The world has changed, and I’m reconsidering where I call home. I am looking for an affordable town within 45 minutes of a good -sized ski resort. Coming from the Seattle market, it would be great to get a three-bedroom, two-bath house with a yard. Being able to walk to a coffee shop would be a bonus.
I also have no idea what the tax implications would be moving from Washington to another state and how that should influence my budget. What do you think?
‘The Big Move’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.
Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Jacob Passy at TheBigMove@marketwatch.com.
What an amazing opportunity you have in front of you right now. Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard from many people who have taken advantage of their newfound ability to work from home indefinitely either by buying a home in a cheaper area or by purchasing a vacation home they could escape to from time to time. And here you are, seemingly doing both in one fell swoop.
Before I jump into my suggestions of where you should look, I wanted to touch on your tax concerns. It’s great that you’re considering the finances of this move from the get go. Moving outside of Washington State will likely require changing your mindset when it comes to taxes.
Washington is one of eight states that levies no income tax — the others are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. In terms of the overall tax burden, Washington ranks in the middle of the pack nationally, according to an analysis from WalletHub. That’s because the state has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country.
Many Americans took advantage of the ability to work remotely by moving to states with low taxes. Depending on where you move, your overall tax burden may not be higher since many states that do tax incomes have lower property and sales taxes. But depending on your income and spending habits, there’s a chance that moving to a different neck of the woods could increase your tax liability significantly.
Now, where ski towns are concerned, you’re likely going to want to pass on many of the classic resort towns across the country. Powder magazine proclaimed in a 2017 article that “the ski town as we know it is dead.”
As the publication noted, “Unless you got in early, have a family inheritance, or somehow snagged one of the few affordable rentals in town, living in a traditional ski town is a less viable option than it has ever been.”
You’re coming from Seattle, and if you own real estate I’m sure it has grown considerably in value in recent years. Even still, you’ll likely find that places like Jackson Hole and Telluride are out of your price range.
Don’t fret, as there are plenty of ski-friendly destinations across the country that are also affordable. And you might find it worthwhile to consider renting temporarily in one or more of these locations before you choose where to put down roots and purchase a home. Here are some locations I suggest you consider as you think of moving:
Salt Lake City
The largest city in Utah played host to the 2002 Winter Olympics, and its venues have remained in top shape ever since. That’s good news for winter sports aficionados. There are nine ski resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City — you can even take a shuttle from downtown Salt Lake City to the famed Park City for just $60.
Salt Lake City has the trappings of most major cities with a lively downtown replete with coffee shops, music venues and good restaurants. The city is home to a fast-growing tech sector thanks to transplants from places like Silicon Valley and, yes, Seattle. Its strong economy would be an added bonus should you ever choose to switch jobs.
Sure, home values have risen by more than 23% over the past year, according to Zillow
But the typical home value, per Zillow, in Salt Lake City is less than $600,000, which is still significantly cheaper than Seattle. And the region has many affordable suburbs to consider, as well.
Also see: We love to ski but are struggling even with a $1 million house budget — what’s an affordable ski town where we can retire?
If Salt Lake City is too large for your taste, there are plenty of other options west of the Mississippi. Reno, Nevada — the Biggest Little City in the World — might be best known for its casinos, but its location amid the Sierra Nevadas means it’s close to many amazing ski resorts, including Palisades Tahoe, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.
You’ll also find multiple smaller towns near fine ski areas in Idaho. If you’re aiming for less hustle and bustle, consider McCall or Driggs.
Lake Placid, N.Y.
Sensing a theme here? Before Salt Lake City, Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. The latter games are best remembered for the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. men’s ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union, the four-time reigning champions. The city’s Olympic Center today features a museum commemorating the two Games it hosted. Lake Placid has many great restaurants and drinking holes, making it a popular escape for resident of the Big Apple.
Don’t discount the region’s skiing bona fides. Nearby Whiteface Mountain, the highest in New York State, has more than 288 ski-able acres and 87 trails.
The Northeast has plenty of top-notch skiing communities. Check out Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, which has a wonderful downtown area. Multiple ski mountains are located less than an hour’s drive from Burlington, including Stowe Mountain Resort and Smugglers’ Notch Resort.
In general, the most affordable ski towns are located east of the Mississippi River, according to Realtor.com. Eastern ski resorts aren’t to everyone’s liking — the snow tends to be more icy than powdery as compared with destinations out west. But these locations all tend to be more affordable than their Western counterparts.
Read more: I can afford a $300,000 home in a ski town ‘but not if it comes with $6,000 a year in HOA dues’ — so where can I retire?
You don’t need to leave Washington State to find a possible new home. Spokane, on the border with Idaho, is within two hours of five different ski resorts. The city has far more to do than winter sports, though. In the heart of Spokane is Riverfront Park, which features more than 100 acres of green space and pedestrian trails, and the region also has fantastic hiking trails. Plus, like other larger cities, there are plenty of museums, restaurants and breweries to satisfy.
The cost of living, meanwhile, is far lower than in Seattle on the other end of the state. The median home value Spokane, per Zillow, is just over $408,000 — less than half of Seattle’s. Because of that, much like with Salt Lake City, Spokane has begun attracting talent from pricey places like Seattle and Silicon Valley, boosting the region’s jobs market.
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