If you’re looking to move to Washington, or already live elsewhere in the state but see a relocation to Gig Harbor in your future, you’ll need to go in with the right expectations. As a local realtor and longtime resident, I am often asked if it is expensive to live here. Given my profession and decades in the community, I can give an authoritative answer.
Someone with their eyes on Gig Harbor’s idyllic lifestyle will need to be able to afford much higher housing costs than the national average. The average home sales price in Gig Harbor is currently $825,731. Yet, that is still lower than Seattle prices, and some things, like utilities or food costs, can cost less. Read on for the details of how Gig Harbor’s various cost factors break down.
Gig Harbor’s Costs vs. National and State Averages
According to the University of Washington, it costs a single adult roughly $44,000 a year on average to cover basic expenses in Washington. A single parent with one child sees double the cost and needs around $83,000, as of 2020. Gig Harbor’s cost of living is around 20% higher. By comparing that with the area’s average 2021 household income of $96,192 and per capita income of $54,456 we see that yes, some degree of wealth is required to afford a basic standard of living in Gig Harbor. There are other factors to consider, however, as detailed below.
Washington has a higher cost of living in general than many other areas of the country. On average, it costs around 15% more to live in Washington. As stated above, Gig Harbor’s numbers outpace Washington as a whole and are around 20% to 23% higher. The numbers break down differently than you might expect, though.
A lot of Gig Harbor’s cost of living comes from housing costs, which are substantially higher than the national average (though closer to par for Washington State).
- Average 2023 Rent – $2,822 per month
- Average Home Sales Price – $825,731 (according to May 2023’s Northwest MLS data)
Rentals range from around $1600 for a one-bedroom apartment to anywhere from $2500 to $3500 for a three-bedroom apartment. For those interested in buying a home, the 2023 housing market still favors sellers and the average price of sold homes has continued to increase over time.
Housing is a volatile market across the US, but the national average sales price (as of April 2023) is $487,300. Compare that to Gig Harbor’s $825,731 and the difference becomes clear. Likewise, the national average rent is around $1,995, based on Rent.com’s listings, putting it lower than Gig Harbor’s $2,822.
However, compared to some other notable areas of Washington in driving distance, Gig Harbor is affordable. This makes commuting to these cities a viable option for many:
- Bellevue Average Home Sales Price – $1,568,136
- Seattle Average Home Sales Price – $960,431
Compared to other cities close by in Pierce County, Gig Harbor is on the more expensive side but not outrageously so for being a safe community community full of waterfront real estate:
- University Place – $659,257
- Tacoma – $521,374
- Port Orchard – $526,793
In summation, housing in Gig Harbor may be a burdensome expense to many, and it is considerably more expensive than the national average. Housing is only one component of what it takes to live in Gig Harbor, however, so its cost is still relative to other factors.
Given the high housing costs, it may surprise you to learn that utility prices in Gig Harbor are actually lower than the national average. The average cents per Kilowatt hour (kWh) in the United States was 15.85. Gig Harbor’s average cost per kWh is only 10 cents, making it notably less expensive than the national average for residential services.
Gig Harbor’s water and sewer costs are middling, with the average water bill being around $107 and sewer rates sitting in the middle of surrounding counties.
While housing costs are demonstrably more expensive in Gig Harbor, basic utilities either come in on par with the national average or even below it. You won’t pay more for utilities in Gig Harbor than you would in other areas of Washington, in any case, so your monthly utility bills don’t require you to be particularly wealthy to live there (in comparison).
Grocery prices have experienced recent hikes across the entire country, so families everywhere are paying more for the same (or similar) food items compared to recent years. With that said, the state of Washington still pays about 14% more for basic groceries compared to the national average, and they may be more expensive in Gig Harbor.
However, consider the prices of the specific items below. They’re taken from stores in and nearby Gig Harbor and showcase how current prices stack up against the national average.
- 1 gallon of whole milk – $3.59 ($4.34 national average)
- 1 dozen large eggs – $2.79 ($2.67 national average)
- 1 loaf of wheat bread – $1.79 to $2.99 ($1.95 national average)
- 1lb of ground beef – $8.49 ($4.96 national average)
All prices from Gig Harbor are taken from Albertson’s grocery store, which is a large food and drug retailer. Some specific stores in Gig Harbor may offer items at a higher or lower cost, but the prices listed above are accessible to most of Gig Harbor’s residents.
