While Bellingham may be known as “the city of subdued excitement,” its real estate market is anything but subdued. Homes don’t sit on the market for very long in this coastal town, where property values have been soaring for the last several years. Bellingham homes rose nearly 11% last year compared with 6.5% for the rest of the nation, according to a Zillow report. In fact, Bellingham’s real estate market is expected to continue a meteoric year-over-year rise of 8%, as folks from all over the country continue to migrate to this little slice of PNW paradise.
Bellingham’s temperate summers and low crime rate are certainly part of the town’s allure, but that doesn’t paint the full picture. Bellingham is also situated within short drives to every possible type of outdoor recreation imaginable. The town is nestled between the Bellingham Bay, with a bounty of crabbing, fishing, and sailing, and Lake Whatcom, for the water sport and lounging enthusiasts. Mt. Baker is an hour away for the ski bunnies, and Canada lays to the north with quick access to international wayfaring, shopping, and dining. Bellinghamsters pride themselves on being friendly, laid back, and family oriented, creating a local culture that is both inviting and enticing.
Whether it’s a desirable school district, lake views, or a high walkability score, each Bellingham neighborhood has its own unique charm and appeal. Places like Edgemore and Fairhaven will always be highly coveted for their stately homes and unmatched views, but other communities are gaining traction as people consider the benefits of a lower cost per square foot, larger lots, and proximity to specific services. Keep reading for our roundup of Bellingham’s ten hottest neighborhoods, selected for their current and forecasted home values, access to popular amenities, and popularity among residents.
It’s all about the view in this neighborhood, which is situated on the top of and around Alabama Hill. The higher elevation affords many residents stunning views of Lake Whatcom to the east or glimpses of downtown and the Bellingham Bay to the west. The neighborhood is bounded to the south by Whatcom Falls Park, a major draw for residents with its enchanting waterfalls and endless maze of trails that connect to other parks and the rest of the interurban trail system. Residents of Alabama Hill can easily walk or bike to nearby Barkley Village, which contains shops, restaurants, bars, and a multiplex theater.
The houses in Alabama Hill tend to be on the pricier side and rising, thanks in part to the neighborhood’s prime location. Zillow estimates Alabama Hill homes will jump another 3.2% over the next year.
Hot Tip: AreaVibes has ranked Alabama Hill as the #1 neighborhood in Bellingham.
Hot Spot: The Big Rock Garden is an art lover’s paradise cloaked in a thicket of evergreens and ferns on the north side of Alabama Hill. The 2.5-acre park contains nearly 40 sculptures created by artists of local and international renown.
Located in northwest Bellingham just south of I-5 and bordered by Squalicum Creek on the southeast side, Birchwood is a family-centric neighborhood with several public schools and plenty of shopping and dining options. Birchwood also contains the Squalicum Creek Park, a sizable community park and athletic field complex, and the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. The neighborhood is close to Meridian Street, the main shopping corridor with a steady flow of traffic headed for the Bellis Fair Mall and surrounding big box stores.
Birchwood properties rose 8.3% last year and are anticipated to grow another 3.7% this year, according to Zillow. The homes tend to be newer and on larger lots than other neighborhoods in Bellingham, making this neighborhood a favorite for families who want a little room to grow.
Hot Tip: The zip line at the Squalicum Creek Park is up and running after an extended period of disrepair. It is now designed to support the weight of kids aged 5-12.
Hot Spot: Hops N Headz dishes up some of the area’s best pub grub, and with 30 rotating craft beers on tap, this place makes happy hour very happy indeed.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Bellingham, Columbia is also one of the hottest. According to Zillow, homes in Columbia jumped 14.7% in value last year, and this steep ascent is expected to continue. The neighborhood is situated in northwest Bellingham, filled mostly with single family, craftsman-style homes on quiet streets adorned with verdant gardens.
Many of the homes are older and have sweeping views of Squalicum Harbor and Bellingham Bay, and Columbia residents can enjoy a short walk to Zuanich Park and the Maritime Heritage Park. This neighborhood of 4,000 is accessible to downtown and the waterfront, as well as the shopping district, making it an attractive area to call home.
Historical Tip: The Eldridge Historic District, at the southern tip of this neighborhood, dates back to the late 1880s and many of the stately homes display plaques bearing the original homeowner’s name and year the house was built.
Hot Spot: Located on the marina waterfront, Nicki’s Bella Marina is known as much for its big burgers as it is for its big views.
DOWNTOWN BUSINESS DISTRICT
Downtown Bellingham offers all the trappings of a typical central business district neighborhood, with access to great waterfront views and amenities, including restaurants, breweries, nightclubs, beauty salons, and much more. Downtown is also home to the arts district, City Hall, and the Bellingham Public Library. The neighborhood is situated south of the Lettered Streets neighborhood and north of York. It connects to the historic Fairhaven neighborhood via Boulevard by car or S. Bay Trail by foot.
The downtown area is comprised mostly of condominiums, and while residential real estate runs higher here than in other parts of the city, it is still relatively affordable when compared to CBD neighborhoods in other popular cities. This area will perhaps see the most rapid growth over the next few years as the various pieces of the waterfront redevelopment project materialize.
Historical Tip: A legitimate brothel operated out of the second floor of the Spokane Building (the feed store on Railroad Ave.) until it was outlawed in 1948.
Hot Tip: Art galleries, museums, restaurants and shops all open their doors to showcase local art as part of the Downtown Art Walk, which occurs on the first Friday of every month.
