Meridian Blog

We will keep you up to date with Meridian Real Estate news and information in our blog...

Jan. 23, 2021

What is the Meridian, Idaho Homeowners Exemption?

“My property taxes are way too low,” said no one ever.

File it under the heading of Phrases Never Uttered and Expressions You’ll Never Hear. Though it’s a sentiment few, if any, agree with, paying taxes on property is necessary if you want to live in the manner to which you’ve grown accustomed. The money collected goes toward paying for a list of amenities most people take for granted. However, there are two bits of good news when it comes to taxes in the Gem State. First, Idaho ranks in the top 5 states that have the fairest tax system, according to the Huffington Post. Second, you might not be able to avoid paying taxes on a house you own, but the homeowners exemption in Idaho significantly reduces the amount you have to pay.

What do Property Taxes Pay For?

For people who have rented all their adult lives, owning a house is a new and exciting adventure. Alongside the exhilaration of owning a home, however, come the responsibilities such as doing your own repairs and yard work, getting insurance, and paying property taxes. Some people wonder where the money goes but if you take a look around, you’ll see evidence everywhere of your tax dollars at work.

Legal website FreeAdvice

FreeAdvice sums it up by saying that the money pays for important local programs. All property tax collected in Meridian stays in Ada County to cover the cost of:

  • constructing and maintaining roads and sidewalks
  • providing public recreation such as parks
  • traffic lights
  • public transportation

Additionally, property taxes pay the salaries for road crews, firefighters, and police officers as well as the programs and even the buildings they work in. Anyone who runs a business knows there are countless costs in keeping the doors open and things running smoothly, and running a county is no different.

Idaho Property Tax Credit

Tax rates in Idaho counties vary depending on a variety of elements. For example, SmartAsset reveals that tax rates tend to be lower in rural areas than in cities. Idaho’s statewide average—urban and rural included—is about 1.3 percent of the value of the property. In Meridian and the rest of Ada County, the average is actually around .80 percent. That means that the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 would pay $2,003 in taxes each year. Fortunately, though, there is an Idaho property tax credit for homeowners. It was put in place to save people some money on taxes on the house they live in. Ada County outlines how the Idaho homeowners exemption works, saying that each house with up to an acre of land is eligible for homeowners exemption in Idaho if it is the primary residence of the owner. Fifty percent of the value of a qualifying home up to $100,000 is exempt from tax under this program. That means that the same house from our example above would only be taxed for $150,000, reducing the owner’s annual property taxes to $1,202.

The History of Homeowners Exemption in Idaho

Prior to the early 1980s, exemptions and reductions to property taxes were limited to extenuating circumstances, such as extreme hardship. In 1980, a property tax reduction was voted into effect for the following year, giving homeowners a break on their taxes equal to 20 percent of the home’s value up to $10,000. However, those numbers were increased in 1983, including kicking the tax rate up to 50 percent of the value of the home. The maximum Idaho homeowners exemption at that time was set at $50,000, but it has gone up just about every year since then, according to the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Be Sure You Get an Idaho Homeowners Exemption

You may qualify for a break on your property taxes, but you’ll only get a homeowners exemption in Idaho if you apply for it. You must be using the property as your primary residence by April 15, and you have to apply for the Idaho property tax credit by then, too. That means if you buy a home any time between mid-April and the end of the year, you won’t be able to take advantage of the Idaho homeowners exemption until the following year. That’s why it’s important to apply for the homeowners exemption in Idaho right after you buy a house. You can get an application from Ada County, but you can also download one online.

Just applying for the Idaho homeowners exemption doesn’t guarantee a reduction in property taxes, so be sure to check with the assessor’s office to verify that the application was received and approved. The good news is that you only have to apply once. After that, the Idaho property tax credit is permanent until you move out of the house.

Of course, before you can apply, you have to buy. If you’d like to find out more about houses for sale in Meridian or the rest of Southwestern Idaho, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and some great homes that fit your style and budget.

Jeff Stewart, BrokerJeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC,
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Posted in Buying, Selling
Feb. 1, 2020

Buying Investment Property in Meridian, Idaho

Buying Investment Property in Meridian, IdahoIf you’re interested in real estate investing, property in Meridian, Idaho is a hot ticket. As one of the fastest growing cities in the Gem State and in the nation, Meridian is loaded with Idaho investment properties. Stakeholders from outside of the state have their eyes on investment homes, apartment complexes, commercial properties and undeveloped land in Southeast Idaho, but you don’t necessarily have to be a financial genius to make a profit with Idaho investment properties—especially if you work with a Realtor experienced in real estate investing. The right real estate agent can be a valuable resource for finding Idaho investment properties that fit your goals.  That Realtor is Jeff Stewart!

Can You Make a Million in Real Estate Investing?

Real estate investing is a lucrative endeavor—just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. CNBC reports that the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician didn’t make his first million in the movie business but in the real estate game instead. Using money earned from bodybuilding, he purchased a multiple family structure first and continued to develop his investments and buy more as his real estate investing income grew. If he’d never had a hit movie, Schwarzenegger would still be a millionaire thanks to the investment homes and commercial properties he bought, sold, and collected rents from.

