The Complete Guide to Moving to Seattle

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No matter your reasons for considering Seattle as your next home, you’ll hardly be alone as a newcomer. A booming tech industry has drawn thousands of new residents to the Emerald City in the last 5 years, but despite what any current Amazonian might tell you, there’s plenty to do outside of work. Seattle is teeming with exciting events, activities, and natural wonders to explore no matter your budget. However, getting settled in the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest is anything but straightforward. The cost of living, price of rent, a competitive real estate market, and snarling traffic can add any number of complications to an already stressful move.

If you’re considering a move to Seattle in the near future, we’ve got you covered. Seattle Mortgage Planners helps current and aspiring Seattleites navigate and secure the best home loan types and rates as they search for and settle into their new homes — but regardless of your home financing approach, there’s plenty you should know before you head toward the 206.

The Basics

Finding an Apartment or Home

Zillow, Craigslist, and Apartment Finder are all decent options for online house hunting, but we can’t stress this enough — you’ll be woefully disadvantaged if you solely look for housing online. Things move fast here. It’s not uncommon for apartments to be filled before they’ve been vacated, meaning those who are actually in Seattle (or within close driving distance for weekend showings) will have a significant leg-up on other prospective Seattle residents.

Looking for short-term housing while you find a more permanent spot may place a bit more strain on your move, but the benefits of having a home base while you look for something within your price range, navigate your financing options in the event of a home purchase, and acclimate yourself to the city is a very wise idea. Reach out to friends and family connections to see who may have space available. Otherwise, many hotels offer month-long leases and the numerous micro apartments in the area have options for short-term stays for a reasonable rate.

Buying a home in Seattle is a competitive prospect. It’s not uncommon for successful buyers to land a sale paying with cash and the market’s current upward wave has the city’s inventory of available homes at record lows. While it’s smart to do your research before you make a move, finding a qualified real estate agent and mortgage broker to help assist you in your journey can make a significant impact on your chances of finding the right home for your current situation.

Getting Around

Most of Seattle is friendly to daytime parking and oversized vehicles, meaning you’ve got a good chance of finding a reasonable parking spot for your U-Haul, van, or truck, but that’s not a guarantee. Depending on your building’s location, you may need to look into a parking permit or portable storage unit to keep your stuff handy during the moving process. In the meantime, this quick Seattle guide to “Can I Park Here?” can help you translate citywide signage.

Public Transit

The city’s public transit system, while sometimes unpredictable, is among the most cost-effective and reliable in the nation. While the city’s bus system tends to connect with nearly every street imaginable, the light rail system is still growing and serves Sea-Tac airport to downtown Seattle before extending out to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington — a recent expansion.

No matter what you opt to use to get around, you’ll want to pick up the following if you want to use public transit in Seattle: an ORCA card and OneBusAway — both of which will serve you well during your travels in this remarkable city.

Carsharing

Car2Go, ZipCar, and ReachNow are Seattle’s primary carsharing services, allowing members to pick up a car on-demand (the city map on each service’s respective apps will allow you to locate and reserve a vehicle). They’re an affordable alternative to driving your own vehicle and paying for parking — especially if you’re unsure of your final destination after a Mariners or Seahawks game. The best part? The city’s department of transportation has a deal with these companies, allowing users to park for free in any designated public parking space.

On-Demand Transportation

If you’ve visited a major metropolitan area in the last few years, chances are you’ve downloaded and used either Lyft or Uber. These are great solutions to start or end a group adventure across town, especially if you’ve had a few to drink. Standard taxi services are available and utilize similar apps for scheduling and pickups, but the cost and convenience of Uber and Lyft make them the go-to options for Seattleites on the move.

The Nitty Gritty

What do most potential Seattleites want to know above all else? Statistics, of course! Crime, school, housing, weather, and demographics information galore. Read on:

Seattle Crime Statistics

The dirty secret of Seattle — especially surprising to those who cite the gritty edge you find downtown — is that it’s an incredibly safe place to live. Ranked fourth and tied with Boston on most statistical crime comparisons, Seattle is often cited among the safest places to live in the nation for cities its size. Ranked 3rd best for violent crime and 2nd best for workplace fatalities, the realities of living in Seattle and the surrounding areas are quiet, peaceful, and largely without incident.

