May 8, 2024 - News

Where to find the Seattle area's cheapest rents

Illustration of apartment doorbells with an intercom shaped like a dollar sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

For the cheapest rents in the Seattle area, head south to Tacoma and steer clear of those pricey Eastside suburbs, a Zillow economist told Axios.

Why it matters: Soaring housing prices and high mortgage rates are pushing homeownership increasingly out of reach for many, leading more to put off homeownership in favor of renting.

The big picture: An analysis this month of data for all types of rentals shows that the most expensive ZIP codes in the Seattle area are in the suburbs, mostly on the Eastside, said Zillow senior economist Nicole Bachaud.

Zoom in: Pierce County has the lowest typical observed market rate rent in the metro area — which includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

  • A typical rental costs about $1,700 a month in parts of Tacoma.
  • Lower than average typical prices can also be found in Lynnwood ($1,800/month) and Shoreline ($2,000/month), per Bachaud.
  • In Seattle proper, more affordable rents may be found in Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill, as well as in Federal Way, Kent and Auburn in south King County, per Bachaud.

There are also some "pockets of affordability" around northeast Seattle, near the University District, where students drive a lot of demand for smaller units, said Elliott Krivenko, Seattle's analyst for the real estate information company CoStar Group.

  • "Those units are typically more expensive when viewed on a square-foot basis but have lower monthly rents overall," Krivenko told Axios.

Yes, but: It can cost almost twice as much to rent in the Eastside suburbs, such as North Bend, Issaquah and Snoqualmie, in part because the suburbs have more large single-family homes on the rental market, said Bachaud.

  • The typical rental in Snoqualmie is $3,200 a month, she said.
  • Typical multifamily units in the metro area rent for $2,050 a month versus $3,150 for detached homes, Bachaud said.

The intrigue: Seattle is unique in the nation, per Bachaud, with wage growth outpacing rent increases.

  • From 2022 to 2023, rents grew 2.5% while wages grew 2.6%, which could give renters some relief.
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