Casey: The reality of affording Seattle as a millennial
Go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids. That’s what we’re supposed to do right? It’s certainly what I would like to do. But is it even possible?
My wife Ashley and I have been married for just over a year now. We both work in downtown Seattle, and we rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Greenwood.
To this point we’ve been blessed in a lot of ways. Ashley has a great job at Nordstrom. We both work very hard and have a rather decent household income. On top of that, I was lucky enough to graduate college without any debt.
So you’d think that a couple of 30-ish-year-olds with good jobs would have no issue with buying a house right? I mean, my parents bought a house before I was born, and only my dad worked. So it should be easy right? Right?
Because we both work in downtown Seattle, it’s only natural that we should want to live here. But what would that look like for us? I keep hearing that Seattle home prices are dropping and that it’s a buyer’s market. That’s encouraging. Let’s look at Zillow and see what we can find in the Greenwood area.
The cheapest home I saw was a 1-bed, 1-bath condo coming in at $324,950. That’s actually not bad, I haven’t seen anything in the three hundreds in a long time. But, its 622 square feet. And it has $289 per month in HOA fees. That’s not going to work. Plus we want a house, not a condo.
After I put some filters into the Zillow search engine, the cheapest house I found that fit our needs was $690,000. It’s a 3-bed, 2-bath house that comes in at 1,340 square feet. It’s an ideal home, but unreasonably expensive.
That’s an estimated mortgage payment of $3,467 per month. Plus King County property taxes come in at around $598 per month based on a $700,000 home. Yikes.
After we buy our home, we will feel fully prepared to start our family. Now we need to consider the cost of child care. The average cost of child care in Seattle is $1,680 per month, according to one estimate.
This would be your typical daycare home with several children all being watched by the same caretaker. Ideally, you’d like your child to get a bit more attention than that. Some friends of ours pay about $3,000 per month for a nanny. This service also charges a $2 fee for every minute late the parent is to retrieve their child.
So you’re looking at about $100 extra dollars for the traffic jam you’re stuck in. Good thing those are so rare in Seattle!
So where are we at so far?
- $3,467 for mortgage
- $598 on property taxes
- $1,680 on childcare
$5,754 per month to live in a 2-bedroom starter home in Seattle, and that’s obviously omitting many other daily expenses: Car payments, cell phone, food, gas, other transportation. What if the house needs a new roof? How will we save for retirement? For college?
It’s an extremely expensive city to live in, and what do we get for it? A city that is dying. A city full of homeless individuals, tent cities, property crime, corrupt politicians who care more about virtue signaling than fixing our cities real problems, congested streets, and far too few police officers.
But hey, at least we have bike paths! I’ll just ride my Schwinn to work, then head on over to the daycare to pick up the baby.
“Goodbye honey, I’m off to take the children to hockey practice, have you seen my bike helmet?”
One more thing to consider is schooling. Seattle Public Schools rank as the 21st best district in Washington. That’s not very good.
So by now you’ve probably figured out as well as I have the Seattle isn’t realistic. So I guess we’re moving, but where to? Our preference would be south of the city.
I grew up in Tacoma and my family lives in University Place. My wife’s family lives near Portland, so it would be a much easier drive to see them from south of the city as well. Tacoma also has many benefits. It’s a thriving city, houses are affordable and being flipped like crazy, and I can use my parents for free child care every once in a while.
2-bed and 2-bath homes will be abundant in our price range. But there’s one major problem: The commute.
Google Maps says that if a car-commuter left Tacoma at 7:30 a.m., the drive would “typically” take between 55 minutes and an hour and 40 minutes. It also says the drive home at 5 p.m. is between an hour and an hour and 50 minutes.
That’s potential 11 hours per day that we would need to find childcare. Luckily, I work from 4 a.m. to 12 p,m., so my current schedule would work in our favor in that area, but my poor wife would have no life.
I also looked into public transit. The 590 bus route from Tacoma Dome Station to the Downtown Nordstrom runs at around and hour and 15 minutes.
Still not great.
The Sounder train can get from Tacoma Dome Station to King Street Station in about an hour and five minutes, but a bus ride from the train station to Nordstrom is another 15 to 20 minutes.
So, Tacoma is unrealistic, too.
I understand that there’s plenty of real estate between Seattle and Tacoma, but we’re still looking at 35 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes from Kent (if you left the house at 8:00 a.m.), and we’d be further from the free childcare provided by my parents.
I could analyze the commute and the cost of living for every community, but I think you get the picture. It doesn’t matter where we choose to settle down, it will be costly and inconvenient. Plus what will happen when all of those “blue nametags” in Amazonia find love and want to move out of their studio apartments in South Lake Union?
They’re all around my age too. They will start to buy up all of the remaining single-family homes in Seattle with their tech-salaries. They will start to move out to Lake Forest Park, and Issaquah, and Renton, and they will clog up the highways even further with their Teslas. So we have that to look forward to, too.
Go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids. That’s not so easy anymore. I’m not sure what the next year or so will have in store for us, but my wife and I are determined to make this a reality. We want to have kids, even though Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks we shouldn’t.