BOISE, Idaho – For two years, Robyn and Justin Parrish have scoured real estate listings trying to find a home to buy in Boise, where nearly every month brings news that the median sales price hit another record high.
They almost bought a home off Hill Road, near the Boise Foothills, two years ago, but backed off while under contract after discovering water damage. Since then, they’ve put in around 10 offers but lost out, unable to compete with buyers offering cash, waiving inspections and offering more than the asking price.
Recently, they took a different tack: They erected a sign in front of the North End home they’re renting saying, “We need help finding a home!”
The sign, with a photo of the Parrishes and their three young children, says they’re struggling to compete in the current housing market. It asks passersby if they know of anyone who might be interested in selling them a home.
“It’s something that we had talked about, just figuring out how to get creative,” Robyn Parrish said in an interview in front of the couple’s home. “Even now, my husband is like, ‘I don’t know what we’ve just done.'”
The owners of the house they’re renting are moving back from out of state, and the Parrishes must leave by the end of May.
Robyn Parrish said a lot of other families face similar dead-ends. Few existing homes are put up for sale, and those that are fetch multiple offers sometimes within hours of being listed.
He works in construction, she’s a homemaker.
Justin Parrish, who grew up in Meridian, works in construction. Robyn is a homemaker. The couple is looking for something in the range of $500,000 to $600,000. Robyn Parrish emphasized that they’re not looking for charity or to pay less than a house is worth.
“We would love to be able to pay less for a house, but just staying in Boise, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” she said. “If we moved to Nampa or Caldwell we can probably find that, but I would like to not have to change schools for the kids.”
The couple were reluctant to talk about their finances, but Justin Parrish said he makes good money and reiterated that they want to pay market value.
“We’re just looking for a fun, creative way to market to a potential seller before (their home) hits the market,” he said by phone.
The Ada County median price of $452,400 is 25.5 percent higher than it was 12 months ago, and the average number of days a house sits on the market before selling is 19, down 62 percent. For existing homes listed for resale, the average is just 10 days, the lowest on record.
Parrish grew up in Vancouver and stayed in Idaho after coming to attend Boise State University. The couple like the North End, Parrish said, because of its sidewalks that make walking and riding bikes through the neighborhood easy. There isn’t a lot of traffic on their street, and they have friendly neighbors. They also like that it’s close to downtown and that they feel safe.
Some of the houses the Parrishes have looked at – in the North End, in East Boise and in the northeast and southeast sections of town – have looked nice but needed work to be suitable for their children, she said.
They have needed time to evaluate how much they might have to spend above the price of the home just to fix it up.
“You don’t have the luxury as a buyer right now to really do that,” she said. “Unlike somebody that comes in with cash, we need to take more time to vet our purchase. And, unfortunately, that doesn’t stand in our favor.”
In an ideal situation, they would like to find a place with 1,800 to 1,900 square feet, three bedrooms and one and a half to two bathrooms.
Real estate agent Rick Gehrke knows the frustrations the Parrishes are feeling. He listed a home on Sunday and had it sold in a day for $5,000 over asking price.
“I feel sorry for them, because their story is repeated hundreds of times all throughout the Treasure Valley,” Gehrke, an agent with RE/Max Executives in Nampa, said by phone. “The North End is one of the hottest markets in the entire country. Everybody would like to live there, and people are willing to overpay for anything in the North End.”
Gehrke suggests that the Parrishes’ real estate agent find a rental house owned by someone who lives out of state and see if the owner might be interested in selling to a young couple looking to stay in the North End.
“It’s worth the time and effort in this kind of an insane market, especially in the North End, to reach out to somebody from Chicago or Lincoln, Neb., or wherever they’re from, and just say: ‘Look, I’ve got a family, a really neat family who wants to live in the North End and they can’t find anything. They’re priced out and I see you’ve owned this for 15 years. Is there any chance that you’d be willing to sell it?'”
Most owners might not be willing to consider an offer but maybe one would, Gehrke said.
Scott Barbee, an agent with Silvercreek Realty Group, said another strategy is to have the agent contact the selling agent for a property they’re interested in and see what’s needed on an offer to meet all of the seller’s needs.
Barbee recently represented a buyer who was interested in a house listed for $469,000. The client needed bank financing and offered $495,000, waived any needed repairs and offered to make the earnest money payment nonrefundable. The property appraised for $500,000, and the offer was accepted.
“Buyers need to be prepared to make an offer that checks off all the seller’s needs,” Barbee said by email.
Parrish said she hopes the sign will help her and her husband stand out from other buyers. So far, she’s received a lot of calls from people offering moral support, if not an offer for a home.
“I just tried to be creative, because as a buyer, there’s really no way to differentiate yourself,” Parrish said. “It’s such a seller’s market, and you feel like you have very little control.
“We just want to connect with people who aren’t real estate professionals, but maybe they’ve raised a family in town and they want to see another young family come through their home and make it their own. We just would like to have an opportunity to compete.”