That’s not to say that all Idaho investment properties will magically make you a millionaire overnight. Successful real estate investing does require a bit of work, and it can be a little risky, but you can manage the amount of risk involved. One way, according to the Balance, is to stick to a conservative debt-to-equity ratio. In other words, if you purchase properties for which you don’t have a substantial down payment –like 30 percent or more—you could end up financing yourself out of a profit. Other tips when looking for investment homes include: 

  • purchase Idaho investment properties near where you live, unless you will be making enough income to pay 7-10 percent of your gross rents to a property manager
  • keep an eye out for safety issues during your inspection, as you’ll be required to replace faulty wiring, install handrails, repair cracked and uneven walkways, among other things, before you can get it insured or rent it out
  • keep it simple—that goes for the floorplan, the landscaping, and access to the electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems. Those features may be impressive or even beautiful but, if any of them are complicated, you can bet they will be expensive to repair

Keeping it simple goes for improvements, too. Look for properties that don’t need a lot of remodel or repair work before you can rent them out. Even if you are handy with a hammer and saw, you may not be up to investing excessive time or a lot more money before investment homes start generating income for themselves.

Definition of Idaho Investment Properties

So, what is an investment property? Typically, when you think of real estate investing, rental homes, duplexes, apartment buildings, and commercial properties come to mind. However, Investopedia says that it is any real estate you purchase with the intent to earn rental income or to earn a profit through future resale—or both. That means the home you currently live in could be considered an investment property, and investment website Zacks reveals that vacation homes in Meridian can even be Idaho investment properties, depending on how often you occupy them and to what extent they’re rented out.

Get Your Foot in the Door with Investment Properties

Residential real estate investing is an excellent way to get started making money with Idaho investment properties. Buying rental units, whether it’s a single-family house or a duplex, triplex, or fourplex, will give you a chance to gain some experience finding good investment homes and getting used to managing a property. Then, like Schwarzenegger, you can buy more Idaho investment properties as your income increases, and the value of your holdings go up.

If you’re ready to start real estate investing, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call. Not only does he have over a decade of experience in Southeast Idaho real estate, but he also owns investment homes in the area as well. Jeff can give you a personal tour of Meridian and the rest of Southwest Idaho and some great homes that will help you build equity and help you on your way to prosperity and show you how to make a good decision that will offer valuable returns on Idaho investment properties.

Jeff Stewart, BrokerJeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC,
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Posted in Buying
Dec. 18, 2019

Energy Saving Tips for Your Meridian Home

Energy Saving Tips for Your Meridian HomeHome energy solutions are a top priority for Meridian homeowners for a variety of reasons. Naturally, there is the “green” angle for those concerned with maintaining the environment and being responsible with natural resources. Even for those who place saving energy a little further down on the priority list, budgets are always an issue. That’s why conserving house energy in Idaho is a topic that interests everyone. Fortunately, energy saving tips range from simple and easy to do to more complicated solutions. Everyone can evaluate their own circumstances and balance that out with their personal beliefs and preferences to create the perfect plan of home energy solutions.

Audit Your Energy

Most professionals in the energy field agree that a reliable first step to saving money on house energy in Idaho is getting an energy audit of your home. According to Consumer Reports, a certified specialist will do a thorough assessment of the house, looking at everything from your cooling and heating systems to your insulation and even your utility billings. After inspecting your home and evaluating what you spend on house energy in Idaho every month, the auditor will give you his report outlining the issues he found, as well as recommending improvements for home energy solutions.

Some utility companies, like Idaho Power, will arrange home energy audits for qualifying customers and even cover all or part of the cost.  To qualify you typically need to use electric as your primary heating source.  DIY-ers who would rather address their specific house energy in Idaho can perform an amateur audit on their own. For instance, a stick of incense can help you locate air leaks that let cold air in during winter and hot air in during summer.

Just close all the doors and windows, turn off the water heater, furnace, and any other combustion appliances, and flip on the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Then, light the incense and hold it near the frames of the doors and windows in your house. If there are leaks, the smoke won’t float upward but will flow away from the opening, carried by air seeping into the home. Other areas in the home notorious for harboring cracks that leak air are foundations, exterior walls, ceilings, and the roof especially if there are gaps around exhaust or fireplace chimneys. recommends other simple-to-do audit steps such as:

  • Evaluate the lighting in your house—take a look at the light bulbs you’re currently using. Are they LEDs, compact fluorescent lamps, or energy-efficient incandescent bulbs? If not, make a note to make the switch.
  • Inspect the heating and cooling units—do the filters need replacing? Heating and cooling pros recommend filter replacement every couple of months if the units are being used daily. It’s a good idea to have furnaces and central air units cleaned annually, too. Also, be aware of how old your system is. Anything older than 15 years may not be very efficient. Newer units incorporate the latest technology and are a big part of home energy solutions on their own.  Your efficiency rating should be posted on the outside of your furnace.
  • Checking the insulation in the attic is th most important as that is where the majority of heat loss occurs.  There should be 10 to 14 inches or a minimum of an a R-38 rating.  An R-50 rating means that your insulation was probably previously upgraded if your home was previously owned. Make sure that the insulation does not block the attic vents located in the soffits, etc so that you get adequate attic ventilation.

What’s more, under-insulated walls can be sources of heat loss that significantly affect efficiency of house energy in Idaho. So, if you really want to be thorough, you can check your home’s wall insulation, too. Examining insulation in a wall is a little more complicated than looking in on the attic. You’ll need to choose an exterior wall with an outlet on it, then turn off the breaker to that area of your house. You can make sure there’s no electricity running to the outlets by plugging in a radio or a lamp to see if they turn on. Once you’re certain the power is off, take the cover plate off of one of the outlets, exposing the hole in the wall behind it. You might be able to see the insulation—or lack of it—visually, but you can also use a plastic crochet hook to prod around inside the wall beyond the opening.

If insulation is present, you’ll be able to feel the resistance against the hook. If the insides of your walls are just wide, open spaces, you’ll want to arrange for an infrared scan of your home to reveal how little or how much heat is escaping from your home. Once you have those facts, you can decide on the extent of home energy solutions for increasing the house’s overall R-factor.

