade Mountains or kayaking on Puget Sound before work? No problem. An hour from the city you’ve got snow-capped mountains, sandy beaches and everything in between. Simply put, the nature in Washington state is nuts. 

Then there’s the jobs — they’re everywhere. Tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft call Seattle home. So do retail heavies like Nordstrom and REI. There are opportunities in aerospace, healthcare, finance … you name it. Salaries are high and unemployment is low. Cha-ching! 

Adding to the reasons it’s a great place to live, Seattle is filled with cool, quirky neighborhoods.  In Capitol Hill and Ballard, you’ve got hipster havens packed with coffee shops, microbreweries and food trucks galore. Pioneer Square and Queen Anne offer history and culture. No matter your scene, there’s a neighborhood for you. 

So, don your plaid shirt and grab a latte, you Seattleite-in-training! This city’s got heart, soul and opportunity in spades. Why delay? Start scheming your move and get ready for a life filled with natural wonder, career satisfaction and artisanal eats. 

Want to learn more about making a move to the Emerald City? We’re here to help. 

Seattle’s Weather and Climate  

First things first: The rumors are true. It rains in Seattle. A lot. Like, almost every day from October to May.  

Seattle averages 152 rainy days and 34 inches of rain per year.  

Still, the weather is temperate, classified in the warm-summer subtype of the Mediterranean zone (though some sources designate it as an oceanic zone.  

Either way, it’s cooler and wetter than a “true” Mediterranean climate and you can expect cool, wet winters and mild, relatively dry summers — characteristics of both. 

But don’t let a little drizzle stop you. 

Locals have learned to embrace the rain. Invest in a good rain jacket, grab a coffee and hit the great — and jaw-droppingly beautiful — outdoors. The precipitation also makes everything green and gorgeous, so think of it as free landscaping. 

When the sun does come out, Seattleites swarm to the streets and trails. You’ll want to join them. Between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains, there are endless opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking and more. Get ready to break in those hiking boots and build up your calf muscles — the views from spots like Rattlesnake Ledge and Mount Si will be worth it. 

If you prefer slightly less strenuous recreation, check out Golden Gardens Park, Green Lake or the Washington Park Arboretum. Or just find your nearest coffee shop patio and do some people-watching. With a latte in hand and mountain views all around, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation every day. 

Still worried about the impact of the rain? Consider taking vitamin D supplements since gloomy weather — especially in the winter — can cause vitamin D deficiency. 

Cost of Living in Seattle 

Before you book that one-way ticket, we need to have a little heart-to-heart about the cost of living in Seattle. 

Seattle is known for many things. Unfortunately, the cost of living is — including a spendy housing market —one of them. Be prepared to pay through the nose for even a modest apartment. Rent for a one-bedroom starts at around $1,500 per month. Want a yard, garage or more than one bathroom? Prepare to pony up $2,500 or more. 

As for the real estate market, come with funds — the median home price is over $700,000. You’ll be lucky to find a tear-down fixer-upper for under $500K. In short, mortgage payments and property taxes may blow your budget to smithereens. 

Everything else costs more here, too. Gas, groceries, nights out on the town — whatever it is, prepare to pay a premium. A beer at your local dive bar is $6. A burger and fries, $15. Your weekly grocery bill for two? At least $100. Add in utilities, parking fees and transit passes, your paycheck will vanish faster than sunshine in the winter. 

The good news is since Seattle is in Washington state, the city does not have a typical individual income tax and corporate income tax structure. But salaries in Seattle still don’t stretch as far. Expect to earn 10-30% more here to maintain your standard of living.  

If that’s not in the cards, you’ll need to make some sacrifices. Say goodbye to luxuries like dining out, travel or hobbies. Be frugal and budget wisely. 

As much as the cost of living in Seattle is steep, the rewards are plentiful. From the natural surroundings to the job opportunities and culture-rich experiences, there are plenty of things that make it worthwhile.  

If it makes you feel any better, when you factor in the cost of things like housing, utilities, transportation and groceries, living in Seattle costs roughly 17% less than San Francisco, is 55% lower than in Manhattan and is slightly lower (2%) than in Los Angeles.          

Please note: we are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.   

Seattle’s Job Market

The home of grunge music, Starbucks and more rain than you can shake an umbrella at, Seattle can also be defined by its booming job market, especially if you’re into that whole technology thing.  

As of 2023, eight Fortune 500s are headquartered in the Seattle area — you know, “teensy” companies like Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Alaska Air Group and Expedia. A bit further afield are juggernauts like Microsoft, Costco Wholesale, Tableau Software and Puget Sound Energy. 

Although there is a downward trend in the Information sector, the city remains the top destination for recent grads working in tech, according to a CBRE study

Healthcare and retail are big employers, a draw for those not cut out for the tech life. With an unemployment rate of 3.9% and substantial opportunities in terms of total nonfarm employment, you’ll be hard-pressed not to land on your feet here, career-wise. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16 percent growth in employment from 2020-2030. One in five jobs in Seattle is tied to healthcare, employing more than 90,000 medical workers and contributing annual wages of $4.2 billion. 

