BTW, being from out of the area you might not be aware that the Tacoma Narrows bridge is a toll bridge. That fee would add up if it were part of a commute.
There is no where as quaint, as beautiful, as involved with the sound, the views, the water, as Gig Harbor. One of our favorite destinations.
The bridge is in, the road is 4 to 8 lane and the commute is entirely doable.
"Insanity" is a very personal decision. I know people commuting to Seattle from Ellensburg everyday, I couldn't do it, but to them it’s "normal." My advice is do the drive in rush hour traffic a couple times and then consider whether the trip is sane or will make you crazy.
There are good options not far away. Some neighborhoods with a Renton address are in the Issaquah School district. Maple Valley can be affordable and provide some small town feeling, decent schools, larger lot sizes (even acreage) and a reasonable commute.
Spend some time exploring alternatives, try the drive and talk to some locals who can give you a good sense of what works for them. I've attached a link to compare school districts and even individual schools, see if other districts appeal to you. Welcome back to the Northwest.
The commute from Gig Harbor to Renton is about 45minutes which can greatly increase depending on which route you take and how bad traffic is, I have heard it being quite a bit longer recently. Plus you have to pay tolls both ways, or the "good to go pass" is about $4! Which can take a lot out of your budget. So you have to decide if you want to pay that.
Next you need to know you budget and how much you want to spend on a home. Many areas just north of Milton would be less expensive but many would need some updating. There are some nicer areas but some more run down also, which is why it's such a deal. Would you consider living farther north?
Next you should decide if want to live on the east side or west side of I-5. There are some great north Seattle neighborhoods that are wonderful for activity but I don't know if you are interested in going north either.
I live in Edmonds. It's right on the water, definitely small town feel, the market is nice and stable here. Commute is 37mintues to renton with light traffic and no toll. The town has family oriented events like halloween when all the stores hand out candy and streets shut down and for traffic and and it's like a party. They have the Taste of Edmonds which is like the Bite of Seattle with a much smaller crowd. There are farmer's markets on the weekends and I love it here. There is also Richmond Beach area, Shoreline also check out the schools, I really love the Edmond's schools which is why we live here. But many aren't bad either. Another great town that is really up and comming is Ballard it's still north of Seattle but has a great small town feel , also waterfront, and I hear their schools are good too. If you want to live a little distance from west side, then on the east side you could consider Kirkland which has a great friendly feel, I think it supports a very active lifestyle and much of the market is stable as well. It is east side and on the water also.
I could keep going as there are so many choices.
Find a website that you like and that can give you information on the school districts in areas you are considering, then find a professional that can help you find a get the most house for your money. I like the reports my website gives for crime and schools, but definitely find one that works for you!
Hope this helps,
TEC Real Estate
Feel free to keep the answers coming!
Let me be the first to welcome you to Washington ! I moved here from Connecticut 27 years ago and it has been a wonderful place to raise children, live & work. What is is about Gig Harbor that you are drawn too? The water, the boating community, the size? Knowing the answer will help me to better serve your needs. As for the best schools - Bellevue & Issaquah are the best school districts in the state. Both towns border Renton with Issaquah providing the most opportunity & accessability for recreation activities with a small quaint downtown area similar to Gig Harbor. I'd be happy to provide you with listings of homes for sale in both Bellevue and Issaquah if you'd like to provide me with a little more information about the type of home you'd like to live in and your price range.
You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, I look forward to your reply.