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In the Know: Buying Lakeside Real Estate in Idaho

by | Jun 4, 2024

Idaho’s lake towns are experiencing a surge in popularity, drawing buyers with their stunning natural beauty, abundant outdoor recreation, and expanding amenities. We spoke with Robyn Moir, Managing Partner of The Agency Boise and co-founder of The Moir Group, to get an inside take on the current allure of these sought-after locations. 

Robyn shares insights on the most attractive local lake towns, evolving market trends since the pandemic, and what buyers are looking for in lakeside properties. 


What specific lake towns in your regions are attracting buyers most right now? 

Just a short drive from Boise, you’ll find Cascade and Donnelly, which are located on Cascade Lake, one of the largest bodies of water in Idaho and an ideal location for boating, camping, and fishing. 

Travel another 30 minutes north, and you’ll reach McCall, Idaho, a vibrant resort town set between forested mountains and the shores of Payette Lake. These areas are appealing to both local and national buyers due to the abundance of outdoor recreation, beautiful scenery, and growing list of amenities.


What do you think is attracting buyers to these areas? 

Endless outdoor adventures and access to nature so close to Boise makes these lakeside towns perfect for a weekend getaway or vacation home. Whether it’s water skiing, kayaking or hiking in the summer, or snow skiing, snowmobiling or ice fishing in the winter, you can do it all in Valley County. As a result, there is really great income potential with short-term rentals.

Tamarack, the ski resort in Donnelly, is currently expanding to include a gym, spa, private club, marina, gondola and marina, transforming it into a four-season resort. They are also expanding their lodging and residential offerings significantly, building everything from studio condos, estate homes, and a hotel. 


How have these areas evolved over the last few years since the pandemic, and what are buyers seeking in local lakeside luxury homes now? 

Prices escalated during the pandemic as more buyers were able to work remotely and stayed long-term in a vacation setting. Prices were also influenced by limited inventory and an increase in interest due to resort expansion and other amenities. 


“Luxury lakeside buyers all want the coveted dock, or dock permit. They’re also seeking an abundance of bedrooms, dining and gathering space, to accommodate larger groups for friends and extended family.”



Today we still see limited inventory but the market is responding with an increase in new construction in McCall, Donnelly, and surrounding areas. 

Luxury lakeside buyers all want the coveted dock, or dock permit. They’re also seeking an abundance of bedrooms, dining and gathering space, to accommodate larger groups for friends and extended family. These buyers aren’t looking to “rough it” — they want modern, mountain-style homes with up-to-date amenities and conveniences. Properties that might be called a “cabin” are actually high-end, expansive, estate homes. 


Is there a season to the real estate market in these lakeside areas or are buyers flocking year-round? 

We see more activity in the summer months along the lake, which allows buyers to really see the property and lake without all the snow. In the winter, in the height of ski season, there is an increase in home sales with close proximity to the resorts.


What are some lakeside home amenities or features that you see buyers seek out right now? 

A large garage to house your boat, snowmobiles, side-by-sides, and other outdoor gear is a must. 

Buyers are seeking space for entertaining with a large kitchen, and multiple ensuite bedrooms. Indoor/outdoor living with decks and patio areas. Home features that reflect the surrounding nature like stone fireplaces, timber beams, and windows that let in the views. 


Perhaps surprisingly, many of those who buy here are from the Boise area.  There are also a significant number of home buyers from California and Washington. 



Have you seen any increase in lakeside home buyers or renters from a certain region?

Perhaps surprisingly, many of those who buy here are from the Boise area. There are also a significant number of home buyers from California and Washington. 


Are there any emerging developments in these lake regions that you foresee buyers being drawn to? 

Tamarack, the ski resort located in Donnelly, is undergoing a huge expansion which will transform it into a four-season resort, and will add a variety of residential options as well. There is a new golf course in New Meadows that offers golfing, trails, and easy access to the Brundage Ski Resort, which is bringing growth to that area. 

A new riverfront community called Blackhawk On The River is currently in the works right outside of McCall and is being billed as offering “The privacy of a mountain getaway and the luxury of a 5-star retreat,” with a number of desirable amenities.  


Do you have any stats or data about your local lake town markets over the past year that are notable? 

It’s a small market, averaging about 40 sales a month or so. However, sales peaked in June of 2020 at over 100 sales – emphasizing that buyer demand was at its highest during the pandemic. (Data from REALTOR® Property Resource for Valley County, ID as of 3/6/24.)


Is there any particular advice you have been giving buyers most often these days regarding buying a home near the lake?

In mountain lake towns, water is going to be something to consider. Work with your agent to check water levels, the status of the dock or dock permit options if you’re directly on the lake. 

Understand what it takes to maintain a property on a lake or in the mountains as you may have to factor in snow removal and other costs if you aren’t living there full time or plan to rent the property out. Consider having septic testing done if the property is not on city services. 

It’s also worth learning if there is a land lease in place for the property you’re planning to purchase, and what that entails. Research where your property is in conjunction with public beaches, motorized versus. non-motorized areas of the lake, etc. 

Homeowners association fees and rules can also be a factor when considering a purchase. If you plan to turn your vacation home into a short-term rental when you’re not there, run some calculations on what that will look like and learn about any regulations or restrictions on those types of rentals. 


What are your predictions for real estate in your local lake town regions? What can we expect to see this year and into the future?

It’s a beautiful and desirable area, and it will continue to appeal to buyers and visitors alike with these exciting new developments. We certainly feel fortunate to have such scenic and charming lake towns nearby to enjoy. 


For more insight into current market trends and the world’s most dynamic real estate destinations, browse our other recent In the Knows: Santa Barbara & Montecito Real Estate Insights from Eric Haskell, The Rise of Lake Town Real Estate in Tahoe & Beyond and Today’s Golf Course Home Market, Palm Beach to Palm Springs. 


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