Idaho beckons homebuyers with its robust job growth, its low unemployment rate and relatively affordable housing market, not to mention its natural beauty. The state wasn't hit especially hard by the housing crash, and Idaho has seen robust appreciation in recent years. In fact, Idaho had the strongest home price appreciation in the nation for the five years ending in September 2019, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. What's more, Idaho offers numerous programs to help first-time buyers qualify for mortgages. This page serves as a step-by-step guide to navigating the property market and landing a deal on a mortgage in Idaho.
Check Mortgage Rates in Idaho
However, the borrower's credit score remains the most crucial factor in determining a borrower's mortgage rate. For more information about loan costs, visit MoneyGeek's mortgage rates guide.
First-Time Buyer? Finding Help in Idaho
Idaho's state and local governments offer a number of programs to help buyers achieve the dream of homeownership. The Idaho Housing and Finance Association's loan program offers low-rate, low-cost mortgages to borrowers making up to $90,000 a year. Some state loans don't require mortgage insurance, which sweetens the deal for borrowers.
For buyers with low or moderate incomes, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association's down payment program provides up to $8,000 to cover down payments and closing costs. This program is limited to buyers who make 80 percent or less of their metro area's median income. For 2016, a family of four needed make less than $50,000 to qualify. In Boise, the top income for a family of four is $49,900. In Idaho Falls, the max is $45,850.
The state also has a Homebuyer Tax Credit that can be used to reduce the amount you owe the IRS by up to $2,000 per year.
Some local governments also offer incentives to buyers. The Boise Affordable Housing Loan Program, for instance, is a city initiative that lends up to $35,000 to low-income buyers who want to purchase a home within Boise. Applicants must meet income guidelines, and each loan carries pre-payment penalties not to exceed 15 years. For more information about programs for first-time buyers, read this MoneyGeek guide to down payment assistance and other resources.
Idaho's Financial Aid for First-Time Buyers
Check out this tool for an overview of closing cost assistance and other money available to buyers.
Find a Housing Counselor in Idaho
Idaho: A Bastion of Affordability (Mostly)
Idaho has its share of high-end resort towns with pricey ski chalets, but even the once-affordable cities have grown less so. In Pocatello, for instance, the median price in 2019 was $188,000, a price point that has lured buyers from California and other more expensive markets. In Boise, just 53 percent of houses and condos that sold during the third quarter of 2019 were within the budget of a typical family. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index reaches that conclusion by using a median price of $333,000 and median family income of $73,600.
How Idaho Mortgage Rates and Home Prices Affect Monthly Payments
|Metro Area||Estimated Monthly Mortgage Payment*||Q3 2019 (Change from Previous Year)||2018 Median Home Price||2017||2016|
|Boise City-Nampa||$1,122||$303,100 (+10.3%)||$263,500||$226,700||$203,200|
Source: National Association of Realtors Q3 2019 Metropolitan Median Area Prices and Affordability report.
*Estimated Monthly Mortgage Payment is based on median home prices for the metro area in Q3 2019, a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed mortgage at 3.75 percent. Figure reflects principal and interest but excludes insurance and property taxes.
Learn How Much You Can Borrow in Idaho
Because Idaho is a bastion of affordable home prices, loan limits in most parts of the state are $510,400, mirroring much of the country. However, four resort counties with higher prices - Blaine, Camas, Lincoln and Teton - have loan limits of $625,500 for 2020. Borrow more than that, and you'll be pushed out of the realm of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and into the world of jumbo loans, which can carry higher interest rates and stricter underwriting guidelines.
FHA loan limits for Idaho follow the same pattern: The 2020 cap is $331,760 for most of the state but $646,300 in Idaho's two highest-priced counties. For a county-by-county look at federal loan limits, check below:
Buying a Home in Idaho: Experts Weigh In
Tiffanie Mai-Ganske is an agent at RE/MAX Country Real Estate in Pocatello. She was Idaho's Realtor of the Year for 2012 and served as president of the state Realtor association.
Bob Hurtt is a broker at ERA Real Estate West Wind in Boise. He has sold more than 1,000 homes during his career in Southern Idaho.
