A Guide to Buying a House in: Idaho

(Because who doesn't love potatoes?)

So, you want to buy a house in Idaho - maybe. It's a good thing we've compiled a little guide to the housing market of The Gem State (yup, that's their nickname). We'll go over some of the factors that just might help you make your decision, and find out if all that glitters here really is gold. And as an added bonus, we'll throw in a bit of fun stuff. So, let's do this.

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Idaho

Before you throw a dart at your map and start packing up to move to a new state, you might be interested in which areas will require more dough (the kind that comes from your wallet/bank account, that is). We compiled a list of a few of the most/least expensive cities in Idaho, as of 2018.

Most expensive cities:

  • Preston
  • Hailey
  • Hayden
  • Sandpoint
  • Eagle

Least expensive cities:

  • Blackfoot
  • Pocatello
  • Idaho Falls
  • Chubbuck
  • Rexburg

There ya go - a good starting point to narrow down your search, while keeping your money situation in mind. No matter where you choose to buy your new home, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Idaho's Housing Market

Everyone knows Idaho's got plenty of potatoes, but does it have a groovin' housing market? The status of a housing market in a state could easily switch your decision from "aww yeah" to "nope," fast. Before we jump to any conclusions, though, we'll check it out and see for ourselves.

It seems like there's a great demand for housing in the state's capital, Boise - and there's apparently no sign of this demand slowing down. This means that the market currently favors sellers over buyers. But don't get discouraged - housing prices here are still among the lowest in the nation. And interest rates may be on the rise, but they're still at a historic low point. So that's a big cha-ching for you, prospective buyers.

Homes in Idaho stay on the market for an average of 28-33 days, and stay listed online for about 88. The overall housing market health score, as of February 2018, is 8.7/10 (so, almost an "A"). Why would someone want to move to Boise, specifically? Well, they've got all kinds of culture, natural beauty, job opportunities (especially in the tech field) and breweries. The arts and music scene is said to be huge, and on top of all that, it's one of the safest cities in the country.

And check this out - if you're looking for a brand-new place, you'll want to head to the northern tip of the state, around Coeur d'Alene, where they've got some new construction underway. You also might have some luck in the southwest corner of the state, around Boise, or in the south-central area, around Twin Falls. Finally, there's a bit more development in progress in the southeast, around Idaho Falls. So, you've got a few options.

Home Property Values and Costs in Idaho

Alright, so now we've got more of an idea of where to search, but we still need to find out how much homes here actually cost, and what property values are like. Let's move right along.

To start off, the average value of homes in Idaho is currently about $232,400. The cost per square foot is about $160. Homes are listed on the market for around $299,900, and rent for a house is about $1,350. As far as home appreciation goes, home values have increased 9.7% over the past year, but are expected to fall about 1.1% over the upcoming year.

That's cool and all, but what about apartment/condo seekers? Well, places in Boise are going for about $1,035/month. That's about as pricey as apartments/condos here get, too. In Eagle, places are up for an average of $840/month. You'll only pay about $540/month in Preston for a one-bedroom, or $492/month for a one-bedroom in Pocatello. Idaho Falls has one-bedroom places going for an average of $520/month.

And of course, we haven't forgotten about our townhouse lovers. The range in rent for a townhouse in Idaho begins on the low side at around $600/month for a two-bedroom/one-bathroom place, and caps off on the high side at around $3,500/month for a three-bedroom/three-bathroom joint.

You Might Need Flood Insurance in Idaho

Before you say, "Yup, I'm definitely moving to Idaho!" you might want to know about potential state-specific mandatory insurance policies. In the natural disasters category, Idaho's most prone to wildfires and flooding. And while homeowners insurance will typically cover damage from wildfires, it doesn't ever cover flood damage.

So basically, if you're in an area deemed to be high-risk, you might be required by your mortgage lender to purchase extra coverage specifically for flooding. However, it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still require this coverage. Why? Because as that old annoying expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Alright, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.)  wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

If you're not a fan of flooding or having to purchase extra homeowners insurance policies to cover natural disaster stuff, you might want to look into areas in the state that aren't prone to flooding - but really, every place has its problems.

Quality of Schools in Idaho

Another point of interest for many before a potential move to a new state is how the new area stacks up in terms of teachin' and learnin' stuff. So what is the school system in Idaho like? We're about to find out.

Here are some USA Today stats about how Idaho schools ranked in the country:

  • #47 overall for the US
  • #11 for lowest high school graduation rates
  • #3 for lowest public school spending
  • #15 for lowest percentages of adults with a bachelor's degree or higher 

Additionally, the percentage of high school students that obtain a diploma is 79.7%, slightly lower than the US average of 84.1%. Idaho also has no public funding for pre-k, and only 30.6% of three- and four-year-olds are enrolled - the smallest percentage of any state in the country.

