Seattle House Flipping Guide

This Seattle house flipping guide will help new and experienced house flippers succeed in this competitive urban market.

House flipping in Seattle can provide a great return on investment when done successfully. The population of Seattle is growing quickly due to the beauty of the region and its strong tech centered economy. Home values in Seattle are continuing to see increases since the Great Recession ended, so property investors can do well here.

There are many homes built in previous decades that are prime for fixing up for house flippers. However, some issues related to the wet weather and age of the homes can pose potential problems for house flippers when renovating properties.

House flipping returns were strong in the mid-2000’s due to the housing bubble, and new regulations were passed by the state legislature to limit real estate price inflation. However, considering these new challenges, flipping in Seattle can still be a lucrative venture for anyone willing to put in the effort and investment.

Key House Flipping Stats for Seattle

Population724,745 and 5 year growth rate of 8.6%
IncomeAverage Household Income of $82,133 and 5 year
growth rate of 17%
Home ValueMedian home value of $729,400 and 5 year growth rate of 87%
Cost of LivingSeattle is 127 versus 100 for the U.S. Index
New Home Starts 27,950

Property Taxes

King County

King County has a high property tax rate in comparison to the rest of the United States. It collects around 0.88% of a property’s fair market value as property tax. About 3.8% of residents’ income is paid as property taxes each year. Overall, it has the highest property tax rate of any county in the state of Washington.

You can enter the property tax account or parcel number in the eReal Property form on the King County Department of Assessments website

https://kingcounty.gov/depts/finance-business-operations/treasury/property-tax.aspx

Other Key Information

Seattle Area Flood Zones

https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/water-and-land/flooding/maps.aspx

https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/gis/Maps/imap.aspx

Also, see the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Seattle Hazard Identification and Vulnerability Analysis PDF for Flooding:

http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Emergency/PlansOEM/SHIVA/2014-04-23_Flooding.pdf

You can also find out more by contacting the River and Floodplain Management Section at 206-477-4727.

All development in a floodplain needs a permit and must demonstrate compliance with King County Code. 

Seattle Crime Rates

Seattle Crime Rate438 crime index versus 283 for the U.S. average

Public Transportation

Seattle is served by King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit.

King County Metro, or just Metro, is a large bus agency that covers 215 routes with 1540 buses. This system carries over 400,000 daily passengers.

King County Metro operates RapidRide, a network of limited-stop, rapid transit bus lines.

Sound Transit is the regional transit authority, commissioned by voters in 1996 to build a system of light rail, express buses, and commuter rail within the Central Puget Sound area

Snohomish County’s Community Transit operates buses that connect to downtown Seattle and the University of Washington campus. The Community Transit fleet is made up of over 600 vehicles including, buses, paratransit, and vanpool vans.

The light rail system, called Link Light Rail, includes a 15.7-mile (25.3 km) Central Link from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport.

Future public transit extensions were approved by voters in 2008, and planned to connect the University of Washington to Northgate, Lynnwood and other areas to the north. Also, across Lake Washington to Bellevue and Redmond and going south to Federal Way.

The Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, passed in 2016, will further expand the overall system in the region. Service is expected to Tacoma, Everett, Issaquah, south Kirkland, as well as the neighborhoods of Ballard and West Seattle.

The city is currently in the process of enlarging a modern streetcar network. 

The Seattle Center Monorail, constructed for the Century 21 Exposition, runs approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) between Seattle Center in Lower Queen Anne and Westlake Center in the downtown area.

The King County Regional Trails System is a multi-use car-free pathway that links the county to the surrounding areas.

The city’s primary commercial airport is Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, (SEA) also known as Sea-Tac Airport is located in the city of SeaTac, between downtown Seattle and Tacoma.

The airport has flights to cities throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. 

In 2017, the airport was the 30th-busiest airport in the world and the eighth-busiest in the United States by passenger traffic, and is considered one of the fastest growing in the United States.

Neighborhoods to Flip Houses in Seattle

Ballard

This small fishing village area has grown tremendously over the past several years and now include many upscale restaurants and condos. Ballard has an average home value of $813,000.

Southeast Redmond

With great public schools, nightlife and good for families, this part of Seattle is great for real estate investors and flippers. Home values sit around $873,000.

North Redmond

This area of west of Seattle has decent nightlife, great public schools and it very good for families. Average home values are near $1 million.

House Flipping Resources in Seattle

Foreclosure Auctions

Many foreclosure sales take place in person at the King County Administration Building – Main Entrance – 500 4th Ave. You should bring a Government-issued identification. Acceptable funds should be stated on property details page on the real estate website the property is listed on.

