Q&A: How can $700k townhomes help affordability?

Q: How can  $700,000 townhomes help affordability? That sounds like a lot of money!

A: Many parts of Seattle are essentially experiencing a race to determine how much land is occupied by $1M+ single family houses or two or more $700,000 townhomes:

  • In neighborhoods like Wallingford and Green Lake, more than half of all single family houses sell for over $750,000. Recently, 40% of single family house listings were for $1M or more.
  • As of late 2017, the median selling price for single family homes everywhere in Seattle was over $700,000, according to the Seattle Times, so $700k is already in the lower half of the market.
  • The Seattle Times reported an average of a single family teardown a day in King County. When the replacement is another single family house, it usually costs more than $1M.

Using Seattle teachers as a benchmark for good middle-class jobs, two young teachers at least have a shot at qualifying for a mortgage on a $700,000 home.  But even at peak earnings, a $1M home is likely out of reach for a two-teacher couple.

700k and teachers

So if one $700,000 home is replaced by two or more, or if a teardown is replaced by $700,000 townhouses rather than a $1M house, we’re expanding the footprint of homes still accessible to families who have good middle class jobs. Here’s how the numbers work out:

A Seattle teacher with a BA plus 90 quarter hours of additional education and 10 years of service receives total compensation of $71,949. (This is about the average of the minimum and maximum teacher salaries.)  So our couple has a combined annual income of $143,898.

Plugging that into the default setting on four different online “how much house can I afford?” calculators $700,000 is either within the recommended limit or close enough that with a bit more of seniority or education that bumps up their pay our couple might qualify. Everyone’s circumstances may differ, of course–but as a general indication of what industry standards define as feasible, our couple has a shot at that price point.

When is a $1M home within reach to two Seattle teachers? Never.  Two teachers with the maximum credentials and seniority–PhD’s or Doctorates at the maximum step of 14 or more years of service–make a combined total of $188,018. Plugging their income into the same calculators with the same settings gets them, at the very highest end, to $962k.

Every  $1M+ house puts a home in Seattle out of reach of middle class families, while $700,000 townhome gives them a fighting chance. That’s another reason we need to rezone Seattle, ASAP.


Seattle School District Teacher Salaries

Wallingford and Green Lake Real Estate Update

Seattle Times


Methodology:  Four “how much can I afford” calculators were used to generate an answer based on inputting only income.  Default settings were left unchanged. The intention is to generate ballpark figures for what a given income could likely bear.

CNN Money








One thought on “Q&A: How can $700k townhomes help affordability?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s