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Seattleites Are Finding Affordable Housing In Tacoma

People who want to live in a place with all of the amenities of a city but without Seattle’s housing prices are heading south. Real estate agents like Marguerite Giguere are noticing  the trend.

“They are people who would not be able to buy even a modest condo in Seattle and might have been looking to buy in places like Kent or Burien and then realize, ‘Wow, if I go to Kent or if I go to Burien, I’m going to be in a suburb.’”

But if they go to Tacoma, says Giguere, they “can have the urban environment they want without having to spend over half of of their income, or maybe even more than that on housing.”

The median price of a house in Seattle is more than $500,000. In Tacoma it’s half that. When Giguere saw there was an untapped market of meeting the needs of  Seattle renters trying to become homeowners, she bought the URL “Move to Tacoma” and launched her website.  

Since then she’s been helping a steady stream of clients. People like Carrie Akre, a musician and a digital project manager. Akre and her husband, who have a seven year old son, were renting a house in West Seattle.

“We had a great house, but it was $2,000 a month,” says Akre.

They wanted to move into a more affordable apartment closer to their son’s school, but one they factored in the deposit, and first and last month’s rent, the cost was close to $5,000.

“You know you  pay first and last months and deposit and if you have a pet you have to pay for that. We did some raking up of costs and it was close to five grand just to move. And it’s not like it use to be where you’d go see an apartment and they’d be like ‘great fill out this form and here you go.’ Looking for apartments and homes is just as competitive as buying. ”

Richard Hager, an appraiser, says the amped up Seattle market is squeezing out people like Ackre, forcing them to look for housing in Sumner, Orting, Everett and Tacoma.

“And this is fairly normal," says Hager. "Every time we see price increasing in the central core eventually it gets to the point where people go, ‘enough already. I’d rather do the hour commute,’ if they’re lucky, down to Summer and drive into Seattle every day or even on Bainbridge Island or Vashon and taking a ferry across every day.”

This is the choice Akre and her husband eventually made. After briefly considering Spokane, they looked In Tacoma, they were shocked by what they were able to afford.

“We just bought a house for under  $250,000 and it’s a beautiful four square house with three bedrooms, 2,500 square feet. So it gives us a financial leg up but doesn’t remove us from the things we want to be close to.”

Akre’s daily commute to her office in Pioneer Square on the Sounder train takes about an hour each way. She uses the time to read, to write and to daydream about what her family will do with the money they’ll be able to save now that their mortgage is $300 a month cheaper than their rent was in Seattle.

Akre says moving to Tacoma might make it financially possible to someday buy a vacation property on Vashon Island.

What do people in Tacoma think of this Seattle to Tacoma migration? Giguere says she’s getting some flack from people in Tacoma who do not want and influx of Seattleites to drive up housing prices.

Giguere tells naysayers that Seattle’s loss is Tacoma’s gain, “We’re not inheriting these rich jerks. The people that are coming to Tacoma from Seattle are the creatives, are the freelance web people, the self employed people, the contractors. These are people who are going to make our city amazing. We’re getting some of Seattle’s best people.”

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