Home Security and Staying Safe

While Seattle remains a statistically safe city for its size, it’s not without crime. Depending on your neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to experience car prowls, panhandling, and minor drug offenses within public view.

In residential neighborhoods, Seattle is much like other communities. You may experience excessive noise, speeding, or other minor disturbances. Forming a Block Watch, working together with your neighbors to prevent problems, and keeping a log of disturbances you and your community have experienced will help to offset those problems in the future. And as with any city, be sure to report crimes as they occur. The more information the police have, the better their chances of apprehending the suspects and making a difference in your neighborhood.

If you choose to invest in a home security system, here are a few options:

    • Absolute Security Systems
    • Rev Associates
    • Puget Sound Alarm
    • Burdick’s Security
  • Pi Security Solutions

Seattle School Rankings

It’s no secret that education is a priority for Seattle residents of every stripe. Over 53% of the city’s population over age 25 holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is double the national average.

Information collected from GreatSchools.org ranks the following Seattle public schools as best in the city:

    • Ballard High School
    • Bryant Elementary School
    • Coe Elementary School
    • Hay Elementary School
    • John Stanford International Elementary School
    • Loyal Heights Elementary School
    • North Beach Elementary School
    • View Ridge Elementary School
    • Wedgwood Elementary School
    • West Woodland Elementary School
    • Whittier Elementary School
    • Catharine Blaine
    • Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
    • The Center School
    • Aviation High School
  • Mc Donald Elementary School

Private High School Rankings (via Niche):

    • Lakeside School
    • The Overlake School
    • The Bush School
    • Charles Wright Academy
    • Seattle Academy
    • University Prep
    • The Bear Creek School
    • Hillside Student Community School
  • The Northwest School

The Neighborhoods

Every metropolitan sprawl is defined by its own unique organization system that pieces together miles of city blocks to create a cohesive urban portrait. At the core of each city’s DNA is a distinct network of districts, and Seattle is no different. Our pocket of the Puget Sound is partitioned into small neighborhoods, and each enjoys its own combination of vibes — from family-friendly to highbrow, bohemian, or working-class. To travel under Interstate 5 from west to east Seattle or cross the Aurora or West Seattle bridge is to enter a different world. But no need to let the marked geographical distinctions confuse your move — instead, get excited to expand your horizons and meet community members from all walks of life! Browse below for an abridged guide (complete with links for further reference) to a few of each area’s most popular neighborhoods.

North Seattle

The northern half of Seattle consists of northwest Seattle (most of the area west of Interstate 5 from Broadview and Bitter Lake down through Ballard), north central Seattle (including Phinney Ridge, Greenlake, Fremont, and Wallingford), northeast Seattle (east of Interstate 5 from Wedgwood down through Montlake), and true north Seattle (roughly Olympic Hills down through Northgate and Maple Leaf).

Ballard: An epicenter for hip and young urban professionals, Ballard boasts countless artisanal eats, and historical maritime undertones abound. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

Fremont: Funky-fresh, artsy, bookworm-friendly, and brimming with coffee shops and craft cocktail lounges. Residential Fremont is family-friendly, yet the neighborhood core is well-stocked with nightlife options. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

Wallingford: Fremont’s next-door cousin has a slightly more residential feel, but activities and eats still reign supreme along the main drag on 45th Street. South Wallingford backs up against Lake Union at Gasworks Park, a recreation space that attracts strollers and daytime revelers alike. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

Ravenna: Highly family-friendly, community-oriented, quaint, and calm… despite its proximity to more urban Seattle areas. Ravenna Park is the neighborhood’s crowning glory (and one of Seattle’s must-see parks). Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

More north Seattle neighborhoods:

    • Phinney Ridge
    • Greenwood
    • Wedgwood
  • Sand Point

South Seattle

Below CenturyLink and Safeco Field, between the Duwamish Waterway and south Lake Washington, much of south Seattle sits just outside the inner city bustle but can easily opt into the urban action. For this reason, many of its neighborhoods are popular with families and people looking to escape high-demand (read: pricy) areas to the north.