Of the small sampling of prices, there’s no outstanding trend of Gig Harbor being substantially more expensive than the national average. A gallon of milk is less expensive, whereas a pound of ground beef costs more in Gig Harbor.
Gig Harbor Wages vs National and State Averages
As demonstrated above, certain things in Gig Harbor cost substantially more than in other parts of the country. If you intend to live in Gig Harbor, you’ll need to be able to afford its high cost of housing, but you won’t necessarily need to set aside more to cover utility costs and the cost of groceries largely depends on your personal preferences and eating habits.
With that said, is Gig Harbor’s high housing cost (and resulting high cost of living) covered by the city’s average wages? If someone can work a standard job in Gig Harbor and make enough to afford the basic necessities, then it isn’t completely inaccessible to the non-wealthy.
Average Gig Harbor Wages
Gig Harbor has an average per capita income of $54,456 and a household income of $96,192. According to MIT’s income statistics for the area, that average is pulled up considerably by white-collar professionals. The typical annual salary for management positions, for instance, is listed as $140,452. Compare that to the smaller $38,401 annual salary for “Food Preparation and Serving Related” positions, and the picture becomes clearer.
Washington set its own minimum wage at $15.74 per hour (as of January 2023), which still falls short of covering the average cost of living in Gig Harbor (or Washington in general). Remember, $44,000 is the average cost of living for a single individual in Washington. Working full-time at $15.74 per hour yields an annual (50-week) salary of $31,480.
A look at the numbers shows that you need to secure a job paying considerably higher than the state minimum wage, which is already considerably more than the national minimum wage of $7.25. That alone means that Gig Harbor tends to only be “livable” for people working well-paying, white-collar jobs or who have some other source of independent wealth.
What Type of Place is Gig Harbor?
There have been plenty of statistics listed above, and most of them point to Gig Harbor being a place primarily for individuals with higher incomes. What is the city really like, though? If the numbers are put aside, what sort of place is it?
Gig Harbor began as a fishing town with a substantial immigrant population. It did not begin as a wealthy area, and the town’s survival typically hinged on whether or not the fishing industry succeeded. It’s come quite a long way since its days as a small fishing village, and it is hardly considered “poor” anymore. Only 4.7% of its residents live in poverty, which is around half as much as the state of Washington as a whole.
Despite its increasing wealth, Gig Harbor is still small. There are only around 12,000 residents as of the last census, so it has retained the “small town” feeling. It’s conveniently located near Tacoma and Seattle, meaning that both places are options for commuters. With Gig Harbor, you get the convenience of larger cities, the beauty of the mountains, and a maritime feel, meaning there are financial and aesthetic reasons for its growing popularity.
It’s around 40 minutes away from Seattle, making it a viable commute for workers seeking the high pay of city work, and only 14 miles from Tacoma. If you choose to move to Gig Harbor, you’re not limited to the work and opportunities available within the suburb itself - you can seek employment elsewhere and reside in Gig Harbor with relative ease.
Many people have chosen to do exactly that. In the years since its fishing village days, Gig Harbor has developed a reputation for being one of the most affluent areas in Washington. There are plenty of shopping and recreational activities available in Gig Harbor, including golf, boutique shops, and a lively downtown area.
There’s a movement toward making the city more walkable, too, which may cut down on overall transportation costs for residents. That’s good news, considering the cost of gas is about $1.32 more per gallon in Washington than the national average.
Final Thoughts: Do you have to be wealthy to live in Gig Harbor?
Gig Harbor, Washington is a lovely place to live, and it’s clear why it’s an increasingly popular place to live and visit. Though, do you have to be wealthy to live here? That partly depends on what we define “wealthy” as but let’s wrap it up in clear terms.
Through statistics and analysis, we see that the current prices and cost of living in Gig Harbor do favor people with higher incomes. It’s difficult to afford to live in the city if you don’t make considerably more than the state’s minimum wage, which is already more than double the set federal minimum wage. However, those able and willing to commute to Seattle may find higher-paying jobs that cover Gig Harbor’s elevated costs.
To address the original question - Gig Harbor is expensive. Many of its residents are wealthy and affluent, which is reflected in the area’s inflated housing prices. Despite that, it is not necessarily unattainable, and residents even enjoy lower prices for some basic needs (like utilities). Keeping that in mind, there’s little doubt that a higher salary means you’ll be more comfortable and find it easier to make a home in the small Gig Harbor community.
All city average sales prices I pulled from Northwest MLS, May 2023, unless otherwise noted.