Make Small Improvements

Even if you opt to skip the energy audit, making small improvements can save money on house energy in Idaho. Unplugging unused appliances eliminates phantom energy drain. Even changing the settings—turning up the temperature on your fridge or freezer by just a few degrees, for instance—reduces energy use. Plus, the same energy savings tips go for appliances as for heating and cooling units. Keep them clean and, if they’re 15 years or older, buy new to ensure they are energy efficient.

Plugging air leaks and insulating are among other energy savings tips. Pump expandable sealant into foundation, wall cracks. Replace the weather stripping on doors and windows. Caulk or foam around electrical outlets, and seal gaps in the roof near chimneys. Insulating pipes and air ducts that run through the basement or other unheated spaces saves house energy in Idaho, too. You can get self-adhesive insulation strips at home improvement stores that work well for these home energy solutions. The R-value doesn’t have to be that high. You’ll want at least R-6, but it will keep water and air from cooling down as it flows from the water heater or the furnace to you.

Landscaping Energy Saving Tips

Many energy saving tips are focused on the inside of the house, but home energy solutions can be found outside in the yard, as well. In fact, conserving house energy in Idaho improves when you landscape with energy saving in mind, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Start with planting trees. Strategically placed, they will shade your home and your yard and can reduce the energy expended on cooling and heating by as much as 25 percent. Plus, opting for evergreens, a variety of tree that grows particularly well in Meridian, offers increased benefits. Some grow quite tall and can protect your home’s roof for added energy efficiency. Plus, they don’t lose their leaves in the fall and winter, so they shield your house year-round, helping keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Other landscaping energy saving tips for Meridian homes:

  • select plants that are indigenous to Southeast Idaho, ones with strong roots that grip the soil and don’t require excessive watering—and schedule watering time during the evening to avoid evaporation
  • plant bushes and shrubs about 12 inches from your house to create dead space that will insulate it and help control the temperature inside
  • opt for climbing vines—most of them grow quickly—and plant them near windows to create natural shades that filter light and keep rooms cool

If you’re not sure about which vines, trees, and plants are the best choices for home energy solutions, consult a professional. There are several landscaping companies in Meridian that can offer advice not only on what to plant, but how to arrange your trees, bushes, and vines in an attractive manner that provides optimal house energy in Idaho.

Big-Ticket Home Energy Solutions

The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that Idaho, unlike its neighbor, Wyoming, doesn’t really have a source of fossil fuel. Still, we do have substantial energy possibilities; it’s just that they’re mostly renewable resources such as hydropower, wind, solar, and geothermal. Essentially, Idaho was designed to be environmentally friendly long before everyone else was even thinking of going green. The good news is that we have the natural resources to provide home energy solutions. The less than good news is that it’s not cheap to harness those resources.

That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to draw house energy in Idaho from the environment. You just have to understand which ones are the most doable and that even those are fairly expensive to implement. Most of the Gem State’s electricity is hydroelectric power—around 59 percent. It’s not yet feasible to outfit most homes for hydropower, so most energy saving tips recommend two choices for house energy in Idaho: solar and wind power.

There’s a reason you see a handful of wind farms in Southern Idaho. It’s because even on a calm day, the breeze still averages about 6 mph—the bare minimum required by smaller wind turbines. Yes, Idaho is a windy state in general, but more prevalent in the eastern part of the state. About 15 percent of Idaho’s electricity is generated by the wind, and the great thing is that the wind blows around the clock, not just during daylight hours.

Some homeowners can get in on wind power home energy solutions with home-sized wind turbines, however these are not typically allowed in subdivision developments. They can be purchased online or at home improvement stores with prices ranging from $250 up beyond $1,000. The size you need depends on how much electricity you use each month. Windpower Engineering says that a 1.5-kilowatt turbine in an area that averages about 14 mph wind speeds can handily supply 300 kWh each month. Of course, because wind speeds fluctuate, you probably can’t entirely count on the wind to power your house at all times and may need more home energy solutions.

If there’s room in your budget, you could add solar options to your alternative plans for house energy in Idaho. Solar panels are pricier than wind turbines but using both together can help cut the overall costs. Panels used to be the only choice homeowners had for solar home energy solutions, but that’s no longer the case. You can now roof your home with solar roof tiles that serve a double purpose: they provide a durable protective surface on your home’s roof and generate electricity at the same time. Even though the recommendation is to only cover part of your roof with solar tiles and to use traditional shingles or tiles on the rest, it can still be triple the cost of a roof, costing as much as $65,000 or more, but who would want to spend that kind of money?

In the end, only you can decide how far you want to go to save money on house energy in the Meridian, Idaho area. It should be noted that at the time of writing this informational article it does not appear that solar power options in Idaho are cost effective based on the current high cost of solar electric panels and systems and the low cost per kilowatt hour for electricity in Idaho.

More and more, new and older homes are incorporating home energy solutions. If you’re looking for an energy efficient house in Meridian or anywhere in Southwestern Idaho give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and some great homes that fit your style and budget.

Jeff Stewart, BrokerJeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Posted in Buying, Selling
Nov. 15, 2019

What You Need to Qualify for a Home Loan in Meridian

Home loan qualificationThe mortgage landscape has changed over the years, and it will continue to change as the economy and government involvement fluctuates. If you’re a first-time homebuyer or have had credit problems in the past, the prospect of applying for home loans in Idaho can be intimidating. It shouldn’t be, though. Some of those changes we just mentioned, such as increased loan limits and new loan types, make getting mortgage home loans a little easier. If you’re wondering what you need right now to qualify for a home loan in Meridian, here are a few mortgage lending tips you can take to the bank.

