Tips on Moving to Seattle, WA: Relocation Guide

If you’re a fan of cozy coffee shops, don’t mind a little rain, and want to live near one of the fastest-growing tech scenes in the country, you should consider moving to Seattle.
Moving to Seattle WA

Photo Credit: Bryce Edwards

Known as the “Emerald City” due to its lush greenery all year, Seattle can be a pricey place to live. But with a temperate climate, one of the country’s richest music scenes, and no personal income tax, it’s worth the money.

Despite recent layoffs from large tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Meta, and Amazon, Seattle’s tech and startup culture is still growing. This has made it extremely popular among young professionals. The city’s growing popularity is even driving up demand in nearby commuter cities like Tacoma and Olympia.

There’s a lot to consider when moving to a city as large and dynamic as Seattle. Fortunately, we’ve gathered every bit of information you’ll need to make your West Coast move go as smoothly as possible.

Everything about relocating to Seattle

And if you’re looking for more info on moving to Seattle, check out our Seattle move cost guide.

Quick Emerald City Snapshot

  • Seattle is the 18th most populated city in the United States, with a population of 704,352.
  • The average rent in Seattle as of the beginnign of 2018 was $1.949 per month, ranking as the 13th highest rent in the US.
  • Seattle has the 11th highest cost of living in the United States.

Before we jump into the finer details, check out this aerial view of Seattle to get a feel for the city’s landscape.

How to move to Seattle

Ready to become a Seattleite? Using our moving cost calculator is the best way to figure out how much the move will cost you. 

Of course, you have plenty of options. You can do the DIY route and save cash by renting a truck and doing all the loading and driving yourself. Or, you can go the full-service route and have a professional moving company take care of all the driving and heavy lifting. Finally, you can do a hybrid move, where you will pack and load your belongings into pods or moving containers and someone else will do the driving.

If you are moving from out of state, you’ll want to have a look at our state-to-state moving guide for more info and tips.

Parking Permits for Moving Vehicles in Seattle

You’ll also want to make sure to know where you’re permitted to park moving trucks and storage containers before you finalize your moving plans.

Fortunately, the city has created this document of Seattle moving truck and container guidelines.

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Seattle is a city of neighborhoods

Seattle Neighborhood Map

The districts and neighborhoods of a major city like Seattle can be hard to define. With many areas having overlapping boundaries and multiple names.

Because neighborhood names can be somewhat fluid, it’s easier to break the city down into its larger districts to get an idea of what each part of the city has to offer.

Generally, the city can be separated into five basic geographic districts: North Seattle, Central Seattle, East Seattle, South Seattle, and West Seattle. Each of these areas contains multiple neighborhoods and districts of their own.

Seattle Apartment Rental Map 2018

Rent prices are consistent throughout the South and East districts and tend to go up throughout the North, Central, and West regions.

Here’s how the rent prices in Seattle shake out:

  • For apartments on the lower end of the rental price range, you’ll be looking at areas like Riverview, Briar Hills, Queen Anne, Highpoint, and Bitter Lake which have average rents between $1,050 to $2,500 per month.
  • Highland Park, Magnolia, University District, Greenwood, and Belltown have monthly rent between $1,500 to $2,700.
  • And if you’re willing to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 monthly, then you can find the city’s more expensive rentals in places like Columbia City, Westlake, Capitol Hill, and Downtown Bellevue.

If price is no concern, you can always check out the South Lake Union area of Seattle, where you might pay upwards of $3000 a month for rent due to its proximity to the Space Needle, and Amazon headquarters.

Once you’ve figured out where you can afford, it’s time to make sure you’ll love your neighbors.

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Where are people like me living in Seattle?

Esri has made the process of finding the right community within a city incredibly simple with its Zip Tapestry Tool.

Seattle Downtown Neighborhood Demos

To demonstrate, we’ve plugged in the zip code for Downtown Seattle (98104) and the site has displayed its three most common demographic subsets. Can’t get much easier than that!

