Seattle has become a popular place to live, as it is a city with a whole lot to offer! A booming technology hub, reasonable weather (no, it doesn't rain every day), and a beautiful range of nature and activities right outside your doorstep.

So, it's no wonder why Seattle has become an increasingly expensive place to live. If you are planning on moving to Seattle, you need to consider many factors into your budget other than the cost of your mortgage. That's right, we're talking about property taxes.

We're going to dissect the Seattle property tax situation so you can plan your financing properly and get yourself into this beautiful and exciting area. Let's dive right in!

How Property Taxes Work

Before we can begin understanding how to navigate the property tax situation in Seattle, we need to talk about how property taxes work in general.

The money collected from property taxes goes to funding particular city and county-wide budgets and expenditures. These spending plans vary from city to city, as each town has a unique set of needs and project being executed.

Now, it wouldn't make sense for every property owner to have to pay an equal portion of the budget. So, our government created a system based on fairness and equity to ensure that each owner is paying a tax reasonable and relevant to the value of the property that they possess.

Let's break this down into layman's terms.

Understanding the Numbers

Say we have a town with four different houses, each valued differently and a required city budget of $1000. If the total value of all the houses equaled $100,000 then the property tax rate would be one percent.

This means that each person would be required to pay one percent of the value of their home to property taxes. Everyone is paying the same tax rate, but those who have a property valued higher than others would pay a slightly higher fee.

Even if the value of the homes were to go up, as long as the budget stays the same the amount paid would remain the same, though the percentage rate may go down. But who decided how properties are valued?

The Role of Assessors

In order to determine the monetary worth of a home in a particular area, you need the help of an assessor. Assessors are the ones responsible for appraising a home and property based on certain qualifying factors.

Assessors do not set the tax rate, they simply find the value of a property and attempt to do so with as much accuracy and fairness as possible.

They do this with a very thorough process that involves comparing similar houses, size of the property, age, curb appeal, renovations, and so much more. It's not as simple as comparing two houses sitting next to each other.

They take every factor into consideration, including location, and even current style trends. Assessors are required to evaluate properties every five years so that the tax rates can continue to change based on the overall value of homes in the city.

Once they have determined the worth of these properties, it is up to the city to figure how much money they need for city expenses, and how much of those expenses are to be taken from property taxes.

Why Do Taxes Go Up?

Cities are always trying to embark on projects and endeavors to improve life in the city. From public transportation to affordable housing projects, or expanding floating bridges, the city of Seattle always has something new in mind.  

However, these projects require funding, and the city gathers its funding from taxes. These taxes can come in many different forms, mainly sales tax, property tax, and gas taxes.

If the budget begins to increase, then the rate of taxes will, too. Especially if the housing market isn't keeping up with the city's demands.

Also, it's important to know that it's not the city of Seattle even that determines the tax rate, but rather, the county it is in; King County.

Understanding Seattle Property Tax

Now that you have a better understanding of property tax as a whole, we can learn a bit more about the tax rates in Seattle, as well as an outlook on property tax in the future.

Knowing this information will not only help you to plan your own expenses when considering real estate in Seattle but also give you peace-of-mind knowing where those tax dollars are going.

Most people bundle their property taxes in with their mortgage payments, so this is pertinent information to know; especially for first-time buyers.

What Are the Current Tax Rates in Seattle?

There is a lot of industry and growth in Seattle, and with the increase of demand comes the increase in taxes. In fact, this time last year, King County announced that it would be increasing property taxes by a whopping 17 percent.

This shocked a lot of homeowners and newcomers alike. Right now, the tax rate in Seattle (King County) is 1.025 percent. Since the median home price in Seattle is currently $530,000 that means that the median annual property tax is over $5,000.

This may be alarming to some, but for many who are able to afford the cost of living in Seattle, this amount doesn't make much of a difference in their daily lives.

Many even feel pleased to pay the taxes, especially after they are informed on what those taxes are being collected for.

What Are the Taxes Being Used For?

Seattle is a place that is warm and welcoming to all, but it does come with a cost. Let's take a look at what kinds of programs and agencies your property tax money will be going towards in the coming year:

  • Early childhood education services
  • Secondary and Post Secondary education services
  • Public welfare, including battling the homeless crisis in Seattle
  • Public transportation such as King County Metro and Light Rail
  • Hospital and health services
  • Police, Fire, and public utility services

Seattle has aspirations to be one of the best cities to live, and they are aiming to bring revenue along with it. With this increased revenue, we could see a dip in the property tax rates in the future.

Combined with the rise in property value across Seattle and King County, the city is projecting a future of lower property taxes without having to cut back on important projects and services.

How to Budget For This Tax Rate

As mentioned before, it is important when considering how much you can afford in Seattle's housing market to take into account annual taxes.

While that median price of $5400 a year in property tax may sound like it is unreasonable, you should first break it up into monthly payments. Remember, you aren't required to pay all of that money at once.

If you buy a home priced in the median range for Seattle ($530k), then you would be looking at an estimated $450 a month in taxes. That seems a lot more digestible, right?

And remember, if you buy a home at a lower cost, your annual property tax payment will be lower as well. Keep this in mind when you are determining how much home you can really afford in Seattle.

You may even consider more outlying areas around the city such as Bellevue, Renton, Shoreline, and even Tukwila. The tax rate is going to be the same in these locations, but the median home cost in Tukwila, for example, is closer to $350,000.

Other Taxes to Factor

If you are still shaking your head at the property tax rate here in Seattle, you should consider some of the other forms of taxes you won't be paying in Washington.

Washington is one of the few states that does not collect personal income tax, as well as no corporate tax! That's one of the many reasons that industry is so big here in Seattle.

We are home to four of the country's largest corporations including Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, and Starbucks. There is also a very generous job market and a much higher minimum wage. In Seattle, specifically, the minimum wage is set at $15 an hour. That's more than double the national rate.

So while you may be spending a bit more in property taxes, you also have a lot more going for you in regards to income and savings.

Make Seattle Your Home

Don't let the Seattle property tax scare you away from buying a home in this incredible city. There is so much to offer here that keeps the quality of life high.

Just remember, when it comes to budgeting for your mortgage, don't forget to factor in the cost of taxes into your monthly payments. This will save you from scrambling at the end of the year to make due.

And of course, for more great information and services regarding real estate in Seattle, head on over to our blog or contact us for a home loan quote. We'll see you in Seattle! 

About the Author

Helping Seattleites buy their dream homes for over 15 years. Founder of Seattle's Mortgage Broker and author of Homeownership Simplified: The Truth about ZERO Down.