Bainbridge Island Real Estate

Riding the Waves

The expression “in like a lion, out like a lamb” seems to apply to our 2013 market. At the end of the first half of the year, we were up an impressive 21% from the 2012 numbers of homes sold. In the third quarter, that statistic cooled to 15% over last year. By the end of the fourth quarter, our numbers had softened again and we ended the year at just 7% above last year’s stats. In terms of the quantities of homes sold, we went from 93 in Q4 2012 to 77 in Q4 2013 – a decrease of 17%. When compared to the 2008 fourth quarter sales of 41 homes, this year’s 77 sales do not look so bad, but we were a bit perplexed about why the market did not maintain the momentum it enjoyed earlier in the year.

Bainbridge Island Real EstateWhat’s Out There?

The obvious and accurate key to what changed the trajectory of the 2013 market is inventory. The average inventory of active homes (homes on the market and not under contract) during the 2012 fourth quarter was 144 homes, and that number dropped 30% in 2013 to 100 homes. We ended 2013 with 76 active listings and by January 6th we had 70. These are historically low num-bers and low inventory has a very damping effect on sales. For many buyers, real estate is the largest investment of their lives so a home needs to speak to them in order to inspire them to act. Without choices, they wait (as they should).

Sellers & Buyers; Prices & Choices

Many sellers wait to list their homes for the same reasons buyers wait to make offers: they are not going to put their houses on the market if there are no choices waiting for them to transition to. Also, in general, prices have not rebounded for some seg-ments of the marketplace. During 2011 and 2012, when we began to move out of the recession, the recovery was led by homes under $600K. Our “middle market” ($600K to $900K) made gains this year but our upper market really struggled. (We saw a 28% decrease in homes over $1M between 2012 and 2013.) These are not recipes for definitive general upward price movement. Buy-ers, although present, are not exhibiting a great sense of urgency where they would have a tendency to push prices higher faster. The end result is modest gains that are not enough to bring some sellers back into the marketplace, as they are still waiting for higher prices (and choices).

Bainbridge Island Real EstatePromising Segments

There is good news in both the condominium and land categories, both of which showed solid gains in 2013. Condominium sales were up 16% with average prices growing 11%. In 2012, there was only one sale over $600K, while there were three in 2013. This included two sales of million dollar condominiums in 2013 (and one already this year) – the first condominium sales in that price range since July of 2010. Condominiums are also subject to the lack of inventory, with only 18 active listings as of this writing.

A Busy Time for Land & Development

Land sales were up 30% in 2013, which was part of a post-correction breakout year for new construction. The first phase of Grow Village is sold out. Four new homes were listed on Ruys Lane, and they have all sold (all four went under contract in a period of 22 days!). Timberbrook on Solana Lane has finished two of their 10 homes and both are sold. Burlingame Court has sold half of their six homes. The Housing Resources Board CLT project off Ferncliff is sold out. These sales represent a broad spectrum of traditional family homes, urban cottages, affordable homes and “edgier” modern homes. The variety is very island-like and the market re-sponse is very clear: we like it.

Building OptimismBainbridge Island Real Estate

All in all, 2013 was a very good year. As we kick off 2014, there is a general positive buzz around here. We believe inventory is coming and the phone is definitely ringing. Our year-end tally of 414 homes sold is the most since 2005 (and remember there were only 187 sales in 2008!). Condominium and land sales also improved by a statistically significant amount, with sales numbers exceeding all the years since the market peaks in 2006 and 2007. Prices in general held their own with some market segments im-proving. New construction has returned (with a bang) to our marketplace. With the outlook for 2014 promising more of the same, we look forward to our future on this beautiful island.

Bainbridge Island Real Estate Market 2013

How is the Ferry Commute from Bainbridge to Seattle?

View of Wing Point on Bainbridge from the Bainbridge Island Ferry.

View of the Wing Point Neighborhood on Bainbridge from the Bainbridge Island Ferry.


One question I get a lot from folks looking to move to Bainbridge is “how easy is the ferry commute from Bainbridge to Seattle?” We had that very same question before moving to Bainbridge and thanks to our friend Julie, who we were renting a cottage from, we got an insider’s day to day perspective on ferry commuting. We were happy that the costs, how long an actual commute takes, etc. were not a surprise to us after we had purchased our home.

You will often hear that “Seattle is a 35 minute ferry ride from Bainbridge,” which is true, but that is dock to dock.  In reality, door to door, at the very minimum is about an hour.  But, even if your total commute is over an hour, 35 minutes will be on the ferry, where you can sleep, read, work, talk, drink, and unwind.  Much different than the bumper to bumper traffic on I-5.

Our friend Julie shared this info with us while sitting outside her beach cottage on Pleasant Beach. This blog post won’t have the same charm, but will hopefully give you the ins and outs of ferry commuting to Seattle via different avenues/options. Everyone’s commute is a little different, but here are some of the more popular commuting combinations:

SHELLY- living in Winslow, walking on the ferry & walking in downtown Seattle

To me, this is ideal.  Our friend Shelly lives in Winslow and walks on the ferry each morning and then walks off and to work at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.  She has about a ten minute walk on the Bainbridge side (not counting a stop for coffee at the coffee kiosk) and about a fifteen minute walk on the Seattle side. All in all about an hour. This is one of the leanest, most economical commutes you can do.  Your only cost is the walk-on pass.  No parking, no bus fares, and great exercise.  And yes, she does it year round and has been doing it for over ten years  – and for many years with kids in tow who went to daycare on the Seattle side.

