In Idaho’s Treasure Valley — home to the state’s largest city, Boise — people aren’t scouring the ground looking for gold nuggets or veins of silver. These days, the real treasure in and around Boise is a moderately priced home.
Idaho, as a whole, saw its population grow faster than any other state during 2021, with more than 53,000 new residents moving to the Gem State, amounting to a roughly 3% population boost.  Boise is a prime target for new Idahoans, and existing ones, too. Nearly 65,000 people moved to Boise from other parts of Idaho in 2020, along with 10,000 Californians, and almost 2,800 Washingtonians. 
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And in Boise, a metro area comprising roughly 800,000 residents, it’s led to a housing crunch — similar to what many other cities are experiencing.
“I used to be able to get anywhere in town in 15 minutes,” says Becky Enrico-Crum, a real estate agent, and the 2022 Boise Regional Realtors President. “Now, it takes 45 minutes, and you can’t really tell the difference between Boise, Eagle, and Meridian,” she says, about Boise’s neighboring suburbs, as each city has expanded in recent years.
What Enrico-Crum is seeing on the ground is also borne out in the data: Boise is, as of early 2022, the hottest housing market in America.
The 5 most overpriced housing markets in the U.S.
Buyers in the Boise metro area are paying an average of $506,060 for homes, which is roughly 76% higher than would be expected when accounting for historical averages. That’s according to a ranking of the most overvalued housing markets among the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., as compiled by researchers at both Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University.
“We look at all past pricing using Zillow’s data because it’s released on a monthly basis,” says Ken Johnson, a real estate economist and associate dean of master’s programs at FAU College of Business, and one of two researchers behind the rankings. “It’s a good measure, as it captures the vast majority of housing transactions out there. It gives us an idea of what prices ‘should’ be,” he says, in relation to historical trends.
In Boise’s case, historical norms say the “expected price” of the average Boise home would be around $287,000. In fact, buyers are paying almost twice as much.
“Basically, homes are priced 76% higher than they ‘should’ be,” Johnson says.
The pandemic caused migrations around the country, as many people sought less expensive and less crowded cities to live in. And while Boise topped the list of overpriced housing markets, these other metro areas comprise the top five as of Jan. 31:
1. Boise City, Idaho
Average Price (per Zillow’s data): $506,060
Expected Price: $286,898
2. Austin, Texas
Average Price: $558,699
Expected Price: $344,185
3. Ogden, Utah
Average Price: $499,292
Expected Price: $313,648
4. Las Vegas, Nevada
Average Price: $405,542
Expected Price: $263,884
5. Atlanta, Georgia
Average Price: $344,420
Expected Price: $226,083
Johnson notes that these cities, and others near the top of the list, have many similarities.
“The most common factor among these cities, although it’s not exclusive, is that they all have seen significant influxes of population,” he says. Also, “every market has an inventory shortage, and that’s a uniform problem around the country.”
The 5 least overpriced housing markets in the U.S.
While buyers in cities like Boise and Austin continue to pay high premiums for homes, homes in some surprising metros are among the least overpriced (there were no “underpriced” homes in the study). The data show that prices in these five markets ran the closest to historical averages:
1. Honolulu, Hawaii
Average Price: $882,371
Expected Price: $878,420
2. Baltimore, Maryland
Average Price: $356,266
Expected Price: $353,717
3. New York City, New York
Average Price: $577,647
Expected Price: $568,223
4. Washington, D.C.
Average Price: $529,871
Expected Price: $519,124
5. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Average Price: $305,036
Expected Price: $298,105
Johnson notes that, while homes in these markets may be expensive, they’re not necessarily overpriced — they’re roughly as valuable as we’d expect them to be, in relation to historical data. In other words, a house in Honolulu was always expensive, but the pandemic didn’t necessarily increase prices there all that much.
In contrast, Johnson says what’s happening in cities like Boise is something he’s “never seen before.”
‘Don’t bet the house on it’
There are no metros among the top 100 in which homes are selling at a discount. This mostly goes back to the fact that there is a supply shortage, with not enough homes to match the demand.
“We expect prices to start slowing down soon, but it’s going to depend on where you’re looking to buy,” says Johnson.
Enrico-Crum says a slowdown would be welcome, especially to those in her industry who are trying to keep up in high-demand cities.
“We have a lot of buyers lined up but we don’t have inventory to sell them,” she says. “We’re working three times as hard to make the same amount of money since we’re working with multiple offers all the time. I can write five offers per client, and it takes a lot of time. It’s not as rosy as everyone thinks.”
However, she does say that there are clear benefits to living in a growing city.
“It’s brought a lot of diversity to the city,” she says, along with new restaurants, and the arts.
As for what buyers in cities like Boise can do to try and get a home in a competitive market? Enrico-Crum says it’s going to be difficult, but the key things are to have your financing in order and to make sure you have a cash down payment. Be prepared to pay over the listing price by a healthy margin.
“You’re going to need to offer an extra $30,000 or $40,000 right now,” she says.
If there is any comfort for buyers, it’s that the market should calm down this year, with rising interest rates, and pandemic-related migrations (perhaps) slowing down, Johnson says. That’s the prevailing thought among most experts, he notes, but there’s no guarantee of anything in the housing market.
“Most housing economists would say we’re near the peak right now,” he says, “but don’t bet the house on it.”
Image: Stouffer / Getty Images