When you buy a Seattle or Eastside home it’s a good idea to research neighborhoods early on so that you can prioritize some areas and eliminate others. Look at things like:
- Commute times.
- Proximity to amenities such as shopping, schools and parks.
- How “walkable” a location will be.
- Anything that could affect your view, noise level, traffic situation, etc. either now or in the future.
- Anything else that’s important to your quality of life.
Exactly where you end up buying a home will depend on your personal needs, preferences, and price range, but here are some neighborhood features you will probably always want to take into account:
Seattle and Eastside Area Home Research Checklist
- Commute time to work. If you love a home that you’ve seen on a weekend, try to test the commute on a weekday at rush hour. If that seems too painful, consider a reverse commute so you can at least see what things look like for people going the other direction.
- Proximity to public transportation. Research available bus routes.
- Tool: Sound Transit Trip Planner.
- How good is the school district? Check the Great Schools website to see parent reviews, test scores, and ratings. (Even if you don’t expect to have children in school soon, being in a good school district is often still important for resale value.)
- Tool: Our School Research Page. However, just keep in mind that these days everyone seems to go by Great Schools ratings, which don’t always correlate with school scores.
- Are there any potential development or zoning changes in the works that would affect your use or enjoyment of the property?
- Top Tool: Seattle In Progress interactive map of construction in Seattle – extremely useful.
- Tool: Seattle zoning maps.
- Tool: Proposed changes to Seattle zoning.
- Tool: The MyBuildingPermit website covers much of the Eastside, as well as Snohomish County.
- Tool: Individual city websites. (Search online for the city name + “planning” or “permit”.)
- Check an aerial map view, especially in the more rural areas. Just past the hill behind the house you love could be a dirt bike track, a private lake used for speed boat training, or a landfill. In Seattle, the Seattle In Progress tool might alert you to an upcoming high-rise that could block your view in a year or two. Even if something is unlikely, it’s always better to check and know for sure.
- Tool: Google Maps.
- Is it in a flood zone?
- Have their been systemic problems with sewers, crime, or anything else the neighbors would know about? Don’t be afraid to ask them. Spend time in the area on a weekend to catch people in their yards, or even knock on doors. Most people are happy to answer a few questions, and it also gives you a feel for what it would be like to live there.
- What is the local crime rate? Contact the local police department and ask for information on reported crimes within a certain radius of that address.
- Check sex offender registries.
- Walk the neighborhood after work and/or on a weekend day. Does it feel comfortable? If you’re considering a specific home, this is an opportunity to find out if the neighbor kids have a garage band, or if there’s a chronically barking dog. (Again, neighbors can be great source of information for this kind of thing.)
- Check the walkability.
- Tool: Walk Score.
- Map the home on your smartphone and enable whatever app feature will display nearby parks, coffee shops, grocery stores, bus stops, schools, etc.
Seattle map with museums, dog parks, beaches, and site development permits enabled.
- Research local neighborhoods online.
- Tool: The Seattle My Neighborhood map shows you up to 67 service layers – click “See All” and select options in the left hand menu, including hospitals, playfields, and off-leash areas.
- Evaluate potential noise issues. Traffic noise tends to rise, so a home that is on elevation will be more affected. Try to check it during busy traffic times, and keep in mind that a shift in wind direction away or towards the property can make a significant difference. We don’t have many snowy days, but just know that in snowy conditions traffic noise will be muted.
- Check the property information and tax records.
Click here to go to the “Seattle and Eastside Home Buying Tips” page.