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Overview of Idaho Housing Market

Idaho home values have increased in recent years, but the state is still affordable to most homebuyers. Homeowners insurance is also a bargain in this state. Idaho has one of the lowest annual premiums in the nation.

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Source: Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey, SmartAsset Research
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Factors in Your Idaho Mortgage Payment

Along with your principal and interest payments, you’ll pay property taxes and homeowners insurance for your home. Luckily, homeowners in Idaho have it easier than much of the U.S. The average Idahoan homeowner pays $1,233 in property taxes - $900 less than the national average. The average effective property tax rates in Idaho counties range from as low as 0.44% to 1.02%, with only one county above 1%.

One of the reasons taxes are so low is the Idaho homeowner’s exemption that is equal to half the value of your home. That means if your house is assessed at $160,000, taxes would only apply to $80,000, as long as the home is your primary residence.

Not only do homeowners save on property taxes in this state, homeowners insurance is the lowest in the country. In our Most Affordable Places to Live study, the average annual premium was just $522. Thanks to Idaho’s landlocked location, the state avoids hurricane- and coastline-related damage. That said, there are still hazards. According to data from the Insurance Information Institute, Idaho has the second-highest percentage of households at high or extreme risk from wildfires. In 2016, 361,649 acres burned in the state. While most homeowners insurance policies cover fire damage, it may be something you discuss with your insurance agent if you’re in a high-risk area.

Costs to Expect When Buying a Home in Idaho

Once you find a home you’re serious about, you’ll usually put an offer in. If it’s accepted, you generally have time to arrange a home inspection before the paperwork is finalized. Most home inspections in Idaho cost between $300 and $400, but if the home has outbuildings or a large square footage, expect to pay more. You can also pay more for specialty tests, such as mold, radon and asbestos, as a normal home inspection won’t uncover those issues.

As you move forward with the contract and your lender, you’ll set a closing date. At the time of closing, a number of fees are due, which are called closing costs. Expect to pay 1.5% to 3% of your home value in closing costs in Idaho.

Average Closing Costs by County

CountyAvg. Closing CostsMedian Home ValueClosing Costs as % of Home Value
Bear Lake$3,006.00$138,900.002.16%
Nez Perce$3,109.00$167,900.001.85%
Twin Falls$3,038.00$147,900.002.05%

Our Closing Costs Study assumed a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 20% down payment on each county’s median home value. We considered all applicable closing costs, including the mortgage tax, transfer tax and both fixed and variable fees. Once we calculated the typical closing costs in each county we divided that figure by the county’s median home value to find the closing costs as a percentage of home value figure. Sources: US Census Bureau 2015 5-Year American Community Survey, Bankrate and government websites.

Closing costs are divided into fees and who receives them. One of the largest chunks goes to your mortgage lender. These are sometimes referred to as origination costs and can include underwriting, tax service, loan processing, document preparation and more. The total will depend on how much your particular lender charges. It also depends on what services your lender adds fees for, as it’s highly dependent on the lender.

Another portion of closing costs is shelled out to third-party service fees, such as credit reports, surveys, appraisals, attorney costs and flood certification.

Title insurance is another cost. Your lender will likely require a loan policy to protect against its interest in the title in the case of a dispute. You’ll also have the option to buy an owner’s policy to cover the full price of your home plus legal costs in the case an ownership or title issue arises after you buy your home. If you want to learn more, the Idaho Department of Insurance has an information sheet explaining how title insurance works in Idaho.

Lastly, you (and the seller) won’t have to worry about a property transfer fee, which other states charge, which can add thousands in costs. Idahoans have no such law requiring mortgage tax.

Details of Idaho Housing Market

Idaho, famous for its potatoes as well as its gorgeous landscapes, has just 1.68 million residents. But, it’s growing fast: from 2015 to 2016, Idaho was the third-fastest growing state by percentage increase, clocking in at 1.83%. And, with just 19 residents per square mile, there’s plenty of room for the newcomers. Idaho has 82,643 square land miles and over 11.7 million acres of farms, according to the Census Bureau.

The largest cities in Idaho include Boise, the state capital, Nampa to the west, Meridian, Pocatello and Caldwell. Other than Pocatello, most of the larger cities are near Boise, in the southwestern region of the state. The only city above 100,000 residents is Boise, with an estimated 200,000 plus residents. Idaho also hosts a number of military installations and Native American reservations within its borders.

Turning to Idaho’s housing market, things are looking up. From 2016 to 2017, home values increased 10.2%, according to data collected by Zillow. Statewide, median home value is $195,700 and the median price of homes listed is $262,945, as of August 2017. In our Most Affordable Places in America study, we ranked Kuna, Payette, Ammon, Caldwell and Rupert highest after looking at factors such as closing costs, property tax, insurance, income and average mortgage payment.

