Following a trend of many major U.S. cities, Seattle's real estate prices have increased at a fast rate in recent years. Some of this increase is due to the booming technology companies here hiring skilled labor, but some is attributable to international buyers, mostly from Asia. Experts expect the city to add 100,000 people to its population by 2025. The increasing home prices have pushed commuters farther away from the city core, resulting in some of the worst traffic in the country.
RENTING IN SEATTLE
Seattle is a competitive market for renters and rents have been skyrocketing in recent years. Because of this, you'll need to move fast on available properties because they'll get snapped up quickly. Additionally, Seattle has a law that landlords must rent their property to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. That means it pays to be the first one to apply, provided you qualify. (This rule does not apply to the cities east of Lake Washington, like Bellevue and Redmond.)
Since you need to react quickly, you'll want to scan real estate websites frequently (or better yet, set up automated alerts on real estate websites) for the type of home you're looking for. Since rental leases typically end at the end of the month and tenants must give landlords 20 days' notice before moving out, there can be a slight bump in the inventory around the 10th or 11th of a month, so if your timing permits you can concentrate your search around those days. And if possible, try to see properties or go to open houses during the week to beat the weekend crowd.
Most properties in Seattle come with major appliances like a refrigerator and stove.
As a tenant, it's important to understand the obligations of your landlord and your own responsibilities. Seattle has a handy guide available for reference.
BUYING IN SEATTLE
There are no restrictions in the United States on foreign citizens owning property. You'll generally need to work with a real estate agent and a real estate lawyer to complete the transaction. Foreign buyers are often required to provide a larger down payment than domestic buyers (30-40% versus 20%). A commission of 6% of the value of the sale is typically paid to the real estate agent. Canadians and Chinese are the biggest foreign buyers of Seattle area property.
HELPFUL REAL ESTATE WEBSITES
Padmapper.com - Padmapper pulls in rental properties from over 100 sources and displays them in a map view. You can easily filter the results based on home size, cost, and whether pets are allowed.
Findwell - This is a regional real estate site that makes it easy to find homes for sale based on region and neighborhood.
Zillow or Trulia - Similar in functionality (and owned by the same company) both sites can be searched for properties for rent or for sale. They generally have the exact same listings; the main difference is how they display the results based on your search criteria.
Craigslist - This is not just a place to find a home: you can find pretty much anything you can think of on Craigslist. But it can be a great place to find a rental or a roommate. Just be more careful with the properties you see here since there is not a lot of quality control for brokers posting here.