Home buyers seeking relief from skyrocketing house prices look to Bremerton

BREMERTON, Wash. -- Directly west of Seattle across the Puget Sound, developers are buzzing about Bremerton.

“It's becoming more desirable,” said Wes Larson, with Sound West Group.

That’s why brokers such as Ben Hoefer, with John L. Scott Realty, is spending more time in Bremerton lately, showing homes to both first-time home buyers and investors.

Hoefer showed us a waterfront fixer-upper with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths for $425,000.

“You can’t get that in Seattle, let alone on the water. Big developers are coming in and they see the potential benefits,” Hoefer said.

The median home price in Seattle is more than $720,000; in Bremerton, it's around $289,000.

That kind of affordability convinced Christian Butler to sell his Seattle home to buy just minutes from downtown Bremerton.

“We have a 3 bedroom house with a tremendous view,” Butler said.

A view of Mount Rainier to the Olympics cost him $365,000.

“Amazing, phenomenal -- I could go on and on,” Butler said.

Butler said the lower mortgage is worth an hour-long ferry ride to and from Seattle every day.

It’s a hurdle that's kept others from venturing into Bremerton.

“They are looking at the commute times, honestly,” Hoefer said.

But starting next Monday, it could be faster for commuters to get from Seattle to Bremerton than it would from Seattle to Tacoma or even Everett.

Kitsap County officials believe that Bremerton's real estate could get a boost because of the new 'fast-ferry.' It’s going to cut the ferry commute time from Seattle to Bremerton in half -- 28 minutes to be exact.

“It's because of the speed of the vessel, it's going to travel approximately 38 knots,” said John Clauson, with Kitsap Transit.

Kitsap Transit will operate the fast ferry in addition to the Washington State Department of Transportation's daily ferry routes.

“Start off with, we will do three trips in the morning and three round-trips in the evening,” Clauson said.

More than a decade ago, WSDOT had a similar fast ferry between Bremerton and Seattle but it had to stop the trips.

“The wake from the vessels they were operating were causing damage to the beach,” Clauson said.

Specifically, damage to Rich Passage -- a tidal strait that allows access to Bremerton.

“We spent essentially the last 10 years studying the wakes, making sure the wakes from the vessel wouldn`t damage the beach,” Clauson said.

After four months of examinations, Kitsap Transit says the new fast ferry passed the test.

“We now have a vessel that we can operate in high speeds without damaging the beaches,” Clauson said.

Some believe the shorter commute will attract more people to Bremerton, which they saw with the first fast-ferry more than a decade ago.

“It brings the appeal more to Bremerton,” Butler said.

But developers say the demand for Kitsap County is already up, fast-ferry or not.

“I liken Bremerton to Brookyln,” Larson said.

Sound West Group just opened a brand new apartment, Spyglass Hill, in Bremerton.

“We leased 80 units in 85 days; we are 100% occupied,” Larson said.

Developers say the rental market is strong -- not just home sales -- with skyrocketing rents in Seattle and beyond.

“We have people who moved into this apartment complex from Bainbridge Island and from Seattle, as well,” Larson said.

Larson believes in Kitsap County so much that he plans to build 500 new apartment units in the next couple of years, he said.