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More national homebuilders are moving into the Treasure Valley housing market. Will that help lower home prices?

Builders - big and small - cannot put up houses fast enough to meet the demand in Idaho. Enter: large national homebuilders, traded on Wall Street.

EAGLE, Idaho — Not a day goes by we do not hear about how fast Idaho is growing, or how hot and expensive our housing market is.

Although sales slowed recently, home prices in all pockets of the Treasure Valley keep climbing.

In Canyon County, November's average median home price for new and existing single family homes was $409,900, down from October's median price but up 26% from November 2020.

Ada County's median price jumped 25% over last year, reaching $537,900 in November, and pricing many out of the market. That includes the Himes family, who currently lives in Boise.

"We always wanted to buy a house here but the thought was, 'oh, let's just get to a slightly better financial situation.' And it's, like, every year,'but OK, well, alright, we're catching up. Alright, we're catching - no, it's getting away.' And then it just really got away," Brian Himes said.

With two solid salaries and two young kids, Brian and his wife Nissi feel they cannot compete anywhere in Boise's competitive housing market right now. 

They also cannot afford to stay where they are. Their rent in the Northend is increasing about 40% beginning in April.

Intermountain Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data and Boise Regional REALTORS reports show part of the reason is low inventory.

Although more existing homes were for sale this fall and winter, Boise Regional REALTORS' market report shows if no more homes are listed the supply of homes for sale would run out in less than two months. A healthy market should have at least four months supply, according to realtors.

Homebuilders - big and small - cannot put up houses fast enough to meet the demand.

"This is way beyond anything we've ever seen," Building Contractors Association of Southwestern Idaho Bill Rauer said.

"Idaho has been discovered," Eagle Mayor Jason Pierce said.

Enter: large national homebuilders that are traded on Wall Street.

"They provide a lot of expertise and knowledge from previous developments and locations that they've built in," Alturas Homes owner Rod Givens said.

Rauer said national homebuilders have been eyeing our market for decades and came from out of state into Idaho to try to meet demand and cash in on the boom. 

D.R. Horton came into the market several years ago but left. Pennsylvania-based luxury home builder Toll Brothers bought local builder Coleman Homes to enter the market in 2016.

Three other large national builders expanded into the Treasure Valley in 2021: Miami-based Lennar, KB Home from California, and Richmond American based in Denver. Rauer expects more to come. 

"Nationals" - as the building community refers to them - have consolidated operations, can buy supplies for less and can build faster, more efficiently and at a larger scale. They also have bigger pockets than most local builders.

Corey Barton Homes (CBH Homes) and Hubble Homes also build to a large scale, comparable to the national builders.

But local builders and city leaders worry about nationals hurting local builders who don't have the same buying power.

"[They] kind of squeeze out some of the other local builders that have been around in some capacity and maybe inflate prices a little bit in the interim when they come," Givens told KTVB.

Givens and Eagle Mayor Pierce say the nationals outbid local builders for land across the valley and then hold on to plots without moving dirt for years as part of their long-term plan.

"I know a lot of different homebuilders throughout that have gone out of business," Pierce added.

The one big question for Idahoans around these national builders: Could more of them in our market increase inventory, ease pressure and, in turn, help push prices down?

Ask around, and you will find the jury's out on that one.

"They can put more inventory on the ground sooner and we know that just purely more inventory helps home prices come down," Rauer said.

"I don't think more inventory is going to drive down the cost," Star Mayor Trevor Chadwick told KTVB.

"You can build and build and build and it doesn't mean it turns into affordability. It doesn't," Mayor Pierce added.

"They can provide more supply, more housing, which ultimately should bring prices down a little bit. It's just when and how quickly can that happen?" Givens said.

Sure, some argue that adding inventory at any level could help flatten prices. But city leaders and realtors KTVB spoke with believe not by much - and not fast enough.

We also must remember that development takes time; the process before building even begins to get properties entitled can take several weeks to months. Builders and city leaders say the homes and developments we see going online now have been in the works for years; many of them were passed before the pandemic and unprecedented demand surfaced.

"The only reason [national builders] are coming in here is because it's hot. They're not coming in here to build $300,000 homes. If they were they would have done that five years ago. They're coming in here because the houses are $500-800,000," Star Mayor Trevor Chadwick said, "That's the honesty of this whole thing, right? They're here to make money. Because they can see that they can do that."

In fact, many national homebuilders' listings across the Treasure Valley sit around $600,000 - November's record median price for new homes in Ada County - while some in Emmett, Kuna, Middleton and Nampa hover below.

Realtors, builders, mayors all agree that simple supply and demand is not the only thing driving up costs.

Other factors include the high costs of:

  • Buildable land
  • Labor
  • Materials

Rauer and Givens said supply chain delays, in part, slowed the sales of new homes during the pandemic. They also point to small, short-staffed city governments in the valley being slow to approve permits and applications. That, in turn, slows the building of new homes.

Fast-growing Eagle and Star admit they are overwhelmed. They have not staffed up to keep up with triple the amount of new housing permits over the past two years - and don't plan to. 

"We're not in a huge rush," Pierce said, "It's kind of, like, it comes in and we approve it as it goes through the process."

"I just can't go hire. I have to have it in the budget," Chadwick added.

All those factors aside, the desire to live in Idaho persists.

"Demand is what's holding the price up right now. If people come in and they've got the money to buy it, they're going to bid the price up," Rauer said.

The hope is that the market corrects itself and at some point people will not pay the high prices, so they will drop.

But experts fear inventory may never catch up with demand, leaving families like the Himes somewhat hopeless.

"We're kind of at a loss. Not really sure what to do. We feel like we missed out," Brian and Nissi said. "We can head elsewhere. That's on the table. But we were hoping to stay here."

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