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min read

Navigating Seattle's transferee experience

A comprehensive guide for mobility leaders to ensure a seamless transition for mobile talent

Welcome to your new Seattle relocation guide that explores Seattle's real estate market, cultural landscape, and hidden treasures! I'm Susan, and I’ve lived in this vibrant city since 1982. I’ve been captivated by Seattle’s local charm for years. Though I briefly ventured away for college, the Emerald City’s glistening allure drew me back. 

Relocity has been supporting talent relocation to Seattle since 2018 and since then has helped almost 3,000 transferees move to this amazing area in the Pacific Northwest. Since I joined Relocity in October 2020, I've had the pleasure of helping individuals such as interns, candidates, engineers, and executives navigate the unique experience of moving to Seattle. 

In this blog, we'll embark on a journey to explore the essence of Seattle, from the city’s distinctive geography and rich culture to the myriad of local gems. After decades of living here, I'm excited to give you a taste of all this cool city has to offer. Whether you're drawn to the stunning landscapes or the thriving arts scene, an exciting adventure awaits you in the Emerald City!

Seattle: rain or shine, a natural wonderland of greenery

If you’re moving to Seattle, you're in for a treat; you’ll have plenty of stunning geography and rich history to explore. The city is nestled between the waters of Puget Sound and Lake Washington. To the west are the Olympic Mountains, to the south sits the iconic Mount Rainier, to the east lie The Cascade Mountains, and, to the north, completing the picturesque landscape, is scenic Whidbey Island.

While Seattle has occasional rainy Northwest weather, it contributes to the breathtaking beauty of the natural landscape. Spring, in particular, when flowers blossom into bursts of color, is one of the city’s most gorgeous seasons.

The key to enjoying the active Seattle lifestyle is quality outdoor gear. By adapting to the region’s ever-changing weather and lush environment, you’ll open the door to a range of outdoor activities, including:

• Hiking
• Backpacking
• Camping
• Rock climbing
• Snowboarding
• Skiing
• Biking
• Paddleboarding
• Kayaking
• Canoeing

When you arrive, you’ll also want to learn about the city’s history, which began in 1851 with the arrival of the Denny Party. From there, Seattle quickly evolved into a bustling logging town. In 1873, when Tacoma was chosen over Seattle as the Northern Pacific Railroad’s terminus, the “Seattle Spirit” was born. Driven by optimism and enterprise, Seattleites took the snub in stride and built their own railroad, which started operating in 1884 and ultimately began a new chapter for the local economy. By the end of the century, the Klondike Gold Rush had transformed Seattle into a bustling metropolis. This period of rapid development brought people and prosperity to the region, and established Seattle’s enduring spirit of progress.

Present day “Seattle Spirit"

The “Seattle Spirit” has remained a cornerstone in the city’s rise into a modern-day metropolis. The vibrant business landscape is characterized by booming technology, biotech, and retail industries, among others. In the early 2000’s, companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Starbucks established large footholds in the local economy and drove sharp population increases. Boeing, despite moving its corporate headquarters out of Seattle in 2001, remains one of the largest employers in the city.

Seattelites also have a green streak. In the 1970’s, the Forward Thrust program prioritized civic development while building numerous parks. The iconic Freeway Park, for instance, spans the I-5 freeway with waterfalls and hanging gardens.

In recent years, Seattle has maintained its commitment to innovative urban planning. The sustainability-rated Seattle City Hall became one of the city’s first green buildings. The main branch of the Seattle Public Library became a beacon of intellectual progress and architectural excellence. 

Additionally, the deconstruction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a former freeway, paved the way for the city to reimagine the central waterfront, while a new tunnel through Downtown not only enhanced the existing infrastructure, but also marked a shift towards efficiency. Overall, Seattle has remained quick to evolve, working to meet the needs of its 750,000-person population.

Navigating the peaks and valleys of home-finding in Seattle

Now that you know some of the basics about Seattle, allow me to highlight a few home-finding tips. (For instance, homes in this region may or may not have air conditioning!) If your relocation package includes Relocity Concierge, you can look forward to one of our Seattle Personal Hosts offering this level of expert guidance and leading you step by step through the entire home-finding journey. 

