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22 Things to Know Before Moving to Seattle, WA

By: Andrew Mortier and Susan Finch
April 8, 2021

If you’ve been enchanted by the Space Needle, you’re probably dreaming about the Pacific Northwest’s metropolis of Seattle, one of the best places to live in Washington.

The Emerald City exudes charm and the best of big city living. Of course, there’s plenty to know before you go, from its urban density to the cost of living. Here’s what to know before moving to Seattle.

1. What’s it Like Living in Seattle?

Seattle is the largest city in Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. With a population of 3.98 million people, Seattle is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the US.

Seattle was founded in 1852. It’s located in-between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. Therefore, it’s the perfect place for shipbuilding. In fact, it served as a gateway to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1916, the Boeing Company, the largest aerospace manufacturer, was founded in Seattle. Ever since, Seattle has developed into a technology hub with Microsoft, Amazon, and biotechnology companies being founded in Seattle.

Outside of tech, Seattleites love their coffee. After all, Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks. Seattle is also home to lots of live music performances, houseboats, and biking-to-work commuter culture.

Today, Seattle is one of the largest regional economies in the US growing by 5.1% from 2018 to 2019. It’s been deemed the 2nd fastest-growing large city in the US. Opportunity is booming in Seattle! So it’s no surprise that you’re considering the move.

2. Cost of Living in Seattle

The cost of living in Seattle is challenging and requires a well-paying job and budget-minded savviness to live, work, and play. Try using our rent calculator to get an estimate of how much to spend on rent.

According to Payscale, the cost of living in Seattle is 49% higher and housing is also 94% higher than the national average.

Here’s an idea of how much things cost when moving to Seattle, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $206.39
  • Loaf of bread: $4.22
  • Doctor’s visit: $137.50
  • $3.47 for a gallon of gas

The median rent in Seattle dipped to $1,397 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,742 for a two-bedroom apartment. To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, you should earn an income of at least $50,292 a year or $24 an hour. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to shoot for an income of at least $62,712 a year or $30 an hour.

The median income in Seattle is $92,263, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $62,843 in the rest of Washington.

3. There’s No Income Tax in Seattle

Despite Seattle's soaring cost of living, you'll save on the glorious lack of income tax. The entire state of Washington has no income tax whatsoever. The downside is that their sales tax rate is pretty high with a combined sales tax rate of 10.1%.

4. Who's Moving to Seattle?

Renters in Los Angeles, Portland, and San Francisco are all considering moving to Seattle. While people in Seattle are interested in living in Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Olympia based on our Renter Migration Report.

Learn about moving to a new state.

5. Seattle is a City of Neighborhoods

Seattle isn’t a single-flavor area and instead boasts plenty of neighborhoods to choose from. There’s ritzy Bellevue, suburban Renton, quirky Ballard, hip Wallingford and more. Each district, town, and city of King County offers a unique vibe in the Seattle area. If these neighborhoods don’t suit you, there are plenty more places to live in the outskirts of Seattle, in Washington.

6. Traffic Can Be Rough

Expect to sit in traffic a lot around Seattle. Seattle is booming with newcomers and tourists and traffic is dense while street parking is scant. Hop on public transportation and plan to brush up on your podcasts before you head out for your commute. But expect crowds on the transit system too.

7. Seattle is a Three Season City

Moving to Seattle means embracing the mini-spring, summer, and a wet fall. Rain is common and winter is cool and damp. Bring extra rain boots and layers to stay dry.

8. Know When The Mountain is Out

Keep an eye out for Mt. Rainier. It’s rarely visible with Seattle’s weather and mist, but locals marvel that “the mountain is out!” every time it makes an appearance. It’s practically a celebrity around town.

9. Enjoy Global Cuisine

Dieting in Seattle is not humanly possible, so join a gym and get ready to eat out a lot. There are many, many delicious restaurants with flavors from around the world. Being close to the water, seafood is a Seattle staple. However, you’ll find all types of cuisines across the many Seattle neighborhoods. The epicenter of all the flavors you desire can be found at the heavenly Pike Place Market.

