Northwest Washington has something for everybody: glistening coastal waters, majestic peaks, lush forests, and bustling cities brimming with culture. Whether you have a growing family or are looking to downsize into a smaller home in a tight-knit community, this region has many options for every lifestyle. If you are thinking of building a new custom home in the Pacific Northwest, consider the four counties north of Seattle as you explore possibilities for your new community.
If you have always dreamed of living on an island, Northwest Washington offers several island towns, each with its own unique flair. If you’re not quite ready for the ferry life, one of the many coastal hamlets will allow you to visit the islands without sacrificing the convenience of being on the mainland. Many Seattle workers looking for more space and a more affordable lifestyle have chosen the southern part of Northwest Washington to call home. For those looking for larger properties with a more rural feel, the eastern parts of the region offer rich farmland with the Cascade Mountains as a stunning backdrop.
Size: 2,503 square miles
Major cities: Bellingham, Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, Sumas
Median property value: $283,000
The northernmost region in Northwest Washington, Whatcom County is bordered by Canada on the north and the Strait of Georgia on the west. Its close proximity to the Vancouver metro area gives the county a cross-cultural feel, with many businesses geared toward serving both communities. Historically, the region was supported by logging, fishing, and agriculture, and it remains the state’s top raspberry producer.
The county has eight school districts with overall above-average quality and five higher education institutions. Good schools and easy access to amenities are attractive to families, but the relatively high cost of living can be a deterrent, especially in the Bellingham area. With a population of almost 100,000, Bellingham is the largest city in the county and the most developed. Development continues on the waterfront with plans for a conference center, hotels, condos, retirement housing, and retail establishments. The primary industries in the city are healthcare, education, government, and services.
People who want to be near a larger city but not actually in it might consider one of the coastal towns such as Lummi Island, Neptune Beach, or Birch Bay. The inland towns of Ferndale, Mountain View, and Custer also offer easy access to both the water and the amenities of the city. The eastern part of the county is more rural with a wooded national forest that provides stunning mountain views and recreation opportunities such as hiking, fishing, rafting, bird-watching, and snowshoeing.
Size: 1,920 square miles
Major cities: Mount Vernon, Anacortes, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley
Median property value: $255,100
Just south of Whatcom County, Skagit County also borders coastal waters on the west and has wooded rural areas in the east. Based in the fertile valley of the Skagit River, this region is most known for its vibrant tulips and sweet strawberries. The county's economy is thriving and continues to grow, with jobs in the fishing, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing industries. The retail industry is also well represented with the presence of the majority of the popular retail chains, providing both jobs and access to goods and services to the county’s residents.
With a population of around 31,000, Mount Vernon is the largest city in the county. Once rated the Best Small City in America by the New Rating Guide to Life in America's Small Cities, it boasts annual festivals, a historic theater, and a regional transportation hub. Another major city in the area, Anacortes serves as the primary ferry terminal for residents and tourists who want to access the San Juan Islands off the western coast. The large Washington Park is a central point for families and visitors to take in the views and enjoy the outdoors. The city also provides 2,800 acres of hiking and biking trails for residents to enjoy.
The eastern part of the county is primarily rural with both farms and forested areas. People who want a quieter lifestyle with mountain views might consider building a new custom home in the smaller towns of Concrete, Rockport, or Birdsview.
Size: 2,196 square miles
Major cities: Everett, Marysville, Arlington, Gold Bar, Stanwood, Lynnwood, Sultan
Median property value: $362,100
The southernmost county in Northwest Washington is close to the Seattle metro area, making it a popular choice for people who want to be near the city with a comparatively low cost of living. Snohomish County mirrors the two counties to the north with both coastal and mountain regions, with almost 70 percent of the area being covered by forest. Not surprisingly, the majority of the population is in the Puget Sound area, but both residents and visitors venture into the Cascade Mountains in the east. Although there is no four-year degree institution in the county, there are plenty of educational opportunities at local trade schools and community colleges, where many local high school graduates choose to start their higher education paths.
Just 25 miles north of Seattle, Everett is the largest city in the county. Connected by a major highway and commuter trains and buses, the city has become home to people who work in Seattle but choose to live a quieter lifestyle in a smaller community. The waterfront marina hosts concerts, a farmers market, and other local events year-round. The primary industries in the city include services, technology, and manufacturing, with Boeing providing the majority of jobs.
Ten miles north of Everett, you’ll find Marysville, the fastest-growing city in the state. With only 10 percent of the population being employed in the city, it is clearly a suburban commuter area, where most residents work in Everett or Seattle. While the current economy is primarily service-based, the city is making an effort to attract manufacturing jobs, contributing to its ongoing growth.
Size: 517 square miles
Major cities: Langley, Oak Harbor, Coupeville
Median property value: $295,800
As the name suggests, Island County is made up entirely of islands, two large ones and seven smaller ones, all located in Puget Sound. Although the two larger islands can be accessed via bridge, ferry is the most common mode of transportation for those coming to and from the islands. Both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges are visible from the islands, offering scenery that is difficult to top.
Despite its small size, the county offers a variety of lifestyles, including small cities, secluded rural areas, and everything in between. With 54 parks and trails, there is no shortage of outdoor activities for hikers, cyclists, equestrians, and boaters at every level. The safe, quiet nature of the communities attracts retirees, and the excellent school systems are a strong draw for families. However, the relatively high cost of living should be considered as well.
Not surprisingly, tourism is a major industry in the area, with many visitors coming for a taste of island life and the sense of isolation it brings. Island County is also a popular destination for both weddings and corporate retreats because of the stunning scenery and secluded feeling an island provides. The other major employer in the area is the healthcare industry. Families who want a quiet daily life with the close-knit feel of an island community and easy access to the amenities of Mount Vernon and Everett should consider Island County as a potential location for building a new home.
Visit the Adair Homes branch in Mount Vernon to learn more about how you can build your dream home in Northwest Washington. We will work closely with you to help you determine your budget and use our equity-building process so you can get the most house for your money. Whether you want to live in a quaint coastal town or have easy access to mountain hikes, we can help you design and build the perfect space for your family. Contact us today to get started.