How has Idaho's housing market changed in recent years?
We went through the same thing as the rest of the country. Prices fell, and now they've come back strong. But Idaho is still a very affordable market. Lending guidelines are a little more conservative than they were during the boom, but that's not a bad thing.
Over the past 10 years, we've experienced periods where we have excessive inventory and no buyers at any price point. We have also experienced a market where there is very limited inventory for buyers to consider, which is the situation right now.
What's the biggest challenge facing buyers in Idaho?
Inventory is low, just like in the rest of the nation. Because there is low inventory, buyers are facing multiple-bidding situations.
The biggest challenge for buyers in the Boise region right now is low inventory. Having a low inventory results in multiple offers being presented to homeowners at the same time. This makes it particularly difficult for buyers who want to take their time to look - they may miss out on properties because they take too long to figure out if and what they want to offer the seller.
What advice do you give first-time buyers?
Interest rates are at an all-time low, so it's a great time to buy. Make sure you get pre-qualified with a reputable lender. And build up your reserves and your down payment.
Make sure you do your due diligence. Find a reputable and reliable buyer's agent in your region, get pre-qualified for any loans you might need, and be sure you're mentally ready to move forward with your purchase before you start seriously looking.
What's unique about Idaho's housing market?
Idaho is absolutely becoming a destination. In my market, you can find a very nice home for $150,000 - 1,700 square feet, two-car garage. When you look at the national rankings, Idaho is No. 1, 2 or 3 in job growth, affordability and quality of life. We have people coming in from all over - from Seattle, from California, from the East Coast.
Idaho is a great destination for homeowners. We're currently in a positive economic state, the job market is booming and we have a mild climate for most of the year. Quality of life in Boise is high.
Closing Costs in Idaho: Don't Be Taken by Surprise
Idaho has the second-lowest closing costs in the nation, a Bankrate survey finds, which is good news for buyers. Borrowing $200,000 will saddle you with transaction expenses of just $1,682. That includes a broker or originator fee of just $925. In other words, getting a loan will cost you, but not as much as in most other states. See MoneyGeek's guide to closing costs for a more complete explanation of what to expect.
Average Closing Costs in Idaho
Source: Bankrate's 2015 survey of closing costs.
Refinancing a Mortgage in Idaho
With mortgage rates near record lows, it's prime time to refinance. Many Idaho homeowners have significant equity in their homes, thanks to robust appreciation over the past five years. Idaho home prices jumped 41 percent from early 2011 to early 2016, beating the national pace of 27 percent, the Federal Housing Finance Agency says. That means many homeowners possess the equity that's critical to getting approved for a refinancing.
To understand potential savings, consider this scenario: Assume you have a 30-year mortgage for $190,000 at a 5 percent interest rate. Your monthly payment for principal and interest is $1,020. Refinancing into a loan for the same amount at an interest rate of 3.5 percent would slash your monthly payment to $853, a savings of $167 a month. You'll have to pay for the privilege of borrowing, of course. But because Idaho's closing costs are low, they're less of a deterrent to bargain hunters here than in other states.
Many homeowners already have refinanced in recent years, reflected in slowing levels of refinancing. In the first four months of 2016, just 3,594 Idaho borrowers refinanced their mortgages, down from 4,188 in the first four months of 2015, the FHFA says. In other words, borrowers are deciding that, even if they could cut their interest rate again by another half a point, the hassle and the closing costs offset the savings. For more information about refinancing in general, see MoneyGeek's refi guide.
Other Resources for Idaho Mortgage Borrowers
For buyers who make less than $90,000 a year, the state offers low-cost, low-rate mortgages.
This document lays out just who qualifies for the state's down payment help of up to $8,000.
The state program lets some buyers reduce the amount they owe the IRS by up to $2,000 each year.
Offered by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, these courses help you make wise decisions about buying and borrowing.
The city loans low-income buyers up to $35,000 to buy a home in the city.
This nonprofit provides down payment loans, closing cost assistance and home improvement loans to moderate-income buyers and owners in specified counties.
The Blaine County Housing Authority provides a list of reasonably priced homes.
This nonprofit supports affordable housing in Blaine County.