Boise is a picturesque high desert city located in southwestern Idaho. The rugged foothills and mountains north of the city are a nature enthusiast’s paradise, offering year-round sports of all kinds. Contrasted to the fantastic outdoor amenities, Boise is an eclectic city that supports vibrant indie music, a loyal-to-locals food scene, sophisticated culture, and Rocky Mountain cowboy traditions. From the easily walkable and bikeable historic downtown and residential districts that define the city’s core, to planned suburban developments, Boise appeals to many lifestyles.
Winding through Tree City, the Boise River adds beauty and variety to the high desert geography. The 25-mile-long Boise River Greenbelt is full of trees, parks, and walking/bike paths. With Boise State University located in the heart of the city, Boise gives off an infectious youthful vibe. Residents love that Boise is a family-friendly city that offers up a fresh hip cultural scene while holding on to its traditions. Of 125 metro US areas, realestate.usnews.com ranked Boise the #17 ‘Best Places to Live.’
With everything this city offers, it’s easy to see why new residents and new businesses are attracted to Boise. As the city quickly grows, the housing market remains hot, and prices continue to rise, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find a great home here. The job market is also rapidly growing, and in addition to the long-standing major Boise companies, high tech companies, and several Forbes Top 100 businesses have set up headquarters in the city.
Living in Boise, ID: What to Know Before Moving to Boise
Many agree that Idaho’s capital city, with 265,000 residents, offers all the big city amenities while maintaining a friendly small-town feel. Boise and the neighboring cities of Meridian, Nampa, and Caldwell are part of the Treasure Valley, with more than 710,000 residents.
Pros and Cons of Living in Boise
Boise offers a variety of great options for people of any walk of life.
- One of the best places to live – Consistently ranked among the best places to live, Boise is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with a hip cultural vibe.
- Growing culinary, brewery and wine scene – Boise has entered the arena of innovatively prepared farm to fork food, great breweries, and wineries.
- Sports – Sports fans enthusiastically support Boise State University, home of the Broncos. This team boasts a blue football field lovingly coined “Smurf Turf.” Local lore claims that ducks often land on the field, mistaking it for a lake.
- Culture – Museums, theater productions, opera, ballet, philharmonic, indie music festivals, the historical heritage of the Basque community, and art walks are just a tip of the cultural iceberg.
- Access to nature – Boise is surrounded by publicly accessible state and federal lands. The mountains to the north offer amazing year-round recreation. Traveling to the south takes you to the untamed Snake River Plain.
- Safety – Boise’s crime rate is lower than the national average
- Schools – Many Boise public schools are highly rated.
While everyone can find something to love about Boise, you’ll want to cautiously evaluate a few things as you’re making your decision to move.
- Income vs. cost of living – While the housing market is thriving, in some sectors, wages aren’t keeping pace with the increased cost of living.
- Public transportation – Boise residents continue to push the current local government about a looming transportation crisis. Boise’s public transportation system has been described as woefully inadequate while traffic increases on the city’s surface streets and freeway.
- A native community – Even though Boise is known as a friendly city, many locals blame incoming California transplants for their growing-pain woes. If you’re moving from the Sunshine State, get your license plates changed quickly!
- Summer heat – While Boise typically has mild winters compared with the rest of Idaho, summers can be stifling. July 2018, recorded more than 20 days of triple-digit heat.
- Property Tax – Boise lies in Ada County, the state’s most populous county. The property tax in Ada County is .795%. If you live in your home, file for a homeowners exemption which will exempt 50% of the value of your house plus up to one acre of land from tax.
- Sales Tax – Boise’s current sales tax is 6%.
- State Income Tax – Idaho residents are taxed on a graduated rate from 1.125% to 6.925%. Higher rates apply to higher-income earners.
The Boise housing market has experienced considerable appreciation over the last decade. However, Boise’s median home value of $304,000 makes housing affordable compared to other Northwest metro areas. The median home value in Portland is $416,000, and in Seattle it’s $713,100.
Over the past year, Boise housing increased by 12.5%, and according to Zillow, the housing market is “very hot.” Zillow forecasts prices will rise another 4.9% in 2020. The majority of Boise residents purchase their homes and 38% rent. Before prices increase much more, now’s a great time to buy.
Boise’s median rental rate as of Fall 2019, is $1,495. Less expensive areas are typically further to the western edge of Boise near Meridian, southwest toward Kuna, and south of I-84.
