Conversations around Seattle’s housing crisis often focus on the sky-high rents that continue to price out residents. But what often isn’t talked about is the credit score factor when renting — that, too, has been on the rise.
According to analysis by Rent Cafe, renters approved for apartments in Seattle have the third-highest average credit scores in the nation — far higher than the national average.
It’s an echo of other tech cities like Austin or San Francisco and yet another layer to Seattle’s dire housing situation. A result of the tech boom and the city’s economic success is a housing market crushing lower-income and long-time residents.
According to Rent Cafe:
- Boston: 737 credit score / Average rent: $3,232 (25.3 percent increase in past 5 years)
- San Francisco: 724 credit score / Average rent: $3,440 (38 percent increase in rent over past 5 years)
- Seattle: 711 credit score / Average rent: $2,016 (51.8 percent rise in rent over past 5 years)
- National average: 650 credit score / Average rent: $1,354 (20.8 percent rise in past 5 years)
According to the data, the higher the rent and credit score in each city, the slower the rate of rent increase. In Seattle, however, that isn’t true — rents have gone up by 51.8 percent in the past 5 years, much more than Boston or San Francisco. Rent Cafe points out that Seattle’s numbers indicate a relationship between credit and demand:
With numbers like these, the connection between demand for rental housing and credit standards for renters is hard to ignore. And in fact, although property managers take into consideration many other factors, like accounts in default, rental history, or criminal history, we have found a very strong correlation between credit scores and approval rates.
Typical Seattle rent, according to Curbed Seattle, is between $1,350 and $1,870 for a one-bedroom unit. Curbed also reports that 47 percent of Seattle-area renters were cost burdened in 2016. That means they are paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent. A total of 21.7 percent of renters spent more than half of their income on rent — considered severely burdened. In surrounding King County, 44.8 percent of renters were cost-burdened, and 20.7 percent were severely burdened in 2016.
Based on the numbers, Seattle may appear better off than its worst year in 2010 when more than half of renters were cost burdened. But don’t let those numbers fool you. Another study by Apartmentlist.com states that in cities like Seattle, the statistics show fewer cost-burdened renters than seven years ago because newer, high-earning renters are moving into town and pushing out lower-income residents.