Housing & Real Estate in Kitsap County
The Pacific Northwest’s moderate climate makes it the ideal place to enjoy the great outdoors. With so much to do and all within an hour’s drive, the West Sound will never leave you bored. You can go mountain biking, hiking, head to a museum, go scuba diving and more. If you’re hungry, you can find just about any food you’d like — restaurants are serving worldly cuisines, and locally owned breweries and eateries are specializing in northwest fare. One of West Sound’s greatest assets is the wildlife and scenery.
In 2017, an estimated 266,414 people called Kitsap County home, the U.S. Census Bureau says. Population density in the county was 635.9 people per square mile, the census found.
Naval Base Kitsap, in Kitsap County’s largest city of Bremerton, has nearly 15,200 active-duty personnel, 17,600 civilian employees, 1,000 reserves, 18,700 family members and approximately 36,000 retirees. Additionally, more than 34,000 veterans live in the area.
The county’s communities give newcomers plenty of choices when selecting a home. Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s home options. Visit www.warealtor.org to find expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home.
Kitsap County’s population is approximately 265,000, and it has one of the most temperate climates on the globe. Average temperatures are 73 degrees in the summer and 42 degrees in the winter. Winters are mild, and significant snowfall is rare.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 566 square miles, of which 395 square miles is land and 171 square miles is water. It is the fourth-smallest county in Washington by land area and third-smallest by total area. Kitsap County boasts the distinction of having the most saltwater coastline of any county in the U.S. with over 250 miles.
Communities in Kitsap County near Naval Base Kitsap include Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Kingston, Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Silverdale.
The affluent community of Bainbridge Island is appealing to families who desire a nurturing environment and great schools for their children, young professionals and active, retired people. They come for the rural solitude, the community feeling, the excellence in education and the parks and water views.
The population of the city is about 24,500. In 1990, the city of Winslow annexed the entire island into its city limits. By a vote of the residents, the city’s name officially changed to the city of Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island is the newest city in the state and the only rural city with farms and two former state parks.
Pristine forests and parks abound on the island, and outdoor enthusiasts heavily use bicycle trails, picnic areas and boat launches. Camping facilities are available. Eagle Harbor offers visitors a passing parade of world-cruising yachts.
For the sports-minded, the parks and recreation district offers 1,400 acres of parks and facilities. Soccer and softball fields, a public swimming pool, nature preserves, equestrian trails, tennis courts, picnic areas and play areas are just the start. The park district offers programs for team sports in softball, soccer, Little League and gymnastics. There are also numerous programs for outdoor hikes and nature study. The Bloedel Reserve, a 150-acre preserve open to the public, combines natural woodlands and developed gardens. A walk through the quiet elegance of nature at its finest is a special treat, and reservations are no longer required.
Housing prices in the area are much higher than elsewhere in the nation. Median rent is $1,233, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $2,432. Mean travel time to work for those living in Bainbridge Island is 43 minutes.
Surrounded by water on three sides and with a view of the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, Bremerton, on one of Puget Sound’s beautiful protected harbors, has one of the most picturesque settings of any city in the Pacific Northwest. A one-hour ferry ride gets you to Seattle, and Tacoma is only 32 miles south via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
With a population close to 41,000 people, Bremerton is the largest city on the Kitsap Peninsula. Bremerton is a Navy town and has been ever since Puget Sound Naval Shipyard began its operations in the 1890s. Military installations play an important part in Bremerton’s economy.
Outdoor activities abound in the city. Evergreen Park offers six acres of excellent picnicking and access to the waterfront. There is plenty of parking and a small boat launch, a playground and a rose garden. It’s on the west side of the Port Washington Narrows at the north end of Park Avenue. Bachman Park furnishes an excellent view of Port Orchard Bay and passing ferry boats. The half-acre park, at Shore Drive and Trenton Avenue on Manette Peninsula, offers beach access and a covered veranda. Stephenson Canyon is a heavily wooded natural park on 28 acres with a canyon and a small creek. There are many trails for exploring and easy walking. It’s west of Warren Avenue between Sheridan Road and Lebo Boulevard.
Housing options are more affordable in Bremerton as compared with other parts of the Kitsap Peninsula. The median monthly gross rent was $889, and median selected monthly costs for homeowners with a mortgage were $1,387, the U.S. Census says. Workers’ average commute time was 25 minutes.
