Bellingham, the ugly truth.... (Seattle, Tacoma: for sale, real estate market, apartments)
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Alot of you I noticed are searching for info about Bellingham, and being a lifetime resident of Bellingham I will fill you in. My wife is 27 and I am 31. Bellingham was a nice little town. A skilled trade worker could make $12-$15/hr maybe more and median price homes were in the $140K range. A few years ago some dumb retirement magazine named Bellingham #2 in the nation to retire in. As you can imagine they came in groves from California, Arizona, Florida, and more. Some of them not the best quality of people either. Real Estate prices went thru the roof, and are still horribly high, averaging around $470,000 currently for the homes listed for sale. Very few jobs here are capable of supporting such a mortgage, it's said that 90% of the working families here can't afford a home. There are so many availiable jobs here for that reason, alot of the workers packed up and left because there is pretty much no hope here. The anti-growth attitude of our local government caused a massive price increase of real estate and cost of living. This inflated cost of living is passed down to everyone. We pay more for gas, food, homes, and property taxes, but the worst is that the jobs don't pay anymore than 5 years ago. A co-worker of mine built his own home on the lake in the 80's, cost him about $85K and they paid it off in the 90's. In 2006 it was assessed at $680,000, making his property taxes approx $780 a month on a home he built himself and owns outright! My wife is a Biology teacher with a Master's and I am a jouneyman union structural steel worker, and together we are looking at maybe being able to afford a home if we can get a deal on the lot and build it ourselves. Most of the working people here are stuck in apartments or, like us, living with relatives waiting for this hell to end. Last week some old bag in a big BMW backed into my car in the parking lot and ran, gotta love it. The police won't even do anything and my insurance either has to cover it, or we leave our car with a big dent in it. There's nothing to do here for fun and we have a high crime rate, almost 2x the average. Our police are worthless. Your car gets stolen, too bad. House gets burglarized, too bad. Doing 5 over, you're getting a ticket. I have family here that need us to be here, so I am stuck here unfortunately. Those of you looking to relocate, look carefully. Weigh availialble jobs and average pay with cost of homes, and choose a state that HAS an income tax. Go where everyone else, isn't. Remember our economy goes by "demand and supply". Retiree's are flocking to WA to avoid income tax which is really dumb because we have a nasty 8.5%+ sales tax, almost .50 of gas tax, and some nasty and still rising property taxes. Our medical services are overrun, everyone is short on nurses and doctors, yet doctors can do much better elseware so it doesn't improve. I don't even bother to go to the doctor anymore even with full benefits, by the time I can get an appointment whatever was wrong is gone or maybe one day I'll be dead. Most anywhere in the state will be better than Bellingham. In Seattle/Tacoma/Olypia you have a little bit higher prices but alot more potential for income and certainly alot more to do. The next few years will be very interesting, with so many people moving here to retire, it's creating alot of needs and less business/workers and industry to pay for it.
Anyway sorry to be so negative but in the last 5-6 years it's really gone in the toilet here, unless you're some Millionaire real estate land maggot.
Last edited by rkcarguy; 01-07-2007 at 10:06 PM..
Reason: add info
... Real Estate prices went thru the roof, and are still horribly high, averaging around $470,000 currently for the homes listed for sale. Very few jobs here are capable of supporting such a mortgage, ... A co-worker of mine built his own home on the lake in the 80's, cost him about $85K and they paid it off in the 90's. In 2006 it was assessed at $680,000, making his property taxes approx $780 a month on a home he built himself and owns outright! My wife is a Biology teacher with a Master's and I am a jouneyman union structural steel worker, and together we are looking at maybe being able to afford a home if we can get a deal on the lot and build it ourselves. ... Those of you looking to relocate, look carefully. Weigh availialble jobs and average pay with cost of homes, and choose a state that HAS an income tax. Go where everyone else, isn't. Remember our economy goes by "demand and supply". Retiree's are flocking to WA to avoid income tax which is really dumb because we have a nasty 8.5%+ sales tax, almost .50 of gas tax, and some nasty and still rising property taxes.... it's really gone in the toilet here, unless you're some Millionaire real estate land maggot.
