Can Seattle & the Eastside Keep their Soul despite the Recent Tech Boom?


The Tech Boom’s impact on the economy and housing market in the Seattle area is receiving increasing recognition, as national news outlets are now weighing in on what the Emerald City’s future may hold. Most recently, Nick Wingfield of The New York Times reported that “Seattle, in Midst of Tech Boom, Tries to Keep Its Soul,” saying that Seattle leaders are no longer looking at San Francisco as a model to live up to, but as a “cautionary tale” to avoid. As Wingfield writes, “beyond Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle’s tech scene in the last 10 years has come to include dozens of smaller tech companies as well as engineering offices for Facebook, Google and other Bay Area tech giants. The number of technology-related jobs in King County, which includes Seattle and neighboring cities, jumped to almost 138,000 this year, from about 88,000 in 2005.” Citing Amazon’s influence over the South Lake Union area and Seattle mayor Ed Murray’s efforts to “keep the working-class roots of Seattle” with ports, fishing fleets and a steel mill, Wingfield picks up on the concern that Seattle may lose its “vibrant counterculture,” as some fear has happened in the Bay Area.

Market Watch reported that despite the onset of the autumnal season, homes in Seattle are still “selling in 5 days and over asking price.” As Sam DeBord wrote, “buyer competition and lack of available properties for sale are pushing prices upward and making bidding wars commonplace” and “the average sale-to-list price ratio [has elevated] to 103.3 percent in Seattle, a number we haven’t reached in a decade.” Further, DeBord touched on technology’s influence: “much of the boom in Seattle real estate is fueled by technology workers relocating to work at Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. The Seattle market has become a less-expensive location for tech companies to fight the intellectual labor wars than their traditional homes in the San Francisco Bay area. Housing and salaries in Seattle are pricey compared to much of the nation, but are still significantly less expensive than New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR) has been following the “Tech Boom” trend for some time now, as its influence has been heavily felt in the real estate market:

Back in August, Sotheby’s International Realty highlighted technology’s impact on the market in the Pacific Northwest, citing Dean Jones, President & CEO of RSIR, who said that “the Greater Seattle Metro Area has fully recovered from the Great Recession and we are setting new benchmarks in sales values. The catalyst for demand is our diversified and booming economy, driven in large part by the tech sector, and our emerging status as a preferred gateway for Chinese buyers.”

The sustained interest in Seattle’s technology industry will likely continue, as more workers relocate to the area and more companies set their sights on the Pacific Northwest. And only time will tell if, as Wingfield describes, Seattle will succumb to San Francisco’s fate or establish its own way to maintain a thriving tech center without inflating the cost of living downtown.