A year back, we moved from Santa Clara, CA to Bellevue, WA in the US. A year is enough time to get some perspective on how the places compare and what makes one better than the other.
The notes and areas of interest are from a point of view of an Indian immigrant working in the IT (Software) industry and with a family.
1. Housing. Advantage: Seattle
The Housing situation is slightly better in Seattle when compares to the bay area and the Seattle market is traiing the bay area market by a year or so, that meant 15% price increases in the last year while a almost flat market in the bay area. If considering single family house. one can buy a decent livable house in Greater Seattle area for U$500k (A new one in Snoqualmie or a older one needing renovation in some Bellevue zips: 98008)
Our preferred criteria is to avoid too much commute (<= 20 minutes each way) from current and future work (Bellevue, Redmond, Seattle, Kirkland) and good feature set in the house.
Seattle market: Areas worth considering to stay: Bellevue, parts of Redmond (much lesser commute). Areas within 30 minutes commute any time of the day are Snoqualmie, Kirkland, Woodinville and Redmond Ridge. The lowest house prices are around 500k (30+ year old small (1500 sq ft.) 3BR, 2BA rambler in good living places, average school district in Bellevue or a new larger house (2500 sq ft.) with good features(hardwood floor, island, etc) in Snoqualmie. Next level of houses are in the U$ 700k-850k range, these are newer (<10 years), good school district (Eastgate, etc), basically these are snoqualmie or better houses with lesser distance from work, shops, etc. Rents in Eastside for Houses is typically from
1400 to 1800, 1600 to 2000
Bay area market: Areas worth considering to stay and affordable: Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and parts of Mountain View. Areas within 30 minutes commute are San Jose (Evergreen, etc) and Fremont. The lowest house prices are around 800k (30+ year old (2000 sq ft.) 3BR, 2BA house in Evergreen.) Typically prices are U$ 900k-$1 million in and around Sunnyvale and highend comparable houses are in the US$ 1.3-1.5 million range (v/s 800k.) Rents for Houses is from
1800 to 2200, 2000 to 2400
Summary: Even with a house market slowdown, bay area requires both couples working and a singular focus on making more money. In the Greater Seattle area, buying one of the good houses creates the same requirement and the 30% or so lower salaries partially offset the 40% or so less higher end house prices. The key difference in Seattle: Lower cost homes are available(yes, 500k is lower these days) if you want take lower quality or larger commute and dream houses which would be US$2-3 million in Saratoga are available for US$1 million in Woodinville.
2. Tech Job openings and salaries. Advantage: Bay area
In Seattle, the total number of tech job openings are much less than bay area, I would expect them to be 1/3 or 1/4 of bay area.
Bay area has job openings for much wider area of expertise. Another key point, if you (as I have) worked in non-Microsoft technologies, these jobs are very few in the Seattle area. When I was looking last year, there were maybe 6 companies that were looking for Software developers for Unix\Linux\Kernel skillset. Skillsets Seattle are Windows (C#, dot-net), gaming and internet.
In Seattle, the typical software engineer salaries for mid level experience C++ engineer are in the 75-100k range. In Bay area, the typical software engineer salaries for mid level experience C++ engineer are in the 90-130k range. This is a large advantage even after the CA state income tax of around 9%.
Disclaimer: In both places, if you stay in one company for > 5 years and perform well, you can and will get into higher range and develop depth in the company\group’s area of expertise.
The other article in this series:
Articles by others:
Last Updated: Feb 15 2007