On average, once mobile talent arrives in the Seattle area, our Hosts help them sign leasing contracts for permanent housing in less than 10 days and move into their new homes within 22 days of arrival. By working with Relocity, corporations can save big on our efficiency of helping their talent land in their new neighborhood and homes smoothly and quickly.

To achieve these milestones, one of the first considerations for relocating clients is commute time. With most of my clients working in Downtown, Bellevue to the east, Kent to the south, and Everett to the north, I’ve cultivated an understanding of the best neighborhoods across the region — to reduce your commute and fit your lifestyle.

In the city, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Fremont, Ballard, and Green Lake have a young, fresh vibe, while Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Laurelhurst’s residential charm and strong public schools attract families. If you live in one of these neighborhoods, your commute could be as short as 10 minutes, depending on where you work.

Outside of the city, the most popular suburbs are Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, and Bothell. Lake Washington, Bainbridge Island, and the Northshore — along with Mercer Island and Bellevue — all have excellent school districts. In these areas, your commute will most likely range from 15-45 minutes, depending on your office location.

You can view each neighborhood, including Capitol Hill, by opening the “Explore” tab within the Relocity app.

In terms of pricing, Seattle real estate has improved recently. As of January 2024, rent prices for all bedroom counts and property types in Seattle, WA, have decreased by 9% in the last month and 1% in the previous year. However, Seattle remains attractive for newcomers, and the city is experiencing an increase in hiring for many major industries in Seattle. Rental rates are expected to climb in the 2nd quarter as we head into the summer, which is the most desirable time to move.

Overall, rental prices remain high, especially in the downtown core. However, due to construction, some multi-family properties offer concessions that can make rent more affordable for renters. As for inventory, homes in good school districts tend to move quickly, and the summer sees fewer available units as families relocate before the school year begins.

With diverse neighborhoods and thriving school systems, Seattle invites you to find your perfect corner in the Pacific Northwest.

Driving dynamics, parking among parks

Seattle's transportation system is as diverse as the city’s landscape, where mountains meet the sound, and ultimately offers a reliable and convenient way to traverse the region. The light rail that runs north and south through the city is a popular commuting option. Locals eagerly await the completion of a light rail expansion project into the Eastside, which has been years in the making. Alternatively, the public bus system crisscrosses all over the area and caters to diverse commuting needs.

While many Seattleites drive personal vehicles, an urban lifestyle in the heart of the city might mitigate the need for one. Zipcars, Ubers, and other ride-sharing options are readily available, offering flexible transportation solutions for those who don’t want to drive.

If you bring your own vehicle, be prepared for parking fees. Downtown parking can be a puzzle in terms of availability and cost. Monthly apartment parking fees can range from $200-$325. While the suburbs may still have parking fees, costs tend to be less expensive, ranging from $50-$200 and potentially including a garage. On the flip side, many condos come with at least one parking spot, offering a welcome reprieve from the downtown parking dance.

No matter your commuting or lifestyle needs, Seattle's transportation options ensure that getting around is an adventure in and of itself. Welcome to a city where the journey is as exciting as the destination!

Fueling the beginning, middle, and end of your workday

As you find your new work rhythm, you'll discover that the Emerald City caters to a diverse array of tastes and preferences. If you need a break from working at home or in the office, bring your laptop and sign on from one of the city’s divine coffee shops. Check out local favorites like Café Hagen in South Lake Union or Espresso Vivace on Capitol Hill for a change of scenery. If you find yourself in Bellevue, feed your soul at Belle Pastry, where great coffee and delectable pastries await.

To browse popular restaurants within the Relocity app, go to your interactive map, select the “Explore” tab, and click on each place.

When the lunch hour beckons, Seattle's urban parks and open spaces offer the perfect work break. For a scenic view, grab your lunch to go and head to Myrtle Edwards Park or Olympic Sculpture Park. For a delicious meal, consider venturing to Serious Pie in Belltown or The Pink Door near Pike Place Market. If you're in the mood for a more casual lunch, Homegrown serves up excellent sandwich and soup options. 

