Photo Credit: Eric Schmahl
Olympia is one of the smallest capital cities in the country, but it’s quickly growing in popularity due to its pleasant atmosphere, proximity to Seattle, and low cost of living.
Despite the size, Olympia is still a bustling capital city with a lot going on. To the outsider, it can be an intimidating place to move.
Luckily, we created this guide to walk you through the ins and outs of Olympia.
- Which Olympia neighborhoods are most affordable?
- Which neighborhood in Olympia is the best fit for me?
- How long is the commute in Olympia?
- How’s the walkability, bikeability, and public transportation in Olympia?
- How dangerous is Olympia?
- Where can I find apartments and houses in Olympia?
- How much will it cost to move to Olympia?
- Don’t forget, all of these things need updating!
- What’s fun to do in Olympia?
And if you’re looking for more info on moving to Olympia, check out our Olympia move cost guide.
- Though it may be the capital of Washington, Olympia’s population of 50,302 makes it one of the lowest populated state capitals and ranking it as the 750th most populated city in the US.
- The average 1 bedroom rent in Olympia as of early 2018 is $1,001 per month.
- Olympia’s cost of living is very low compared to other state capitals but inline overall with national averages.
Now, before we get into the details of moving to Olympia, check out this video to familiarize yourself with the city’s beautiful landscapes
For such a prominent city, Olympia isn’t nearly as subdivided as many would expect.
The city can be most easily divided into four quadrants: East Side, South Capitol, Johnson Pointe, and West Olympia.
East Side and West Olympia border Downtown to the east and west, respectively, and are popular among people looking to settle down in quieter neighborhoods that still have easy access to the action.
South Capitol is the trendier side of town that resides south (duh) of Downtown. Johnson Pointe contains some of the pricier areas north of Downtown near Puget Sound.
As you can see from Trulia’s Olympia Rental Hotspot Map above, the city’s rent prices are pretty consistent throughout.
Still, there are slight variations
- Places like Northeast Olympia and the neighboring city of Lacey are going to be on the lower end of the rent spectrum, with a median rent around $460,
- If you’re looking for areas that fall more in the middle, Wildwood and Governor Stevens are a couple great options where median rent is around $500. Both sitll have fairly easy access to Downtown.
- And for those who have a larger budget and want to be in the more “hip” areas, South Capitol, West Olympia, and Johnson Pointe’s median rents range from $550 to $690.
Still, no matter where you live, you’ll probably want to feel like you belong in the community.
We all want to live near people that we fit in with and Esri’s Zip Tapestry tool helps you find exactly where those areas are.
For example, if you were to plug in the zip code for South Capitol (98501), you’ll get a full breakdown of the area’s three largest demographic subsections. It’s extremely helpful!
Now that you like your neighbors, let’s make sure you can get to work on time.
It’s not that the city doesn’t have other transportation options, but they’re pretty limited and driving is going to be significantly more convenient.
But hey, at least commute times are short, so that kinda makes up for the lack of public transit.
In fact, more people are concerned about commuting outside of Olympia than commuting within it.
Many people choose to live in the fairly inexpensive Olympia while working in larger cities such as Seattle or Tacoma. However, some have realized the monstrous commute isn’t worth the hassle once the time and cost of gas are factored in.
So, what’s someone living in Olympia to do if they don’t want to own a car? Well…
Olympia has minimal public transit access, lackluster walkability, and very little access to city-wide bike paths.
A walk score of 38 is far from abysmal, but it still isn’t very good.
Even though the city is fairly small, it isn’t laid out particularly well to accommodate walking as a primary means of transportation.
That isn’t to say it can’t be done. Downtown, South Capitol, and East Side are all fairly walkable, but the futher you get from these areas, the less walkable things get.
Olympia’s bus system is the bare minimum
IntercityTransit provides the bulk of Olympia’s public transportation and it does a job that’s serviceable, at best which is echoed by the city’s transit score of 35.
As you can see from the Olympia Bus System Map above, there is a solid route that covers the central area of the city, but it doesn’t extend far into the corners.
The bus system does have daily routes to and from Seattle which are nice to have but will also eat up huge chunks of your day.
Olympia isn’t super bikable either
Olympia’s bike system doesn’t have a ton of reach, but it’s perfectly serviceable in individual areas.
Basically, if you’re living in a central area, you could probably get around fine on two wheels.
Biking as a primary means fo transportation is only really an issue if you’re coming from outside of the city’s center.
The city of Olympia seems to be aware of how lacking the current offerings for cyclists are. They are working on a bike corridor system to better connect some parts of the city.
But the routes don’t extend very far and the current options for Olympia cyclists aren’t very robust.
Of course, no matter where you live or how you travel you’ll probably want to know about the area’s crime statistics.
Crime is nearly inescapable no matter where you live, so it’s best to approach crime rates and statistics with a certain amount of context and perspective.
