Bringing the Economy Home

Boise Subdivisions “Dressed Up to Look Occupied” as Housing Market Faltered

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

This foreclosed home in the Boise suburbs was put up for sale in September.

Boise’s housing market gains a bit of unwelcome and retroactive notoriety, thanks to a New York Times article published this week. Using newly released Fed transcripts, the article details Federal Reserve officials’ apparent lack of concern about the housing bubble and its potential effects on the broader economy, even as the housing market showed signs of weakness.

As an example, the piece gives this account of former Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Janet Yellen relaying information from her region:

One builder she spoke with, she said, “toured some new subdivisions on the outskirts of Boise and discovered that the houses, most of which are unoccupied, are now being dressed up to look occupied — with curtains, things in the driveway, and so forth — so as not to discourage potential buyers.”  — The New York Times

According to the article, the anecdote brought laughs in September 2006.  In the years to come, Idaho’s housing market, like overheated markets all over the country, would plummet.  According to RealtyTrac’s recent year-end report, Idaho had the tenth highest foreclosure rate in the nation in 2011, with 1.77 percent of its housing units experiencing at least one foreclosure filing during the year.

John Starr, a broker in the Boise office of Colliers International, has a more colorful description of Idaho’s foreclosure problem.  “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody who has been personally affected, or has a family member who has been affected, or an acquaintance,” he said.  “It’s just pervasive.”


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