Sitting in the top northwest corner of the U.S. on the border with Canada is Washington, with famous locations like Seattle and Puget Sound. Washington is home to Microsoft was well as the historical Seattle fish market. It is also a significant source of the nation's timber harvesting industry as much of the state is still wild land versus developed regions. The state sits at rank 13 in terms of population among the 50 states but much of the housing is along the Pacific coast rather than inland. The state itself also changes dramatically further inland, shifting from the rainy coastal forests to high plateaus and farming land on the eastern border with Idaho. Washington attracts many residents because the state has no income tax, instead relying on property tax and other levies for government income. Housing suffered major property losses after 2008 but is now returning to a break even point in 2013.
The Evergreen State is home to nearly 7 million Americans. The state economy produces over $350 billion annually, which ranks 14th, and per capita income is a bit over $50,000, which is 10th in the United States. Washington state is home to several iconic American businesses, including Microsoft, Amazon, and Costco.
Homes in WA are expensive, and in fact the housing market may be in the midst of a bubble. As of this writing, average home values have risen to nearly half a million dollars, an astonishing 15% year-over-year increase. Seattle alone has seen property values rise by almost 20%. By median sales price, the most expensive cities in WA are Bellevue, Friday Harbor, and Redmond, the home of MS Corp. Median sales prices in towns like Aberdeen and Centralia are more reasonable, coming in at under $200,000.
Greater Seattle, which is home to about three and a half million, is America's 15th biggest metro area. The city is well known for the Space Needle, grunge rock music, and a hotbed for jazz music in the middle of the 20th century. The rise of the Internet has grown the city tremendously. Today, greater Seattle makes up about 66% of the state economy, driven by famous companies like Starbucks and Amazon.com. Seattle is one of the greenest cities in America, making it a perfect destination for the environmentally conscious home buyer.
Something of a college town, Spokane is home to Gonzaga University and the lesser known Whitworth. Greater Spokane is home to over 600,000, many of whom work in forestry and manufacturing. Newer industries like healthcare, IT, and clean tech have begun to make an impact in the area, drawn by lower costs and access to Spokane's ample raw materials.
Tacoma is a bit smaller than the previous two cities, but it has a lot going for it. Quality of life is high, the city is very walkable, and Tacoma has been one of the leaders in the LGBT rights movement. The largest local employers are the state and city government, the public school system, and the JBLM military base.
Washingtonians have a wealth of options when it comes to banking. As you might imagine, there are many local options, from banks to credit unions to mortgage bankers. These institutions generally have deep roots in their various WA communities and work closely with local small businesses and consumers alike. The one downside is that these local options often will not have branches outside the state and may not offer the best mobile and online banking technology. For these perks, it's better to consider a big bank that operates in Washington. We'll list several below.
WA credit unions:
Big banks with local branches:
Choices are great, but it can make decision making feel a bit overwhelming. This is where RateZip.com's financial search engine can help. We make it easy to compare certificates of deposit, auto loans, and more. Best of all, it's free.
With RateZip.com homebuyers considering a purchase in Washington or a relocation to the area can find a variety of options with local banks and mortgage lenders offering competitive borrowing rates. For Washingtonians who already own a home, RateZip makes refinancing simple. With just a bit of personal information you can get quotes from multiple lenders.
Fixed rate mortgages, often abbreviated FRM, are the most popular home loans in both the United States and WA state. FRM's maintain a constant interest rate and monthly payment for the entire life of the loan. In recent years, mortgage rates have hit historic lows, which have made FRMs even more popular than usual.
As rates rise, the adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, will make a comeback. As the name suggests, these loans adjust over time. The interest rate begins at a lower level than prevailing fixed rates - this is called the initial period. After the initial period ends, the rate adjusts according to an index, often LIBOR. Homeowners with a short time horizon can take advantage of the low initial rate and either move or refinance before the adjustments begin.