The top-rated schools in the state are McCall-Donnelly High School, in McCall, and Boise State University, in Boise (shocker).

Reasons to Move to Idaho (...or not)

Great, now we've got all the important/factual stuff out of the way, so on to the more fun stuff. Why would people even want to move to Idaho at all? The state's surely not all like you see in the movie Napoleon Dynamite (which was filmed/set there). Well, don't just listen to us, heed these words from actual people who live there.

PROs (as voted by real-life Idahoans):

  • Low cost of living: For a single adult, only $10.64/hour is required to live comfortably, according to livingwage.mit.edu. So, unless you spend a lot of your earnings on torches and shotguns to keep those dang kids off your lawn, Uncle Sam won't make you struggle too hard here.
  • Good weather: Idaho residents brag about their four distinct, mild seasons. Because of this, there's an outdoor sport for all times of year. Those of us who experience freakish snow when it's supposed to be "spring" may be just a tad jealous.
  • Both Heaven and Hell: That is, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, featuring Heaven's Gate Lookout. Hells Canyon is North America's deepest river gorge and showcases "dramatic changes in elevation, terrain, climate and vegetation," according to Idaho's official website. The Heaven's Gate Lookout sits high up in the park and features a view of four different states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Now, that's just cool.
  • Hot springs: Several hot springs are scattered throughout the state, allowing both locals and visitors to unwind and relax inside a natural treat. Just be sure to make eye contact before attempting to share a spring with someone - they might be one of the state's many angry loners.
  • The view of the stars: Because it's so far from major cities and metropolitan areas, and has such a sparse population, Idaho is considered to have one of the best and brightest views of the stars in the country. Bring your pickup and a cozy blanket, and prepare to lie back and drink in natural beauty that'll make your eyes tear up with awe.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Idahoans):

  • Education and wages: The Gem State has ranked consistently in 48th or 49th place for the country over the past several years. It also ranks at 50th place for average weekly wages. It might pay (literally) to get educated elsewhere and save up a bundle, before making the move here. 
  • Haunted/abandoned mines and ghost towns: Idaho's pretty weird already, but it's also home to several ghost towns, abandoned mines and other attractions that are rumored to be haunted, which makes it even weirder. The infamous Bates Motel in Coeur d'Alene was the site of the terrifying Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. A couple other creepy sites include Bayhorse Ghost Town, Custer Historic Mining Town and the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise. If you're ever lost in Idaho, make sure you have your proton packs and other ghost-busting equipment strapped on.
  • The barren mid-section: There's just not much happening in the middle of the state - where the population is at its sparsest - and there's hardly, if any, new construction. If you're looking for things to do, this area of The Potato State (yup, another nickname) might let you down - however, if you're after that "peace and quiet" vibe, this very well could be your personal oasis.

Stuff to Do in Idaho

Good stuff, so now we've got a clue as to WHY people move here, but we're still lacking the info on WHAT those people actually do, once they get here. Idaho's got tons more than just prairies, so let's check out some insider's secrets of the hot-spots in the state, from state parks to blue football fields (for real).

Here just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • The "Smurf Turf": The nation's only blue football field is located in Boise - but we heard that players aren't allowed to be any more than three apples tall.
  • Silverwood Theme Park: Located in Athol, the theme park offers unique main attractions such as Boulder Beach Water Park, an authentic steam train, an annual Halloween event called  "Scarywood."  So, there's something for every flavor of holiday cheer.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve: Located in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho, the park's website declares it to be a "vast ocean of lava" that "flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush," and dubs it a "weird and scenic landscape." Fans of weird stuff will definitely be happy in Idaho.
  • Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival: Taking place annually at the University of Idaho in Moscow, the festival features two days of student performances, artist workshops and world-class jazz concerts. Music lovers, rejoice.
  • Julia Davis Park: Boise's oldest park is considered the "cultural and historic heart of the city," and houses Zoo Boise, the Idaho State Historical Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Discovery Center of Idaho and the Idaho Black History Museum. Animal lovers and history buffs alike are bound to freak out in this place.

Setting up Camp in Idaho

There you go, folks - our little guide to all things Idaho home buying, with some fun stuff thrown in as a bonus. Obviously we're not able to cover ALL the details of the state (there are an awful lot of them), but we're hoping that you feel more informed than when you joined us.

If you feel like Idaho's calling to you, we're sending nothing but encouragement and good vibes your way. So go check it out. Make sure you new home is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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