Seattle is surrounded by water on two sides—the Puget Sound to the west and expansive Lake Washington to the east—and it’s no surprise that some of Seattle’s most expensive neighborhoods border those coastlines. Areas like Madison Park, Laurelhurst, Magnolia, and even downtown fetch premiums for beachfront access and water views. Across Lake Washington, the two richest men in the world have beachfront property along the same road in Medina. But how much more will your typical stretch of beach cost you?
A new study by real estate group Zillow quantifies the cost difference between sound- or lakeside living and a landlocked lot. In the Seattle metro area, which includes Bellevue and Tacoma, the median value of a waterfront single-family home, or a house where one can walk into a body of water without leaving their property, is $1.02 million, by Zillow’s calculation—far more than the metro’s median home value of $490,200. It’s even more than Seattle proper’s median value of $764,700, per Zillow’s numbers.
Stretching way back to 1996, waterfront homes have come at a 47 percent premium compared to other homes, according to the Zillow report. And despite so much waterfront access in the metro, just 0.66 percent of Seattle-area homes are on the water.
While Zillow didn’t have enough data for local trends in waterfront homes, the gap between waterfront prices and other prices has narrowed in recent years—but not because waterfront homes have gotten cheaper. Rather, all homes have started to come at somewhat of a premium.
“With inventory as low as it is, buyers are spending more just to get into the market, which has narrowed the gap somewhat between waterfront homes and inland homes,” said Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas in a statement. “Still, having waterfront access is incredibly appealing for many buyers, and even as environmental risk factors like rising sea levels and storm surges gain more attention and make some buyers more cautious in the homes they consider, the premium for waterfront homes is likely to endure.”
In Seattle—within the city limits, anyway—inventory is actually up slightly, but that doesn’t mean that home prices are down in general. Prices continue to rise, just not at the same breakneck pace as we saw in 2017, according to the latest data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.