A Stash of Cash

Hopefully, you’ve been saving up to buy a house but depending on your income level and where you want to buy it is still possible to buy a home without any money down. Typically home loans in Idaho have certain costs associated with them. Typically there are a number of fees involved with buying a house and, according to MoneyCrashers, most of them don’t even go toward the cost of the house. The costs involved in getting mortgage home loans include fees for:

  • credit reports ~$35
  • home inspections run ~$300-$500 and appraisals are typically ~$500.
  • title insurance. Buyer’s Policy is typically $300-$700 and is dependent on the mortgage amount
  • loan application, underwriting and processing fees are typically 1%-2% of the loan amount
  • misc. closing costs include HOA transfer fees, misc. prorations, taxes, recording, Fed Ex or other misc. fees incurred by escrow on behalf of the buyer.
  • earnest money

Earnest money is the only cost noted above that is applied toward your down payment.  The rest are considered preliminary costs (such as inspections) or closing costs (Those associated with your loan or with title or escrow costs).  Typically closing costs run around 2-2.5% of the loan amount and the good news is that if you have an Experienced Meridian Idaho Realtor he will know how you can typically get some or all of those costs negotiated and paid by the seller if needed.  This helps those buyers who may have enough for a down payment but not enough to cover their closing costs.  Typically the net effect of this is that your closing costs are financed into the loan.  The catch is that your Realtor has to find you a good enough deal that the despite the closing costs being added to the price, the property must still appraise for the purchase price.

Then there’s the down payment. Your mortgage lender will expect you to have a percentage of the value of the home in the bank for the down payment. Just how much money that is depends on the sales price of the house and the type of loan you’re applying for. In general, you’ll need to put down at least 3-5% percent of the purchase price, but putting down more, if you’re able, is one of those mortgage lending tips that can make it easier to get approved, get a better interest rate and pay less in mortgage insurance. However, if you have One of the Best Meridian Idaho Realtors he can help you find a loan for 0% down in some areas and if you are a Veteran, everywhere!

Here’s how: VA and USDA home loans in Idaho don’t require down payments, but lenders will still typically want to see that you have money in the bank equal to a few mortgage payments. It eases the underwriter’s mind to know that you’ll be able to make the first couple of payments without getting into financial trouble.  

Decent—but Not Necessarily Perfect—Credit

After the real estate crisis hit its bottom in 2011, more focus than ever was put on credit scores—especially when it came to getting mortgage home loans in Meridian and nationwide. Though you may have heard that you need a score of 680 or higher, the reality is that lenders will consider scores as low as 600 if you have a fairly good recent history, such as no collections or late payments in the last 12 months. It’s absolutely worth it to find out what your credit looks like before a lender orders a credit report on you. Doing so gives you a chance to get any possible mistakes corrected, and you won’t be blindsided during the process of applying for mortgage home loans. Also, USA Today recommends paying off debts and avoid making large purchases or incurring new debt right before you apply for a mortgage, as well as during the home purchase process.

A Source of Income

You can’t qualify for home loans in Idaho if you don’t have a source of income. Sure, that income can be a trust fund that provides for living expenses including a house payment or it can be retirement, Social Security or disability income. However, most people get their income from a job. Lenders look for a minimum of a 2-year history of increasing or at least unchanging income or if you are moving to a new job that can be waived if you are moving within the same industry or job classification. They also want to know that your job is solid so they’ll ask your employer for verification of your employment. When it comes to your job and income, the best mortgage lending tips are #1) don’t quit or change jobs during the application process and #2) don’t get fired. 

Get Your Records in Order

There’s a lot of paperwork involved in getting mortgage home loans in Meridian, Idaho. The lender won’t be able to do much for you unless you come prepared. The Lenders Network has a document checklist borrowers should go over before setting an appointment to meet with a mortgage lender. Some of the items you’ll need include:

  • most recent paycheck stubs, along with 2 years-worth of W2s (or tax returns for self-employed borrowers)
  • most recent 2 months bank statements or sometimes more
  • list of assets and debts
  • copy of your credit report, which they will pull after you give them permission
  • gift letter, if your down payment was gifted to you

Bankruptcy documents, divorce decrees, and verification of additional or alternative income are other items that some borrowers may need.

To find out more about finding a great lender in Meridian Idaho or Homes for Sale in Meridian, Idaho give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and some great homes that fit your style, needs and budget.

Compose Your MLS Search at: Or

We are ready to serve you!

Jeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Posted in Buying
Nov. 1, 2019

Meridian Idaho Redecorating On a Budget

Redecorating on a budgetEven if you love where you live, it's understandable to want a change of pace now and then. While it would be ideal to have an unlimited budget that could fund an occasional remodel or room addition to your home, or to be able to clear a few rooms annually and buy all new furniture, most people's reality is working within the constraints of a budget. With the right redecorating ideas, however, limited finances won't stand in the way. Try one of these redecorating tips or try them all you might find you enjoy budget decorating as much as if you had a bottomless bank balance.

Budget Decorating 101

Redecorating ideas start with clearing out the clutter. When you put away everything except for daily necessities in any room, or even get rid of non-essentials altogether, you'll be amazed at how much better the space looks before you do anything else. Once everything is spiffed up and dusted, new accents can make a world of difference, too. A different duvet in the bedroom or fresh curtains and throw pillows in other rooms will create a feeling of newness, and they'll be affordable if you make them yourself. The terrific thing about those basic pieces is that you don't have to be a master seamstress to make any of them. If you can sew a straight line, you can make any or all of them.