Kingston is on a bay called Appletree Cove on the northeastern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula. The cove’s surroundings include lush evergreens and homes that respect the beauty of the natural landscape.
Kingston’s greatest asset is its proximity to the water. It is the western terminus for the ferry that makes a 35-minute crossing to Edmonds, a town on the east side of Puget Sound about
20 minutes north of Seattle.
The ferry ride effectively separates Kingston from the breakneck pace of Seattle’s half million people, yet all the resources of Seattle are readily accessible to the people of Kingston.
This little town’s population of around 2,100 swells for the Fourth of July celebration, which offers a parade, slug races, the Tiny Town Children’s Fair and a spectacular fireworks display.
This residential community is 1.65 square miles with a commute time of around of 52 minutes. Median rent in the town is $1,057, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,927.
Port Orchard, the county seat of Kitsap County with a population of almost 14,000, is in the southern portion of Kitsap County on Sinclair Inlet, west of Seattle. Port Orchard was platted in 1886 and was originally called Sidney. Lumber, pottery and terra cotta, and shingle mills were the first industries. In 1892, residents voted to change the name to Port Orchard after Henry Masterson Orchard, a navigator under Capt. George Vancouver. The town was the first in Kitsap County to be incorporated.
It is approximately 17 miles from Bangor’s main gate and a 10-minute ferry ride from Bremerton on a historic passenger ferry. Port Orchard is directly south of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. State Highway 16 links Port Orchard to Tacoma on the south and Bremerton on the north.
In Port Orchard, you will find a warm and friendly small-town atmosphere with most of the big-town amenities. Located on Puget Sound’s Sinclair Inlet, Port Orchard is a beautiful waterfront community. Port Orchard is known for its popular marina, shops filled with antiques and crafts, art galleries, museums, golf courses (including McCormick Woods, rated “best course” and “most enjoyable course” by Golf Digest and Golf Week) and casual to fine dining restaurants.
Mean travel time to work for residents of Port Orchard is 28 minutes. Median rent is $1,072, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,713.
Only poor handwriting and the interpretation of the postmaster general kept the spelling from actually being “Paulsbo.” Originally called “Paul’s Bo,” meaning Paul’s Place, the town of more than 10,400 residents retains a Norwegian flavor. “Velkommen til Poulsbo,” the public greeting in Norwegian, is easily translated as a sincere “Welcome to Poulsbo.”
Poulsbo settlers in the late 1880s include fishers, loggers and farmers who likened Dogfish Bay (later renamed Liberty Bay) and its surroundings to the fjords of Norway and adjoining Scandinavian countries.
Transportation in Poulsbo’s early years was by boat, horseback and foot. Major buying and selling was done via boat to Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Fishers from the Bering Sea brought their catch of codfish here to one of the largest processing plants in the Northwest for salting and preserving.
A “mosquito fleet” of steamers sailed from Seattle to Poulsbo for some 60 years, carrying passengers and freight. Poulsbo’s strong ties to the water are still evident today, with the presence of three marinas on the shores of Liberty Bay.
The downtown waterfront area of Poulsbo was at one time part of Liberty Bay. In the 1950s, the community worked together to fill part of the bay to form Liberty Bay Waterfront Park and Anderson Parkway. Within a span of five generations, Poulsbo changed from a rowboat on an untouched shore to a thriving community with small-town charm.
Median rent is $970, and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,682. Mean travel time to work is 28 minutes.
Silverdale, once a small agricultural community on the muddy shores of Dyes Inlet, has blossomed and now boasts myriad shopping opportunities, recreation and leisure activities, an outstanding school district and residential opportunities in single-family and multifamily units.
A prominent feature of Silverdale is its poplar trees, which tower over parts of this once-rural area. They are the same majestic Lombardy poplars that Napoleon had planted on the Isle of St. Helena.
Silverdale, in the heart of Kitsap County, experienced its rapid growth partly due to the Navy’s decision to build a base for Trident nuclear submarines at Bangor and subsequently by its own economic and geographic attractions. Silverdale’s population is now more than 19,000.
Silverdale has been the site of development and expansion of retail, medical, business, recreational and housing sectors in Kitsap County. It is home to Kitsap Mall, a large regional shopping center with nearly 850,000 square feet of retail space.
