Thinking about living in Boise? You’ve come to the right place.
I’ve lived in Boise for the past 12 years and have seen the city grow from a hidden gem to one of the fastest growing cities in the US. In that time, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about the honest pros and cons of living in Boise, Idaho.
Home to a population of nearly 238,000 residents, there’s so much to love (and not love) about calling this pretty city home.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so let’s cover everything you need to know about moving to Boise, Idaho based on firsthand experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’m here to help!
Pros & Cons of Living in Boise
Things to know before moving to Boise
The political scene
Overall, Idaho is considered a very red state. The last democratic governor in the state was Cecil Andrus, who left office in 1995. You won’t find many Democratic politicians in office outside of Boise, and conservative state policies reflect that.
Worth mention: The political leanings of a city or state are neutral considerations and I won’t be labeling them as pros/cons. Rather, I’ll mention the stats for you to take into consideration before moving to Boise.
Worth knowing while living in Boise: Relaxed gun laws
Idaho is considered one of the most gun friendly states in the country. Laws allow residents to conceal and carry from the age of 18 and there are no requirements for universal background checks (also no assault weapon restrictions).
If you’re interested in learning more about the gun laws in Idaho, read this handy guide.
Boise is one of the fastest growing cities in the USA
In 2018, Boise was ranked the fastest growing city in America. The city’s popularity only grew during the global pandemic when hordes of millenials (and families) ended up moving to Boise for the more relaxed COVID regulations.
In fact, a shocking 194% more people moved to Idaho during the pandemic, making it the state with the most growth during that time.
Pros of Living in Boise, Idaho
#1. Access to (breathtaking) outdoor recreation
There’s no denying that Boise is a sight for sore eyes. The natural beauty of the city is one of the biggest perks of living in Boise because it makes everyday enjoyable.
I love being within a one-hour drive to epic outdoor recreation. From adrenaline sports like mountain biking, whitewater rafting and skiing to more relaxed pursuits like soaking in hot springs and birding — you’ll find it all while living in Boise.
There’s nothing better than spending a warm summer day swimming in the Snake River or camping out in the valley. With such quick and easy access to the great outdoors, it’s no wonder why nature-lovers are moving to Boise in hordes.
The Boise River Greenbelt
The Boise River Greenbelt is a beloved tree-lined 26-mile trail that hugs the banks of the Boise River through Boise. Locals and tourists alike use the trail for biking, jogging and walking.
#2. The high quality of life in Boise
Something you’ll quickly learn after moving to Boise is that people want to live a peaceful existence without intrusion. There seems to be a beautiful sense of community with an unspoken agreement: do right by me and I’ll do right by you.
Locals are keen to protect this little Eden and everyone pitches in to keep the community safe. As such, Boise’s crime rates are well below the national average.
#3. The cost of living in Boise is (relatively) affordable
I think it’s inevitable that locals will disagree on the affordability of living in Boise, but listen — I can compare the cost of living in Boise to other places I’ve lived. And let me tell you — this place is still affordable.
Granted, the cost of living in Boise is 7% higher than the national average, but there’s one culprit to blame: the obnoxious price of housing (which isn’t unique to Boise). Indeed, the housing costs in Boise are 22% higher than the national average.
But this is hardly surprising, considering the impressive growth Idaho has gone through in the previous two years.
The solution is to find a spot to rent outside the downtown core. You’ll need to make a tradeoff between affordable housing and commute times. If helpful, I currently pay $1,300 for a one-bedroom apartment near the downtown area (for reference, I was paying $2,400 for a one-bedroom near Seattle three years ago).
My point being: Affordability is relative. And before someone tells me “newcomers like you are the reason housing prices have skyrocketed” can I just ask: What’s the reason I can’t afford a home in the city I grew up in? Who can I blame for that? We’re all moving around for a better quality of life and I don’t think it’s fair to hate people for doing so.
#4. Strong job economy
Moving to Boise for a new job? You’re in good hands. Boise is considered one of the best cities in the nation for job seekers because of the booming job economy. In fact, job postings doubled in January 2022, landing Boise in the #1 spot for metros with the fastest job growth.
The city’s top employers span the gamut — from healthcare, tech and government to hospitality gigs (the perks of living in a thriving + fast growing city, I tell you). The current unemployment rate (as of September 2022) is 2.5%, which is well below the national average of 3.7%.
