I dwell in Seattle, however it’s overrun with tech staff. The place can I transfer that has low cost properties — and quick web speeds?

I read your previous columns, and guessed it can’t hurt to ask.

I live in Seattle with my wife and grandson, but the city is now more of a playground for high-tech workers, and we would like to take our equity and buy some older lumber somewhere.

We do like Seattle, primarily because we have family out here, so an airport would come in handy if we did move. We also have a fair amount of equity built up, which is another great thing about Seattle.

Here’s what got me thinking: Yesterday, we were talking to an estate planner and he mentioned Omak, Wash. We have a family member with a terminal illness and would like to get into a rambler making access easier — and hopefully we would have a smaller mortgage in the process.

The lawyer said that Seattle’s housing market is still hotting up because it has high tech workers demanding housing, and there is no need for us to have housing so close by the city center. Sadly, no matter how you look at it, Seattle’s housing prices are skyrocketing, even in all the areas surrounding the city. 

Of course, I also love my 1Gbps internet so that is also a consideration. Can you recommend an area with a good regional airport, and good housing prices?


Tired of Seattle

The Big Move’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.

Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Jacob Passy at [email protected].

Dear Tired,

Fast-rising home prices are certainly a blessing and a curse, as you are seeing. It’s one of the reasons why many homeowners may be reluctant to sell across the country. Sure, in as hot of a market as this one, most sellers can get a good return on the sale of their home. But where are they then going to live?

As you put it, even moving to a suburb of Seattle isn’t as practical an option these days given how high home prices have become. Nearby Tacoma has seen some of the highest rent increases in the country in recent years thanks to the region’s thriving tech sector. And when you can count Bill Gates as a neighbor, you can bet that home prices aren’t all that cheap.

Real-estate economists caution against trying to time the market to get the best return — instead, they argue that people should focus more on other reasons to buy or sell home, such as growing one’s family or downsizing to save money after the kids go away to college.

Real-estate economists caution against trying to time the market to get the best return.

It sounds like your family has a real need for a more practical living situation: You have a family member with a terminal illness, and getting into a more accessible home could improve their quality of life. That is a good reason to move, if there ever was one. And there could be clear financial advantages if you can pocket some of the equity — to pay for your loved one’s medical treatment or otherwise.

I have a hunch though that Omak may not be to your liking. Given that you indicated want to move to somewhere with a regional airport, and your feelings on tech workers, I’ll take it to mean that you’re not necessarily keen on staying in the Pacific Northwest. (Though, if you are inclined to remain in the region, might I suggest Spokane, on the other end of Washington State?)

As for where you should move to — it depends on what you enjoy most about Seattle. Is it the proximity to hiking trails and the natural beauty of the region? Is it the restaurants, book stores, and breweries nearby? Maybe you’re a sports fan who enjoys the occasional football or baseball game? Perhaps it’s the public transportation and having a walkable downtown area?

Generally speaking, it won’t be hard to find a cheaper real-estate market — just avoid the top-dollar cities like San Francisco, Denver, New York or Los Angeles and you should be set.

To gather up a list of possible destinations for you, I started off by plugging different options into the “Where Should I Retire” tool my colleagues at MarketWatch developed. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but this tool is great for anyone planning a cross-country (or even cross-state) move, not just retirees.

In all of my searches, I selected for places with:

  • Median home prices below either $300,000 or $400,000.

  • An airport in the metro area.

  • A hospital or top cancer hospital in the area (as I imagine proximity to strong medical care is of importance).

From there, I took into account your other requirements. A few parts of the country stuck out:

Search after search, one group of cities (or nearby suburbs) kept cropping up: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul. These cities have a lot in common, aside from being located in the Upper Midwest and/or Rust Belt. They’re all very affordable — generally speaking the Midwest and Rust Belt regions have not experienced the same degree of home-price growth as other parts of the country since the Great Recession.

The lower cost of living in these states has meant that they’re becoming havens for people seeking out a more affordable place to thrive. They are becoming popular with the start-up crowd, which may seem unsettling having witnessed what’s happened to Seattle. But these cities have more room to grow.

The low cost of living has made the Midwest popular with the start-up crowd.

Amenities-wise, they are extremely attractive places to live. In the mood for a football game, brewery tour or relaxing afternoon in a bookshop? You’ve got it. The proximity to the Great Lakes offers opportunities for waterfront fun, which you might miss after leaving Seattle and its ferries. Plus, many of these cities have good public transit.

Outside of the Midwest or Rust Belt, other options abound. Maybe consider New Mexico: Cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe offer a lower cost of living than somewhere like Arizona, but still boast the gorgeous scenery of the American Southwest. The state contains some of the most popular hiking trails in the country. And Roswell was ranked as one of the best small towns in the country for remote workers thanks to its affordable and powerful internet connections.

Another city to explore is Tulsa: If you plan to work remotely after moving, the city offers a $10,000 grant to eligible remote workers who relocate there. Tulsa, of course, is not the only place to do this. Maine, Vermont and West Virginia have all offered similar programs in recent years.

Good luck in your search, and please do circle back to let me know what you decide.

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