Cost of Living
The Boise cost of living index is 106.7 compared to the national index of 100. This index means the cost of living in Boise is 6.7% higher than the national average. The one cost that puts Boise cost of living above the national average is housing at 136.4/100. Your other basic costs will be lower than average: Groceries 91/100, Health 91.9/100, Utilities 90/100, Transportation 93.7/100, and Miscellaneous costs such as repairs, maintenance, eating out, childcare, etc. 97.8/100.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, a family of four will need $6,555 per month to live a moderate lifestyle in Boise. The median household income for a Boise resident is $49,209 per year compared with the national median of $53,482.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Considered a semi-arid continental climate, Boise experiences four specific seasons. Winters tend to be milder compared to the rest of the state, but summers are hot and dry. The coldest months of the year are December and January with average high temperatures of 38 degrees and lows of around 25.
The two hottest months are July and August, with average temperatures of 91 and 90 degrees F respectively, but it’s common for triple-digit temperatures periodically throughout the summer. Summer nights cool down to the low 60s. If you’re moving from a humid climate, you’ll find the dry Idaho air a welcome change.
Like most high deserts, Boise doesn’t receive much rain. Only about 11.5″ of rain falls annually, most arriving December through March. Annual snowfall averages around 19″, usually no more than 3″ settling at a time. December and January are the months when snow is most likely, but warming periods between storms don’t allow for much if any snow build-up at any given time.
Idaho has a low ranking for potential natural disaster threats. Thunderstorms, wind, flooding, wildfires, and earthquakes are the most pressing concerns. Even though earthquakes are usually so minimal that most people can’t feel them, Idaho is ranked the 5th most active earthquake state in the country. Though sagebrush surrounds Boise, the potential of a wildfire ripping through the urban areas is unlikely. However, homes in the wildland-urban interface should prepare accordingly. Also, traditional weather patterns leave Boise in the wake of smoke and haze from fires that burn in California, Oregon, and northern Idaho.
Economy & Job Market
Boise currently experiences a robust job market with unemployment at 2.3%, significantly lower than the national average of 3.9%. With diverse industries, no single sector occupies more than 15% of the employment opportunities. High tech is becoming a major player among Boise industries, but currently the five biggest industries are trade, transportation and utilities; government; professional and business services; manufacturing; and educational and health services.
The city’s largest private employers are Micron Technology, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Hewlett-Packard Company, Albertson’s Inc, and JR Simplot. Popular public employers are Boise State University and the State of Idaho. Due to Boise’s low unemployment and demand for skilled workers, utilizing social networking and digital job tools is one of the best ways to connect with companies that need new employees.
Traffic and Transportation
The main freeway is Interstate 84 which runs east-west through the southern section of the city and continues west to Portland, Oregon, or east to Salt Lake City, Utah. As the only major freeway, I-84 is extremely congested during commuting hours. Interstate 184 is a five-mile extension that connects I-84 with downtown. Hwy 26 offers an alternative east-west route along the northern city limits. Gorgeous Highway 55 runs from western Boise north through central Idaho to McCall, Lewiston, and Moscow. Other than I-84, residents use notoriously crowded surface streets to commute and run errands.
Boise offers public transportation through ValleyRide bus service, ACCESS curb-to-curb transit service, Scrip Taxi Program, and SHIP for seniors and those with disabilities. In an attempt to improve getting around downtown, the city introduced Boise Green Bike, a rental bike program which has boosted the city’s bike score to 61/100. But according to walkscore.com, Boise is still a car-dependent city. The walk score is 40/100, and transit score is 23/100.
Boise Airport is just a ten-minute drive south of downtown, and Greyhound buses depart and arrive from the downtown station.
What to Do
Boise residents get to enjoy the best of both worlds – amazing outdoor activities and cultural experiences are right at their fingertips. Many locals enjoy Boise for its quick access to wild public lands such as The Frank Church Wilderness which encompasses a huge swath of the central part of the entire state, offering the opportunity to ski, mountain bike, hike, rock climb, fish, boat, raft, hunt, or horseback ride. Bogus Basin, located just a quick 45-minute drive from downtown Boise, offers lighted skiing seven nights a week during ski season, and hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, disc golf, and more after the snow melts.
Nature lovers can get their fix in the city, too. Ann Morrison Park is located downtown along the Boise River Greenbelt and hosts a variety of public events, frisbee golf, sports fields, and playgrounds. Sandy Point is a state park located at the base of Lucky Peak Dam where you can rent paddleboards or kayaks, play in the created water features, or relax on the beach. Just downstream of downtown, find more water fun at the Boise Whitewater Park where you can rent surfboards, paddleboards, or kayaks to surf the designed play waves. For one of the most entertaining days that you can imagine, raft or tube six miles of the Boise River. You can also explore and enjoy the Idaho Botanical Garden, Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park, the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center, and some parks, like Morris Hill, that offer off-leash romping for happy dogs.
