In the Pacific Northwest, you don’t have to sacrifice livability and easy urban access to enjoy island life. Nestled in Lake Washington, Mercer Island features a beautiful shoreline, several public parks and a charming downtown area. Yet, it is only 5 minutes from either downtown Bellevue or Seattle via the I-90 Expressway. By combining convenient accessibility and an idyllic lifestyle, Mercer Island has become one of the most in-demand realty markets in Washington. It's no wonder that everyone on the island loves to call it home.
About Mercer Island
Being set off from Seattle by about a mile, the island was mostly uninhabited until the late 1800s. Around this time, a resort town known as East Seattle sprouted up on the northwest end of the island. Development increased significantly following the completion of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge, which connected the island to Seattle in 1940. This structure is currently the second longest floating bridge in the world.
Once transportation opened, the island soon became more affluent. A small business district blossomed near the original town, and developers began building more luxury homes along the lake. By 1960, the City of Mercer Island was incorporated. All of the island's 6.32 square miles are now part of this city.
Mercer Island Residents and Lifestyle
Today, the commute time from the island to Downtown Seattle is just a few minutes, even in the worst of traffic. This convenient locale has made Mercer Island homes ideal for those who like a more secluded life, but also want easy access to urban areas. As the city is an island, suburban sprawl is impossible. The city population has hovered around 20,000 for 40 years; however, current estimates place that number closer to 25,000. This puts the population density at only about 4,000 inhabitants per square mile.
With a community that's older and more affluent than the rest of Washington, one could also say that life on Mercer Island is quieter and more relaxed than most of the surrounding metro area. The island retains much of its country resort feeling. Residents enjoy living on an island with gorgeous lakeside views and an extraordinarily low crime rate. The median age of the city residents is 45, which is about seven years older than the state's median. This gives the area a pace that is slower, yet perhaps wiser than its neighbors.
The Mercer Island Real Estate Market
Despite its low density, Mercer Island is known for having one of the strongest real estate markets in the region. Property values have significantly increased over the past five years and the average Mercer Island home sale has stood solid at around $1.6 million since 2015. This has created a strong seller-favored market on the island. Most of the homes put on the market are priced well above $2 million, and even most available condos are being sold at around $850,000. Overall, the average price per square foot for Mercer Island homes is about $470.
Neighborhoods of Northern Mercer Island
While there are beautiful homes throughout the island, the northern end of the city is more densely populated. Residents of this area also have the easiest access to Interstate 90, which runs through the island's northern tip. Many find the presence of the freeway surprising, as much of it is capped by city parks, hiding the noise and grit beneath peaceful greenways.
The downtown district, known Town Center, can be found slightly inland and just off the expressway. This charming neighborhood features several boutiques, restaurants and condominium homes. Town Center is also a hub for the Mercer Island Park-and-Ride bus system, which makes commuting to the cities and exploring the area both easy and convenient.
Just northwest of Town Center is an area known as East Seattle. Though it is separated from Seattle proper by Lake Washington, this lakeside area has a lot of history as one of the first neighborhoods on the island. The roads in this district all follow a grid-like pattern, and many of them lead to landings on the Lake. Along the lakeshore, you will find many luxury homes with wonderful views of the water. East Seattle is also home to many older bungalows and quaint houses.
Those searching for real estate near the island's northern shore will find more options in the Gold Coast and North Mercer districts. These neighborhoods are home to many long-time residents and elite waterfront properties. In addition to the historic Roanoke Inn, this area features Aubrey Davis Park along the I-90 and Luther Burbank Park on the northeast tip of the island.
Neighborhoods of Southern Mercer Island
South Mercer Island is more secluded, which is attractive to those who don't need quick access to the expressway. However, that's not to say that there's not a lot happening in this part of town. The South End is anchored by Pioneer Park, which features more than 6 miles of trails. Not far from the park is the island's second biggest business district, where residents will find pizza shops, a shopping center and the Mercer Island Country Club.
Those looking to invest in newer Mercer Island real estate will find more options on the South End. Homes in the neighborhoods of Tarywood and Mercer Island Estates are very contemporary yet set within lush, forested landscapes. The Lakes development, which was built in the 1980s, features newer homes that overlook several man-made lakes on the interior of the island.
Finding Your Mercer Island Home
There is no neighborhood or city in the country quite like Mercer Island. The residents pride themselves on privacy and understatement, so newcomers might find the Island real estate difficult to understand at first. However, with Mark von der Burg’s extensive knowledge, we at VDB Estates can quickly find the home to match your desire for island living. Despite its central location, this Seattle neighborhood prides itself in discretion and taste. Mercer Island is one of the most affluent areas in the state and doesn’t feel the need to widely advertise its listings. However, we know this area intimately and, for more than 28 years, have cultivated extensive contacts on this emerald island.