Why the Seattle Housing Market is Safer in a Recession

Earlier this year, Business Week’s Prashant Gopal wrote and article titled “Some Cities Will Be Safer In A Recession.” I’m going to summarize this article and share my thoughts on why they named Seattle as one of these cities.

As you can imagine, cities with a strong presence in health care, education, law, energy, and the government will do better in a downturn than those without. Why, because all of these items are considered by most of us as a necessity.

Government leaders are working to avoid a depression-or at least a late-1970s-level recession-but if things get really bad, some places will suffer more: states such as California, Florida, and Nevada that are buried under a growing mass of foreclosures, cities like New York and Chicago that have large numbers of financial sector jobs, and manufacturing towns like Detroit that are already suffering from weak sales of cars and other durable goods.

Other local economies, those dominated by stable industries, could be relatively well cushioned. In this article, Business Week looked at places where large portions of the population worked in anti-cyclical industries such as government, health care, education, agriculture, and legal services.

College Cushion

Colleges don’t necessarily flourish in bad times, but they don’t go out of business either. People tend to go back to school to learn marketable skills when unemployment is high, but alumni donations and state grants do tend to dwindle during recessions. Major cities with multiple college campuses benefit from this situation. Seattle, has multiple college campuses such as the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, City University and others.

Health Care

Even doctors and nurses feel the pinch in a recession because people without jobs or insurance tend to put off medical visits until it’s absolutely necessary. But medical care is in demand in good times and bad. Seattle has many hospitals in the area, including:

Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center

Children’s Hospital and Medical Center is the premier pediatric referral center in the Pacific Northwest, with national prominence for its clinical expertise and affiliation with the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Harborview Medical Center

As the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, Harborview’s expert emergency and operating-room staff are available 24 hours a day. The University of Washington Burn Center at Harborview is nationally renowned for its advances in burn-care techniques.

Northwest Hospital

Northwest Hospital is a nonprofit hospital located in North Seattle. The Northwest Hospital Childbirth Center was the first in Seattle to provide labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum care in a single room.

Overlake Hospital Medical Center

Overlake Hospital Medical Center is a nonprofit, non-tax-supported community hospital offering a full range of advanced medical services. Overlake features the only level III trauma center on the greater Eastside, a childbirth center with special-care nursery for premature infants and an innovative postpartum follow-up program.

Swedish Medical Center

Swedish Medical Center isthe Northwest’s largest, most comprehensive health care facility. Its flagship campus, located on Seattle’s First Hill, is a regional referral center for several major specialties. Swedish’s Ballard campus is a full-service, acute-care facility offering high-quality medical and surgical services to the surrounding community.

University of Washington Medical Center

Many consumer guides cite University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) as one of the best hospitals in the country – one of the top 10, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual guide.Located on the UW campus, the 450-bed medical center provides comprehensive primary and specialty care.

Valley Medical Center

Valley Medical Cente rprovides a broad range of health care services to the individuals who live and work in South King County. The emergency department, designated a level III trauma center, is one of the busiest in the state, with crisis-intervention counselors available around the clock.

Virginia Mason Medical Center

Virginia Mason Medical Center consists of a downtown Seattle clinic and hospital, and a system of 7 medical clinics throughout western Washington, which offer comprehensive and personalized health care services. VirginiaMason has been a regional leader since 1920, and is consistently rankedamong the finest medical facilities in the United States.

Wow, that’s a lot of health care and a lot of stable jobs.

Grocery Cushion

Farms and grocery stores tend to be relatively stable because even though people might not be able to afford restaurant food, they still need to eat. There are 206 stores in the Seattle Division of the grocer Safeway. QFC and Albertson’s add as many to that total. And, despite scaling back new store openings after a third-quarter profit drop, Whole Foods Market is still going ahead with plans for two more Seattle-area stores, making the total number in the Seattle area seven.

Major Port Cushion

Seattle, is a major port and will continue to benefit from robust international trade as long as the dollar is weak.

Seattle at a glance

Share of jobs in strong industries: 37.6%

Number of workers: 331,186

Metro area unemployment rate: 5%

Agriculture jobs: 0.34%

Professional, Scientific, and Technical jobs (legal, accounting etc.): 12.24%

Education jobs: 10.02%

Health-care jobs: 11.49%

Public Administration (Government) jobs: 3.48%

If you live in Seattle, you are in a great place to buy your first home. Prices have come down, mortgage interest rates are at historic lows, and sellers are willing to pay for most if not all of your closing costs.