When you’re ready for some culture, Boise has a variety of options. The music scene draws national and international headline performances and local artists. Residents anticipate the Gene Harris Jazz Festival every spring and the Treefort Music Fest in late March. Art museums and art-related events abound including Art in the Park, Alive After Five, and First Thursday, a downtown social/art event. The Idaho Shakespeare Festival offers a wonderful program throughout the summer months, and the Boise Philharmonic, Ballet Idaho, and Opera Idaho provide outstanding programs and performances throughout the year. Boise’s Basque community is one of the largest in the US, and you can get a taste of Basque culture by exploring downtown’s Basque Block. The Basque Jaialdi Festival is held once every five years so don’t miss it in 2020.
If you love watching the action, Boise offers the nationally ranked college football team, the Boise State Broncos (plus many other college sports), Idaho Steelhead professional hockey team, and Boise Hawks minor league baseball team which is a farm team for the Colorado Rockies. Regardless of the season, you can find a way to root for the home team.
Schools and Universities
Boise School District serves over 26,000 students in Boise with 34 elementary schools, eight junior high schools, and five high schools. West Ada School District also serves parts of Boise. Also, there are public education programs that run in the evening or offer additional educational opportunities. In addition to public schools, there are several private and charter schools throughout the city.
While Idaho ranks poorly in public education, Boise’s schools rank significantly better. Many schools rank 7/10 or higher on greatschools.org, and Boise Senior High School ranks 9/10, and Timberline Senior High School ranks 10/10.
Boise and the surrounding communities offer a variety of university, college, and technical school opportunities. Boise State University, Northwest Nazarene University, and College of Idaho all offer four-year degrees. College of Western Idaho, Carrington College, and Stevens-Henager College all offer two-year degrees.
Does a big city with low crime rank high on your list of best places to live? If so, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better city than Boise. Crime is ranked on a 1-100 scale, with one as the lowest crime rate. Boise’s violent crime rates at 16.3, where the national average is 22.7. The property crime rate is 34.2 compared to 35.4 as the national average. Most of Boise is generally safe, but check out the crime map to scope out the safest neighborhoods.
Before you move to Boise, ensure all your utilities are up and running.
- Gas service: Intermountain Gas Service provides gas to the Boise area. To start service, you can click here to find their phone number, or fill out their online form to register service.
- Electric service: Idaho Power provides electricity service in Boise. They suggest you use their link to start both residential or commercial services, but if you prefer to call, you can find their toll-free phone numbers on the link.
- Water, sewer, and trash service: The City of Boise will provide water, sewer, and trash services. Open your account by clicking here.
- Cable and internet service: There are a variety of television service options in Boise. Some of the most popular are DirecTV and Dish. Sparklight (previously CableOne) is another option. Sparklight is one of the main internet providers, but Spectrum and CenturyLink are two other possible internet providers.
Best Neighborhoods in Boise, ID
From the hip vibe of downtown to the historical charm of Hyde Park, or new subdivisions farther from the city center, Boise has a neighborhood for every lifestyle. The following are eight of our favorites:
BoDo, or Boise Downtown, is one of the most popular neighborhoods for residents who want to be connected to the hip vibe in the heart of the city. Historic BoDo is the hub of a lively business, cultural, restaurant, and nightlife scene.
This neighborhood borders Broadway Ave on the east, W Fort St on the north, S 16th St on the west, and the Boise River on the south. For purchase or rent, BoDo has several attractive high rise condo buildings, numerous apartment buildings, and historic homes.
Downtown is compact and super easy to bike or walk. According to walkscore.com, downtown is a “biker’s paradise” with a score of 98/100, and the walk score is 81/100.
Eighth Street, with its restaurant row, coffee houses, and cool cocktail bars, has a pedestrian-only section that allows for great strolling and people watching. Fork and Juniper are favorites with foodies. Weekends and evenings the area buzzes with activity, and you’ll see many dogs patiently waiting as their people are dining on the outdoor patios. Cold winter days don’t keep locals inside – you’ll be provided with a thick cozy blanket to stay warm while you enjoy a meal under the patio heaters.