As the workday winds down, Seattle comes alive with a vibrant happy hour scene, with options ranging from cozy neighborhood spots to rooftops with views. Toulouse Petit on Lower Queen Anne beckons with enticing happy hour offerings, while Some Random Bar in Belltown exudes laid-back charm. If you’re looking for crafted cocktails, The Nest and the Observatory Bar at Smith Tower provide perfect settings to unwind and socialize with colleagues.

Whether you're seeking inspiration, culinary indulgence, or a relaxed evening with coworkers, Seattle has great spots for every occasion.

A culture fueled by coffee and the love of sports

As you become familiar with the greater Seattle area, allow me to share more about the city’s claim to fame. Seattle is the birthplace of the global coffee culture, with Starbucks leading the way. The culture reflects the area’s rich ethnic diversity, long-standing art scene, and education and commerce centers. The Emerald City shines with a dynamic blend of music, theater, and culinary experiences, providing plenty of options for almost every taste and preference.

If there’s one thing that brings Seattlites together it’s sports. Whether you're a baseball enthusiast cheering for the Seattle Mariners, a member of the 12th Man supporting the Seahawks, a hockey fan rallying for the Kraken, or a soccer lover chanting for the Sounders, you have a diverse range of teams to root for.

As you prepare to move to this fun city, get ready to immerse yourself in the Seattle Spirit, which puts the kick in every cup of joe and brings passion to every sporting event!

Seeking trolls, trails, and treasures in Seattle

Seattle offers an array of experiences to fill your weekends with joy and adventure. This city is home to a collection of giant trolls crafted by Danish artist Thomas Danbo. Composed entirely of recycled materials, these whimsical creatures add a touch of magic to the cityscape. With a total of six trolls scattered around, locals and visitors alike delight in the quest to discover them all. This is a unique and artful way to explore the city, combining creativity and sustainability.

Families have a range of ways to spend Saturdays in Seattle. Begin your morning with a stroll through the lush surroundings of St. Edwards State Park or enjoy the sandy beaches and playsets at Idylewood Park on Lake Washington. A quick stop at Whole Foods in Redmond can provide the perfect picnic fare for the day ahead.

In the afternoon, venture into the heart of nature with a hike up Rattlesnake Ledge, where the breathtaking views and a refreshing mountain lake await. Cap off the day by heading to Black Duck in North Bend for some well-deserved nourishment and the camaraderie of a local pub.

Without kids, the perfect Seattle day can be a thrilling adventure from dawn to dusk. Rattlesnake Ledge is still a great way to start your day, savoring the panoramic vistas. As the day unfolds, wander along the sandy shores of Alki Beach for more fresh air.

In the evening, treat yourself to some of the best fish and chips in town at SPUD, soaking in the ambiance of this beachside eatery. 

In Seattle, weekends are not just breaks from your daily routine; they're opportunities to explore, discover, and create lasting memories. Whether you're hunting for trolls, hiking to mountain lakes, or picnicking in scenic parks, Seattle comes with a ton of experiences for everyone to enjoy.

Settling into Seattle

Embrace the Emerald City with open arms as you embark on your Seattle living adventure! At Relocity, we help mobile employees with a number of relocation destination services and rental assistance steps – from finding the right neighborhood and home, conducting area tours, helping with government registrations and banking services to finding the right lifestyle services to build the perfect new life in the Seattle area. Across them all, the Seattle lifestyle blends innovation, art, and the great outdoors. Welcome to your new job and home in Seattle, where the possibilities are as endless as the views from the Space Needle!

We hope this gives global talent mobility leaders and their HR colleagues a great idea of the depth of our Personal Hosts’ knowledge and expertise in the Seattle area. Check out our latest articles below or request a demo if you want to see how Relocity can help your talent thrive in Seattle or your other key locations.

Susan Griffin

Personal Host

Susan grew up in the “Emerald City” of Seattle. She has the knowledge and expertise to help you find your next home and start your life in Seattle!