Understandably, you may be thinking of swapping out San Francisco Bay for Puget Sound. After all, you pay the highest housing prices in the nation to enjoy San Francisco’s iconic coastal lifestyle. In the Emerald City, you’ll still be able to enjoy the salt air, but with Seattle’s lower cost of living and median family income slightly higher than San Francisco’s, you won’t have to worry as much about your bank account.
But before you start packing up your household to move 800 miles up the coast, you’ll want to know what to expect.
What to Know About Moving from San Francisco to Seattle
Housing and Cost of Living
A massive disparity in housing costs makes Seattle living about 56% cheaper than San Francisco. The median home cost in Seattle is $714,400 – still much higher than the average US cost of $231,200, but far, far less than San Francisco’s stratospheric $1,378,300. Since the last census in 2000, Seattle has seen twice the influx of new residents as San Francisco has. The resulting increase in demand for real estate led to the Seattle market enjoying a stunning 55% home appreciation over the past five years. This rate outpaced San Francisco’s home appreciation of 49%.
About 52% of Seattleites rent their homes compared to 66% of San Franciscans. A one-bedroom rental in Seattle averages $1,728, while in San Francisco, the same size rental averages $2,639.
The cost of living is calculated on an average US index of 100. The overall San Francisco cost of living is 269 of 100 compared to Seattle’s 172 of 100. In Seattle, you’ll save approximately 42% on utility costs, about 7% on food and groceries, and 15% on transportation costs. The family median income in both cities is almost equivalent: $115,414 in Seattle and $114,049 in San Francisco. In short, your paycheck will stretch further in Seattle.
Washington doesn’t levy a state income tax; consequently, the sales tax is higher than average to compensate. You’ll pay 10.1% sales tax in Seattle, 1.6% higher than San Francisco’s 8.5%.
The property tax rate is .99% in Seattle, which is 0.19% lower than the national average, but 0.31% higher than the 0.68% homeowners pay in San Francisco. However, if you consider the median home prices in each city, you’ll probably still enjoy a lower property tax bill.
Economy and Job Growth
Like San Francisco, Seattle is a tech giant with major companies like Amazon and Microsoft headquartered in the city. Seattle’s economy also benefits from robust industries that include aerospace (the city is home of Boeing), education, health, tourism, and retail sales.
Recent job growth in Seattle was 2.6% compared to San Francisco’s 1.3%, and in the next three years, growth in Seattle, at 9%, is forecast to be stronger than San Francisco’s 6%. However, the forecast for job growth over the next ten years in San Francisco, at 29%, outshines Seattle’s predicted growth of 24%.
Transportation and Traffic
You’re already familiar with San Francisco’s terrific public transportation, and you’ll find that Seattle is a close runner up. King County Metro connects commuters with a vast network of bus routes, while Sound Transit offers light-rail service through the city and out to the airport. Those that live in one of Seattle’s many island communities can catch a ferry or water taxi to or from the city. If you choose your neighborhood based on access to public transit, you can comfortably live in Seattle without a car – a real bonus to avoiding Seattle’s 9th worst traffic in the country. Still, only 21% of Seattleites commute by public transit compared to 34% in San Francisco.
You can shave off about five minutes from your one-way commute by moving to Seattle. The average San Francisco commute takes 33 minutes one-way while Seattle commuters average 27 minutes.
Locals don’t let a little Emerald City drizzle stop them from being active walkers and cyclists. The average city-wide walk score is 74, but some areas top out at 100. Biking and transit scores are also far above average. If walkability is important to you, you may want to check out the neighborhoods of Downtown, International District, and Belltown.
Weather and Climate
Moving from San Francisco to Seattle will give you four mild seasons that are easy and delightful. Winters are relatively mild due to the moderating effects of Puget Sound. Fall color and spring flowers add to the beauty between summer and winter seasons. And summers can get fairly warm.
Surprisingly, even though Seattle is 800 miles north of San Francisco, the average July high of 76 °F is much warmer than San Francisco’s average of 67. The January high in San Francisco averages 57 °F. But at about 10 degrees colder, Seattle’s January high averages 47 °F and lows average 37.
The lush, green, well-named Emerald City has twice as many wet days as San Francisco with 38 inches of annual rainfall compared to San Francisco’s 25 inches. The five inches of yearly snowfall is just enough to dress the city with a beautiful white dusting.
Crime rates in Seattle are a bit lower than in San Francisco, but both cities still see more crime than is average nationwide. Based on a scale of 1 to 100, the US average violent crime rate is 23. In Seattle, violent crime is 32, and in San Francisco, it’s 40. The US average for property crime is 35. Both cities have astronomical property crime rates – Seattle’s rate is 77, and San Francisco’s is 79.
Most Seattle neighborhoods have high safety ratings. For your peace of mind, it’s worthwhile to google the crime rates of your desired Seattle neighborhoods. Queen Anne, Ballard, Sunset Hill, and Magnolia rank among the safest areas to call home.
Culture, Diversity, and Demographics
Seattle is spread out over 84 square miles, and with a population of 688,245, the density adds up to 8,207 people per square mile. San Francisco’s 864,263 residents live on 47 square miles, putting the density at 18,442, over twice that of Seattle’s. Seattle has seen a 22% population increase since the last census, whereas San Francisco has seen about half that at 11.3%.
