FILE – Downtown Seattle

The Space Needle is shown Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Seattle.

(The Center Square) – Buying a home in Seattle will give you less space for your money than almost anywhere in America, a new report finds.

Porch, a Seattle-based home improvement network, created the "bang-for-your-buck" report using Zillow, Realtor.com, and the U.S. Census Bureau data. The site scored 336 large, mid-size, and small U.S. metropolitan regions based on five metrics—price, affordability, home size, and changes in current and projected home values. 

Seattle ranked 40th out of 46 large metro areas analyzed by Porch and 316 out of the 336 total metro areas. The top-ranked metros are Indianapolis, Indiana, Kansas City, Missouri and Cleveland, Ohio.

Porch attributed Seattle's low score to high costs per square foot. They found the median home list price in Seattle is $617,881 with a price per square foot of more than $333. The median Seattle home is about 1,941 square feet.

"The classic saying in real estate is 'Location, Location, Location,'" the report states. "Everyone who buys a home knows that where homes are located–by market, by neighborhood, and even by block–can cause wide variation in what they will list and ultimately sell for." 

The pandemic, according to the report, was a significant factor in upending the real estate market and prospective homebuyers' plans. Seattleites have contended with a pricy housing market long before COVID-19 hit.

According to a survey by Apartment Guide, the average one-bedroom apartment goes for $2,056 per month and the average two-bedroom apartment costs about $2,698 per month. Those totals represent years-long dips of 18.9% and 30.2%, respectively. They sit well above the national average of $1,610 and $1,881 for one and two-bedroom apartments.

George Petrie, CEO of Goodman Real Estate, believes Seattle's housing woes are the byproduct of supply and demand. Seattle, he says, needs a lot more homes for buyers to get better deals.

"It's simple economics, job growth in relationship to infrastructure in relationship to housing creation," Petrie said. "If supply isn't there, then there's an increase prices."

From 2000 to 2015, Washington's housing deficit grew to 225,000 housing units, according to a 2020 report from the nonprofit research firm Up for Growth. Between 2010 and 2017, the report found, the state added one new housing unit for every 2.24 new jobs created. Since 2010, Washington has seen a million new residents in the past decade alone, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

"Seattle, very wisely, has tried to densify areas for a long time by increasing the height of buildings or building more units on a given piece of land," University of Washington Professor of Urban Planning David Blum said. "There are a lot more units being built. But it's not nearly enough."

In 2017, Seattle city leaders pledged to build 21,000 affordable housing units by 2027 at the cost of $3.4 billion or $340 million per year. To date, 12,756 such units are slated for completion by 2023, city data shows.

Urbanists and housing advocates have long pointed to Seattle's zoning codes as a bottleneck for affordable housing construction. Single-family housing zones, which restrict land development to single-family detached homes, accounted for 19,000 city acres in 2015 or almost half of Seattle's developable land.

Single-family zoning has seen nationwide opposition in recent years. Minneapolis banned it in 2018. In 2019, Oregon became the first state to end single-family zoning in its largest cities. A bill effectively ending single-family zones statewide in Washington died in the state legislature in 2020. 

Housing remains one of the top issues in the Washington Legislature. This year, the state banned landlords from refusing to renew leases without cause. As the state's eviction moratorium reaches its possible end in June, it is unclear what will come of the state's housing gap.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.