Forget Portland and Seattle — people priced out of expensive California cities are buying homes in Idaho for 'Monopoly money'

Paul W Thompson/ShutterstockIt’s the new frontier.
  • Californians priced out of Pacific border states are heading to Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada.
  • A 2018 Bloomberg story described the trend as an “echo boom” ignited by California’s record housing prices, volatile politics, high taxes, and “constant threat of natural disaster.”
  • It’s driving up prices in places like Idaho’s capital, Boise, which Wallethub recently crowned the best place to buy a house in the US.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Idaho is the new frontier.

In its latest ranking of the best places to buy a house, Wallethub crowned Idaho’s capital, Boise, No. 1. Wallethub compared 300 real-estate markets across the US on dozens of factors relating to economic health and overall attractiveness to compile its list.

In a 2018 Bloomberg story, reporters Prashant Gopal and Noah Buhayar describe an “echo boom” in which Californians are invading cities in landlocked states out west, like Boise, Idaho; Phoenix, Arizona; and Reno, Nevada.

The article said the move was ignited by California’s record housing prices, volatile politics, high taxes, and “constant threat of natural disaster,” like wildfires in the state.

It wasn’t long ago that people priced out of California were fleeing to Seattle and Portland, but prices – along with traffic and other frustrations – are rising there too. Earlier in 2018, Forbes named the roughly 700,000-person Boise metro area the fasting-growing US city, followed by Seattle.

“Eventually the laws of supply and demand are going to drive people to other parts of the country,” Glenn Kelman, CEO of the real-estate firm Redfin, told Bloomberg. “Boise isn’t five times worse than California as a place to live. But places in California are five times more expensive.”

The median home price in California hit a high of over $US611,000 in June 2019, more than twice the national median. Bloomberg described Kelman as saying it was easy for homeowners relocating to places like Boise to feel as if they’re spending “Monopoly money.”

But frustrated locals feel that the Californians are driving up prices. The cost of a typical home in Ada County, which includes Boise, hit nearly $US300,000 last fall, an 18% jump from the previous year, Gopal and Buhayar reported at the time. One new gated community sells homes with huge windows and “wine walls” to mostly out-of-state buyers, a sales agent told the news outlet.

Rent in these areas is also much cheaper. According to Zillow, the median rent in the Boise metro area is $US1,495, compared with $US2,400 in the Seattle metro area and $US3,500 in the San Francisco metro area.

But the economic relief of moving to a down-home city is just one reason Idaho experienced a rise in popularity among Californians, who made up 85% of the state’s total domestic immigration in 2016, Bloomberg reported, citing an analysis of US census data.

Boise has for years appeared on rankings of the best places to live by outlets like US News & World Report, Niche, and SmartAsset, touting spectacular outdoor attractions, a high quality of life, and safety, in addition to low taxes, affordable housing, and a strong job market.

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