Rearranging furniture is the most affordable of redecorating tips because it doesn't cost a red cent, but you get the benefits of a fresh, new look. Instead of wishing you had a window seat, move the loveseat or a pair of chairs and a table to provide the same advantages, but without the cost of construction. Repurposing items is another low to no-cost redecorating idea. Pull out those old plates your grandmother gave you and attach picture hooks to the backs so you can hang them on the wall in an eclectic pattern. Real Simple recommends laying them out before hanging them up to determine what arrangement you like best. Also, give old furniture or framed mirrors a makeover with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware.

Other Useful Redecorating Ideas

The money may not be available for a remodel, but there are some budget decorating techniques that can transform rooms in your home almost as well as remodeling. HGTV ( advises using dividers, bookshelves, and art to break up larger spaces and turn them into semi-separate rooms. New paint is typically on any list of decorating tips, but you don't have to paint all the rooms in your home. According to Refinery29, picking one room to paint is a low-cost way to transform the space, especially if you find a shade you like on sale. Don't forget the ceiling, either. It's often overlooked but can do a lot to change the way a room looks, especially if you do something dramatic like installing salvaged wood or faux beams. House Beautiful's  redecorating ideas for the kitchen include taking the doors off of upper cabinets to lend the open feel of glass cabinets without the cost.

Remember, too, that shopping thrift stores, garage sales, and hotel liquidations are vital for budget decorating. You never know when you'll find a treasure at a bargain price.

There are always times when redecorating isn't the answer. If your change of pace requires you taking a look at New Homes in Meridian or the rest of Southwestern Idaho give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and some great homes that fit your style and budget.

Compose Your MLS Search at: Or

We are ready to serve you!

Jeff Stewart - BrokerJeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Posted in Selling
Sept. 19, 2019

Renovations for Meridian Homes: Making it Profitable!

Home renovation in Meridian IdahoVery rarely do homeowners set out to sell a house and only break even. The name of the game, whether you’re selling a home you’ve lived in for years or are flipping a house, is to make a profit. That’s where home renovation ideas come in. Performing low cost renovations is an investment tactic that can make a house appealing to buyers while making the sale of the home profitable for you. The possibility of making tens of thousands of dollars in profit is an exciting prospect, but experienced real estate agents and home flippers alike caution against getting carried away with your remodeling ideas. Keep it simple, don’t overlook necessary repairs, and above all: stick to your budget.

Make a Financial Plan

Before you even start formulating home renovation ideas, you need to create a budget, and that involves more than simply deciding you’re only going to invest in low cost renovations. Bob Vila says the first step in remodel budgeting is to do the homework. You’ll need to know what comparable properties in Meridian have been selling for. Pay particular attention to the ones that sold quickly and what features they had. Next, get a home inspection or perform the equivalent to identify any potential hidden repair issues that may need addressing before the house can sell. Finally, make a list of remodeling ideas for each room, starting with repair necessities but also including things you’d like to do.

Next, set your budget. Looking at your target sales price, how much you paid for the house, and what your home renovation ideas will cost, you should have a good idea of how much you can spend renovating the house and still make it worth your time. Don’t get carried away with creating your dream house. Stick to the budget you set and be satisfied to offer a house any buyer could see as their home.

Home Renovation Ideas for the Rooms That Sell the House

If there’s room in your budget for some significant remodeling, put the extra money into the kitchen and the bathrooms. According to RehabFinancial, those are the two rooms that sell a house, and improvements in both are the secret to making your home renovation ideas profitable. That doesn’t necessarily mean gutting those rooms for total makeovers. In many cases, all that’s needed are some low cost renovations that will update them. Remodeling ideas like painting cabinets instead of replacing them, updating appliances, fixtures and hardware, and addressing safety issues, if any, are affordable projects that pay for themselves.

Remember the Exterior

A big mistake some homeowners make when remodeling is underestimating the value of curb appeal. Don’t ignore your house’s exterior in favor of interior home renovation ideas. Do things like:

  • fertilize and mow the lawn
  • trim the hedges
  • paint the front door and the trim
  • install a new mailbox and/or house numbers
  • update the outdoor lighting
  • install a new doorknob, knocker, and other exterior hardware

All of these are low cost renovation ideas that will give the house a facelift that will, in turn, make a great first impression.  Just look for things that stick out to you and others and resolve them.

Know Your Product

There’s something to be said for living in a house while you’re renovating it. HGTV highly recommends it as a way to ensure your remodeling ideas are ones that are functional. If you’re redoing a house you already live in you’ll soon learn how valuable that experience can be. Moving into a house you’ve purchased for the purpose of flipping can save money on living expenses—you won’t have two mortgages or rent on top of a mortgage—while giving you the chance to experience firsthand the practicality of the improvements you make. Even if you don’t live in the house before you sell it, it’s still a good idea to “test-drive” your home renovation ideas, considering them from the buyer’s prospective.

If you’re renovating a house to sell or are in the market for a flipping project, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call. Jeff is a former appraiser and home flipper and has some terrific remodeling ideas and experience with low cost renovations. He can tell you more about Meridian or the rest of Southwestern Idaho as well as give you a personal tour of the area and some great homes that fit your style and budget.

Jeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC, Direct: 208-602-1993 or

Posted in Buying, Selling
July 19, 2019

Meridian Idaho Rivers are Fun All Year

Meridian Idaho, Rivers are Fun All YearIdaho may officially be the Gem State, but it’s also unofficially known as the Whitewater State. There are loads of fun things to do in Idaho but, with close to 150 rivers running inside its borders, Idaho river recreation is one of the top draws to the state. Those living in the Meridian and Boise area are especially fortunate, as they have easy access to the awesome Boise River for safe family recreation. A tributary of the mighty Snake, the Boise River ambles through 102 miles of southern Idaho terrain, with many opportunities for waterfront property. It flows right through the state’s capital, offering a variety of fun and exciting Idaho water sports all year long.  However, the Payette River just North of Boise about 45 minutes has great Class 3-5 water.

