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Ada County 2019 residential real estate wrap up: inventory down, prices up

A house for sale in east Boise. Photo by Liz Harbauer.

This article was updated on Jan. 27 to clarify that Boise homes for sale had declined by 60% over ten years, not home sales.

Ada County faced a severe lack of inventory in the local housing market during 2019 and is forecast to lead the nation in price growth during 2020.

Those were the take-away messages of several recent real estate reports.

On Jan. 17, Boise Regional Realtors released its 2019 residential real estate market report for Ada County, which showed monthly inventory in the area hovered around an approximate average of 1,500 properties during 2019. By comparison, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, residences for sale exceed 5,000. Since those peaks, the inventory in Ada County has steadily declined.

REALTOR.com predicted Boise would be the top market in the country for price growth in 2020. Median home prices have more than doubled since January 2011, from less than $150,000 to over $350,000 today.

Carrie Zimmerman of Boise Regional Realtors noted that Idaho’s real estate market  is “dramatically different than it was a decade ago.”

She cautioned against extrapolating too many comparisons with the numbers from the previous recession.

“There are some large differences, like large a percentage of distressed sales (10 years ago), market corrections to prices being driven by supply and demand, speculation, etc., so it’s not quite comparing apples to apples.”

Regardless, there are some hard numbers that can be trusted on the market for the last decade.

“Homes for sale have declined 60% over the last 10 years,” commented Michelle Bailey of Keller Williams, the current president of BRR.

Salt Lake City has been a major feeder market for Boise-area real estate. Like Boise, it has also seen similar trends in home sales, with a 77% decline over the last decade, according to redfin.com. Inventory in the Salt Lake City-metro area is also at a historic low, showing a 95% decline since 10 years ago, the most dramatic in the nation. Those numbers are driven by people staying put in their homes, rather than selling and moving. The typical Salt Lake City homeowner now spends 23 years in a home, versus 15 years in 2010, according to redfin.com. This is in sharp contrast with Ada County. The national average for how long an owner spends in a residence is 13 years. In Boise, the current average is eight years, according to Bailey.

“Boise has significantly more turnover than the national average,” Bailey told the Idaho Business Review. “Nationally, the time people spend in their homes is getting longer, but there’s no historical research for those numbers here in Ada county. That data doesn’t exist yet. We didn’t start to track that until just a few years ago.”

Bailey also noted that there isn’t just one reason why people stay in a residence for a shorter time in Boise: “The reasons vary by the individual.”

She did comment that: “Rents are great for investors right now, so they are keeping their properties longer for now.”

Zimmerman observed that compared to the national and SLC-metro numbers, the shorter average time spent in a home in Ada County was affected by the number of new people moving into the area.

“We have more newcomers, and their turnover times are shorter,” Zimmerman said.

Another interesting Ada County trend is the number of realtors.

“Right now, these are the highest number of realtors that we’ve ever had locally,” Bailey remarked. “The number of agents tends to follow the market, so when the market is good, a lot of people get into it; however, it’s also why there’s a larger turnover in agents.”

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