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‘All of a sudden, people discovered Idaho’ — and flooded a scenic mountain town in droves

  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is one of the top five places people moved to during the pandemic.
  • The vacation town in the mountains is known best for its lake sports and resort-style living. 
  • Lower prices and “values” are among the reasons people relocate there from places like California.

Chief among the hidden gem locations Americans discovered — and moved to — during the pandemic is Coeur d’Alene.

A small resort town in northern Idaho, it’s known for natural beauty, water sports, and laid-back atmosphere. Despite the city’s under-the-radar status, people from small-town folk to the Kardashian-Jenner clan have escaped big city life on the coasts for mountain retreats over the last year. 

So much so that Coeur d’Alene is among the most popular relocation destinations in the country. The most recent US census data reveals that Coeur d’Alene welcomed more than 5,000 new residents last year, making it the fifth-most moved-to location in the nation, after hot spots in Florida, North Carolina, Utah, and Texas.  

With that in mind, Insider took a closer look at the boom town to understand why droves have singled it out for their pandemic and post-pandemic chapters.

Idaho’s intrigue

Known for its resorts set on mountains and lakes tucked in the northwest corner of the state across the border from Spokane, Washington, Coeur d’Alene has welcomed about 3,000 new residents a year for the past two decades.

But in 2020, about 5,000 new arrivals landed in the golf- and spa-filled outdoorsy paradise. The local population grew by 3% in 2020, to 170,628, the new census data found. The population in Idaho as a whole jumped 2.1% in 2020, the largest year-over-year population increase in the country.

“All of a sudden, people discovered Idaho and wanted to be here,” John Beutler, a Century 21 agent in Coeur d’Alene, said. “People just like the values here.”

coeur d'alene

Coeur d’Alene.

halbergman/Getty Images


The uptick in Gem State transplants came as mountain towns across the West lured hordes of new residents as the shift to remote work and social distancing drove urbanites to rural areas. Many established primary residences in scenic spots traditionally deemed as fit for only vacations or weekends.

Sixty percent of new residents are coming from California, Beutler said, and many others hail from Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

coeur d'alene

Coeur d’Alene.

Shunyu Fan/Getty Images


And while many retirees and empty nesters are moving in, Beutler said just as many arrivals were young families or couples from the East Coast who came to Idaho to work remotely temporarily and then decided to buy a home. A resident himself for 45 years, Beutler told Insider that attractive parks, hiking trails, and a lively downtown made Coeur d’Alene an appealing place to live.

Over the past 20 years, the demand to live like you’re at a resort all year long has really raised the profile of Coeur d’Alene, Beutler said, likening its vibe to Lake Tahoe.

He spotlighted the area’s luxury country clubs and golf courses like Gozzer Ranch, which is where reality star and makeup mogul Kylie Jenner, rapper Travis Scott, and their toddler Stormi spent Fourth of July weekend with friends and family from Justin Bieber to Kim Kardashian.

Gozzer Ranch

Gozzer Ranch.


Gozzer Ranch Golf Club



“Memberships have gone way up,” he said.

Most important, Beutler said, is the regions tight-knit community. Coeur d’Alene voted Republican in five of the last six presidential elections, with the exception being Barack Obama in 2008.

“People look at it as a safe place and align their beliefs with ours,” he said.

The ripple effects on real estate

Newcomers, though, have sent home prices soaring.

“In January 2020, the median sale price was $314,000 in our market,” Beutler said, adding that as of May 2021, the median sale price reached $495,000.

The median list price of homes in Coeur d’Alene was $500,000 as of May, trending up 39.3% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com. In just over two years, the median list price has jumped by a whopping $200,000. 

coeur

Coeur d’Alene.

Mona Makela Photography/Getty Images


Today, record low inventory has pushed prices up even further.

“In the fall of 2020, there were only 275 homes on the market,” he said. Now there are about 600. In a normal market, 1,500 to 2,000 properties would be listed at any given time. The lack of houses for sale prompted “so many” bidding wars with multiple offers — many all cash — that led to over-ask buys, he added.

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