Job stats while living in Boise:
- Average salary: $59,500
- Top employers: Albertsons, Micron Technology, St. Luke’s Health System.
#5. You’ll enjoy all four seasons
If you’re used to living in cities with mundane climates, you’ll find living in Boise a breath of fresh air. The city is no stranger to hot summers, cold winters and striking autumns and springs.
I wouldn’t say that we have extreme temperatures, but summers do get quite hot and winters are blistering cold.
If helpful, the average summer temperatures are: June (81°F), July (91°F), August (90°F). Winter temperatures are December (40°F), January (38°F), February (45°F) and March (54°F).
Glorious seasons aside, another perk of moving to Boise is the abundant sunshine. Boise gets 206 days of sunshine per year and minimal rainfall.
Learn about inversions before moving to Boise
Winters in Boise bring atmospheric inversions that catch newcomers by surprise. Inversions occur when the the air mass gets flipped upside down and temperatures in higher elevations remain warmer than they should.
Dense and cold air settled into lower elevations and gets trapped by a layer of mild air, which keeps air from moving. This results in blankets of dense fog envelop the valleys.
As such, Boise get trapped by layers of pollution and causes air stagnation. This tends to get challenging for folks struggling with asthma, so you’ll need to be mindful.
#6. Great downtown area
Another great thing about moving to Boise is the vibrant downtown core. It’s not massive (like other places I’ve lived) so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. There’s a ton of charming small stores, cafes, breweries and restaurants, but my favorite aspect is the friendly attitude of business owners. It makes me feel like I’m living in a “big small town” not a city.
This in turn, makes living in Boise feel like a real community. Folks are kind and greet you everywhere you go and if you frequent certain business you’ll be on a first-name basis with the staff in no time.
If there’s one thing you’ll learn quickly after living in Boise it’s this: supporting small businesses is serious business.
Cons of Moving to Boise
#1. The home price-to-wages ratio is way off
If you’re considering moving to Boise to start a new life, you’ll need to do some serious research. The reason? The wage-to-housing ration is absurd. As mentioned earlier, the average salary is $59,500, but the median price of a home? Nearly $500,000. A staggering discrepancy.
But before my blood starts to boil, let’s talk about the insane housing market.
#2. The housing market is off the charts
I’m just going to say it: the current housing prices in Boise are downright laughable. I know that housing market issues are not unique to Boise, but prices have skyrocketed past any point of reason. In fact, Boise experienced one of the fastest growths in housing values, but the trend seems to be on the decline as of fall 2022.
Recall how I mentioned Boise is one of the fastest growing cities in the US? Well, that comes with growing pains and the housing market is proof. The recent influx of new comers has caused home prices to far exceed income and the limited supply doesn’t held.
#3. Poor public schools
If you’re moving to Boise with a family in tow, you’ll need to strongly consider their schooling options. Idaho’s public school system is rated as one of the worst in the country. For starters, only 47% of 3-5 year olds are enrolled in school, which is the second-smallest share in the nation. For reference, the national average is 61% enrollment rate.
Idaho is one of 12 states that doesn’t offer state-funded Pre-K programs to children under 5 years old. Secondly, our high school graduation rate clocks in at 80%, which is well below the national average of 86%.
Not to mention our abysmal graduation rate, which is consider the top 10 lowest across all US states.
All this to say, you’ll definitely want to factor in the expense for your child’s education when considering the cost of living in Boise. Otherwise you’ll be taking a risk in our under-performing public school system.
#4. Lack of diversity
Something folks don’t realize before moving to Boise is the lack of diversity. It’s a mono-cultured city, one of the least ethnically diverse cities in America, actually.
Let’s talk stats, because I’m sure this will ruffle some feathers. More than 88% of residents identify as white, leaving little room for diversity. The second largest demographic in the city identify as Hispanic (9%) followed by Asian (3%) and then Black (1.6%).
Pros & Cons of Living in Boise, Idaho (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of moving to Boise, Idaho.
- Access to (breathtaking) outdoor recreation
- Great downtown core
- The high quality of life in Boise
- You’ll get all four seasons
- The cost of living in Boise is affordable
- Strong job economy
- Good public schools?
- The wages-to-housing ratio is way off
- The housing market is off the charts
- Lack of diversity
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