The Latest Guide to Moving to Seattle, WA

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Quick Facts About Seattle

The gleaming jewel of the Evergreen State, the Emerald City one lured prospectors with the promise of gold, but newcomers now come in search of riches from the cultural and natural worlds alike. This transportive urban environment encompassed by mountains and woven by waterways has no equal on either coast, and if you can handle the moody mists and near-constant cloud cover, Seattle may be the perfect place to live.  

Between Mt. Rainier’s 14,410 volcanic peak, the city’s iconic Space Needle and the emerald green siren adorning all things Starbucks, almost everyone has a vision of Seattle. But none of those compares to taking in this remarkable city with your own eyes for the first time, and when you gaze out over Elliott Bay from a perch in Kerry Park, you’ll know that you’ve found your new home.  

Seattle is one of the most exciting places to live and work. The booming job market, the diverse career opportunities from technology to medicine to design and the spectacular cultural infrastructure make Seattle the city of the future. You can bounce from bookstores to boardrooms to an opera house or set sail on the Puget Sound after a day on the bike trails. And the city’s terrific public transportation system makes the Emerald City a great place to go green. 

If you are looking for a culturally rich economic center in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle may be a great place for your family to relocate. Learn more about the city below and explore everything the Evergreen State has to offer in our Guide to Washington State

Why Move to Seattle?

Thriving Job Market

Though the city population of Seattle is less than a million, the non-farm civilian labor force in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area now exceeds two million, with workers employed in a wide range of growing industries. Seattle’s unemployment rate has recently tipped up over the U.S. average over, sits at 4% in November.  

The largest single business sector in the city is professional and business services, which employs more than 401,000 workers and saw nominal growth over the last year. Trade, transportation and utilities, the second-largest area industry, grew 1.4% to 369,100 jobs between October of 2022 and 2023. Education and health services, the third-largest industry, saw the most pronounced year-over-year growth, expanding by 8.0%. By contrast, the mining and logging industry — Seattle’s smallest — saw the greatest decline (-8.3%), followed by the Information sector, which dropped 5.7% to a total of 136,100 jobs.  

Despite the downward trend in the Information sector, young tech workers are still moving to Seattle in droves. According to a study by CBRE, Seattle had the largest in-migration rate of new technology workers (0-6 years of experience) between February of 2022 and 2023, with a 15.2% influx of talent. 

And where is Seattle’s talent pool at work? Many find employment at the city’s leading headquarters, like Amazon, Starbucks, Tableau Software and Nordstrom, or they may work at megaliths in the greater Seattle area, like Microsoft, Costco, Puget Sound Energy, and Alaska Air Group. While Seattle already has high wages — the median annual household income is $116,068 compared to the U.S. average of $75,149 — the highest annual wages are earned by doctors, chief executives and computer and IT systems managers, all of whom earn more than $200,000, on average. 

Top-Notch Education and Schools

Seattle’s dynamic industry base helps attract and maintain a well-educated workforce, and it has one of the highest education rates in the country. 95.6% of the Seattle population has graduated from high school — compared to the U.S. average of 89.1% — and nearly 67% of city residents have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The Seattle area also has some of the best schools in the nation. Tesla STEM High School, located in the Lake Washington School District in King’s County, is ranked the #7 public high school in the entire country and the best school in the state. Naturally, this institution emphatically embraces science and technology, and students learn through real-world engagements to prepare them for successful careers.

In higher education, Seattle is also a stand-out. The University of Washington is ranked 40th in the nation, and its undergraduate population of 36,000+ makes it by far the largest school in the region. Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University — mid-sized private institutions with a religious focus — offer students a more close-knit learning environment. Students interested in a small liberal arts school should consider the University of Puget Sound a well-regarded college that emphasizes holistic learning with a community focus, from local to global.

Nature’s Playground

Many people may move to Seattle for their careers, but the 150,000 new residents that have moved here since 2010 have been lured equally by the environment and the culture. In addition to the stunning Seattle skyline and dozens of urban and state parks, the city boasts breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound. Living in Seattle means you’ll have some of the best access to the northwest coastline, mountain trails and evergreen forests. Whether your family prefers hiking, biking, skiing or swimming, you’re sure to have weekends full of fun adventures.  