Idaho Water Sports: Kayaking

Kayaking is one of the top Idaho water sports. Though the kayaking season is busiest during the hot summer months, it’s still one of the fun things to do in Idaho any time of year. Even when snowdrifts line the banks of the Boise River, diehard kayakers still take to the icy waters to brave the rapids. The only thing that keeps them away is when the river ices entirely over. As Idaho water sports go, however, kayaking in winter is pretty extreme. Unless you’re very experienced and don’t mind taking a dip in freezing water, kayaking on the Boise is one of those fun things to do in Idaho you might want to save for summer.

Year-Round Fishing

Fishing season lasts all year long in the Whitewater State, making it one of those Idaho water sports you can enjoy year-round. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Boise River near Meridian is one of the top 20 fishing destinations in Idaho. It’s chock-full of trout, including brown and rainbow varieties. The state’s Fish and Game hatchery also transports in steelhead right before the winter season hits, and they report that fishermen continue to hook them through spring. Anglers out for Boise Idaho river recreation also have a chance of landing good-sized mountain whitefish, some as long as 18 inches and weighing up to 5 pounds. 

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting is one of the most fun things to do in Idaho—you’re in the Whitewater State, after all! The local Parks and Recreation Department recently undertook a project to create a whitewater park of sorts that offers top-notch Idaho river recreation all year long. Naturally, kayakers and fishermen, along with Idaho water sports enthusiasts of all sorts love the upgrades and restoration work the department has done, but none more than the people whose Idaho river recreation activity of choice is whitewater rafting.

Just as with kayaking, whitewater rafting picks up in late spring and is in full-swing during summer. Still, if you’re careful, you can take to the Boise River for some exhilarating whitewater rafting any time of year. That includes winter, as long as the ice is minimal, and you’re accompanied by an expert whitewater guide.  

Don’t Forget the Greenbelt!

Not everyone is into Idaho water sports, and that’s OK. There are still fun things to do in Idaho that incorporate Idaho river recreation without requiring you get in it or cast a line on it. The perfect example is the Boise River Greenbelt. It’s a 25-mile path that follows alongside the river through some of the most beautiful parts of the city. It offers the ideal opportunity to experience the Boise River at a fairly close proximity, enjoying its extraordinary beauty. Whether you stroll along the footpath, ride along it on your bike, or venture a few feet closer to the river’s edge for a picnic, the Greenbelt should not be overlooked as top-quality Idaho river recreation.

If you end up liking the Boise Area so much that you want to move here or to find out more about Meridian or the rest of Southwestern Idaho, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and see some great homes that fit your style and budget.

Jeff Stewart - Broker / OwnerJeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC,
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Compose Your MLS Search at:

Posted in Buying
July 5, 2019

How Great Landscaping Can Help Sell Your Home in Meridian Idaho

How Great Landscaping Can Help Sell Your Home in Meridian IdahoIt shouldn’t be surpizing that great landscaping is one of the significant ways you can improve your home’s curb appeal and sales price, but depending on the size of the project you are considering, it can be a daunting project both physically and financially for those who lack conditioning, experience or who don’t have the right equipment to make it easier.

The truth is, however, that yard landscaping can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. A few landscaping tips are all that's needed to demystify the task of improving your home and make it easy for practically anyone.

Basic Landscaping Tips

Installing edgings and borders are some of the simplest ways to clean up your yard and begin with yard landscaping. Working with bricks and stones make up four of the five landscaping tips HouseLogic offers up for enhancing your yard. Bricks, flagstones and other types of rocks can be stacked or otherwise assembled to create flowerbed edgings, walls for raised planting beds, charming pathways, and surrounds at the bases of trees.

Shrubs and trees are other basic yard landscaping essentials. Many times people envision a yard jam-packed with colorful flowers and plants when they think "landscaping," but the right mix of trees and shrubs can really make an impact, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Choose bushes and trees with vivid shades of foliage to add multicolored dimension to your yard. If you have an artistic flair, try your hand at some creative pruning. Don't be afraid to mix textures, either. Depending on the look you're going for, you may be surprised at how striking a yucca plant is placed near a spruce tree.

Among other landscaping tips is the advice to mix it up when it comes to heights and shapes of plants and flowers. Tall, upright flowers and plants add height and contrast to shorter flowering flora and creeping ground cover. 

Landscaping in Meridian

Everyone has a different objective for yard landscaping, but one strategy saves time and money and still results in an attractive yard that looks professionally landscaped. Unless you thrive on the challenge of trying to keep tropical plants alive in your Southwestern Idaho yard, landscaping with native and cold hearty plants is the way to go. Not only do they need less water and maintenance, Money Crashers points out that indigenous plants are adapted to grow well in the arid Idaho climate, they'll attract native birds, butterflies, and other pollinating creatures, and they're eco-friendly because they don't need all the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that non-native plants require to stay healthy.

When landscaping in Meridian, Idaho or the surrounding area, is a valuable reference for choosing native plants for yard landscaping. It offers a comprehensive list of indigenous trees and tall shrubs, low to medium-sized shrubs, grasses, and forbs, otherwise known as flowering herbaceous plants that aren't considered grasses. If you've ever taken a walk through any of the wilderness areas in Southwest Idaho, you know how beautiful Idaho wildflowers, or forbs, are in their natural setting alongside other native plants, and why they're all delightful choices for natural landscaping in Meridian.