Also, see auction.com’s foreclosure site for Seattle foreclosure listings:

https://www.auction.com/residential/WA/Seattle_ct/active_lt/resi_sort_v2_st/2732838_oa/y_nbs/

Title Searches

The King County Recorder’s Office holds real property records including deeds, easements, mortgage documents, liens, and bills of sale. Tracing these documents back through time will reveal owners’ names and other information. You may search online for these records as well as excise tax information, registered land, and plat names.

https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/recorders-office.aspx

Recordings prior to 1991 that are not available on the Recorder’s website can be accessed at the King County Archives.

https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/archives/research-guides/recordings.aspx

The King County Parcel Viewer makes searching for King County parcel information easy.  You can search by address, search by parcel number, or you can just zoom in on the map and click on a parcel.

https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/gis/Maps/parcel-viewer.aspx

Zoning

Our Zoning Code governs the use and development of land in Seattle. Zoning districts specify a category of uses (e.g., single-family residential, multifamily residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) and are applied by ordinance. The zoning districts are shown geographically on the City’s official land use map.

http://www.seattle.gov/sdci/codes/codes-we-enforce-(a-z)/zoning

You can use the Zoning Map Books for the city of Seattle (Adobe Reader required):

http://www.seattle.gov/sdci/resources/zoning-map-books

Our maps show current zoning information for properties and neighborhoods in Seattle. Our maps include:

You can also use the arcgis viewer for the City of Seattle and check “Zoning” on the right hand menu:

http://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=f822b2c6498c4163b0cf908e2241e9c2

Also, try the City of Seattle Generalized Zoning color-coded map PDF:

http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/research/GIS/webplots/Smallzonemap.pdf

Building Code and Permits

The Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections handles the permits for many house projects include:

  • Decks
  • Garages
  • Sheds
  • House additions
  • Retaining walls
  • and more

http://www.seattle.gov/sdci/permits

You can also view information on past permits, check permit status, pay fees, and see exemptions from code requirements on the right hand menus.

Seattle House Flipping Tips

Do’s

Flippers should try and find the right house that is structurally sound and only needs some cosmetic changes. Kitchen and bathroom updates often bring the highest rate of return on a renovation investment, along with improving the curb appeal .

Between 2004 and 2007, almost anyone could flip a house and make a profit. Property prices were increasing so rapidly that a flipper could buy a place, hold on to it for a few months, and sell it for more than when they bought it, regardless of any renovations. However, since the Great Recession ended, making a profit on a flip has become much harder.

Pew Research reported that Washington State comes in at No. 23 with flipping only accounting for 4.9 percent of home sales. Back in 2006 it was close 9 percent due to the heat of the real estate market and the subsequent housing bubble that was forming and later burst.

In 2007, The State of Washington Legislature passed the House Bill 1843 and law requiring property owner developers, which includes house flippers, to be registered and bonded as general contractors. This helped to put a dent in the level of house flipping in the area. So if you are considering house flipping in Seattle, becoming a registered general contractor may be necessary. Make sure to do the required research to find out for sure.

http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2007-08/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/1843.pdf

Dont’s

Do not ignore the climate of Seattle which is a wetter version of the Mediterranean climate and can cause some serious property issues. Although Seattle receives less precipitation than many other U.S. it has many more “rain days”, when a very light drizzle falls for many days. This can soak the ground in moisture and cause slides, especially on sloped regions which are common in the area. Old homes especially can have issues with sloped ground and drainage.

Also, seismic hazards are of concern in the Seattle area so homes must have some protections against earthquakes and the resulting slides they may cause.

What to Look Out For

Especially for large, older homes in the Seattle area, look out for asbestos, lead paint, drainage, the foundation, and underground heating-oil tanks.

https://www.seattletimes.com/explore/nwhomes/7-mistakes-to-avoid-when-renovating-older-houses/

Real Estate Flipping and Investing Groups in Seattle

Seattle REIA holds six meetings per year, usually on the 4th Thursday of each month. Saturday classes are also held each year in the Seattle area.

http://www.reiawa.com/clubportal/ClubStatic.cfm?clubID=1127&pubmenuOptID=41545

Or, check out meetup.com for real estate investing groups in Seattle.

https://www.meetup.com/topics/real-estate-investing/us/wa/seattle/

Seattle House Flipping Outlook

House flipping in Seattle can be a lucrative venture for anyone willing to put in the effort and investment. The population of Seattle is growing quickly due to the beauty of the region and its strong tech centered economy. There are many homes built in previous decades that are prime for fixing up for house flippers. However, some issues related to the wet weather and age of the homes can pose potential problems for house flippers when renovating properties. Even with these issues and new regulations limiting price appreciation, house flipping in Seattle can still provide great returns on investments when done successfully.

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