What new data says about Treasure Valley housing market, and why buyers might like it

Last June, Boise real estate agent Phil Mount did a search for a client looking to buy a home in Boise for under $250,000. The pickings were slim: six homes.

Last month, Mount did a similar search and found more than 35 homes. “West Boise, South Boise, the Bench and Northwest Boise — those are all areas [where] you can still find stuff at that price point,” said Mount, an agent with Front Street Brokers and the president of Boise Regional Realtors.

That broader selection is good news for buyers. January broke a streak. For the first time in more than four years, the number of existing homes on the market in Ada County exceeded the number during the same month a year earlier: 502, compared with 474 in January 2018. That’s according to data released Tuesday by the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service.

Prices turned buyers’ way too: the Ada County median price of all homes sold in January fell 2 percent to $318,000. For newly built homes, it fell 6.5 percent to $373,786. For existing homes, it rose 0.5 percent to $286,450, still below last fall’s levels.

In Canyon County, the shrinking-supply streak snapped for existing homes. There were 269 such homes for sale, compared with 248 a year earlier. But there was no price relief: The median prices of all homes sold rose 3 percent to to $235,000 — the highest in the past year.

“We’ve got one month of data that’s different from what we’ve seen in the previous 51 months,” Mount said. “Who knows if that’s a trend. I am hoping this will be a season where we have a little more inventory and more choices for buyers.”

Mount predicts the housing market will remain strong this year. He thinks even more people may look to escape high-tax states like California because of changes in federal tax law that limit deductions for couples to $10,000 for property, income and sales taxes.

“When they aren’t able to write off their very expensive state property taxes like they had been, that changes the ballgame,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more interest.”

More details:

Most expensive neighborhoods: The highest median sales prices in January were in Northeast Boise, at $532,000, followed by Eagle at $513,500 and North Boise at $498,262.

Least expensive Ada neighborhoods: The lowest median prices were in Garden City, at $222,000, followed by West Boise at $228,250 and the Boise Bench at $241,000.

New home construction keeps rising: Throughout the Treasure Valley last year, there were 5,884 new home starts, up 14 percent, according to Metrostudy, a research firm. Since 2012, new home starts in the Treasure Valley increased an average of 25 percent annually, Metrostudy found.

New homes costlier: In 2017, 53 percent of all new home starts in the Treasure Valley were priced below $300,000, Metrostudy said. Last year, homes in that price range accounted for only 32 percent of those available.

Interest rates fall: Lower interest rates are making buying more attractive, Mount said. Last week, long-term mortgage interest rates fell to a 10-month low. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.41 percent. It had been as high as 4.94 percent in November.

Business Editor David Staats contributed.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.