Of course, yard landscaping is just one way to enhance curb appeal when you're selling a house in Meridian, Idaho. For help with selling your home, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call. Jeff and his team have the experience you need to price your home properly to maximize your profit and to help you attract buyers and close the sale.

Jeff StewartJeff Stewart
Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC,
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Compose Your Personal MLS Search With Us: or

Posted in Selling
June 21, 2019

Is Low Housing Inventory in Meridian, Idaho Good or Bad?

Low Housing Inventory in Meridian, IdahoSo, you have probably heard about Meridian Idaho’s annual accolades as being one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family.  Great Schools, low crime, parks everywhere, outdoor recreational options everywhere and reasonable housing and living costs just to get us started.  So, you might be wondering what effect all that good stuff that Meridian offers is having on the local housing market?  Well, we’ll try to explain:

Average or below average supply and increased demand for home sales in Meridian, Idaho has created low inventory levels in the Idaho housing market. Whether or not you've paid much attention to home sales in Idaho in the past, low inventory levels will play an essential role if you decide to buy and/or sell a home now or in the near future. Although new construction has kicked into gear, Meridian and the surrounding area continues to have record low inventory levels, prompting buyers and sellers alike to wonder if that's a good or bad thing.

Sellers: Low Inventory Levels Can Go Either Way

When there are low inventory levels, it's also known as a seller's market. That's because when there's more demand for homes in Idaho than there are homes for sale, two or more buyers can end up competing to buy one home, giving the advantage to the seller. He can essentially write his own ticket, putting any price tag on his home, as long as the appraisal can back it up. What's more, he's likely to get his asking price or very close to it, and sell the home quickly because, whatever the price, homes don't spend a lot of time on the Idaho housing market when there aren't many to choose from.

Those "pros" might sound great to anyone who is planning on selling their home, but MarketWatch points out that low inventory levels can be a two-edged sword. You may be able to sell your house quickly and get top dollar for it but, if you want to move to another home in the same Idaho housing market, you might be facing the same issues that your buyer did. You'll be competing with other buyers for the few houses that are for sale, and the rise in prices for smaller homes could mean all the money you made on the sale of your house could end up going toward a much smaller one.  In an upward trending market like Meridian’s you definitely don’t want to sit on the sidelines very long!

Buyers: Keep an Eye Out

There will always be homes selling in Idaho, even when there are low inventory levels. People need a place to live and, much of the time, waiting out a seller's market isn't an option. Although there may not be many homes to choose from and there won't be much room for negotiating a price, it's still possible to find a house you like. You'll have to keep an eye out and move fast, and having an experienced real estate agent can help. He'll be able to set you up a custom search on the Intermountain MLS which can notify you about homes that fit your criterion immediately after they hit the Idaho housing market, and he can also write up an offer on the spot when you find a house you want.

U.S. News and World Report offers other tips for buyers in a seller's market such as assuming you'll only have one chance to make an offer, so making your best offer initially could be crucial!  And recognizing that the seller may not be as negotiable on repairs after your inspection might also come into play.  However, if the issues are serious enough the seller would likely have to fix them for any buyer, especially if a loan will be part of the deal. Also, be willing to consider homes that may not have impressed you in photographs. At least walk through the houses that fit your budget and your needs. You may find that the pictures don't do them justice, but an in-person visit will give you a feel for the house and whether or not it could be your home.

To find out more about having full client representation on your next home sale or purchase, specifically in Meridian, Idaho or the rest of Southwestern Idaho, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call. Buyer or seller, he can help you navigate low inventory levels and the Idaho housing market.

Jeff StewartJeff Stewart
Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC,
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Posted in Buying, Selling
June 3, 2019

Building Your Next Home in Meridian Idaho

When it's time to move, there are many reasons to consider home construction over purchasing an existing house. One is getting everything that you want! At the time of writing this article, Housing Inventory in Meridian Idaho is very low and there are not a lot of good options to choose from. By building your home, you'll get all-new everything, so you won't be buying into someone else's problem plumbing, heating, or deteriorating roof. You will have input into the design to create your dream house instead of having to compromise with a floor plan that is almost what you want. Plus, everything will be done, so there won't be any remodeling or upgrading to do once you move in. While real estate construction can be the best solution for many people, it's not a walk in the park. There will be concerns throughout the project, from breaking ground through the final walk-through before you move in.  If you build a custom home and are allowed to make all the interior finish decisions you and your spouse will have hundreds of decisions to make.  Sometimes that is stressful and sometimes can be contentious if you don’t agree well on things.  Find out all you can about the home construction in the area, especially locations and developments and their different amenities before you even start looking at floor plans, so you know what to expect.

Buying Land for Real Estate Construction

If you're seeking the perfect house on acreage outside the city limits, home construction is a good choice for you. It frees you up to look for the right piece of land and build the house to your specifications. You'll need to look into the local regulations on home construction, however, to ensure you won't be restricted on land use or the size of home you want to build. Find out if power and natural gas are available on the property. According to Building Advisor, you may have to pay by the foot to have utilities brought to the site if existing lines are a long distance away. You'll also want to know about water rights and whether the land already has a well and septic system or if you'll need to install them before building your home. On the other hand, if you're buying a lot in a development, the developer typically takes care of those issues and will be able to fill you in on what's done and what isn't. Be a smart buyer, though, and don't assume anything. Always ask the developer what things are included in the cost of your lot and get it all in writing, so there are no surprises later.  Of course having your own Realtor that is experienced in Meridian to represent you and help you review your contracts with the builder as you go down this road is the optimum situation!