Much like San Francisco, Seattle is all about diversity and inclusion. When you compare racial demographics, you see that Seattle is 65% White, 14% Asian, 7% African American, 6.5% Hispanic, 5.8% Two or More Races, and 0.5% Native American. Compare this to San Francisco’s 41% White, 34% Asian, 5% African American, 15% Hispanic, 4% Two or More Races, and 0.2% Native American.
With Seattle’s renowned counter-culture, it’s not surprising that Democrats far outweigh the number of Republican voters. About 70% of Seattleites vote Democrat, not quite as many as San Francisco’s 85%. If you lean left, you’ll fit right in.
Approximately 60 of the 113 Seattle Public Schools are rated six or above on a scale of 1 to 10. This district serves about 47,000 students across the Seattle metro area and benefits from a partnership with Amazon. As you’re considering various neighborhoods, if finding highly ranked schools is a priority, greatschools.org links each school to the nearby homes that are available for sale.
Seattle’s higher education opportunities are excellent too. Although you won’t have Stanford or Berkeley in your backyard, the University of Washington is renowned for its engineering, medical, scientific research, and computer science programs.
San Francisco perches on a hilly peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the San Francisco Bay on the north and east. Seattle, with some hilly areas, is uniquely located about 90 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, on the gentle shores of the Puget Sound. The Sound not only moderates the climate but also provides a vast safe harbor with calm waters perfect for sailing and water recreation.
Things to Do
From the breathtaking views atop the Space Needle to a ferry ride out to the Puget Sound islands, Seattle is brimming with fun and exciting things to do. Over 40 museums, the nine-acre Pike Place Market, eight major professional sports teams, and over 485 parks that help fulfill Seattleites’ penchant for getting out into nature 24/7 – Seattle is brimming with things to do no matter what your interests are. Look here for a full rundown on what to do.
Both San Francisco and Seattle serve up the freshest Pacific Coast seafood available. Seattle is exceptionally proud of its excellent salmon. Priced by the river where it’s caught, prime fish is only available at restricted times during the season. Be sure to visit the Pike Place Fish Market for the freshest catch.
What is it about brisk weather and coffee? – they blend like magic. In 1971, Starbucks’ first store opened in Pike Place Market. Today, the city is home to 133 locations of the iconic coffee chain. And speaking of drinks, if you’re a fan of the fermented, Seattle is the birthplace of the ‘Northwest style’ – a super hoppy IPA that continues to be refined by various microbreweries. Enjoy a post-move pint of Lush IPA from Fremont Brewing.
Best Neighborhoods in Seattle
Each Seattle neighborhood seems like a little town of its own, with independent bookstores, grocery stores, cafes, pubs, and coffee houses. Here’s a summary of six of the best:
You’ll find a mix of apartments, condos, and charming single-family bungalows amid cool bars and pubs, cafes, coffee houses, and boutiques. Many of the 16,700 locals love to walk and cycle through bike-friendly Ballard, and when they need to go farther afield, the RapidRide D line takes them to Downtown, Uptown, and points in between. Here’s more Ballard info.
Directly north of Downtown, Belltown is a great neighborhood if you want to live without a car. The circulator bus, eight city bus lines, and a light rail can take you anywhere in the city and beyond, plus Belltown is super walkable. From national chain stores to highly rated restaurants, you’ll have all the amenities you need. Find out more about Belltown here.
About an eight-minute drive to Downtown, Capitol Hill is an in-demand central Seattle neighborhood of about 37,490 residents. Since the ‘60s, Capitol Hill has been the LGBTQ epicenter of Seattle. Single-family homes, vintage brick apartment buildings, condos, lofts, and townhomes populate the neighborhood with a variety of housing types. Want to know more about Capitol Hill?
Nearly 20,000 Seattleites live in Fremont, which they claim is the Center of the Universe. A happening counterculture thrives in this neighborhood where two-thirds of residents rent their homes. Single-family, townhomes, condos, apartments, and live/work spaces provide a wide range of housing. It’s easy to walk to casual cafes, coffee places, cool microbreweries, and lots of shopping options. Here are more details about Fremont.
Historic Pioneer Square is a walkable mixed-use neighborhood with galleries, boutiques, cafes, pubs, and history tours that are popular with tourists. Located on the waterfront south of Downtown, Pioneer Square has convenient public transit via the King Street Station. The Seattle Ferry Terminal, an easy walk, is directly north of the neighborhood. You’ll find homes in the form of apartments, townhomes, and condos – many with spectacular views. Here’s more info on Pioneer Square.
North Queen Anne
Affluent North Queen Anne sits between the Fremont Cut Ship Canal and Puget Sound’s Elliott Bay. Homes in this leafy, established neighborhood range between single-family vintage gems, townhomes, and condos – many with beautiful views of the city and sound. Even a houseboat comes on the market now and then. Learn more about North Queen Anne here.
Cost of Moving from San Francisco to Seattle
On average, it costs about $2500-$3000 to move from San Francisco to Seattle. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 808 miles up the coast. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best San Francisco to Seattle movers now!