Seattle Downtown Metro Renters

But that’s only part of the equation. Before you commit to anything, it’s a good idea to ensure you’ll be able to make it work easily from where you’re living.

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Seattle Commutes are Growing

Commuting in the Emerald City can be a downright journey.

In fact, it’s estimated that the average commuter in Seattle loses 30 hours a year stuck in traffic. And Clever ranked Seattle 37 out of 50 for commuters, making it one of the worst cities to commute in.

Congestion has increased since the return-to-work mandates from large tech companies. Known as the “Amazon Effect” you can expect a tougher commute on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when Amazon workers are expected to work in person.

And more people are driving rather than taking public transportation. This is largely due to Seattle’s rising real estate prices pushing people out to areas like Olympia and Tacoma.

So yeah, you might want to consider either living closer to work or alternatives to driving in the city.

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Seattle is Very Accommodating to Non-Drivers

Seattle is pretty great for walking, has solid mass transit, and is a pretty good city in terms of bike transportation infrastructure.

Seattle Walk Scores

A walk score of 73 is great! Not only is a large portion of Seattle easily accessible on foot, but it also ranks as the 4th most walkable big city in the country.

A major factor in this is organizations like Commute Seattle which provide information and resources to help and encourage residents navigating Seattle without a car.

Between buses and railways, Seattle has you covered

Central Seattle Transit Map

The transit score of 57 means that public transportation in the city of Seattle gets the job done.

Seattle offers everything from water taxis to streetcars to traditional transport options. The city boasts more than 200 bus routes, providing a decent amount of coverage to most areas.

Many buses extend their coverage by connecting with other public transit systems like SoundTransit and the Seattle Center Monorail

In addition to that, the Link Light Rail system can get you everywhere from downtown Seattle to the airport or the University of Washington.

On top of all that…

Seattle is pretty bikeable too

Seattle Bike Map

Seattle is serious about their bicycle infrastructure, as evidenced by their Bicycle Master Plan and bike score of 71.

To help make biking a more appealing means of transportation, many of Seattle’s public transit systems like Sound Transit and King County Metro have taken steps to integrate accommodations for cyclists within their systems.

There are also plenty of useful resources available online for Seattle cyclists including an interactive bike route map and the Seattle Bike Blog which offers updates on bike infrastructure and other general tips for cycling.

Now that you like your neighbors and can get to work on time, let’s make sure you stay safe.

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Seattle’s Crime Rate…

Yeah…on paper, crime in Seattle doesn’t look so good.

Seattle Crime Map

NeighborhoodScout has given Seattle a crime score of 1/100 (with 100 being the safest possible score). Compared to other U.S. cities this is not great, even for a city of its size.

While that number isn’t ideal, it isn’t quite as scary as it looks.

Of the city’s total reported crimes just under 10% are violent. With the rest being property crimes. However, there has been a slight uptick in the crime rate over the past year.

Although Seattle’s homeless population is not as high as Los Angeles or New York City, it is an issue. There has been a 10% increase in unsheltered people since 2022. Seattle doesn’t have any specific areas to avoid, and generally, the city is very clean and safe.

Alright, let’s actually get a roof over your head now.

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Apartment hunting in Seattle

When looking for an apartment, the first factor to consider is what amenities you’ll need.

Located in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has a fairly temperate climate, with mild summers and winters.

Seattle Average Temperature

There aren’t really many aspects of seasonal weather in Seattle that will serve as a major inconvenience aside from a few hot weeks in the summer and some chilly winter nights.

You may not need it much, but it’ll be a good idea to look for a place with heat and air conditioning to deal with the highest highs and lowest lows.

When searching for a Seattle apartment you can afford, you’ll want to think about certain utilities like the average phone bill per month to make sure you’ll be able to afford necessities along with rent.

And unless you’re living somewhere within walking distance of a laundromat, you’ll also want your apartment to have a washer/dryer.

Finding an apartment in Seattle

The Seattle area has a fairly competitive rental market, so you’ll want to use every resource at your disposal to get the best place you can.

