Real EstateIncome Needed to Buy Your First Home in Seattle

Income Needed to Buy Your First Home in Seattle


It’s approaching $200,000, among the highest in the nation.

Seattle, WA, is known for its natural beauty, outdoor recreation, delicious cuisine, and tech-focused companies. In addition to being an affordable and unique place to live, Seattle is also home to a highly competitive real estate market that’s seen large changes over the past few years. 

For many, buying a home in Seattle is a dream come true, but it’s also important to know how it will impact your finances. From down payments to monthly mortgage payments, there’s a lot to understand before buying your first home 

So whether you already live in the Emerald City or are looking to relocate to the area, here’s a breakdown of the income you’ll need to purchase your first home in Seattle.

Check out our original report for a detailed nationwide analysis.

How much income do you need to buy a starter home in Seattle?

The median sale price of a starter home in Seattle is $535,000. In order to afford this, first-time homebuyers in Seattle should make $173,378 per year, up 8.4% from 2023. The median income in Seattle is $126,647, meaning the typical resident cannot afford a starter home. 

Only California metros require a higher annual income to afford a starter home. Anaheim, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose all top $175,000. 

As expected, starter homes in Seattle are more affordable than the average home (all price brackets combined; see methodology for details). In order to afford any median-priced home in the area, you’ll need to make $214,904 (as of October 2023). 

Nationwide, you need an income of $75,849 to afford a typical starter home, which costs an average of $240,000. The average U.S. household earns an estimated $84,072.

First-time homebuyers’ guide to the Seattle housing market

Seattle has experienced a growing but mixed market over the past few years. House prices have risen by 12.5% since January 2021, but the metro also saw sharp increases and drops.

Like most other metros in the U.S., Seattle’s housing market exploded in early 2022, with prices rising 17.4% in just three months (from $734,950 in January to $888,844 in March). They have settled back down a little but are still elevated above pre-pandemic prices.

The pandemic-driven housing migration boom also affected Seattle similar to many other coastal metros; more people looked to leave than stay, with buyers searching for sun and affordability. However, Seattle still grew by 17,750 people from 2021-2022, a continuation of years of growth. Nearly 9,000 people left the city from 2020-2021, but this turned out to be a blip.

If you’re looking to move to Seattle, the area is home to plenty of amenities and attractions throughout its unique neighborhoods. The Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Washington Park Arboretum are some of the most well known spots, offering stunning views and fun experiences for people of all ages.

Some popular neighborhoods in Seattle include Ballard, Columbia City, Green Lake, and West Seattle.

What does a typical down payment look like for a starter home in Seattle?

Here are some common down payment amounts for a typical $535,000 starter home in Seattle:

Down payment percentage Down payment amount
3% down payment $16,050
3.5% down payment $18,725
5% down payment $26,750
10% down payment $53,500
15% down payment $80,250
20% down payment $107,000

Down payments can range from 0% to 100% of the total house price, depending on your budget, loan type, and long-term priorities. While experts have historically recommended budgeting for a 20% down payment, the increasing cost of homes and continued sluggish wage increases has led to a 15% down payment becoming more common. 

Some loan types allow for lower down payment amounts. For example, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan requires just 3.5% down, while the lowest possible down payment for a conventional loan is 3%. These amounts typically depend on your credit scores, so buyers with higher credit scores may qualify for lower down payments.

What is the typical mortgage payment for a starter home in Seattle?

The typical monthly mortgage payment for a starter home in Seattle is $4,334. This assumes you put 3.5% down and have around a 7% interest rate.

If this payment sounds too high, you could consider renting an apartment in Seattle. The median rent price is $1,990, under half the typical mortgage payment. You can also use an affordability calculator to see what you can afford based on your income and down payment.

What should you do next?

If you’re in the market for your first home in Seattle, it’s important to understand how much house you can afford. Take your annual income, credit score, the current mortgage rates, and local market trends to make a decision that works best for you.

From there, a Seattle agent can help you navigate the entire home buying process and provide valuable local expertise. To learn more about how to buy a home, check out Redfin’s First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide.

Methodology

Redfin divides all U.S. properties into five buckets based on Redfin Estimates of homes’ market values. There are three equal-sized tiers, as well as tiers for the bottom 5% and top 5% of the market. Redfin defines “starter homes” as homes whose sale price fell into the 5th-35th percentile of the Redfin Estimate tier. 

We calculated the annual income needed to afford a starter home by assuming a buyer spends no more than 30% of their income on housing payments. Housing payments are calculated assuming the buyer made a 3.5% down payment and also take a month’s median sale price and average mortgage-interest rate into account. 

The national income data is adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index. 2024 income is estimated based on projections from the U.S. Census Bureau’s (ACS) 2022 median household income using the 12-month moving average nominal wage growth rate. The rate was compiled from the Current Population Survey and reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

We assume housing payments include the mortgage principal, interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and mortgage insurance (when applicable).

All data sourced February 2024 unless otherwise stated.



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