Professional services — management, scientific and technical consulting, as well as business support services — include over 27,000 jobs in King County alone, well above the national average for a region of this size. Median earnings are $133,100 annually. Meanwhile, there are over 25,000 life sciences research and manufacturing jobs in King County, including in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device, and digital health/health IT industries. 

Given its watery surrounds, it’s no wonder Seattle also boasts a strong and vibrant maritime industrial economy. A key gateway for global trade, it offers an increasing number of good-paying jobs in the maritime, manufacturing and logistics sectors, making it second only to Los Angeles/Long Beach in terms of total exports on the West Coast. 

Creatives and those working, or interested in working, for sustainability initiatives also have ample career opportunities at hand. 

But back to that affordability factor — it’s important to note jobs in management positions, the computer and mathematical arena, and legal services tend to see the highest annual wage.  

Education and Schools

Seattle ranks as one of the most highly educated cities in the nation with 66% of residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree and 95.5% being high school grads.  

Most top colleges and universities in Washington state are in the Seattle metropolitan area, where more than 50% of Washington’s total population lives, according to U.S. News and World Report.  

A mix of large research universities, midsize colleges, small liberal arts colleges and a few art schools can be found throughout the state, the crown jewel of which is the University of Washington. Known best for fostering careers in social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, computer information sciences, and engineering, new grads are well-positioned to begin their careers locally. 

Here’s some more food for thought. Many colleges and universities in Washington are publicly funded and some are located in the cities of Spokane, Tacoma, Bellevue and Olympia, the state capital. Washington residents can attend select colleges and universities in 14 states — including California, Oregon and Idaho — through the Western Undergraduate Exchange and pay no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate. 

Commuting and Public Transportation in Seattle  

Getting around in the Emerald City without a car is a breeze. In fact, owning a vehicle in Seattle can be more trouble than it’s worth. Traffic and parking are nightmares, gas is pricey and insurance rates will make you weep into your Starbucks. 

Why deal with that hassle when Seattle has you covered with buses, trains, bikes and your own two feet? King County Metro operates a vast bus system to whisk you all over the city and beyond.  

Link light rail and modern streetcars connect downtown to Capitol Hill, the U District and SeaTac Airport so you can sip a latte en route to your destination. 

Meanwhile, bike shares let you pedal between coffee shops, with miles of bike lanes and trails to explore. Walking is ideal for exploring neighborhoods like hipster-haven Capitol Hill, historic Pioneer Square and uber-cool Ballard. 

With all these transportation options, the only thing you really need in Seattle is an ORCA card. Load it up and tap to ride the bus, train or streetcar. Fares range from $2.75 to $3.25 per trip depending on the time of day. Monthly passes offer added savings if you’ll be riding often. 

If driving is a must, consider car shares like Zipcar or car2go. They’re more affordable than owning a vehicle and spare you the pain of parking. Between the plethora of transit choices and car shares, there’s little reason to own a car in the Emerald City. 

Neighborhoods in Seattle  

Now comes the hard part: Choosing where in this rainy paradise you want to rest your beanbag chair. After all, Seattle’s neighborhoods are as diverse as its coffee roasts. 

Capitol Hill is where you’ll find the cool kids and all the best nightlife. But living here means forking over some serious dough for a shoebox-sized studio and having to step over passed-out hipsters on your way to brunch. Looking to buy? In October 2023, Capitol Hill home prices were up 20.8% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $725K. 

Moving with your short stacks? Ballard is for the hip-with-a-kid crowd. Craft breweries, food trucks and parks galore await, but the only nightlife is the lullaby you sing to get your little lumberjack to sleep. 

Want panoramic views of the city and Sound? Queen Anne may be just the spot for you. However, you’ll need calves of steel to trek up and down all those hills. And forget parking —you’ll need to sell your Subaru just to afford a spot. 

Those seeking a dose of history in their neighborhood might consider Pioneer Square historic district by day. 

Note: If you’re thinking of moving to the Seattle area, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods you might be interested in living in. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.   

Ready to Move to Seattle? Let Mayflower Take You There 

Now you know the ins and outs of living in Seattle and feel ready to make the move, start looking for a national, reputable moving company. Mayflower and our trusted movers guide you Every Step of the Way® throughout your move   

When it comes time to move across the country to the Emerald City, trust the professionals at Mayflower to get you and all your worldly goods to your new abode.  

Among Seattle’s top movers, Mayflower has been moving people’s belongings long distance for nearly a century. 

We offer long-distance moving services from anywhere in the country to move you to Washington with custom full-service moving packages and a personal move coordinator  

Ready to make a move? Get a quote.  

Prefer to move by yourself? We have moving checklists, tips and tricks to help with your move. 

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