The Silverdale/Central Kitsap housing market has seen an abundance of new construction and controlled residential development in recent years. Many homes have water frontage and mountain and marine views. Most housing is no more than 25 minutes away from shopping, educational and employment facilities. Median rent in Silverdale is $1,164 and selected monthly owner costs of housing units with a mortgage are $1,626. Mean travel time to work 24 minutes.
Planning Your Move
Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or the nation, preparation and organization make all the difference.
For military moves, visit www.move.mil for information about moving resources and to learn about the allowances and responsibilities of a military-sponsored move.
Decide whether or not to make your move a do-it-yourself operation.
For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your
Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes as possible from professional movers, as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs for each type of move, factoring in the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.
Regardless of which method you choose, the first step should be to inventory your personal belongings. The list, with photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.
Plan for one full day to pack each room — though the kitchen and garage may take longer. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more time. It always takes longer than predicted to pack. Toss or donate unused items to lighten your load. Visit www.goodwill.org, www.salvationarmyusa.org or www.clothingdonations.org for locations near you or to arrange a pickup.
Pack for success:
- Consider what you are packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.
- Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or air bubble wrapping.
- Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.
- Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.
- Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.
Buying Versus Renting
The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term financial and emotional commitment with various pluses and minuses. Advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages include upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property values.
Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is a loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.
To determine your best choice, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.
Finding an Apartment
Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting like a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.
Before you sign a lease, inspect the apartment with the landlord. Look for the following problems:
- Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling.
- Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage.
- Any signs of mold or pests.
- Lack of hot water.
- Inadequate heating or air conditioning.
Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.
“Your Rights as a Tenant in Washington State” by the Northwest Justice Project can be downloaded at www.washingtonlawhelp.org/resource/your-rights-as-a-tenant-in-washington.
Buying a Home
Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.
Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible homeowner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. Overall, loan rules changed in 2015, but according to www.ginniemae.gov (Government National Mortgage Association) and www.homebuyinginstitute.com (the Home Buying Institute) loan programs continue to vary on the percentage of your income that can be used for housing-related expenses. Lenders balance debt against income to decide if an applicant will be able to repay a loan. Most conventional loans require borrowers to have no more than 43 percent total monthly debt versus their total monthly income, though there are exceptions, such as for those with significant savings. The Federal Housing Administration has a two-tier qualifying system: FHA sets its top thresholds at 31 percent front-end debt (housing expenses as a percentage of income) and 43 percent back-end debt (all debt as a percentage of income) for a 31/43 qualifying ratio. Like commercial lenders, Veterans Affairs combines front-end and back-end debt for a 41 percent limit against income.
Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all homebuyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an internet lender, a mortgage broker, a homebuilder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.
A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan. For any home loan application, the mortgage company will order a credit report, so it would be good to get a free report in advance to determine your credit status and make sure the report contains no erroneous information.
To order your free annual report from one or all of the national consumer reporting companies: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and complete and submit the request form online.
Home Loan Application
To complete a home loan application you’ll need: photo IDs (such as a driver’s license); Social Security numbers; residence addresses for the past two years with landlord contact information if you rented; names and addresses of your employers for the past two years; your current gross monthly income; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers and balances on all checking, savings, CDs, money market, bonds and mutual funds accounts; recent financial institution statements with names, addresses, account numbers, balances and monthly payments on all open loans (including student loans) and credit cards; addresses and loan information of all other real estate owned; estimated value of furniture and personal property; W2s for the past two years and current paycheck stubs; copies of all divorce decrees, child support documents or any other court proceedings that affect your financial status; verification of any child support payments; and evidence of any retirement or pension benefits. VA or military forms include: DD 214 (veteran), Form 22 (National Guard), DD 1747, Off-base Housing Authority (active duty) and Certificate of Eligibility (active duty).
For more information, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans.
Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan is invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.
First, determine your home preferences. Does a single-family house, condo, town house or duplex best fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.
The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your homebuying and neighborhood preferences, and are readily accessible.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Washington provides housing programs and incentives to help residents with home ownership. For more information, visit http://portal.hud.gov and select “Washington” from the “State Info” drop-down menu.
Several agencies throughout Kitsap County provide down-payment assistance programs, homebuyer programs and self-help housing to qualified homebuyers. Some options are available for prospective candidates who have previously owned a home. For more information, visit www.kitsaphousingcoalition.org/homebuyer-programs.html.