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Ada County's median home sale price has tripled since 2011

While the low median home sale prices in the wake of the Great Recession may look great, those low home prices came at the cost of foreclosures.

BOISE, Idaho — If you're looking for a deal on a home in Ada County, it may be cheaper to invent the time machine and go back to the wake of the Great Recession to find affordable homes.

Based on data published by Boise Regional Realtors, an association based in the Treasure Valley that collects home sale data from its members, Ada County's median home sale price has more than tripled since 2011.

The association released to KTVB monthly median home sale price data dating back to January 2005. The data tracks the county's pre-Great Recession peak of the median home sale price and the swift drop during the recession.

The data also highlights that Ada County is experiencing a decade-long rise in the median home sale price that does not seem to be slowing down, even as the coronavirus pandemic nears the one-year anniversary.

Starting in January 2005, Ada County's median home sale price was $171,000 and by June 2006, it reached its pre-Great Recession peak of $247,000. By the time the recession began in October 2008, the median sale price dropped to $198,400.

In April 2011, the median home sale price dipped to $133,000 and it wouldn't surpass $200,000 until June 2013. Since 2011, the median price has increased by 241%, hitting a record of $454,000 in January 2021.

Breanna Vanstrom, CEO of Boise Regional Realtors, told KTVB that the county's current peak in the median home sale price is being fueled by wildly different factors than the pre-recession peak.

"If we look back at our previous peak, what we saw back then was a lot of speculative building and buying," Vanstrom said. "We saw a lot of inventory back then and prices sort of rising, along with inventory, where if you look at our markets today you're seeing home prices rise while inventory is falling. 

"So we're seeing kind of classic supply and demand factors going on in today's market where you know almost 15 years ago it was very different where we saw a lot of speculation," Vanstrom added.

The median home sale price in Ada County was low from 2010 to 2012 thanks in large part to the number of foreclosures in the area. Vanstorm said more than 50% of the home sales during that time were distressed sales. Distressed home sales are either foreclosures or short sales, so while median home sale prices dropped, it came at the cost of Idahoans' homes.

According to data collected by Boise Regional Realtors, distressed sales made up 43.6% of all sales in 2009, up from 4.8% in 2008. It climbed to 54.9% in 2010 and to 58% in 2011. By 2016, the percentage of closed sales that were distressed dropped to a pre-Great Recession low of 3.1%. 

In 2020, that percentage dropped to 0.6%.

"We always want to caution people are looking at that [median home sale prices in 2011], again it was a completely different market where over half of the homes that were selling at that time were foreclosures. And while those prices, you know, in retrospect seemed great, it was a really, really tough market for a lot of people. It's certainly not a situation we want to get back to," Vanstrom said.

From 2008 to 2014, sales of existing homes in Ada County priced under $199,000 accounted for more than 50% of the total number of existing homes sold. In 2020, that percentage dropped to 0.8%.

To gauge the health of the housing market, Boise Regional Realtors analyzes the average number of homes sold in the last 12 months and divide it by the number of homes that are listed and available for purchase to see how long the current inventory of homes would last at the current rate of sales. Typically, Vanstrom explained, they would like to have about four to six months of available inventory.

The Treasure Valley has frequently had less than a month of inventory of homes available, Vanstrom said.

The realtors association CEO explained that in a healthy housing market, owners of existing homes buy new homes and sell their old homes, so when one house is bought, another is for sale. However, that isn't the case in Ada County.

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic reaching Idaho last March, median home sale prices dipped but quickly rebounded and broke the mold of the typical selling season.

Eleven weeks after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Idaho, the number of new pending sales surpassed the number of new pending sales from the same time in 2019.

The Treasure Valley's housing crisis comes down to the simple rule of supply and demand. 

According to Vanstrom it is a perfect storm of sorts; more people are moving to the Treasure Valley from out of state, more people are staying in their current homes, millennials are now at the age of buying their first home and mortgages are at historic lows.

Demand for homes in Ada County isn't slowing, so relief from the housing crisis will be an increase in supply, regardless of how homes are put on the market.

"One of the things that will kind of bring this market back into balance for people is again just additional supply of homes," Vanstrom said. "So, whether that is you know new construction builders, current homeowners looking to list their properties or even investors that maybe want to diversify their portfolios a little bit and then if they've got single-family rentals, putting those back into the purchase market and reinvesting any proceeds into multifamily apartments or commercial real estate is certainly an opportunity as well."

Correction: A previous version of this story stated median home sale prices increased by 341%. Due to a math equation mistake, the increase between 2011 and 2021 is actually 241%.