Unfortunately, that is the case with much of 'desireable' WA. and why we are being forced out of the home we built (prop tax burden). It is cheaper to live in a motel . Without an retroactive prop tax reform it is tough to stay with Zero income. (early retiree, fixed costs too high). It is really foolish to think that house equity is an asset rather than liability. I would have been happy with low price home = low tax = low payments....
Wow, that is a negative attitude RKCARGUY. I have no idea of your situation, but, as I also come from BHam, I know that a lot of my friends and family love it despite the rising cost of living because they CAN afford it and want a nice place to live. It's the trade off they choose for the great city that it is. There are worse places to live where the cost of living and home prices are worse (California). It sounds like you have had some bad experiences there but I do not believe that those experiences happen across the board for everyone. Bellingham is an amazing place to live, raise children, work and play. It is growing fast with lots more opportunities than before.
I will say that there a lot of great things about Bellingham, but they do not out number the negative. So I would tend to agree with rccarguy's assessment, rather than jennie's. There are the families that are long-time residents of Bellingham, that got the job on the ground floor of a now flourishing company, that have the nice house that is now paid off, that live in their own little bubble of friends, that have no idea that the ghetto of Texas Street has expanded to the whole Alabama St. neighborhood and lettered streets.
I have mentioned in a previous post about how many times I have had to deal with crime as a resident and business owner in Bellingham. I was treated rudely by the police, and encountered a "so what" attitude. I don't blame the police, they are understaffed, underpaid, and overworked. They know that the jail is too small, and whomever they arrest will most likely be released before they are finished writing their report.
As Jennie mentions, there are always lousier places to live, like California. But I will remark that I lived in Bellingham 20 years, and had literally dozens of crime incidents. I have lived in California 3.5 years , and have had one small incident. I thought I would feel less safe moving to California, but luckily I haven't so far. And I actually bought a decent house for under $140K here, try buying a house for that in Bellingham now-a-days. I have not encountered a higher cost of living besides gas prices. I have found that it is easier to get a doctors or dental appt here, and the quality of medical care the same if not better. Granted, not everyone is suited for the desert where I currently live, but then not everyone is suited for neverending cloud cover and rain either.
Bellingham is a good fit for a select few, but there are many people in Bellingham like rccarguy ,that have an education, and are struggling to survive due to crime, wages, and cost of living. The lure to Bellingham if you visit in the Summer can be compelling, but one must consider it with open eyes.
Just to provide some balance to the very negative experiences related:
I'm a small business owner, I've been here for fifteen years, and my assessment of Bellingham is very positive. There is one neighborhood to stay away from -- where poverty settles in, so does crime; and it is true that the housing prices are high, comparatively. The city has gone through a lot of rapid growth and renewal, and has the problems to match. There are a lot of land developers who would put houses everywhere, but that is slowing down, it seems to me.
What I have noticed is that old time Bellinghamsters -- those who were born and raised here -- are pretty negative overall. They complain a lot about the people who move here from California, etc, and they can be very unfriendly. A friend who moved here went around introducing himself to the neighbors and was told, by a 50-something Bellinghamster, to pack up and get out. Luckily he's not easily offended, he just shrugged it off.
It's hard to see the place you grew up in change, but then everything does change; you can try to be a positive force or you can be negative.
Here are the good things about Bellingham, in my opinion: the weather here is better than Seattle. We have less rain but things are just as green. It is dark and dreary in November and December, but by mid January things are perking up. We sometimes have to mow the lawn in early February. As I grew up in the midwest, this still amazes me. The mountains are beautiful, and on clear days you can see the Cascades, the Olympics and the Canadian Coastal Range. It's easy to get out into the islands, and if you like to kayak, you'd be well situated. The winters are mild (this one was an exception), the summers gorgeous and sunny.
Bellinghamsters complain if it takes them more than fifteen minutes to get clear from one side of town to the other. In fact, to complain about traffic in Bellingham is quite silly, if you've ever driven anywhere else, for example, Seattle or Vancouver. The exception -- the worst traffic -- is out by the mall on Guide Meridian, and we just don't go there. Problem solved.
The downtown is coming back to life, they are moving foward on the big project to develop the former Georgia Pacific site on the waterfront in sensible, interesting ways. It looks as though they have the development funding in place for the Terraquarium -- a huge complex of aquariums, research and educational facilities for Pacific Northwest sea and wild life.
