For young folks looking to put down roots in Seattle — in other words, buy a home — the past decade hasn’t been kind. Low inventory and escalating prices have shut out many would-be buyers.

The pandemic has only made the situation worse. Inventory is down in 2021 from the year before, and the median home price is now hovering at $800,000.

Of course, the housing market in Seattle wasn’t always so competitive. For those Seattleites trying to buy a first home, it may be a little frustrating to think about how much cheaper prices were for the baby boomer generation when they were young.

And considering how low inventory remains, this bit of data might add to the frustration: Census data shows than 20,000 owners in the city — that’s 13% of all owners — have been in their current home for more than 30 years.

But compared with other large cities, that’s actually not a very higher percentage. We often see Seattle as a mini version of San Francisco, but a far greater share of owners there (25%) have been in their home for at least 30 years.


That is probably, at least in part, due to the fact that Seattle has grown a lot faster than San Francisco recently, and added more new owner-occupied homes. The number of owner-occupied homes in Seattle, which totaled about 151,000 in 2019, increased by 16% from 2010. In San Francisco, the number increased by 10%.

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Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Detroit has the highest percentage of long-term homeowners, at 31%. The city with the lowest percentage is Las Vegas, at 6%. The national average is around 17%.

While 13% of Seattle homeowners have stayed put for 30 or more, that figure is a citywide average. So naturally, the number is much higher in some neighborhoods and much lower in others.

There are a number of Seattle neighborhoods where there are a very few homeowners to begin with — South Lake Union and the Chinatown International District are a couple examples. These areas, and some others, have no long-term homeowners.

At the other extreme, in the area of Ravenna just north of the University Village shopping center, and in the Seward Park neighborhoods, about 30% of owners have remained in their current residence for 30 years or more.