Finding a Contractor

When building your home, it's important to work with a contractor who is reputable and that you're comfortable with, so it's equally as important to shop around instead of selecting one randomly. Find out which real estate construction contractors build the new homes you really love. A Realtor who specializes in build jobs and has worked with a number of builders in the past can be a great resource for recommendations. They can also help get you more reasonable pricing in some cases. Also, if friends or family have recent experience with home construction, ask them who built their houses and whether they would work with them again. Make a short list of contractors you're considering and contact the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses to find out if complaints or grievances have been filed against them.

Choose a Floor Plan, Estimate the Costs

House Designers advises that you keep things simple when choosing a floor plan and deciding on upgrades if the house you're building won't be the last home you own. Designing and building your home with features that would appeal to a widespread buyer’s base will help with resale down the road.

Your contractor may have a selection of house plans you can choose from but, if you have a very specific and unique floor plan in mind, you'll probably want to work with an architect to draft the blueprints to your specifications. An architect will know about the trends in home construction and design and can offer advice on technical issues, although FreshHome points out that you know your family and your needs best, and advises against letting anyone including an architect or the builder tell you what you do or don't need.  Alternatively, you may find home design software more affordable, even if you only use it once, and the program won't exert its taste and preferences on your floor plan.

Once you have the plans, then you can begin estimating the costs. The Nest recommends working closely with your contractor to get a realistic idea of what your new house will cost. If you've included all the "wants" from your wish list along with all the "needs," you might have to make some compromises to make the total cost fit your budget. According to Good Financial Cents doing some of the work yourself is one way to afford a few more of those "wants," but only if you truly have the skills to do a quality job. Otherwise, you'll spend more money in the end to have a professional fix your mistakes. If you have the skills, though, saving money on the labor to paint the walls, tile the bathroom, or install kitchen cabinets can free up funds to pay for some of the high-end amenities you have your heart set on.

One more thing: real estate construction rarely goes off without a hitch. It's a good idea to pad the estimated costs by 25 percent to cover unforeseen issues like increased material costs or the extra expenses that can arise if the weather doesn't cooperate with your construction project.

Get a Home Construction Loan

If you have cash on hand, a mortgage won't be an issue. However, if you'll need a loan for building your home, you should pre-qualify for a home construction loan early on. This step can be taken care of any time, but once you have the land, builder, and floor plans, and have estimated the costs for building your home, nothing can go forward until you have the financing lined up.  Bankrate says that lenders view home construction loans as a little risky, so you could have a hard time getting a loan for more than 80 percent of the value of the home. If you own the land you'll be building on, though, it can be considered as equity and can count toward the 20 percent you would otherwise have to come up with.

A construction loan has two phases: home construction, when you're building your home, and completion, after the house is built. During the building phase of real estate construction, the loan will be considered short-term, giving you about a year to complete your house. The interest rate will likely be variable and higher than a permanent home loan, and the interest is all that is typically paid during the building phase. The loan proceeds are usually put into an account, and a schedule is determined so that the contractor can receive payments at regular stages of the home construction. The lender keeps tabs on the progress to ensure the house is coming along as scheduled and the funds are being spent as agreed.

After the home is completed, if you've made arrangements with your lender for a construction-to-permanent loan, the financing will get converted to a standard mortgage with a locked interest rate. The nice thing about a real estate construction-to-permanent loan is that you'll only pay closing costs once, instead of for the construction loan and again for the permanent mortgage.

Plan Ahead

As previously mentioned, even the best-planned home construction typically has its share of problems. The weather can interfere with the progress--it's not a good idea to pour concrete in the rain or if temperatures will drop below freezing in the next couple of days--which can cause delays, as can an issue with material availability. There are ways to deal with predicaments like those, such as using chemicals to stabilize the concrete in adverse weather, or buying alternate, more expensive materials. Both solutions cost money, and that's why it's wise to account for extra in your cost estimates, but you should also add in additional time to the timeline to ensure you stay on schedule and meet the milestones the lender will want to see. You won't be caught off guard or short on funds if you plan ahead for worst-case scenarios. You'll be that much ahead of the game if your home construction finishes under budget and ahead of schedule.
Another thing to plan ahead for when building your home is that there still may be work to do once you reach the final phase. A punch list will be created to itemize the things that still need to be done, such as replacing any glass window panes that are cracked, touching up the paint over thin spots, installing closet rods, or hooking up the microwave exhaust in the kitchen. This is one of those issues where it's useful to have a real estate agent on your side because he can go through the house with an unbiased eye to spot and make note of flaws. Sometimes, the flaws are minor and won't affect the quality of your home, but there are usually some items on the punch list that will affect the quality. Even if the home is completed enough to obtain a certificate of occupancy, money from the construction loan should be put into an escrow earmarked for completing the items on the punch list.  

Give Stewart Realty a call if you're considering home construction in Idaho. Jeff Stewart and his team can help you with every step along the way when building your home, from buying the land to finding a contractor to negotiating a construction loan. Jeff is not only a Realtor and Broker, but he has also worked in real estate construction and as an appraiser. His extensive experience gives Stewart Realty clients an advantage other Realtors can't offer when it comes time to do walk-throughs and complete punch lists. To find out more about home construction in Meridian or the rest of Southwestern Idaho, give Jeff Stewart at Stewart Realty a call for a personal tour of the area and some great advice on building your home to fit your style and budget.

Jeff Stewart, Broker/Owner, Stewart Realty, LLC,
Direct: 208-602-1993, Office: 208-887-5445

Compose Your MLS Search at: or

Posted in Buying