The Pacific Northwest has experienced a boom in population over the last several years as a growing number of people have been flocking to the region to call it their new home. The appeal is no surprise to locals—after all, this unique region offers gorgeous natural splendor, an incredible climate, friendly and laid-back people, and lively, fun-filled cities.
If you’re considering purchasing a new home in the Pacific Northwest, be sure to consider East Puget Sound. This welcoming area is popular with both Pacific Northwest locals and transplants. East Puget Sound includes everything from quaint small towns to bustling cities, all set against a backdrop of some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. To the west is the sparkling blue sound, and to the east lie towering mountain peaks and serene forests.
The two main counties located in East Puget Sound, King County and Pierce County, are both experiencing increased home prices. However, because more open property is available in the counties, many residents find success by building a custom home on property they purchase (or, in some cases, on property they already own). This option frees them up to live exactly where they want, whether in a lively suburb of Tacoma or on an idyllic country lot outside of Snoqualmie. It also allows them to customize a home to have the exact features they want.
Of course, in such a beautiful part of the world, it can be challenging to find the right property. Today, we’ll take a closer look at King and Pierce counties to see if they would be a good fit for a homebuyer like you.
King County is huge, both in terms of its population and geographically. More than 2.2 million people live in the county—although that figure includes more than 724,000 Seattleites. Outside of the Seattle metropolitan area, the population is much less dense, the cities and towns are a bit more laid-back, and you’re much more likely to have success finding land on which to build.
A Nature Lover’s Paradise
Much like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, King County places a high priority on its natural lands. The 2,307-square-mile county includes more than 28,000 acres of parks and protected nature areas and 215 miles of backcountry trails. But it’s not all about mountains and forests; King County also boasts 760 lakes and reservoirs, six major river systems, 3,000 miles of streams, 100 miles of marine coastline, and 975 wetlands.
The result is a nature lover’s paradise, with world-class recreation opportunities available 12 months a year. Residents love getting out to enjoy whale watching in the sound, hiking, skiing (both snow and water), camping, hunting, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and pretty much everything in between. There are so many parks in King County that you could explore a new one every weekend for nearly four years!
King County includes the city of Bellevue, which is frequently ranked as one of the top places to live in the nation. North Bend, home to Adair’s local office, is another dynamic, modern city that is a great place to call home. There are also the quiet, tight-knit communities of Snoqualmie (don’t miss seeing Snoqualmie Falls!), Redmond, and Hobart. For homebuyers who really crave nature, you can look for land in and around the tiny communities of Lemolo, Lester, or Skykomish—all beautiful areas tucked into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.
Good Prospects for Working
Another perk of moving to East Puget Sound is the wealth of job opportunities. Prior to the 2020 pandemic, King County was well-situated with a strong job market. Like much of the country, King County saw an increase in unemployment in many of the labor sectors, yet industries such as professional, information, and business services maintained or expanded employment in 2020 and 2021 due to the ability to work remotely in these workforces.
The median income for a King County resident is more than $45,000 a year, much higher than the U.S median. Perhaps best of all, the area offers opportunities in a wide variety of industries, including professional, scientific, and technical services; education; healthcare; retail; manufacturing; and more.
A Wealth of Knowledge
When it comes to schools, many districts in King County are highly rated. Some of the suburban and rural districts have fewer than 5,000 students, offering your kids a more small-town experience, whereas the closer you get to Seattle, the larger the student populations become. In fact, some districts have more than 20,000 students. The county also offers colleges and universities of nearly every size, including the University of Washington, Bellevue College, and Green River College.
The Cost of Purchasing a Home
Of course, all the perks of living in King County can come at a price. The cost of living is a bit higher than in the rest of the Pacific Northwest, with the cost of housing making the biggest difference. The median home cost in King County hovers around $745,000, whereas the rest of the state is closer to $500,000. Of course, it’s important to remember that Seattle housing prices skew this figure upward.
If you find land in a smaller city or a rural area to build your first home, you will pay significantly less. And, the good news is this: Other cost-of-living considerations, such as utilities and groceries, are comparable to or lower than the averages for the Pacific Northwest and the United States as a whole. So even if you end up spending a bit more on housing than you would in other counties, you’ll save money in other areas over time.
Just south of King County is Pierce County, which is just as geographically large and diverse as its northern neighbor. It ranges from Puget Sound and the lowlands in the west to Mount Rainier National Park in the east, with the dense cities and suburbs around Tacoma expanding out into less populous rural areas.
The population of Pierce County is around 904,000—much smaller than that of King County—with more than 212,000 living in Tacoma. Despite its smaller size, Pierce still offers many of the same perks as its neighbor to the north, including incredible water sports, snow skiing, hiking, camping, and more. It’s also well known for birding because it draws vast numbers of migrating birds to its waterways and shores. Meanwhile, Tacoma has a burgeoning arts and culture scene, with a variety of popular performance groups, annual events, and museums that residents and visitors love.
The leading industries in Pierce County are trade, transportation and utilities, government, and educational health services. The county used to be primarily farmland, but much of it has been converted into residential areas. However, the county is still a leading producer of rhubarb. Plus, the city of Sumner is considered the Rhubarb Pie Capital of the World.
Dynamic Educational Experiences
Pierce County’s public school districts and private schools offer K-12 students everything from the large districts of Tacoma to the more intimate educational setting of the small but highly ranked Sumner-Bonney Lake School District. There are also several universities and colleges, including the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood, and Clover Park Technical College, also in Lakewood.
Increasing Home Prices
The cost of living in Pierce is comparable to the rest of the Pacific Northwest, although it is much lower than in Seattle, of course. Median home values are around $508,500 and are trending gradually upward. Prebuilt homes are getting snapped up quickly, especially as the county experiences a boom in new residents. In fact, over the last decade, Pierce County has seen significant growth in every one of its cities.
Fortunately, northern Pierce County offers plenty of opportunities for building a new home. Our customers moving to the area have had luck finding land throughout the county, from the suburbs of Fife and Lakewood to the more rural areas of Bonney Lake, Orting, and Buckley.
For homebuyers looking for the ideal place to settle in the Pacific Northwest, East Puget Sound has something for everyone. You get to choose whether you want to live in or near a lively city or out in the quiet solitude of the country. And no matter where you settle, you’ll be close to gorgeous scenery, plenty of outdoor adventure, and friendly, laid-back neighbors.
If you’re interested in finding land in East Puget Sound, now is a fantastic time to build with Adair Homes. Prices for prebuilt homes are rising quickly, but going the custom route lets you better control your costs while also allowing you to choose exactly where you want to live. A custom-built Adair home also lets you build equity throughout the construction process, which can help you get more home for less money.
To learn more about finding land in East Puget Sound or about the custom homebuilding process, call us or visit us at our office in North Bend.