The current headline over Zillow’s online report on housing prices in Seattle reads: HOUSING MARKET TEMPERATURE: VERY HOT.

With May’s reported median home value in the big city pegged at $504,000, an increase of 10.8 percent over the same month last year, we’d say: TOO HOT TO TOUCH.

Thanks to the overall health of the economy, home prices all over the region are heating up. But Seattle is the molten core, and some of its outliers—particularly those that enjoy the cooling effects of a watery moat, like Whidbey Island—are barely warm.

Langley’s median home value, Zillow reports, is currently $346,000, an increase of 3.4 percent over last year.

If you’re doing back-of-the-envelope cost-of-living comparisons between Whidbey Island and Seattle, the next thing that might cross your mind is the cost of commuting. Yes, if you work on the mainland (where salaries indeed tend to be higher than here on our island), you’ll have to pay for the ferry.

If you commute 200 days a year at an average of $20 in fare per day, you’ll need to work 39 1/2 years to equal what you’d be saving in the basic price of your home. Add the difference in mortgage interest, and it would likely be more than 100 years.

Other cost-of-living factors are variable, some in our island’s favor and some not. Property and sales taxes are lower, groceries and gasoline are higher. Apart from the house, whether daily life on Whidbey Island actually costs more or less depends largely on individual lifestyle choices.

Speaking of choices, The Highlands at Langley has just opened a new cluster of nine lots with two Ross Chapin-designed home models available: the 1,461-square-foot Egret II at a base price of $379,000, and the 900-square-foot Betty Gable for $349,000. Both have quality features such as the BioSmart® infrared electric heating system that would be amazing to find on the mainland at any price.

One last thing about the comparative costs of life on Whidbey vs. over there in the molten core: Life here deals out a lot less stress. And a raft of studies have shown a link between lower stress and increased life expectancy. You can’t put a price on that.

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