Spokane’s TRUE Cost of Living | Is it really affordable?
Spokane tops nearly every list as one of the hottest markets in the country and one of the fastest appreciation markets as well. But, A lot of times when I talk to people from out of the area that are looking to move here, they are moving here because of its affordability. Which leads us to the question, Is Spokane actually affordable?
In this article we’re going to go through why people think Spokane is affordable and we’ll talk about some reasons why it’s maybe not as affordable as people think.
So, if you’re from most places along the west or east coast you’re most likely thinking, YES, Spokane is absolutely more affordable then where I’m at, but let’s dig into some of the details that can be overlooked and why most native Spokaneites would probably disagree.
Let’s look at bestplaces.net which puts Spokane at almost eight percent less than the US average and way less than the Washington average in terms of affordability.
If we look at the table, you can see that groceries are slightly cheaper than the US average, healthcare is much cheaper in all of Washington which is great, and it says here that housing in Spokane is at 94% of the national average with a median costs of $335,100.00, which is absolutely wrong but I will swing back to that later on.
Utilities are significantly lower here in Spokane and Washington in general because of the many green initiatives and gas prices here in Spokane are at least a dollar less than on the west side.
So, noting that the biggest difference between Spokane and the rest of Washington or some of the other popular places people move here from in terms of affordability is housing, let’s actually check some stats here because I don’t believe bestplaces.net has actually stayed with the rapidly changing times.
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Looking at rentometer.com, we can see that the average rent for a 2 bedroom here in Spokane is $1,423.00, which is insane! And up about 29% from this time last year and you’re probably thinking that’s way cheaper than where you live and would take that opportunity any day.
Now if we look at these stats from the Spokane Association of Realtors, it shows that the average home price is $397,092.00 based on the Spokane MLS, which I just want to note is DOWN 2% from last month and is also UP 24% from last year.
And again, you’re like, I get it, Spokane is way cheaper than me living here in Seattle or LA and I would give anything for those prices.
Well, let's look at the average household income here in Spokane. Bestplaces.net says it’s about $44,768.00. Taking that into consideration and assuming that someone shouldn’t spend more than a third of their income on their mortgage, that places the average Spokanite at a home purchase price of barely $230,000.00 assuming they don’t have any other debt payments.
So, based on what is currently happening here in Spokane, most people here wouldn’t deem it to be the most affordable because of this large gap between the average home cost and the average income.
Now, I’m going to emphasize with you out of town, out of state people looking to move to somewhere more affordable. I realize that the gap between the average income and home price is much much larger in places like Seattle where the average income is around $8,000.00 and the average home price is around $800,000.00.
Realize that many people that have lived here in Spokane their whole life aren’t seeing your point of view, and you might not want to mention you’re from California if you do move here because you might get some light heckling at the bar. Don’t worry, everyone is nice here!
I want to circle back to the Living wage calculator for Spokane county. We found out earlier that the average income here is about $44,000.00 and according to this calculator that’s right on track with being affordable here in Spokane.
The big problem is they’re only budgeting $8,352.00 a year for housing and going back to that $1,400.0 a month we budgeted for rent AND going back to that affordable home price of $230,000.00, which there are currently only 9 of those for sale in the Greater Spokane area, each with their own special set of necessary repairs, your yearly cost for living is easily over $16,000.00 a year either way you go.
So that affordable wage number should actually be closer to $51,00.00 to afford a very small home or rent a 2 bedroom apartment. And that’s not even assuming that you might have a kiddo or two and pay at least $700.00 a month in childcare. And we’ll avoid that rabbit hole where that 2 bedroom has quickly become too small. But we’re easily jumping to a necessary salary of anywhere from $60,000.00-75,000.00 to live comfortably and we haven’t even factored in the need to save money and invest for retirement.
So is Spokane affordable? Compared to many cities, Spokane is still considered to be very affordable, but for those currently living here making the median to average income, the rapidly changing economy and market as a whole is really bringing down those people who aren’t bringing in money from bigger areas.