In our recent Idaho Impact Homes blog post “13 Things for Californians to Do in Idaho this Summer,” we briefly touched on a couple of reasons why Californians have abandoned the Golden State in favor of the Gem State. We noted the state’s well-funded school system, low unemployment, laid-back culture, and — of course — Idaho’s stunning natural surroundings. In this post, we will delve a bit deeper into why so many residents have fled Washington, Oregon, and California for Idaho. From limited traffic to close proximity to the West Coast, Idaho has a lot to offer residents of neighboring states. Learn more about why people are relocating to Idaho below.
Ten Reasons Why People Are Moving to Idaho from the West Coast
#1 Lower Taxes than the West Coast States
According to Samuel Stebbins in his article “Which states in the US have the highest tax burdens?” for USA Today, Washington’s taxes paid as a percentage of income are fairly low for the region. Oregonians pay 9.8% and Californians pay 10.3%. Idahoans pay only 8.8%, a full percentage point below the national average.
Washington State Tax Burden
Washington State collects neither personal nor corporate income tax. The State also has fairly low property tax rates compared to the rest of the country. Unfortunately, the high value of homes in Washington State results in a larger payout of property taxes. Jim Probasco writes in his article “9 States With No Income Tax” for Investopedia, that Washingtonians still face moderate taxes overall.
Probasco explains that though they avoid a state income tax, “residents do pay high sales and excise taxes, and gasoline is more expensive in Washington than in most other states.” Washington ranks number twenty-two of the fifty US states, “with an overall tax burden of 8.32%.” Taxes paid as a percentage of income in Washington hovered around 9.1% in 2020.
Oregon Tax Burden
Oregonians are not subject to sales tax on purchases, but they still pay a significant amount in state income and other taxes. In his article “Tax policy: States with the highest and lowest taxes” for USA Today, Samuel Stebbins explains. Stebbins writes that “despite the break consumers receive in the checkout line, Oregon has one of the highest effective tax rates in the country.” According to Stebbins, taxpayers in Oregon “pay about 10.3% of their income in non-federal taxes annually, more than in all but nine other states.”
Because Oregon has “fewer revenue streams than most states,” the state collects more revenue from Oregonians in the form of personal income tax. Samuel Stebbins notes that “an estimated 41.6% of state and local revenue comes directly from residents’ paychecks in the form of personal income tax.” This percentage is “the largest share of any state and well above the 23.5% average across all states.”
California Tax Burden
It is no secret that California is home to high-value properties, high-income tax, and high sales tax. In her article “Your Guide to State Income Tax Rates” for Investopedia, certified financial planner Tonya Moreno offers a rounder picture. According to Moreno, “California tops the list with the highest tax rates in the country.” Not only does it top the list, but it leaves competitors in the dust. Moreno notes that California’s “highest tax rate is 13.30%, a full 2.3% more than Hawaii, the runner-up for the highest tax rate with 11.00%.” However, the same income tax rates do not apply to all Californians, writes Moreno. California has a progressive tax system, so residents earning more than one million dollars a year pay the most. Middle-class income tax rates are actually much lower and property taxes are not as high percentage-wise. According to SmartAsset, California’s “sales and income taxes are generally high, but effective property tax rates are below the national average.”
Idaho Tax Burden
Compared to its West Coast neighbors, Idaho collects far fewer taxes from residents. Writing for USA Today, Samuel Stebbins notes that “the effective state and local government tax rate in Idaho is just 8.8% – below the average of 9.8% across all states.” Before the legislature retired early last year due to “concerns over the coronavirus, it had been considering cuts to sales tax on groceries as well as reductions in property taxes.” According to Joe Parris in his article “Idaho House approves massive income tax cut and rebate plan” for KTVB7, the legislature did indeed attempt to lower taxes in March 2021. If it passes the state senate, this bill will “cut all income tax brackets, setting the top individual and corporate tax bracket to 6.5%.”
#2 Career Opportunities
Unemployment rates have been consistently low in Idaho over the last decade, remaining low even during the pandemic. According to a chart provided by Sarah Clarke in her article “See Your State’s May 2021 Unemployment Rate” for US News & World Report, Idaho’s current unemployment rate hovers around 3.00%. Only Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Vermont have lower unemployment rates than Idaho. The KTVB7 editorial staff recently reported that “Idaho’s labor force [was] the only exception” to climbing unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. KTVB7 notes that Idaho “ did not experience a sharp decline during the pandemic.”