- Population: 2,200
- Home Prices: Median list price $565,000
- Rent Prices: $1,980
- Schools: Highlands Elementary School 9/10, Longfellow Elementary School 8/10, North Junior High School 7/10, Boise Senior High School 9/10
- Special Attractions: Basque Block, Boise River Greenbelt, The Egyptian Theater, Boise Art Museum, Julia Davis Park, Idaho State Capital, 8th St Restaurant Row
The Boise Bench is one of the city’s older traditional family neighborhoods. Located about one mile southwest of downtown, the Boise Bench sits between Federal Way on the east and Cole Road on the west. Many homes have gorgeous views overlooking the Boise River, Boise State University, downtown, and the mountains to the north. Situated on a rise about 60 feet above the Boise River, Boise Bench is centrally located and living here provides convenient access for traveling anywhere in Boise.
The area is a mix of original homes and new construction or remodels as developers look to revitalize the area. Homes are typically single-family residential and vary from post-war storybook style to mid-century modern classics. You’ll also find apartment complexes, duplexes, and new condo developments.
Boise Bench is currently undergoing some positive transformation, and a variety of small restaurants, like Petite 4 and Casa Blanca Cuban Grill, plus small businesses like Cermanica and Rosendahl Foot and Shoe are popping up throughout the area. The neighborhood boasts several parks, and Boise Bench is an easy neighborhood to navigate on foot or by bike with a walk score of 60/100 and bike score of 83/100. Public transportation is limited – the transit score is 30/100.
- Population: 4,634
- Home Prices: Median home value $500,000
- Rent Prices: $1,895
- Schools: Riverside Elementary School 7/10, Garfield Elementary School 1/10, Timberline Senior High School 10/10
- Special Attractions: Boise Union Pacific Depot, Ann Morrison Park
The East End is located along beautiful Warm Springs Avenue which boasts some of the most stunning historic architecture in Boise. Many residences along Warm Springs were built at the turn of the 20th century by wealthy businessmen, so homes tend to be stately and expensive. Uniquely, the natural hot water that flows from a local fault line heats some of the neighborhood’s homes. Beautiful mature trees throughout the neighborhood add to the established, tranquil feeling of East End.
The western boundary of the neighborhood is Broadway Avenue. Shaw Mountain Rd is the northern boundary, and the Boise River and some of the Boise State University campus form the southern boundary. E Warm Spring Ave is a major east-west thoroughfare through the neighborhood.
Housing is generally limited, and properties don’t frequently come the market. Home prices have increased 9.3% over the past year and are forecast to increase another 3.9% in 2020. This charming area contains mostly single-family homes, and although many of the historical homes are large, smaller two and three-bedroom homes and duplexes can be found.
Many East End residents are employed in the downtown area, or by neighboring St. Luke’s Health. You can easily access the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center, downtown Boise, and the Boise Greenbelt by walking or bike.
- Population: 5,700
- Home Prices: Median home value $450,700
- Rent Prices: Median rent price $1,813
- Schools: Adams 7/10 and Roosevelt 9/10 Elementary Schools, North Junior High School 7/10, and Boise Senior High School 9/10
- Special Attractions: Natatorium Swim Center, Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park, Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise Foothills Trails
Just a few short years ago, Harris Ranch was mostly open grazing land with views of the foothills and Boise River. Now, Harris Ranch is a desirable suburb bordered by E Warm Springs Ave on the west and the Boise River on the south. Open space extends into the foothills to the north. Although downtown Boise lies three miles to the west, access can be quick via Parkcenter, or E Warm Springs.
Harris Ranch has many new builds in a variety of styles and sizes; plans for more apartments and multi-family housing are underway. Home values have risen 9.5% over the past year and are forecast to go up another 3.6% in 2020.
In addition to thoughtful design and architecture, this area offers the amenities of upscale modern living and is filling quickly with young professionals and families. The Harris Ranch developers promote biking and walking, so it’s easy to run car-free errands to The Ranch Market, Coffee Mill, or restaurants.
- Population – 15,226
- Home Price – Median home value $522,900
- Rent Prices – Median rent price $2,172
- Schools – Adams Elementary School 7/10, Trail Wind Elementary School 7/10, East Junior High School 7/10, Timberline Senior High School 10/10
- Special Attractions – Idaho Shakespeare Theater, Barber Park, Boise River day float put-in
This desirable historic district lies just a few blocks northwest of downtown Boise. Hyde Park bounds N Harrison Blvd on the west, W Ada St on the south, N 6th St on the east, and Camel’s Back Park on the north. Technically part of the North End, Hyde Park is listed on the National Historic Register, and with its small quirky hip commercial center, many residents feel that it’s a special and distinct neighborhood.
The charming historic residences are generally three to four-bedroom single-family homes and some duplexes. Tree-lined streets, all with sidewalks, provide a beautiful green aspect to the neighborhood. It’s easy to walk and bike throughout and fun to see how many residents have creatively converted their compact front yards to veggie gardens. Homes rarely come on the market, but when they do, they sell quickly.
