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‘A couple of hundred potential buyers:’ Investors snapping up Boise apartments, office buildings

BoiseDev told you yesterday about the investor demand for local real estate. But investors are interested in buying more than single-family homes. 

Locally based brokers with Colliers International said demand from out-of-state buyers to purchase apartment buildings and office buildings is at record levels. Clay Anderson, an investment broker who typically deals in multi-family properties, said he’s seen a big influx of investors from the coast looking to buy up rental properties because of the quality of life and “stable political environment.”

[Study: Boise rents went up faster than anywhere in the US in the past year]

Not 2008 all over again

He said there’s always been strong demand in the market, but since the pandemic hit it’s reached levels of demand he has never seen. And oftentimes properties aren’t even listed on the market before they’re sold.

“We’ve always had a bit of an imbalance of more buyers than sellers and so especially in apartments you’d say for every one deal you can find a seller you’re going to have 30 to 50 buyers,” he said. “Now it almost feels like every one deal you can find to sell you’ve got a couple of hundred potential buyers.”

But, this doesn’t mean this steep increase in prices is leading to a bubble, like the years before the Great Recession caused by the implosion of the subprime mortgage market. Anderson said he saw more speculation and overvaluing of the market back in 2006 than he sees now, where people are better able to meet their borrowing obligations.

“If I looked at trends of Boise pre-recession, it felt like there was a lot more speculation back then,” he said. “People were stretching further than normal in (borrowing for) homes and other categories of development and you had people talking about moving their companies here, but they couldn’t figure out how to functionally do it.”

“It seems like now you have companies moving here and we also have the post-COVID world of the remote worker,” Anderson said.

COVID-19 who? Office buildings a safe bet

National headlines from San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York City warn of the decline of downtown cores as major employers go full remote. But, in small to midsize markets like Boise buying an office building is still a safe bet to make money.

Lance Millington, who works in office brokerage for Colliers, said Boise has always been attractive for investors from out of state looking for good deals, but now demand has increased along with interest in people relocating here and prices have slowly ticked up. 

[Downtown Boise data shows continued drop in visitors, ‘historic high’ office vacancy]

“Investors are coming in here, especially from California and the East Coast as well, and they decided they want to own an office building in Boise, Idaho and that’s what they’re going to do,” he said. “Even though the great values that may have been available a few years ago, the general feeling is that Boise is going to be a great market for a long time and they want to be a part of it.”

He said the pandemic did push vacancy slightly up, but Millington said most companies in the Treasure Valley kept their leases even if they haven’t sent people back to the office. He said companies might be reevaluating if employees need to be in the office five days a week, but many companies are keeping work spaces. And in some cases, they’re expanding to accommodate social distancing.

[Office market trends: real estate firm shows changes to Ada & Canyon office vacancy]

And office space won’t be just limited to downtown Boise. Millington expects as the valley grows and more people are priced out to the far western edge of Canyon County and toward the Oregon border, the demand for offices near them will be met.

“If people can only afford to live in Fruitland, it’s driving more business of all kinds, like retail, office space, medical with the population,” he said. “The high price of homes is pushing people further out and with that comes more development.”

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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