Boise Tech Center is Booming
Many people moving from the West Coast to Idaho do so for career opportunities. Idaho — particularly Boise — offers great opportunities for Californians, Oregonians, and Washingtonians leaving the West Coast tech scene. Emily Canal explains in her article “Boise Set Out to Become the Next Austin or Seattle. Instead, It’s On Track to Become the Next Silicon Valley” for Inc. Canal writes that “Idaho’s capital city has long been a hip and attractive place, given its rich music scene and proximity to nature.”
However, in recent years it has evolved to offer locals and relocators much more in terms of employment and innovation. Today, Boise is pulling talent away from tech giants on the West Coast “and other costly coastal competitors, attracting entrepreneurs with a new thriving business scene and a good quality of life.” Inc recently placed Boise in the number five place on its “Surge Cities” list. This list ranks “the best American hubs to start a business.” Shockingly, Boise knocked out San Francisco.
#3 Four Seasons
The relocation guide “Moving from California to Idaho” from North American Moving Services identifies the state’s beautiful seasons as a reason to relocate. According to the guide, “Idaho’s varied climate will enchant you with all four seasons.” Idaho summers are pleasant — “quite dry and sunny, which keeps summer days from getting too hot.” Though the winters in Idaho “can bring on major snowstorms…maritime air currents from the Pacific Ocean moderate winter temperatures with humidity so that temperatures don’t plummet as much as they do in other northern states.” The most beautiful seasons in Idaho are arguably Spring and Fall due to “ample forests, lakes, and mountains in all regions of the state that turn colors and blossom beautifully before your eyes.”
In the winter, residents of Idaho can ski and snowboard at one of Idaho’s many western ski resorts. According to Michael Law in his article “8 Best Ski Resorts in Idaho” for Planet Wire, Idaho is fairly ideal for winter sports. Law writes that “when you look at [Idaho’s] average seasonal snowfall, it’s on par with what you’ll find at resorts farther south, in Colorado,” meaning it has “virtually the same conditions.” Better yet, “Idaho’s resorts are at a lower elevation than nearby Colorado, so the unpleasant effects of high altitude won’t slow you down.” Other seasons are fairly mild, with much more bearable summers than those in California and less rainy Fall seasons than those of Western Washington.
#4 Affordable Housing and Lower Cost of Living
While Idaho has a higher cost of living than the US average and its property values are rising, it certainly beats out other Western states — particularly Oregon, Washington, and California. Housing costs are much lower in Idaho compared to these states. This is despite the fact that — according to a report by KTVB7 — home prices in “Idaho surged the most [in the United States last year] with a year-to-year increase of 14.4%.” Boise has seen the most significant growth in housing costs. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, “the median home in Boise has appreciated 391%” since 1991. As such, Boise experienced “one of the largest increases in the country.” Realtor.com notes that “in May 2021, the median list price of homes in Boise, ID was $489.9K, trending up 32.4% year-over-year.”
Still, the median home price in Boise is far lower than that of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. As of June 2021, the median home price in Los Angeles County was $775,000.00. The median in San Francisco was $1.4M in May 2021. According to realtor.com, “in May 2021, the median list price of homes in Portland, OR was $530K, trending up 11.6% year-over-year.” In Seattle, the median sale price of a single-family home reached $856.8K. Other major cities in Idaho are less expensive to live in than Boise, offering lower home prices across the state.
Idaho is a stunningly beautiful state with soaring mountains, crystal blue lakes, snow-capped peaks, and deep valleys. Those moving from the West Coast — where terrain and wildlife are both diverse — will likely find themselves quite at home in Idaho. The National Geographic article “10 reasons to add Idaho to your travel bucket list” identifies “Idaho’s 3,100 miles of navigable whitewater” as one. Additionally, the state of Idaho is “home to more than 2,000 named lakes” and “4.7 million acres of designated wilderness.” Mountain biking, stargazing, bird watching, skiing, and more are common outdoor activities in Idaho. Thanks to a lack of the types of natural disasters experienced along the West Coast, Idaho is likely to remain unspoiled. California, Oregon, and Washington State are prone to earthquakes, wildfires, floods, mudslides, landslides, and volcanic eruptions — among others.
