Seattle has earned a couple of titles that explain a lot of the tension going on in the city lately: it is the fastest growing big city of the last decade and the hottest housing market in the country, a designation it has held for 19 straight months.
According to the latest update from the Case-Shiller national home price report, Seattle home prices in March rose 13 percent over the same period a year ago, followed by Las Vegas and San Francisco. While Seattle has held its place at the top for some time, Las Vegas and San Francisco were ranked 10th and 16th, respectively, on the list, a year ago.
The main reason behind Seattle’s reign at the top of the for-sale housing market? A lot of new people, and not a lot of homes to buy.
Citing recent U.S. Census data, The Seattle Times reports that Seattle more than 114,000 people came to Seattle since 2010, pushing the population to nearly 725,000 people. This dizzying increase of 18.7 percent ranks first among big cities. To put those figures in perspective, Seattle added about the same number of people over the previous three decades.
In 2017 alone, census data shows Seattle’s population increased by about 17,500 people or about 1,458 people per month. If that pace has continued throughout this year, the number of new people in the city would nearly double the 730 active listings for homes and condos in Seattle for the month of April, reported by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service earlier this month. Stepping outside the city limits, last year’s population gains outpace the total number of active home and condo listings for all of Western Washington at 10,079.
This decade has seen a migration back to cities, reversing a decades-long trend of population increases to the suburbs, and Seattle’s growing tech reputation has made it a top choice. People from all over the world have flocked to the city to work for homegrown tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft or the 100-plus companies with engineering centers in the area, led by household names like Google, Facebook and Apple.
As home prices continue to skyrocket, apartment rents are starting to level off after years of record-level construction. The effect is filtering down to rental homes as well, as new construction creates more choice in that area. The region has not seen a similar wave of construction in the for-sale market to match the demand for new houses.
Population rises have led to growing pains in the city, highlighted by the controversial debate over a tax on big businesses. Amazon, now the face of the debate and Seattle’s struggles with growth, has following the passage of the tax threatened to slow growth in its hometown, which some observers say could actually have some benefits for the city.