If you’re looking to live in the capital, median home value in Boise was $218,500 in August 2017 and list price was $264,900. Over in Pocatello, the median listing price of homes was $134,900. Twin Falls, home to a new Chobani plant, is higher with a median price of $220,000 and a median home value of $156,400. (All figures as of August 2017.)

Local Economic Factors in Idaho

Idaho has some of the lowest per capita personal income (PCPI) in the nation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The state was 45th in the U.S. with $39,470 PCPI in 2016. The national average was $49,246, which is almost $10,000 more than Idaho’s. While Idaho may not have the highest income numbers, the state has unemployment rates consistently below the national average.

Despite being a remote and sparsely populated state, Idaho still has two companies that made the 2017 Fortune 500 list: Albertson's, a grocery chain, and Micron Technology, a company that makes semiconductor products. Some of the largest employers in Idaho include state and local government, defense, St. Luke’s and St. Alphonsus Regional medical centers, HP, Melaleuca and Chobani.

You won’t escape income tax in Idaho, unfortunately. The state has seven income tax brackets, with marginal rates beginning at 1.6% and reaching 7.4% for earners in the top bracket. If you file in Idaho, you can claim standardized or itemized deductions. As for sales tax, the statewide rate is 6%, but a few cities add a local tax on top, bringing it closer to 8%.

All set to move to the Gem State? You can plan ahead for your budget by comparing your cost of living to what it might be in Idaho. If you file as single, no dependents and make about $50,000 a year, a move from nearby Missoula, Montana to the north to Boise, Idaho would result in an 8% average decrease in cost of living due to less expensive housing and food. Portland, Oregon to Boise would see a 12% decrease, on average, due to food and housing cost decreases. Minneapolis, Minnesota to Twin Falls, Idaho is only a 6% average decrease, but a move from Chicago, Illinois to Pocatello, Idaho is a 14% average decrease in cost of living.

Mortgage Legal Issues in Idaho

If you’re buying in Idaho, you’ll be happy to know that there are certain protections in place. Idaho’s Title 55 includes the property condition disclosure act, which requires sellers to disclose any issues with the physical condition of the property. This means that it’s against the law for sellers to conceal defects they’re aware of. If you want to see what the disclosure covers, the Idaho Association of Realtors has an example of the four-page form.

For those more concerned with foreclosure, Idaho is one of the states that generally uses non-judicial foreclosure, according to the Idaho Office of the Attorney General. Non-judicial foreclosure is when the court isn’t involved in the process. This happens when your mortgage is in the form of a deed of trust, and includes a power of sale clause that allows foreclosure without court action. A non-judicial foreclosure timeline by TD Service company shows that you’ll have at least 120 from the Notice of Default until the day of sale.

While non-judicial foreclosure is the norm in Idaho, there are also judicial foreclosures when the property exceeds 40 acres or the deed of trust doesn’t allow foreclosure without a court order. According to RealtyTrac data, Idaho’s foreclosure rate is below the national average.

Idaho Mortgage Resources

Available Resources

ResourceProblem or IssueWho QualifiesWebsite
Idaho Housing and Finance AssociationOffers loan products, which include low mortgage rates, homeowner education, down payment and closing cost assistance and 35% tax credits worth up to $2,000 per year.Certain homebuyers making less than $90,000 may qualify.https://www.idahohousing.com/
Idaho First Time HomebuyerPairs homebuyers with home loan and down payment assistance that will work best for them.First-time homebuyers.http://www.idahofirsttimehomebuyer.com/about/
USDA Rural Development - Single family loansOffers payment assistance to increase an applicant’s repayment ability.Applicants must be without decent, safe and sanitary housing; Be unable to obtain a loan from other resources on terms and conditions that can reasonably be expected to meet; Agree to occupy the property as your primary residence; Have the legal capacity to incur a loan obligation; Meet citizenship or eligible noncitizen requirements; and Not be suspended or debarred from participation in federal programs.http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/all-programs/single-family-housing-programs
Home Affordable Refinance ProgramRefinancing.Single family homes and condos that fit within lending loan limits.http://www.harp.gov/

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association is a self-supporting corporation that helps provide affordable housing opportunities. Take advantage of the homeowner counseling or free home-buying education. Qualified buyers can apply for down payment and closing cost assistance as well as home loans.

Another resource for first-time homebuyers is the Idaho First Time Home Buyer’s matching engine where you can find down payment assistance programs.

Certain homebuyers will find help through USDA loan programs. Much of Idaho is rural, which means it’s likely that the property you’re interested in buying is in an eligible area. You’ll have to meet certain income criteria to qualify for this government-backed loan.

If you’re ready to head to the Gem State, we have 15 things you should know about moving to Idaho that’ll help you hit the ground running. More concerned about money? See what your paycheck will look like in Idaho.

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