-- Boise isn't known just for Idaho's russet potatoes. Though the area is still a leading site for farming and ranching, it's also home to many entrepreneurs and high-tech companies.
The county seat of Ada County is headquarters to Micron Technology and Hewlett-Packard's LaserJet division. This year, CNNMoney.com anointed Boise the nation's No. 3 launching pad for high-tech companies, after Bellevue, Wash., and Portland, Ore.
It's also known for a pleasing quality of life, with skiing, trout fishing and water rafting, along with relatively low smog, traffic, crime and living costs.
"Boise is fortunate to have an amazing confluence of positive attractions," says Marc Lebowitz, executive officer of the Ada County Association of Realtors.
"We have incredible natural beauty," he says. "We have some of the lowest taxes in the country and pretty solid employment."
Still, Boise's growing attraction never led to an outsized housing boom of the kind that some other areas experienced.
As a result, it has side-stepped any resulting collapse in the mortgage market.
"We did not have a bubble that really burst," says Dan Hernandez, a real estate agent. "The correction here in the last couple of years has been relatively mild."
That doesn't mean home sales haven't hit a rough spot. In particular, high-end houses — $750,000 or more — have languished, Hernandez says.
But more modest homes that are selling for $100,000 to $275,000 are still moving briskly, he says.
Though Boise has suffered some foreclosures, they've involved mainly new homes that builders hadn't been able to sell, Lebowitz says, and so haven't tended to force families out on the street.
Month over month, area home sales are starting to climb back up. But the weak economy is making many people nervous.
The monthly sales volume for city and county is down 24.2% from a year ago — very close to the statewide sales decline of 24.4% — while the median price, $208,000, is down 8.7% for the same period, compared to a 9.2% decline for the state.
"The recovery is slow, and it's fragile," Lebowitz says. "It wouldn't take much to tip this back."