The charm of the Hyde Park district enthralls many Boise residents with its bistros, cool coffee houses, antique stores, bookstore, bike shop, and boutiques. Java Hyde Park and Hyde Perk Coffee House are great places to meet a friend for an espresso. One of the most popular stops for a bite and a beer is Sun Ray Cafe. Hyde Park is unofficial headquarters of cyclists and mountain bikers who love the trails in Camel’s Back Park, the foothills, and Bogus Basin.
- Population: Approximately 3,500
- Home Prices: Median home value $549,450
- Rent Prices: $1,850
- Schools: Highlands Elementary School 9/10, Longfellow Elementary School 8/10, North Junior High School 7/10, Boise Senior High School 10/10
- Special Attractions: N 13th St shops and businesses, Camel’s Back Park, Goody’s Goodies.
Nestled between downtown and the Boise foothills, North End is between W State Street on the south, N 28th St on the west, Hill Rd on the north, and W Fort on the east. Depending on where you live in North End, downtown is an easy half-mile or mile walk or bike ride.
The charm of the tree-lined streets and vintage homes offers a feel that is truly unique in Boise; many of Boise’s oldest and most historic homes are in North End. Home values have increased 2.3% over the past year and are predicted to rise 0.5% in 2020. Residences range in style from small two-bedroom cottages, Victorians and vintage Tudors, to some luxury condos.
Eclectic and delightful Hyde Park is a part of the North End, so you gain the benefits of small businesses and restaurants of Hyde Park without losing the upper-class residential feel in North End.
- Population: Around 9,100
- Home Prices: Median list price $549,900
- Rent Prices: $1,875
- Schools: Longfellow Elementary School 8/10, Highlands Elementary School 9/10, North Junior High School 7/10, Boise Senior High School 9/10
- Special Attractions: Camel’s Back Park, Foothill Trails, Hyde Park, Boise Co-Op for awesome grocery shopping, Elm Grove Park
The Morris Hill location offers a welcoming suburban family feeling. Located two miles southwest of downtown, I-84 forms the northern boundary, N Curtis Rd the western, W Alpine St the southern boundary, and N Roosevelt Road and S Orchard Street the eastern.
Residences are typically three and four-bedroom one-story ranch styles built in the 60s and 70s. Some homes sit on large properties. This community is an affordable and quiet area for families but still offers a central location to commute for work. 64% of residents rent their homes and niche.com ranks Morris Hill as the #6 ‘Best Neighborhoods for Young Professionals in Boise’ and #9 ‘Most Diverse Neighborhoods in Boise.’
The highly respected Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center shares the N Curtis Rd boundary of Morris Hill. Neighbors congregate with their canine friends at the Morris Hill Dog Park at the southeastern corner of Morris Hill, and Ann Morrison Park is very close by via Emerald Street. The Boise Mall, an extensive shopping center, is just north over I-84. Mainly a residential neighborhood, you’ll find some restaurants or cafes, but downtown is easily accessible via S Americana Blvd.
- Population: 4,600
- Home Prices: Median list price $329,200
- Rent Prices: $1,200
- Schools: Riverside Elementary School 7/10, Garfield Elementary School 1/10, Koelsch Elementary School 3/10, West Junior High School 5/10, Timberline High School 10/10
- Special Attractions: Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Morris Hill Dog Park, Ann Morrison Park, access to the Boise River Greenbelt
Located two to three miles northwest of downtown, the Sunset neighborhood lies south of W Hill Rd and north of W State Street, between N 26th and N 36th Streets. This ideal location provides access to the Boise River Greenbelt and Hillside to Hollow Reserve for hiking. Just a quick drive south on N 27th St takes you to I-84. A short drive east on W Hill Rd takes you to N Bogus Basin Rd where terrific outdoor recreation is available year-round.
Niche.com names Sunset #6 ‘Best Neighborhoods to Live in Boise.’ This neighborhood offers younger couples the opportunity to find affordable homes and apartments while still enjoying all that Boise has to offer.
A variety of college students, single residents, young professionals, and young families create a vibrant and inviting lifestyle in this suburban community. 72% own their homes in this well-priced neighborhood of well-educated residents – 54% have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or higher.
- Population: 7,489
- Home Prices: Median home value over $300,000
- Rent Prices: $1,200
- Schools: Collister Elementary School 9/10, Lowell Elementary School 8/10, Hillside Junior High School 4/10, Boise Senior High School 9/10
- Special Attractions: Hillside to Hollow Reserve, Boise River Greenbelt, Whitewater Park.
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