Beacon Hill: This area can be spotted even from miles away, as it’s home to the brick-covered landmark Pacific Tower — a former U.S. Marine hospital. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

Mt. Baker: Look north of Lake Washington from any of this scenic neighborhood’s waterfront park spots, and on a clear day, you might just catch a glimpse of Mt. Baker from miles away. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

More south Seattle neighborhoods:

Central Seattle

If you’re looking for full immersion into city living, the heart of Seattle beats strongest in downtown and the surrounding areas. But not to worry — the outskirts of central Seattle offer a bit more peace and quiet while ensuring you don’t miss out on any excitement.

Downtown: Downtown Seattle boasts popular local and tourist attractions (including the famous Pike Place Market), and even as you work your way out from its core, central spots such as Belltown and Pioneer Square have just as much to offer. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

Capitol Hill: It’s all happening in this neighborhood: nightlife, counterculture, residential stretches, parks, cultural hubs, proximity to the city core, and even Bruce Lee’s gravesite. Read the complete neighborhood spotlight.

More central Seattle neighborhoods:

    • Queen Anne
  • Madrona-Leschi

West Seattle

Life’s a beach when you live in West Seattle. Expect views galore (often of the Sound, surrounding islands, and the Seattle skyline… sometimes all from one vantage point) and a bit more elbow room to play and unwind outside of the urban jungle. Read the complete greater West Seattle spotlight.

More West Seattle neighborhoods:

    • Alki

Eastside

We know the Eastside isn’t technically Seattle, and that the below spots are cities rather than neighborhoods — but the gist remains. If you choose to expand your search for the perfect new home across Lake Washington, you can choose between extravagant lakefront views, increasingly affordable inland options, proximity to Microsoft and other tech campuses, and more… all while maintaining the flexibility to travel to and fro Seattle proper using the 520 bridge or Interstate 405.

    • Bellevue
    • Kirkland

Insider Tips

So, you’ve found the perfect home in your ideal neighborhood… now what? No one loves to feel like the new kid for too long. Here are a few insider tips to help you settle in and start living like a local.

Local news resources

Seattle’s most prominent daily paper is The Seattle Times. Local news, current events, business, technology, sports, entertainment, real estate, and lifestyle coverage can be found everyday either online or by picking up a print issue around town. For regular access to online articles and exclusives, you’ll need a subscription. More local, national, and global daily news coverage is available via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at SeattlePI.com.

More go-to Seattle news sources below.

Arts, culture, lifestyle, and alternative media:

    • The Stranger
    • Seattle Weekly
    • Seattle Metropolitan
  • Seattle Magazine

Community newspapers:

    • Ballard News Tribune
    • Capitol Hill Times
    • Queen Anne & Magnolia News
  • West Seattle Herald/White Center News

Broadcast news stations:

    • KOMO
    • KING
    • KIRO

Radio:

    • KEXP: 90.3 FM (Diverse music programming)
    • KUOW: 94.9 FM (Local NPR station)
    • KNKX: 88.5 FM (Local NPR station)
  • KBCS: 91.3 FM (Bellevue College programming)

Miscellaneous forums:

Things to Do

As long as you’re here, you’re sure not to run out of things to keep you busy. There’s always something happening in every corner of the city. Here are a few resources to help you keep track of it all. Browse these and more to find nearby activities and events to keep the whole gang entertained.

    • Visit Seattle (All the must-see’s and do’s for tourists and new residents playing tourist)
  • Refer to the individual events calendars curated by The Seattle Times, Seattle Metropolitan, and more local news sources.

The More You Know…

Check back for updates as we add to this guide. Welcome to Seattle!

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