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How the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the real estate market across Puget Sound

The coronavirus pandemic is prompting Seattleites to move to some very unlikely places.

BOTHELL, Wash. — The novel coronavirus pandemic is quite literally reshaping the world we live in and our place in it, especially when it comes to the real estate market around Puget Sound Region.

As the pandemic plays on, people are moving out of Seattle and into some unexpected places.

Deseree Kazda’s family of four just moved to the suburbs. Her big, new home gives her room to breathe with her husband and two boys, ages 6 and 9.

"Oh, it so nice just to have more space than we did in Seattle," said Kazda. "The boys can run around. We have a little hill. I hope we get snow so they can sled this winter."

Kazda already had what many would consider a dream home in Seattle’s Maple Leaf neighborhood. But after 10 years, it was feeling cramped, and the family wanted a change.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic came, and with Kazda’s husband working from home for the foreseeable future, they knew it was time for a change.

"We kind of realized how much space we needed," explained Kazda. "We were all in the house all the time, it kind of forced our hand."

Kazda sold the Maple Leaf house in a week at $40,000 above the asking price and bought her new home in Bothell for $1 million. Using her equity as a down payment, the mortgage was just $500,000.

"Can you buy a house in Seattle for $500,000?" Kazda wondered aloud. "Can you even buy a condo for $500,000?"

Coronavirus and its side-effects are creating a small-scale exodus from Seattle to places many would never have considered.

The hottest cities to buy in right now are Granite Falls in Snohomish County, where the median home price is now $380,000, to the south in Bonney Lake that cost $475,000, and out east in Black Diamond that now comes in at $515,000.

"Obviously, a lot of this is COVID-19 induced," said Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner.

According to Gardner, some of that exodus is fueled by tech workers in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood finding they can now get a mortgage for less than their rent, and still work from home.

"A lot of them are looking at the spaces they’re occupying and realizing this is not gonna work for me," said Gardner. "I think a lot of people are getting tired of working out of their closets or dining room tables. That, and historically low mortgage rates."

The Snohomish County city of Mountlake Terrace, a bedroom community once known for its shabby cinderblock houses, is now seeing 1,400 square-foot homes sell for $680,000. New houses are going for $850,000.

That’s thanks to light rail coming in, spawning a new city center project.

Gardner sees places like this as “cities of the future” when things do get back to normal.

"I think, for a lot of people, they are going to try to identify those areas, move out there and think they’re getting in there on the low rung of the ladder,” said Gardner.

The only downside to the market right now, according to Gardner, is urban condos.

"The attractiveness of those is the lifestyle," said Gardner. "You can walk to work. So much for that, anymore. You can walk to the theater. You can walk to the museums. Not so much today."