Real estate agent Marguerite Martin built a business convincing Seattleites they could move to Tacoma.
Now, as Tacoma housing grows increasingly unaffordable for its own longtime residents, particularly in historically Black neighborhoods, she said she wishes she hadn’t.
In 2013, as the Tacoma housing market recovered from the financial crisis, “it was so obvious to me,” Martin said. “If you can’t buy a house in Seattle … then you should hashtag-move-to-Tacoma. It was a no-brainer.”
She built a website, MoveToTacoma.com, and launched a podcast with a peppy jingle: “Move to Tacoma! Move to Tacoma! You’ll like it!”
Her goal was to show Seattleites the Tacoma they thought of as a pungent, violent backwater was actually the City of Destiny: a quirky place with a small-town feel, light traffic, expanding transit, stunning harbor views and — most importantly, for people priced out of Seattle, where the median home value currently hovers around $750,000 — less-expensive homes, many of them quintessential Craftsmans. The median home price in Tacoma is $337,940, according to Zillow.
Martin was rebroadcasting the market’s clarion call. Seattleites headed south in droves.
Nearly 18,000 King County residents moved to Pierce County in 2017, 25% higher than two years earlier, according to census estimates.
The influx is fueling the city’s sizzling-hot housing market and changing the composition of neighborhoods.
Residents say some Tacoma neighborhoods have become bedroom communities, where everyone leaves for Seattle before the sun rises. Some Seattleites who don’t physically relocate are nevertheless investing in Tacoma homes, driving up rents and property values.
The changes are most felt in historically diverse and low-income neighborhoods like Hilltop, South Tacoma and Tacoma’s Eastside.
Home prices in some of those neighborhoods have risen nearly one-third each year since 2016, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
As newcomers displace Black, Hispanic and Native residents, parts of neighborhoods like Hilltop are turning into what longtime resident Kellianne McNeil called “Wonderbread Lands” for their lack of diversity.
But for many veterans of Seattle’s affordability crisis, Tacoma is a new chance to establish community.
Rachel Collins grew up in the Central District, but bought a home in Hilltop after realizing she couldn’t afford to buy in her childhood neighborhood.
“I simply see more Black people in Tacoma” than Seattle, said Collins, who is Black. “It’s not like they’re visiting. They live here. It makes me feel like I’m at home.”
It seems like everyone in Tacoma has a bidding war story.
In Tacoma’s cutthroat housing market, bidding wars and weeklong (or even shorter) listings for most homes under $600,000 are the rule, according to brokers and home shoppers.
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