Living in Renton, Washington; an affordable alternative to Seattle. My Experience 3 years later.

I’m writing this post because, like many of us who moved to the Puget Sound region, I came here for work with the expectation of living in an apartment for a few years before buying my own place. Again, like many of you, I found that it really wasn’t realistic to find a place in Seattle with the salary I was making.

I didn’t find much on what it was actually like to live in Renton back when I was buying for the first time; so I’m giving my insight now.

The Search

In 2017 I started the search for a home in Seattle and Bellevue, quickly my search area expanded outward until I finally started to find places that fit my budget, and weren’t off the market within a few hours of being listed.

After a few weeks I narrowed it down to a place in Lynwood/Alderwood Manor and Renton. I had narrowed it down to these cities because they were about equidistant from both Seattle and the Eastside. I wanted potential commutes to be roughly the same if either myself or my girlfriend moved jobs from one side of the lake to the other.

The Purchase

I ended up making an offer on a place in Renton over Lynwood. Something about the neighborhood I selected reminded me of where I grew up in the Los Angeles area and it had more of a “city” feeling than Lynwood.

Shortly after making the offer I started the regret the decision after spending some more time exploring the area. I grew up in a poor area with its fair share of gang violence, and the Rainier Ave area of Renton seemed sketchier than any area I remember in LA.

Spent the next month until closing questioning the decision, and continued to question it for months after moving in. The first couple of weeks of commuting to Redmond from Renton were brutal, and frequently took 1.5 to 2 hours to get home.

Settling In

After a few weeks I figured out the traffic patterns and side-streets. Normal commute to work takes 30-40 minutes, and if I leave work after 6:30 I can get home in about 30-40 minutes as well. I’ve found enough alternate routes to get home in about a hour during peak hours. Overall I’m content with the amount of traffic now. I’ve commuted into Seattle a few times and travel times are about the same, if not a bit better than the commute to the east side. Many people in my neighborhood work at Amazon and walk to the transit center in Renton, I haven’t heard them complain about the commute so I assume they’re fine with it as well.

Boon Boona Coffee

Downtown Renton has improved quite a bit over the past two years and I love walking downtown on the weekends and grabbing some food and heading to Four Generals Brewing or 8 Bit Arcade Bar. When I get up early enough or when I’m working from home I always try to stop in at Boon Boona Coffee.

Renton is about 30 minutes closer than Seattle to the Cascades and Rainier area, so if you like the outdoors that is a plus.

The lakeside area of Renton is growing a lot, The Landing has a good enough selection of food. There is a huge office park, hotel, and apartment complex being built on the water named Southport which is supposedly has potential tenants like Facebook lined up. There is also a ferry service planned between the new complex and Seattle.

Also on the lake is my now favorite Lake Washington park: Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. The park is very well maintained and has a great lakeside trail that I love running on during the winter when the park is completely dead and I have it to myself. During the summer we spend a lot of time kayaking out of this park.

Cedar River cuts through Renton and UNDER the Renton Library, which is neat. I enjoy biking along the river, especially in the fall when all the leaves are changing and fog hangs on the trail in the morning.

Seattle isn’t too far, about 10 mins to Georgetown, and 20 minutes to Downtown on the weekend when there’s no traffic. A bus ride into downtown followed by an UBER ride home after dinner and drinks isn’t too expensive.

The Bad

Crime, drugs, and homelessness is an issue, and “good” areas of Renton area only a block or two from the “bad” areas. I know the area well now, but there are streets I feel perfectly fine walking down at night parallel to ones I don’t feel safe walking down. Get to know a local or join a local Facebook group before looking for a place to live in Renton.

The airport and related industry can be extremely noisy. During peak 737 manufacturing there are quite a few large jets taking off during the day, and the rumbles can be heard miles around the airport. Trains also bring 737 fuselages randomly through downtown, when this is happening most of traffic grinds to a halt for 5-10 minutes, the train also blares it’s horns. It’s loud enough that I can’t take work calls while this is happening, and there’s been several times they’ve done this in the middle of the night at 2-3am. The city tweets in advance of these late night deliveries but it is still annoying. If I lived directly downtown I imagine I’d have to wear earplugs to make it through the night without having a heart attack on the nights of these deliveries.

Final thoughts

Since first moving to Renton, I’ve actually purchased a larger home and moved within the same neighborhood. So you could say I’ve enjoyed Renton enough to chose to stay after looking for another home.

People do heavily and somewhat rightly judge Renton. I get quite a bit of jabbing from coworkers for living in Renton, but the people I’ve met here are great and the negative impression people have are keeping prices affordable for the time being.

Would love to see other “Living in XXX” for the less “desirable” places that are still relatively affordable around Seattle.

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