Census data shows home trends continue in Bellingham, Whatcom County

The U.S. Census data confirms what many Whatcom County residents already know — home values are high and rental vacancies are low. Here’s a look at some of the 2018 numbers:

Rent differences between Bellingham, Whatcom

What residents pay in rent is significantly different between Bellingham and the rest of Whatcom County, probably because of the type and size of rentals offered. However, the countywide numbers include Bellingham.

About 14% of Bellingham renters paid between $1,500 and $1,999 a month, while in Whatcom about 26% of renters paid that amount.

About 36% of Bellingham renters paid $500-999 a month in 2018, while in Whatcom about 11% of renters paid that amount.

The percentage of income devoted to paying rent is also significantly different. In Whatcom County the census estimates almost 46% of renters are paying more than 35% of household income toward rent; in Bellingham that percentage was about 27%.

One commonality between Bellingham and Whatcom County as a whole is a low vacancy rate. In Bellingham the census data estimates the rental vacancy rate at 1.3%; Whatcom’s vacancy rate was 2.1%. A vacancy rate of about 5% is considered a balanced market between renters and landlords.

The rental vacancy rate has remained low in this area since 2014, when the Whatcom rate was 4.1%

The census estimates Whatcom County had 97,867 housing units last year, an increase of 5,405 since 2014.

More residents own higher-valued homes

More Whatcom County residents are living in higher-valued homes, according to the census data. In 2018, 43.4% of homeowners lived in places that ranged in value from $300,000 to $499,000, making it the most popular value category. That’s up from 2014, when 28.6% had homes valued at that amount.

The percentage of Whatcom homeowners in the $500,000 to $999,000 value category was 20.4% in 2018, up from 11.4% in 2014. More than $1 million? In 2018, 3.1% of homeowners in Whatcom County owned homes valued at over $1 million, up from 1.3% in 2014.

One area that has remained stable is the percentage of homeowners versus renters. Last year 61.4% of homes were owner-occupied in Whatcom County, similar to the 2014 total. In Bellingham, the percentage of owner-occupied homes was much lower than the overall county, coming in at 42.8%. That’s similar to the 2014 percentage of 44.1%.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.