Over the past decade, Washington home prices have increased dramatically. But in a new report, Economic Opportunity Institute has found that this escalation alone is not the only significant hurdle for potential home buyers. The dramatic increase in home prices in Washington is not proportionate to wage gains for workers, creating an ever-widening gap between what people earn and what they can afford.
In 2021, the median price of a home in Washington climbed to $560,400. That’s equal to nearly nine years of full-time work at the state’s median wage of $30.50/hour. That price represents an increase of 63% over the past two decades, surpassing even pre-Great Recession peak prices of 2007. In terms of purchasing power for middle-income workers, this increase represents a marked reduction in affordability. Most workers have not seen their wages increase anywhere near that rate.
Washington Home Prices: A County Breakdown
Of course, not every community experiences the same price fluctuations. Among the state’s five most populous counties, home prices are highest (relative to wages) in Snohomish County, where a median-priced home is $676,000. That price is equivalent to nearly 11 years’ income at the local median wage of $30.08/hour. Meanwhile, Spokane County has lower home prices overall. However, residents there have also seen the largest increases: the median cost of a home ($390,200) now equals 7.5 years of income at the local median wage of $24.86/hour – more than double what a similar wage earner would have paid in the year 2000.
Data about Washington home prices is a good indicator of the overall health of the economy. But without comparing those prices to wages – how much people actually get paid and can afford to spend – it doesn’t give us a complete picture.
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