There is a very active arts community here, too, if you care to get involved.
So there are problems, but there are also many excellent things about Bellingham.
I'd say there are many problems. It wasn't until I had a interveiw in Idaho that my eyes were opened about the cost of housing. The city we visited was similiar in size to Bellingham. About 80K people. What was different was that there was a home in everyones price range. If you were a field worker picking potatoes there was a single wide on a 1/10th acre lot(owned land not leased) for $19,900 with your name on it. You make good money and spend $200K you get a 5bd 3ba on 5 acres with a hot tub 3 car garage and a big shop. I'm dissapointed because even with the real estate market dying nationwide it's still booming here in the lower priced homes, simply because they have denied working people affordable homes so long that anything under $200K is snapped up, even some little 100yr old crap heap. How can it be a good place to raise a family(this is our goal too) when you both have to work full time to make the mortgage?
Greenery appears to be your typical WA state "immigrant". "I sold my house in ________ and moved here and got a great big new house and new cars and bought an apartment building and jacked the rent up like where I came from isn't it great?"
None of those things you're assuming about me are correct. We moved here with a budget of about 175K, which got us into a house that needed some work, in the Elizabeth Park neighborhood. No new cars. We don't have the money to buy a whole building, so the thought of jacking up rents -- that doesn't come into play for us.
When we wanted to move, more than a few of the houses we looked at were older and were being sold by people who had grown up in them. Now, those prices were just as high as the prices on the new construction. So the old time Bellinghamsters who complain loudly about the influx from California, etc, are not hesitating to cash in when they sell their own homes. It's odd to say: I hate the way my hometown is changing, I hate how high the housing costs are, I hate all these new people, and yes, I'm asking $450,000 for my three bedroom, one bath ranch, the one that needs a new roof. Why? because I can.
You can point your finger at a lot of people who have played a role in the way the town is changing. Probably some of them are your friends and relatives.
Nice comeback greenery. I don't want to come across like an ass or anything. I realize people are coming here because they are obviously leaving somewhere worse. The whole cause of this goes way over our heads clear to D.C. in my eyes. A failure of an administration holds interest rates super low in a time of record national debt to stimulate and otherwise dead job market, which caused this real estate boom, while at the same time alot of the expansion hasn't been accomadated which made demand go up and prices soar. I feel it's only a temporary fix, and eventually we may see some very ugly interest rates and possibly one of the largest flops we have ever seen in the real estate market. It also irks me how someone can completely fill in a wetland area and build 100's of apartments yet a homeowner trying to find a lot can't build within a 100ft radius of a single cat tail. I personally feel like we(younger generation) are being forced into crap jobs and apartments around here. The only solice I have is that a majority or these people will hopefully be in the ground in a few years. Maybe I will invest in cemetary plots soon.
Btw, my family members haven't benefited a bit from this boom, their property taxes have increased 2-3 times, and we generally pay more for everything because of this inflated cost of living.
I agree with rk, it is very frustrating but blame as always is on both sides of the coin. I was wondering if you go a bit further north is it any better? I am looking at Birch Bay at the moment, & will probably not look at Bellingham at all now. I want safe area for my child to finish school at hopefully not to far of a drive from a city with the arts and culture. I noticed on a forum saying this summer will be an inexpensive year in Washington for home sales but I cant remember why. Are people moving out a lot as well as some moving in? (Down here we are getting a lot of new license plates from NC of all places.)
I think your views are very skewed RKCARGUY, bellingham is a great place to live yes prices have risen and yes equity in your home still out wieghs the taxes in my opion. Also whenever you own a bigger piece of land or property on the Lake your taxes are going to be higher. As far as nothing to do here I think that is silly there is a lot of things to do, hiking, beach, camping, arts, shopping, downtown Seattle, really most of anything. The traffic is great compared to anywere else. You are comparing Bellingham with Idaho? There is a reason they have lower home prices there truly is not much around there........ not to knock Idaho some people like the quite, But you will not have the jobs around like you have here or the activitys. Sorry this is so long but this guy is giving Bellingham a bad rap I just wanted to say we don't all feel the same.
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