Approximately 600 residents call this bayside neighborhood home. An eclectic array of single-family homes and condominiums are interspersed along narrow cobblestone roads with boutiques, bookshops, coffee houses, restaurants, and bars. There are many services within walking distance, including the Fairhaven Public Library and the Village Green, an outdoor green space for community gatherings.
Fairhaven is one of the most sought-after communities in Bellingham and also one of the most expensive. Home prices have leveled out since their peak in 2015, but Fairhaven’s premium waterfront location, commercial access, and quaint old town vibe still make this neighborhood very popular and pricey.
Historical Tip: The bank building on the corner of 11th and Harris once housed the famous “hippie hangout” Toad Hall, known and beloved for its bluegrass music and gargantuan pizza.
Hot Spot: Gainsbarre, a French-themed wine bar, offering light fare has recently opened to rave reviews on 11th St.
In the north side of Bellingham, Meridian is experiencing a population boom as home buyers are beginning to recognize this neighborhood’s tremendous potential. Situated in between the Cordata and King Mountain neighborhoods and north of I-5, the Meridian neighborhood features newer homes on wide, tree-lined streets. Meridian also has several new apartment complexes, and developers plan to construct more shortly to keep pace with the housing demand.
Meridian contains several beautiful greenbelts throughout the neighborhood, and the City has plans to create more parks and green spaces in the coming years. Getting to and from home is easy with Meridian’s proximity to I-5. The Bellis Fair Mall is a popular destination for shoppers on both sides of the border and Meridian also houses a wide range of other shopping and dining options. Real estate in Meridian tends to be more affordable than in other parts of Bellingham, making this neighborhood an excellent choice for anyone looking to buy.
Hot Tip: The Meridian neighborhood has been designated as a future District Urban Village as part of Bellingham’s Comprehensive Plan.
Hot Spot: Fireside Martini is a cozy spot to kick back for happy hour with a wide selection of craft cocktails, wine, and beer to choose from, as well as regular live entertainment.
The most populated neighborhood in the city is also the most diverse in terms of zoning use. The neighborhood of 6,000 residents has the most wide-ranging selection of buildings, including single family homes and multi-family units, old structures and new developments, and small businesses and big-box retail.
The shopping-centric Sunset Drive borders Roosevelt to the north and Whatcom Creek to the south. With easy access to I-5, a broad mix of retail, and slightly lower housing prices, Roosevelt is an affordable and accessible option for many homebuyers.
Historical Tip: Originally named Eureka, the Roosevelt neighborhood was established in 1889 as the First Addition to New Whatcom. It was renamed Roosevelt in the 1920s.
Hot Spot: Located on Verona Street south of Alabama St., Roosevelt Park has basketball courts, picnic tables, a sports field, and playground.
Sunsets are best viewed from South Hill, where residents are spoiled by panoramic views of Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, Mt. Baker and the Olympic Mountains. Combined with stately homes, well-positioned condos, lush flora, and a family-centric vibe, it’s no surprise this exclusive neighborhood of nearly 4,000 is one of the most sought-after (and expensive) places to live in Bellingham.
South Hill is situated on the bay, just north of Fairhaven and south of downtown Bellingham. The ever-popular Boulevard Park, a scenic area with an overwater boardwalk that runs along the bay, borders the neighborhood to the west. Many of the homes in South Hill date back to the early 1900s, and they vary in size and architectural detail. The neighborhood scores high in walkability, with downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven just a short walk away.
Historical Tip: The Ridgeway area in South Hill has been developed since World War II.
Hot Spot: The Chrysalis Inn & Spa is the place to be pampered. After treating themselves, spa-goers often head to the in-house restaurant, Keenan’s at the Pier, which offers sweeping views and a Northwest-inspired menu.
With proximity to St. Joseph Hospital and the surrounding medical facilities, easy access to I-5, and plenty of shopping and dining options along Sunset and James streets, Sunnyland has a lot going for it. Many of the residents have lived here for a long time, adding their own quirky accents to their homes and as a result, the neighborhood bursts with energy and charm.
Sunnyland is framed by I-5 on the east side and the Lettered Streets neighborhood to the west. Older multi-family and single homes on small lots tend to dominate the centrally located neighborhood. Sunnyland is home to Bellingham High School and Sunnyland Elementary School, as well as several parks and green spaces, and the commercial area along Sunset offers a wide variety of shopping options for residents.
Hot Tip: AreaVibes ranks Sunnyland as the 4th best neighborhood in Bellingham.
Hot Spot: With a rotating selection of seasonal suds, different food trucks daily, and a friendly atmosphere, Kulshan Brewing Co. serves up some of the best brews in town.
Dating back to the 1890s, York is one of the oldest neighborhoods in town, and as a result, many of the homes are on smaller lots and feature distinct Victorian elements. The area is centrally located, with downtown to the west, Western Washington University to the south, and I-5 along the east side.
York is a small, close-knit community known for being safe and family-friendly. Most of the businesses here are locally owned, and the area has great appeal for people who want quick access to downtown but still want to be a part of a more residential atmosphere.
Hot Tip: Homes in the York neighborhood are expected to rise by 4.2% over the next year, making this a great place to invest in.
Hot Spot: Housed in a historic church, the collection at the Alternative Library on E. Maple St. focuses on art, comics, and small press books. The library is also used as a community space for concerts, screenings, and readings.