CLINT – biking on & biking off

My husband is one of the many bike commuters on the ferry each day.  This too is one of the leaner commutes for time and money. Initially he did spend about $1000 on a new bike and gear, but that was quickly earned back on commute savings. We live in Winslow as well, which was a deliberate choice for us to be near the ferry on this side, given the fact that my husband’s office is ten miles off the ferry on the Seattle side.  Being a bike commuter only costs $20 more a year than being a walk-on commuter.  He leaves our house 15 minutes before the ferry departs and then has about a one hour bike ride on the other side, total time just shy of two hours.  Now, with that said, his being a longer commute, he does not have to do it every day.  He commutes to Seattle 3X a week and works on Bainbridge the other days.  And yes, biking can be done most of the year.  In the cold, icy season of Dec.-Feb. on some days, he does walk to the ferry and then take the bus on the other side.  Not his preferred method because it does take longer, but on some days, it is just unsafe to bike.  My husband’s commute is longer in time, but he also gets great excercise, something he does not have to worry about the rest of the week.

Cyclists getting on the Bainbridge Ferry, Seattle side in summer.

Cyclists getting on the Bainbridge Ferry, Seattle side in the summer.


MARK – living further out and taking the bus to the Bainbridge Ferry & walking or busing on the Seattle side

Our friend Mark lives out in Fort Ward and works in downtown Seattle.  Fort Ward is on the extreme south end of the island, so he either gets a ride, takes the bus to the ferry or sometimes rides his bike.  The majority of the time he takes the bus.  To make the 6:20 am ferry, he would need to be on the 5:45 bus.  However, this works for him because he only walks four blocks on the Seattle side, about ten minutes, so total commute time is an hour and five minutes.  A monthly ORCA Bus Pass is also a great idea via Kitsap Transit.

TIM – busing or walking to the Bainbridge Ferry & keeping a car on the Seattle side

This is where the commute gets a little trickier.  Our friend Tim lives in one of the in-town neighborhoods, but his job location changes from time to time based on projects and currently, he is in Kirkland.  Since Kirkland is a haul, he keeps a car on the Seattle side. So, on the Bainbridge side he takes a bus or rides his bike then walks or rides to his car in Seattle.  On the Seattle side, you can pay to park in a garage from about $200-350 a month. So, Tim’s commute costs are higher with parking on the Seattle side and his commute time is about an hour and a half, best case.

MICHAEL – driving to the Bainbridge Ferry and parking and walking on & walking or busing on the Seattle side

Paying to park on the Bainbridge side is much more reasonable than parking in Seattle.  Michael, one of my clients bought a house on the south end of the island as well.  Luckily, he too works in downtown Seattle.  To save some time, he drives to and parks at the ferry and then walks on.  This adds about $100-125 to his monthly commute, but saves him about 10 minutes each way in time.  So, his total commute time with a ten minute walk in Seattle is about an hour.

DOUG – Driving on the Bainbridge Ferry & driving on the Seattle side

Our friend Doug works in Bellevue.  He does not need to go in everyday of the week, but on the days he does, he drives.  Which means driving on and off the ferry.  Getting a car on the ferry during peak times does require more time to ensure you actually get on the ferry.  And, the cost is much higher as well.  If you did this 2X a week it would cost over $200 a month, 4X a week would be double.  However, if you require a car on both sides, this could be the most cost effective option, as there are no parking fees.  In time, this is at least a 90 minute commute, best case scenario.

Other ferry commute options

There are of course other options like carpooling, keeping a bike at the Bike Barn at the ferry, riding a scooter or motorcycle, but the above are some of the more popular means of getting to work.  In short, it is ideal if you live and work close to the docks on both sides, but if that can’t be controlled, living or working close to the dock on at least one side is the next best option.

The ferry is not the freeway

So, 90 minutes is a long commute yes, but the fact that a third of that is on the ferry makes all the difference in the world.  The time on the ferry is prime social time or down time for many folks.  On the commute runs, you see people talking, playing games, reading, working on their laptops, listening to iPods, knitting, playing cards, paying bills, and drinking, yes drinking.  In addition to food there is beer and wine on the ferry and yes, folks do partake.  ”Having a drink after work” can be rolled into your commute home, which is just plain efficient.  Folks getting home after a ferry ride certainly do not have the same blood pressure as those getting out of a car after 90 minutes on the freeway.

So, please know that your commute is not going to be 35 minutes long, but the fact that you can live in a rural community and work in the big city via a one hour commute, sans driving, is pretty cool.

Commuting to Seattle from Bainbridge by ferry.

A passenger enjoying the sun while commuting from Bainbridge Island to Seattle by ferry.


The nuts and bolts on pricing

The big thing to know is get a commuter pass. The pricing is reduced. My pricing below is as of Dec. of 2018 and note fares are seasonal and highest in the summer.


  • Cost to park at the ferry @$11 for 12 hours, $15 for 24 hours, $7 for evening. Credit cards now accepted. More info here.

Walk-on ferry fares– note: you only pay on the seattle side (except cars pay on both sides)

  • Monthly walk-on passes $109.60 or $8.50 daily
  • 10 time walk on pass is $68.50
  • Youth or Senior walk-on rate $4.25 (6-18) under six is free :)
  • Cyclists pay $1 surcharge from the Seattle to Bainbridge trip or can buy a $20 pass for the year and avoid the surcharge

Driving on the ferry – note: you pay for a car on both sides

  • Car under 22 feet (standard size) – $15.35
  • 20-ride multi-pass is $246.60 good for 90 days & can be shared

For more nuts and bolts, visit the WSF Bainbridge site.  

Get a first hand look at the ferry scene with the Ferry Web Cam.

UPDATED December 2018

On June 10, 2013, in Community, Moving, Top 5, by

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Windermere Real Estate/BI, Inc.