Three of Washington State’s national parks are an easy drive from the city. Mount Rainier National Park is best known for its towering volcanic peak and its glaciers, but it’s also a prized sledding ground, a great place to go waterfall hunting and the place to see critters like pine martens, pikas and even wolverines.  

If you’re looking for a wilderness escape for the weekend, make the three-hour drive to North Cascades National Park, where you can fish for salmon and steelhead trout, challenge yourself to a bike ride on the North Cascades Highway (if you’re an experienced cyclist) or coast around Lake Chelan on the Stehekin Valley Road, which even beginners can enjoy.   

In Olympic National Park, water is queen. This magical land of rainforests and sea is a place to lose yourself in wonder, whether gazing into tidepools at tranquil sea anemones or taking in the mystic (and misty) delights of the fern-carpeted forests, where draping mosses turn already extraordinary trees into a Tolkienesque imaginarium.  

Delve deeper into Washington’s national parks in our National Parks of the West Coast guide. 

If you just need to beat the heat on a summer day, Green Lake Park has two beaches designated for swimming, and there are picnic pavilions, public artworks to contemplate and even a lawn bowling club to hash out family competitions in nearby Woodlawn Park.  

Cultural Riches

The price of real estate in Denver continues to boggle the mind, and the ever-increasing popularity of the city has driven the cost of housing a mile high. It’s shocking to think that real estate prices in this non-coastal city of 713,252 (the metro area has 3.2 million) are beginning to approach the realm of coastal giants like Los Angeles and New York City, but it’s no longer a steep climb between their costs of living. The median home value in Denver has now reached $540,400 — nearly twice the national average — while NYC’s median is $732,100 and LA’s is $822,600. Rental prices are even closer together: the median gross rent in Denver is a $1,665, while New Yorkers pay $1,714 and Los Angelinos spend $1,791 a month. These rising costs continue to drive residents further outside the city of Denver in search of more affordable homes in the rapidly burgeoning suburbs. 

Get a quote today on moving to Seattle. 

Embracing the Seattle Lifestyle

Weather Wisdom

Seattle’s weather may not be the Vitamin D infusion that Southern California’s is, but most people moving to the Emerald City aren’t looking to soak up the sun. They’re looking for year-round evergreen, and that’s just what you’ll find in a city known for its rainy days.  

Seattle has staked its reputation on gray and moody weather, but it probably rains far less than you think. The average annual precipitation in the city is only 40 inches, most of which falls between October and March, the rainy season. Seattle’s rains tend to be more constant but lighter than in other cities, though, so while you’ll likely need a raincoat for about a third of the year (the city averages more than 150 rainy days annually), the weather doesn’t really stop people from enjoying the outdoors.  

Temperatures do vary in Seattle but not as much as they do in the typical American city. The average annual temperature is a mild 54.2 F, and temperatures rarely drop below 20°F in the city or rise above 90 F. 2021 was one for the record books, though. June temperatures spiked to 107 F when a “heat dome” broiled the Pacific Northwestern outpost.  

High Cost of Living 

With a diverse array of booming and burgeoning industries, Seattle is one of the most popular places to live in the United States. But it’s also one of the most expensive.  

Real estate in this city of 750,000 is off the charts, and the median home value of $879,000 is more than triple the national average. The median gross rent in Seattle is nearly at the $2,000 mark, exceeding prices in New York and Los Angeles. It seems only San Francisco has Seattle beat, where houses are valued at $1,348,700 on average and the average rent tops $2,300.   

But that’s not all that will cost you more in Seattle. The Emerald City has been ranked the 9th most expensive city in America by the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (CRER) Cost of Living Index. C2ER estimates that Seattle’s cost of living is 44.5 points higher than the U.S. average, when factoring in the cost of housing, utilities, groceries, healthcare, transportation and miscellaneous expenditures. 

But how do taxes figure into the equation? Well, Washington State is something of a mixed bag. The Tax Foundation ranks the state in the middle of the nation for its tax burden, because while it does not have an individual income tax, it does impose a 7% capital gains tax. Similarly, the Evergreen State has no corporate income tax but does levy a gross receipts tax. And, when it comes to sales tax, Washington ranks among the highest in the nation with its average of 9.4%. 

Please note: we are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and counsel from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.  