#6 Food and Wine Culture in Idaho
As we mentioned in our post “13 Things for Californians to Do in Idaho this Summer,” Idaho offers an incredible variety of food and wine — both local and international. The state is home to dozens of wineries that easily rival those of California, Oregon, and Washington State. Each has its own style and flavor. In her article “The State Of Idaho Has Its Own Cuisine And These Dishes Are Totally Unexpected” for The Travel, Katie Machado describes some of the state’s most intriguing cuisines. Machado writes that Idaho is home to marvels like the Morel mushroom, which she notes “is somewhat of a specialty in Idaho.” Trout, finger steaks and, “the Idahoan” are other local favorites. For local wine, we suggest HAT Ranch Winery and Par Terre Winery. Both are steeped in the winemaking traditions of the Western US.
Despite countless local flair, Idaho also offers a variety of global gourmet options for diners. We recommended upscale eatery KIN in our post “13 Things for Californians to Do in Idaho this Summer.” In their article “26 Essential Boise Restaurants” for eater.com, Scott Wink and Scott Ki recommend KIN for their outdoor dinners and craft cocktails. Elevation 486 is another gem, recommended by Culture Trip writer A. J. Samuels in a list of “The 10 Best Restaurants In Idaho, USA.
#7 Focus on University Education
While Idaho’s public education system is not one of the best in the country, its focus on university education does stand out. Teens and adults in Idaho have many colleges and universities to choose from in their home state. In his article “8 Reasons to Move to Idaho” for Livability, Jim Hoehn identifies university proliferation as his second reason to relocate. According to Hoehn, “almost every city in Idaho with a population of more than 20,000 has a college or university.” Six years ago, the state of Idaho actually “initiated a direct enrollment program designed to get more Idaho high school seniors into college.” The state’s “graduation rate of 84.7 percent ranks in the top third of the 50 states.”
#8 Limited Traffic
Californians moving from Los Angeles or San Francisco will revel in the lack of traffic found across Idaho. According to Jordan Friedman in the 2020 article “The 10 Most Congested Cities in the U.S.” for US News, Los Angeles, and San Francisco ranked sixth and seventh respectively, while no city in Idaho made the list. In her article “Worst traffic cities in the U.S., ranked” for CBS News, Jessica Learish identified a few West Coast cities with awful congestion. Learish added San Jose to the list in third place, Seattle in fifth place and, Portland, Oregon in fourteenth place.
According to Learish, “Seattle’s rush hour lasts five hours each day, costing drivers an average of $1,541 in extra gas.” While Portland is typically “seen as a bike-friendly city…during peak travel hours, freeway speeds can plummet and more than double travel times.” Though Boise, Idaho made this list, it was much further towards the bottom at number twenty-six. Learish credits this to the fact that Boise, Idaho is “one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.” Despite this, Adam McCann ranked Idaho in the eighth spot on his list of best states to drive in for Wallethub.com.
#9 Comparably Low Crime
Compared to Washington State, Oregon, and California, Idaho has incredibly low rates of property and violent crime. It also stacks up well against the rest of the country. In the article “The 10 Safest States in America” for US News, Horus Alas writes that as of June 2021, Idaho ranked third out of the ten safest states in the US. Despite its high rate of imprisonment, Idaho has fairly low violent crime rates compared to the rest of the country. In 2018, the state had the ninth-lowest number of murders in the US.
In 2020, USA Today writer Samuel Stebbins ranked Idaho 40th in violent crime. According to Stebbins, “there were 227.1 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in Idaho.” This number is well “below the national violent crime rate of 380.6 per 100,000.” The state’s robbery rate of “11.4 incidents per 100,000 people is the second-lowest of any state, trailing only Vermont.”Idaho’s property crime rate is “1,461.4 per 100,000…also well below the national rate of 2,199.5 per 100,000.”
Crime Rates in the West Coast States Encourage Move to Idaho
California ranked 14th on Stebbins’ list because “violent crime is still disproportionately high” in the state. In January 2020, Oregon ranked thirty-second on the list. However, it may have since risen higher due to a crime wave in metropolitan areas across the state. In his article “With Homicides Rising, Cities Brace for a Violent Summer” for The New York Times, Neil MacFarquhar writes that “homicides in Portland, Ore., rose to 53 from 29, up more than 82 percent.” Washington State ranked 28th on the USA Today list, having experienced a 4.4% increase in violent crime in 2018. This occurred despite most other states reporting declines. According to Natalie Swaby for King5, “2020 had the highest number of Seattle homicides in 26 years,” up 61% over 2019.