The Seattle/Bellevue metro area is experiencing a meteoric rise in homebuyers and foreign direct investment from China. Discovered for its high quality of life, economic prosperity, and relative affordability compared with other West Coast markets, The New York Times estimates 40-percent of $1 million-plus homes sold on the affluent Eastside are being purchased by Chinese buyers.
The attractions are many. A depth of arts and culture, a pristine natural environment (including extraordinarily clean air and water), renowned schools, and an internationally diverse population– much of this promoted in the hit movie “Beijing Meets Seattle”, which has become a box office favorite in mainland China.
Asians are the fastest growing demographic in Washington and in some markets, like Bellevue, they represent 30-percent of the population. Chinese grocery stores, fine dining, international schools and many Mandarin-speaking businesses have created a comfortable relocation experience for new immigrants. It also helps that Seattle now boasts numerous direct flights to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, which proves to be less expensive and up to two hours quicker than other international airport hubs in California.
A preference for Seattle starts at a young age. The University of Washington, ranked #15 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, says 20-percent of its freshman class is attending from international markets and half are from China.
“Living the American Dream is more easily attained here in Seattle,” says Dean Jones, President & CEO of Seattle-based Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty. “Overseas clientele realize their children can relocate, graduate from the Seattle area’s premier public and private schools with honors, confidently secure employment and can afford to buy a home to build a family in a one of North America’s most beautiful and fastest growing regions.”
Although rising quickly, Jones says homes are still considerably less expensive than Vancouver, BC, San Francisco or Los Angeles, and unique lifestyle opportunities like living on Lake Washington, really can’t be found elsewhere. He believes the trend with international homebuying has only just begun, so there’s a much greater propensity for value appreciation ahead.
“Washington has no state income tax and the overall cost of living is much lower than either British Columbia or California,” adds Jones. “With the savings, you could greatly enhance your lifestyle by living in Seattle.”
Foreign buyers aren’t the only contributors to a booming marketplace. The region is teeming with high-paying job openings. Companies like Amazon.com, which will soon occupy more than 5 million square feet of office space in downtown Seattle, is a demonstration for the “urban campus”. The online retail giant is set to exceed 40,000 local employees downtown, eclipsing Microsoft’s Eastside headquarters. Other industries are expanding too, including aerospace, education, global health and life sciences, and philanthropy (Seattle is home to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).
Anticipation for the housing demand can be seen throughout the metro area with scores of residential developments transforming the skyline. Other major projects include a $2 billion tunnel and waterfront park project that will rival West Coast cities for both accessibility and beauty.
“We’re seeing housing demand due to job growth, immigration, and lifestyle preferences all at the same time – it’s having a compounding effect,” says Jones. “We’re witness to a world-class city on the rise.”
- #1 Apartment Rent Growth in US – The Census Bureau reports median apartment rents have soared 11% between 2010 and 2013 and rents in downtown Bellevue are now higher than San Francisco.
- #2 Technology Growth in US – Jones Lang LaSalle reports the metro area now employs more than 120,000 high-tech works, second only to San Francisco.
- #3 Lowest Unemployment in US – Seattle area dropped to 4.8%, its lowest level since August 2008 and third lowest of major metro areas in the US.
- #4 Tightest Office Market in US – Since 2010 the Seattle and Bellevue commercial market witnessed 9.4 million square feet of occupancy gains with 1.7 million square feet currently under construction resulting in just 11.5% vacancy.
- Washington’s Population Growth Nears 7 Million – The Office of Financial Management reports the highest annual gains since 2008 with the majority relocating to the Central Puget Sound region.
- Forbes Ranks Seattle #2 “Coolest City” in US – Populous cities ranked on arts, culture, recreation, diversity, local eateries and youthful population.
- Bellevue Ranked #2 “America’s Best Cities to Live” – 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on 550 US cities based on crime, employment, education and housing.
- Downtown Seattle Among Fastest Growing Residential Populations – Since 1990, the urban population has grown by 76% with an unprecedented boom of high-rise development.
- Median Home Prices have “Reset” – Seattle area home values recovered all losses since the Great Recession and surpassed the 2007 peak pricing – King County has less than 1 month’s supply of homes, according to NWMLS research.
- Seattle “Top 10” Relocation Market in US – Ranked #7, Money says new residents are drawn by strong job growth, especially in high tech segments making it also among the “Best Real Estate Markets in the US for 2014”, according to the Urban Land Institute.
- Seattle “Smartest City in North America” – With high quality schools and an ability to attract creative and entrepreneurial talent, Seattle earned Fast Company’s top ranking.