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Idaho third in Google searches for saving for homes

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Staff Writer | August 21, 2020 1:07 AM

Taylor Morris knows exactly what she’s looking for in a home.

“It would be a two-story, cozy home up in the mountains,” Morris imagined, “with a big sunroom and a large porch and a lot of property for a vegetable garden and a greenhouse. And a big garage or shop for my husband.”

The 25-year-old Rathdrum newlywed, who married carpenter Caleb Morris on Aug. 8, said she and her husband talk about their dream home — which they would ideally find in Spirit Lake, she said — every day as they try to set goals and move forward. Sometimes that conversation goes no further than daydreaming. Sometimes she goes online.

“I Google stuff about once a month,” Morris estimated. “About 12 times a year … (The last time) I went online was about a month ago. It’s a stressful thing to look at.”

She’s not alone. The financial software company Intuit and its personal financial management service Mint have released a Google Trends study that analyzed what people in each state search for in relation to savings. As it turns out, Idahoans rank third nationwide among residents who search topics related to saving up for a house. The top five states, as it turns out — nation-topping Colorado, followed by Utah, Idaho, Hawaii and Oregon — represent a trend the study’s authors speculate can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With lower mortgage interest rates due to the ongoing pandemic,” the company’s authors wrote, “prospective home buyers are getting into bidding wars over high demand and low supply … Buyers have been quickly jumping on limited inventory now since strict stay-at-home orders were lifted.”

The study looked at approximately 12,000 inquiries over the course of July with key tag words associated with savings accounts. Those items were then separated by category — with retirement and home buying taking overwhelming leads over smaller accounts such as auto purchases, college tuition, emergencies and weddings. The roughly 4,200 searches related to saving for a house were then separated by state.

“With home prices on the rise nationwide, it makes sense that people would be fervently saving in order to afford the house of their choice,” the author concluded. “When you consider how expensive home prices are, it’s unsurprising that saving for a down payment must be a financial priority.”

The study did offer some good-ish news for Morris and others trying to save up enough for a down payment. Of the top states with residents actively trying to save money for a house, Idaho’s median 20-percent rule-of-thumb is $41,040. While that number might seem overwhelming, it is significantly lower than Colorado’s $81,759 average, Utah’s $71,097 and Oregon’s $74,574. And it represents a sliver of Hawaii’s $145,586 average.

But Morris, a mother of two, said saving for a home is a taxing and daunting endeavor, one that she admits sometimes feels out of her bandwidth, especially when looking at the skyrocketing costs of the local housing market.

“Houses are really expensive,” Morris said. “Especially when I’m a stay-at-home mom, and our only income is my husband. But we hardly have any way to save money when we have four people to feed, high rent to pay and every other essential bill out there.”

While she and Caleb haven’t given up on their family dream, Morris admits the stress of even reaching out to lenders to inquire can be too nerve-wracking a prospect to attempt. Sometimes she even settles in her daydreams.

“We honestly give up sometimes and think it’d be easier to just convert an old bus into a home,” Morris laughed. “It’d be freakin’ cool.”

In the interim, though, the North Idaho native said she and her new husband are still trying to make their dream a reality, adding that Caleb deserves a shop to work on cars and his motorbike, and whenever they buy their first house, it will come with enough space for her garden.

“I would grow a bunch of vegetables,” the green thumb declared. “Carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, eggplants, cucumbers, corn, peas, green beans, peppers. And some melons, too.”