Here are a few of our favorite places for finding apartments in Seattle.

Seattle’s saw the steepest decline in the U.S.

After average increases of a staggering 17% in rental prices in 2022, things look like they are starting to calm down. The rental market in Seattle isn’t great, but new developments could help things out.

Throughout the first few months of 2023, the average rent in Seattle decreased by 1% month over month. This isn’t bad since the national average was .3%.

This is likely due to concern over cost of living expenses and inflation.

As many companies require a return to work, apartments are getting snapped up. Around 1,700 new apartments were built in downtown Seattle last year, and another 4,000 are under construction. But this does not guarantee your rental hunt will be easy.

If you are considering condominium living, it’s important to note that the average price of condos in 2023 was around $585,000, which is down 7% from last year.

Bottom Line: finding a place in Seattle is hard.

Washington rental law

With a rental market this competitive, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid being taken advantage of by some opportunistic landlord.

Here’s a list of some important things to know about your rights as a tenant in Washington:

And if you’re in search of something a bit more permanent, we’ve got you covered there too.

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Seattle suburbs and commuter cities

While Seattle is primarily known for its downtown area, it’s surrounded by plenty of small towns and suburbs for people looking to settle down with a family or those who want a quieter lifestyle.

In mid-2023, the median home value in Seattle was $825,275, which is down 6.8% from 2022.

With such high home prices, it might be a good idea to look at the smaller towns and suburbs outside of the city limits (as long as you can handle the commute).

Tukwila Homes


The city of Tukwila is an excellent option for people looking for a home in an area that’s more affordable than Seattle, but still within commuting distance. Tukwila offers residents a wide variety of home styles as well as plenty of amenities like parks and libraries.

Kirkland Homes


Kirkland is a higher-end suburb located on the fringes of Seattle which offers pricier homes but also has a rich cultural scene that includes dining, theater, and nightlife. The city of Kirkland is full of great city parks and is within a reasonable commuting distance of Seattle.

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A few last things before you finish your Seattle move…

Okay, you’re at the finish line! But before you kick back and relax, make sure you’ve taken care of the last finishing touches, like establishing residency.

  • Voter registration: Yeah, sometimes the process is pretty annoying… But c’mon, this stuff is important. Register to vote so that you get a voice in your community’s progress.
  • Driver’s license: You’ll also want to update your driver’s license with your new Washington state address because you never know when you’ll need to present a current form of identification.
  • Out-of-state vehicle registration: While you’re updating your ID, it might be a good idea to go ahead and get your car registered with Washington plates.
  • Utilities: You’ll need to set up your utilities as soon as you can. Things like trash pickup, and electric, heat and water providers will have to be established or transferred.
  • Meet new people and make friends: Making new connections after moving is always pretty difficult, but there are plenty of resources online that should help a bit. Check out Meetup to find groups in Seattle with similar interests and check r/seattle for information on goings on around town.

Meetup Seattle

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Things to DO in Seattle

Tilikum Place

By Jordon KalilichOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Right off the bat, you’ll want to check out major Seattle tourist attractions, like the Space Needle. If anything, just so that you’ll know what to do when friends and family visit.

Generally, you won’t have to look far for a farmer’s market, hip cafe or friendly pub to spend your time. The home of the nation’s first Starbucks, you’ll be guaranteed a good cup of coffee pretty much anywhere you go.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Seattle is an extremely culinarily diverse city, with tons of great restaurants and bars like Canon and The Walrus and the Carpenter. Seattle is a very dog-friendly city and many restaurants offer outdoor eating areas where leashed pets are welcome.

Seattle also boasts the Pike Place Market, the oldest public market in the U.S. 

Despite being rainier than other cities, Seattle has a mild climate and lots of green spaces and national parks. Nature lovers can enjoy the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and more to accommodate any outdoor activity from hiking and boating to picnicking. There’s even an active volcano, Mount Rainier, with breathtaking views of the Cascade Mountains.

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