- Download our Moving to Seattle Guide (PDF)
One of the first tasks facing expats moving to Seattle will be finding a home. While expats can purchase property in the US, most prefer to rent, at least initially.
The cost of living in Seattle is high, and accommodation doesn't come cheap. In fact, rental prices in Seattle are some of the most expensive in the country. Also, newcomers will find that with growing numbers of people moving to Seattle from both within the country and abroad, there is a shortage of rental properties.
Areas and suburbs in Seattle
With seven council districts and innumerable neighbourhoods, Seattle boasts a diversity of suburbs suitable for new arrivals from all walks of life. For parents moving to Seattle with their children, choosing their new neighbourhood will be one of the most important decisions they make. School admissions in the city are based on catchment areas, and the most well-resourced schools are typically located in the affluent suburbs. Newcomers needn't worry about getting around as Seattle has an efficient public transport system, while cycling and walking are also popular.
Young and single newcomers looking to be in the hustle and bustle of things should look no further than central Seattle in neighbourhoods such as Belltown, Capitol Hill and Ballard. These suburbs are home to some of the trendiest restaurants, nightlife spots and shopping districts. Young professionals who prefer a more quiet neighbourhood that is still close to the action would do well in Fremont.
Newly arrived families will discover that Seattle caters well for family life. There are plenty of child-friendly activities and neighbourhoods for newcomers to choose from. Green Lake in north Seattle offers families an opportunity to get wrapped up in outdoor activities around the lake while Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley are quiet residential neighbourhoods that offer families proximity to downtown Seattle. Quiet Magnolia, West Seattle and Queen Anne are other family-friendly neighbourhoods to consider.
Read more about Areas and Suburbs in Seattle
Types of accommodation in Seattle
Seattle has a good range of accommodation, from modern loft conversions in the city centre to larger family homes in the leafy suburbs, but good properties are often snapped up quickly. As is the case in most cities, properties in the suburbs will generally be more spacious and affordable than those found downtown. Most rental properties come fully furnished.
Finding accommodation in Seattle
It's best to start the process of finding a home as soon as possible. Those relocating to Seattle will find it easier to search for properties in the middle of winter because most people move to the city during the summer months of July and August.
It may be worth enlisting the help of a real estate agent who can advise on suitable neighbourhoods and give house hunters access to a larger number of potential properties in Seattle. Alternatively, expats can use listings in online property portals and local newspapers.
Renting accommodation in Seattle
Making an application
Landlords and rental agencies usually carry out credit and background checks on potential tenants. Expats will be asked to provide references from previous landlords and their employers, so it is best to have these documents prepared beforehand. As competition for housing in Seattle is high, landlords can afford to be selective about the tenants they choose to occupy their properties.
Leases, costs and fees
Most landlords will be looking for tenants who can commit to a contract for at least a year. Tenants will be expected to put down a security deposit, usually equivalent to a month's rent. The first month's rent will also need to be paid upfront. At the end of the lease, the security deposit will be returned as long as the rental property is in good condition.
See Accommodation in the USA for detailed information on the rental process in the country.
Utilities aren't usually included in the rental price, so expats will need to factor in the cost of electricity and water. It's also important to consider the cost of setting up an internet connection.
Electricity and gas
The public utility provider, City Lights, supplies the electricity in Seattle, while the gas supply is managed by Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Newcomers moving to Seattle must register an account on the City of Seattle's utility services website. This one-stop shop will allow them to register for electricity and gas connections. The City of Seattle will first need to verify their identification by asking customers credit-related questions.
New arrivals should expect to pay a connection fee and receive an account number that will be used to bill them bi-monthly. Some property managers or real estate agents will handle the connection process for tenants, so newcomers should first check before beginning the registration process.
To connect their natural gas, tenants will register a PSE account online and follow a similar process to connecting electricity. It may be necessary for the company to dispatch a technician to ensure the safety and functionality of the line and reconnect the gas.
Most of the drinking water in Seattle comes from the Tolt and Cedar River watersheds, and the supply and maintenance are managed by Seattle Public Utilities. Once tenants have registered an account with the City of Seattle's utility services, they will have access to their water bills. Agents from the water department usually visit homes to read the meter every month or bi-monthly.
Bins and recycling
Seattle's waste management operates on a pay-as-you-throw cost structure, meaning the less waste residents generate, the less they will pay for rubbish collection. Waste is typically collected weekly in most neighbourhoods, and tenants are encouraged to bag their waste for safe collection.
The City of Seattle provides residents with a recycling cart that they can use to put recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal. Seattle also has a LookUp tool and recycling app that allow residents to determine whether an item is recyclable or not. For hazardous waste and special items such as large furniture, residents can drop them off at designated sites throughout the city or arrange for collection with the city.
- MyUtilities provides information on collection days for specific neighbourhoods in Seattle.
"Accommodation in Seattle is affordable. If renting a house in Seattle, it’s a bit more expensive than having to own a house. But with no credit history, when you move here as an expat, you may as well rent the place." Read our full interview with Indian expat Padmaja to learn more about living in Seattle.
Are you an expat living in Seattle?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seattle. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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