10. Putting the “Hustle” in Hustle and Bustle

Everyone speeds along Seattle’s nearby freeways and is always dreading the next traffic jam. You may deal with tailgating if you’re driving under the speed limit!

11. Seattle is Big on Football

The city is home to both the Seattle Seahawks and the Huskies. When it’s game time, you’re either donning your fan jersey or planning a new route home from work. Century Link Field and UW Stadium become a slowly moving parking lot on game nights. Football fans will love it. Non-football fans will lament their fate.

12. Seattle is a Biker’s Paradise

Get ready to buy a bike or two when moving to Seattle. On weekends, hop on the Burke-Gilman Trail to find scores of cyclists that run nearly 20 miles from the north tip of Lake Washington to the Puget Sound.

13. Seattle’s Hills Have Hills

Get ready to stretch your leg muscles, Seattle is very hilly. Living in Downtown Seattle offers scores of amenities and attractions, but also has challenging hills. Be prepared to do some serious climbing around town.

14. You Can Hike Right in the City

Beyond the city hills, there are great places to take a mini hike right in the city. Head to Discovery Park for 534-acres of patch wilderness along the Puget Sound. It's just a few miles from Downtown and a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

15. Seattle is All About Coffee

As home to the original Starbucks, Seattle takes its coffee seriously. You can find a Starbucks on nearly every corner, though locals also love their independent coffee shops. Try Ballard Coffee Works, All City Coffee, or Herkimer Coffee to start exploring who has the best beans around.

16. Dogs Are Welcome in Seattle

Fulfill your dream of dog ownership when moving to Seattle. There's always someone to run into while walking their dog and pup parks are common. The city is super pet-friendly!

17. Rain Actually Isn’t That Big of a Deal

Yes, it rains a lot in Seattle, but not as much as you've heard. Chicago, Boston, and New York City receive more rain than Seattle. When it does rain, it's often a sprinkle or drizzle that makes an umbrella unnecessary.

18. Seattle is a Growing Tech Capital

Move over San Francisco, Seattle is quickly rising as a massive tech hub. Tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft employ tens of thousands of residents in Seattle. You'll also find campuses for Google, Apple, Adobe, and more.

19. Seattleites Love Taprooms

Beer is as much of a staple around Seattle as coffee. You'll find plenty of breweries for after-work drinks, like Holy Mountain Brewing. Drink your way through all the Pale Ales and IPAs for every occasion around Seattle.

20. Artists Love Seattle

Seattle is home to grunge rock, as well as one of the world's most recorded orchestras. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra is a must for culture lovers. There's also the ballet and Dimitriou's Jazz Alley.

21. Get Around Using Public Transit

If you need to get from A to B in the greater Seattle area, the King County Metro drivers probably have you covered. The bus network is just massive. Plus, if your passage includes light-rail travel, you’ll bypass a lot of that nasty traffic I mentioned. If you want to be able to navigate the city effectively, get used to public transit.

According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, expect to spend about $4,900 on transportation as a single adult. Families of two working adults and a child need at least $11,186.

You can also use Seattle’s transportation to take you outside of Washington to Seattle’s nearby city, Portland, OR. The Greyhound Train and BOLT Bus can take you from Seattle to Portland for less than $30.

22. An Eternal Bucket List

The good news is there’s really no opportunity to feel bored in the Emerald City. There are countless shops, events, parks, curiosities, and other things to do around Seattle.

Finding Your Seattle Apartment

Ready to move to Seattle? Start apartment hunting with Apartment List. If Seattle isn't for you, check out the cities nearby Seattle and the cheapest cities in Washington.

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Drew is a contributing author at Apartment List. As a previous Seattleite, he obtained a B. Read More
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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