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Idaho's new identity as the fastest-growing state in the country is putting a strain on its rustic character: farmland is disappearing, home prices continue to rise while wages struggle to keep up. In this series, we explore those growing pains.

Our Changing Idaho: Housing Prices - One Family's Story

Molly Messick
Boise State Public Radio

When we started looking into our series “Our Changing Idaho,” we asked listeners to call or write in with comments about growth. We heard one consistent theme over and over: Families kept saying that they want to buy a home, but can’t afford it in the current housing market.

We decided to profile one family and their struggle with housing prices. So we drove out to a quiet neighborhood in Meridian and met Quinn and Carla Modrak.

This young couple in their early thirties moved into their house almost six years ago. They both were living in Boise before they decided to get a house. They bought their Meridian home on a short sale at the bottom of the market.

“We got super lucky when we got it,” says Quinn.

Their two boys were smaller then. “We’ve grown into the house and we’ve talked a little bit about upgrading to something bigger,” says Quinn. Now Paul is 13 and Anthony is 11.

Their current house is just under 1,500 square feet. As they boys grow, they’d like to move up to something that’s between 1,700 and 2,000 square feet. They’ve looked at some homes nearby that list for $240,000 and up. Quinn says if they bought a new house, their mortgage payment would go up from about $700 to $900, plus rising taxes and Homeowner Association Fees. He says that’s just too much for the family to handle right now.

“We couldn’t take on another $200.”

They’ve already taken a hit recently. The value of their current house shot up $30,000 in the last year, meaning higher taxes.

“Our housing payment has gone up quite a bit since we’ve been in here, just from the value in taxes alone, and the rest of our income hasn’t been going up as much to keep up,” says Quinn.

Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio

He says they’re doing OK, but they can’t take on more debt. They want to stay in Meridian and keep the two boys in the same school district. Quinn says they also don’t want to move too far away from family, who also live in the area.

He says in order to sell his house, he’d have to do some fixing up, which would cost more money. They don’t have the cash on hand for that so they’d have to take out a line of credit.

Quinn says he has a pretty good job with a private company. But they have student loans to deal with, and one other complication …

“Maybe in a perfect world we could afford it, but we just have so much money going to medical bills right now, it’s crazy,” says Quinn.

He has a visit once a month at a hospital clinic for an infusion of an anti-rejection drug, for which he pays about $1,000. 

“It’s not like I’m not going to be getting it, I have to have it,” says Quinn. 

Carla also had a recent E.R. visit that they’re still paying off, plus expenses for the kids. Paul has braces and Anthony will likely need them in a year or two.

Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
Carla plays with the couple's two dogs in their Meridian home.

Quinn and Carla have seen a lot of their neighbors sell their homes to make some cash. Their next door neighbor sold their home to someone from Utah. The house across the street sold less than a year ago. Two houses down, a family from California bought a home.

“At one point, we were the only house not being sold,” says Carla.

Quinn would like to take advantage of the housing crunch and get a high price for his home, but it’s not enough to get him into something new.

“There’s just too much uncertainty, at least for us,” says Quinn.

He worries if they move to a newer, more expensive home and the market crashes again, they could end up underwater.

“I don’t know what we’d end up doing if we ended up losing our house for whatever reason … it’s just scary to think,” says Quinn.

For now, they’ll stick with what they’ve got.

“It’s a lot easier to just put up with the small house and the noisy kids,” Quinn jokes.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

As Senior Producer of our live daily talk show Idaho Matters, I’m able to indulge my love of storytelling and share all kinds of information (I was probably a Town Crier in a past life!). My career has allowed me to learn something new everyday and to share that knowledge with all my friends on the radio.