Commuting and Transportations

Lucky Seattleites have a robust network of accessible public transportation to ferry them about the sprawling Seattle-Tacoma area. King County Metro Transit provides local services like the Link Light Rail, RapidRide bus service, King County Water Taxi, Seattle Streetcars and the Seattle Center Monorail, which are supplemented by regional rail service by the Sounder Train. Those who still want the convenience of a car but want to minimize their environmental impact can consider signing up for the vanshare and vanpool services. 

Seattle is also well-equipped for bike and scooter commuting. Lime and VEO provide Seattle with a fleet of electric-assisted bikes as well as seated and standing scooters. The city has a vast web of dedicated bike lanes, trails and multiuse lanes to make travelling on two wheels or on foot a pleasant and safe way to travel around the area. 

Get a quote today on moving to Seattle. 

Seattle Neighborhood Spotlight

From Chinatown to the University District, Seattle’s diverse neighborhoods are scattered across the alluring waterways that give this city its singular charm. With incredible museums, restaurants, stores and, of course, coffee shops, it’s impossible to pin down just one thing that makes the Emerald City a great place to live. 

Located on the eastern shores of Elliott Bay, Downtown Seattle sparkles with cultural life. The Seattle Art Museum, the famous Pike Place Market and the Paramount Theatre are just a few of the area’s must-see destinations. The historic center of the city is Pioneer Square, which was established in 1852 as the nation’s lust for gold drove settlers westward (learn more about that at the Klondike Gold Rush Visitor Center and Museum, managed by the National Park Service). One of the perennial attractions of this artsy area is First Thursdays, a monthly gallery crawl. Looking for a quiet spot for lunch? Bring a picnic to Waterfall Garden Park. 

Capitol Hill’s history may be more modern but is no less consequential. This LGBTQIA-friendly neighborhood which launched the grunge movement of the early 90s has been a vibrant, alternative district for nearly 100 years. Hip restaurants and shops abound, and one of the favorite local haunts is the indie bookseller Elliott Bay Book Company. In 2021, Capitol Hill completed the AIDS Memorial Pathway — familiarly known as the AMP — which features a plaza with public art commemorating the lives lost and combatting the stigma of those living with HIV/AIDS.  

On the opposite side of Lake Union, Seattle’s posh Queen Anne neighborhood is filled with the trendy and the trendsetting. Elegant, 19th-century historic houses overlook sweeping views of the city, including Seattle’s iconic Space Needle. The world-famous rotating bar inside this 1962 World’s Fair landmark is a lightning rod for tourists, but locals have plenty to enjoy in this fashionable enclave, including wonderful parks, the Seattle Rep and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), whose unconventional building was designed by Frank Gehry.  

New Seattleites looking for a cozy, seaside vibe will want to check out the northern neighborhood of Ballard. Situated on the corner of Shilshole and Salmon Bay, this maritime hamlet on the Puget Sound is anchored by the shoreside Golden Gardens Park to the north and the National Nordic Museum to the south. Ballard is largely residential, and because of its proximity to the coast, it embodies a lot of the quixotic spirit of the city without the bustle of downtown life. 

Note: If you’re thinking of moving to Seattle, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods or areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information. 

Navigating the Move to Seattle

If Seattle is going to be your new homebase, you may be wondering how to find the best professional moving company to help you relocate to the Evergreen State. As America’s #1 Mover®, United Van Lines is committed to providing you with exceptional service to make your move to Seattle a seamless experience. You can track of all the details of your move in the MyUnited Move Portal

Get a moving quote for Seattle from United Van Lines. 

Making a cross-country move to Seattle? United Van Lines provides customized, full-service moving packages to take care of all your long-distance moving needs: packing and unpacking, car shipping, debris removal, storage and more.  

Moving to Seattle from another place in Washington? United Van Lines’ interstate Washington movers provide local moving services independently under their own brands and business names. 

Handling your own move to Seattle? United Van Lines’ moving resources can help everyone — including DIY movers — with their move to Seattle. Check out our pro tips for packing, helpful moving punch lists and our regional guides.  

Unsure where you want to move in the Evergreen State? United Van Lines’ Guide to Moving to Washington State has all the information and resources you need about the most popular cities and attractions from Seattle to Spokane, and everywhere in between. 

Get a quote today on moving to Seattle

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