That being said, according to NeighborhoodScout Olympia’s crime score is a measly 5 out of 100.
That’s…well…that’s really not great.
BUT being aware of trouble areas is the first step in avoiding an incident.
People’s biggest mistake when looking at crime stats is equating crime with violence, which is very misleading.
In Olympia, violent crime only accounts for 7% of all reported incidents. And while there’s still a lot of property crime the situation is neither dire nor dangerous.
No matter how bad crime is in your area, as long as you stay aware of your surroundings and avoid putting yourself in dicey situations, you’ll be fine in Olympia.
Alright, now that the basics are out of the way, let’s look at actually finding a place to live.
Your first concern should be the accommodations you’ll need
Seeing as Olympia is located squarely in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll want to account for some seasonal weather variations.
The summers here are going to be fairly mild, but winter can get downright chilly. Because of this, you’ll probably want a place that has heating and air conditioning.
You’ll want to think about your budget when looking for apartments too, considering utilities like the cost of internet per month.
And, due to the city’s poor walkability, an apartment with a washer/dryer is going to be preferable to searching for laundromats.
Resources for finding Apartments in Olympia
Looking for a new place can be extremely stressful.
Because of this, we’re compiling all the best resources available to make sure you find the best possible deal.
While it isn’t the most conventional method, Craigslist can be a solid resource for finding affordably priced rentals that don’t get listed on bigger sites.
Note: This DOES NOT mean you should trust Craigslist implicitly. Here’s their own guide on how to recognize potential scammers.
Olympia’s Rental Market
The rental market in Olympia is getting expensive.
Between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, the average rent for an apartment in Olympia has increased by 4.37%. While that may not make a huge difference, it’s still substantially more than the decrease of 0.4% in the national average.
And a recent study conducted by the Department of Numbers has the Olympia vacancy rate listed at 3.53%, as of 2018. That’s not fantastic, and it’s very far behind the national average of 5.85%.
So, as you can see from the data and chart above, the rental market in Olympia isn’t the greatest, but it isn’t necessarily getting worse.
Washington Rental Law
In every major city, there’s bound to be a few sketchy landlords just waiting to scam you. It’s in your best interest to be aware of Washington’s rental laws to make sure a bad landlord doesn’t pull one over on you.
- Washington Required Landlord Disclosures
- Washington Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines
- Washington Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent
- Washington Landlord-Tenant Laws
For those looking to put down roots, Olympia has some fantastic suburbs to choose from.
The Average Home Value in Olympia as of 2017 was $257,500, which is 6.8% higher than it was in 2016.
Seeing as prices are trending upwards, you’ll definitely want to consider cost when looking for a home.
South Capitol is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Olympia, particularly for young professionals and newly married couples. It’s also one of the more expensive places to live, but it balances that out with beautiful historic homes and proximity to the more active Downtown areas.
For families with children Holiday Homes has a lot to offer with fantastic schools, extremely low crime rates, and larger, high-value homes. This also happens to be one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the area.
Use our moving cost calculator to estimate what it will cost to move to Olympia.
Also, if you are coming from out of state, be sure to have a look at our out of state moving guide for more info and tips.
Parking Permits for Moving Vehicles
If you plan on parking a moving truck on a public street in Olympia, you might need to register for a Residential Parking Permit.
You can register for a parking permit from The City of Olymipa for a $10 processing fee.
Congratulations! You’ve gone through all the hard work and are now an official Oly resident. But before you get too settled, there are a few things you still need to take care of.
- Voter Registration: Voting is not only your civic duty but also the best way to ensure your new home doesn’t suck. As soon as you’ve established residence in Olympia, register to vote!
- Driver’s License: You’ll also want to get a ID with your new address on it. Info on getting a Washington driver’s licence can be found here.
- Out of State Vehicle Registration: Oh, and if you’re bringing a car with you, you’ll also probably have to get new plates.
- Trash & Recycling: It’s also very important to know what aspects of waste disposal the city takes care of and how to make sure your trash gets where it needs to go.
- Make Friends & Meet New People: Making new connections is probably the single hardest aspect of moving to a new city. Fortunately, the internet is awash with great networking sources. For instance, Meetup is a great place to connect with people who share similar interests and r/olympia is a good way to stay up-to-date with local happenings.
While it constantly gets outshined by the neighboring city of Seattle, Olympia has plenty to offer in terms of both culture and nature.
It might seem a bit obvious, but a solid first place to look for cool stuff to do is the Visit Olympia website, which lists a ton of stuff most people wouldn’t immediately think to check out.
Now, if you’re looking to find your new favorite bar, there are a ton of options. Some local favorites that might kickstart your search include: The Eastside Club Tavern, The Brotherhood Tavern, and The Mark are a few options that offer a variety of styles.
Now, go enjoy Olympia!