Thousands of Expedia Group employees are making the move to the company’s new $900 million Seattle headquarters campus, adding a long commute through one of the region’s busiest corridors for many workers residing in and around Bellevue, Wash. Some will grit through the traffic, but a contingent of highly compensated workers will surely want to live closer to work, potentially juicing real estate activity in the neighborhoods around the new waterfront offices.
A new analysis from Seattle real estate startup Flyhomes lays out the differences between the areas surrounding Expedia’s new headquarters and its old home base. People willing to pay a premium for a quick commute will flock to nearby neighborhoods such as Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Ballard. However, some may choose, or be forced, to stick with the suburban lifestyle that offers more property at a slightly lower cost in exchange for a daily commute that could top an hour each way.
People who already lived very close to Expedia’s old HQ and want to move near the new campus won’t see much of a difference in price. In Bellevue, where the old headquarters is located, the average list price of a home this year was $1.18 million. In Magnolia, one of the closest neighborhoods to the new campus, the average list price was $1.11 million, per Flyhomes. While the average home is roughly the same size in the two areas, lots in Bellevue are about twice the size of those in Magnolia.
“Based on our analysis, Magnolia, already booming with activity as a not-too-far-away residential area outside the city’s inner urban core, is poised for the most growth as it affords the most square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms for your money,” Drew Meyers, founder of the Geek Estate Blog and a former Zillow employee, wrote for Flyhomes. “If you prioritize lot size and the free-range lifestyle for your kids, however, it’s clear you’ll need to settle in Issaquah, Redmond, or Woodinville.”
Other neighborhoods near the new campus are less expensive, but it will be tough for an Expedia employee to find a place for less than $700,000 in an area close to the office.
Perhaps anticipating the arrival of thousands of well-paid tech employees, the areas around the new headquarters have seen some of the fastest price jumps in the region in recent years. Despite being among the priciest neighborhoods in the region already, areas such as Magnolia, Fremont and Queen Anne have seen home prices rise between 34 and 39 percent on a per square foot basis since 2015.
The cities surrounding Expedia’s old offices remain cheaper than their Seattle counterparts, however prices are rising at a faster clip in some areas. Bellevue and Microsoft’s hometown of Redmond have seen respective price spikes of 45 and 54 percent over the last four years.
For every 20 minutes of commute time added by choosing neighborhoods farther from work, Expedia employees would save money on housing, per Flyhomes. But at what cost? Meyers built a per-minute formula that shows how much money an Expedia worker would lose commuting based on a $100,000 annual salary.
“The data shows you’re going to pay an extra $13,000 in time annually if you live in Bellevue versus Queen Anne or Magnolia — and almost $19,000 if you choose Woodinville’s acreage,” Meyers wrote. “Meanwhile, Ballard, Fremont, and Belltown all ring in at less than $3,000.”
Though some Expedia employees might move out of Bellevue to be closer to the Seattle campus, that doesn’t mean Bellevue is going to become any less competitive for real estate. Amazon, Facebook and others are expanding rapidly there, ensuring the housing market will stay hot going forward.
Not everyone will be able to move closer to the new Expedia campus, or want to. There are other considerations, such as affordability, lifestyle, schools and more. But Meyers thinks making the move would be worth it.
“Qualitatively, imagine the impact an extra hour or two per day with your family could have on your overall happiness,” he wrote. “Personally, that’s all the motivation I would need to jump ship across Lake Washington.”