Idaho’s largest home builder went head to head in an auction against the nation’s largest luxury builder and came away with 282 acres of state farmland near Caldwell to develop with houses.
But it cost six times the property’s appraised value — a windfall for the University of Idaho, the sale’s beneficiary.
Meridian’s Corey Barton, of CBH Homes, outlasted Toll Brothers, based in Port Washington, Pennsylvania, at the auction Friday conducted on behalf of the Idaho Department of Lands. Barton, through his Endurance Holdings subsidiary, bid $35.2 million and will pay $36.6 million after the auctioneer’s fee is added.
That works out to $129,816 per acre, compared with $21,277 in the appraisal. But even the appraisal price reflected the elevated price of land in the Treasure Valley as the Boise area’s population and house prices grow: The average value of irrigated cropland in Idaho in 2020 was $6,210 per acre, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The auction began with 12 bidders, but only Barton and Toll Brothers were left by the time it reached $30 million. The two companies went back and forth to trade the lead several times as auctioneer Kent Corbett prodded them to go higher.
The state sold two parcels that served a U of I agricultural research center that had operated since the 1940s. The university recently sold the research center, located next to the parcels, and will invest in land in the Twin Falls area for a new Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
Land endowed to U of I
At statehood, Idaho was provided endowment lands for the sole purpose of providing financial support for specific institutions, including the University of Idaho.
The parcels are located between Vallivue High School and Vallivue Middle School. They are between Caldwell and Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and lie south of West Homedale Road and west of South Montana Avenue.
Barton, owner of Corey Barton Homes, paid six times the $6 million an appraisal said the parcels were worth. Even so, he said he got a good deal, saying the appraisal was low.
“We liked that land and wanted to be a part of it,” Barton said by phone. “I think the appraisal was maybe a little bit based off the past.”
The Idaho Department of Lands was “thrilled” at the winning bid, spokesperson Robbie Johnson said by email.
“We expected competitive bidding with the growing interest in development land in this area,” Johnson said. “It was the right time to sell this land in the best interest of the endowment beneficiaries.”
How many houses?
It’s too early to know, Barton said, how many homes will end up getting built on the property but said construction would likely take 15 years to complete the project. He expects it will take a year to obtain the required approvals and permits.
“We don’t know exactly how many homes we’re going to be able to get on there,” Barton said. “That’s part of our homework and our plan that we need to work through.”
People will enjoy living out there after the homes are built, Barton said.
“It’s really quiet, good living out there,” he said. “That’s what got us excited about it.”
The Caldwell parcels are about half the size of Barton’s Locale development in Southwest Boise, also known as Syringa Valley. That development, which is expected to begin construction later this year, will have about 2,000 homes plus commercial development on 600 acres.
That property is located on both sides of West Lake Hazel Road between Cole and Orchard streets.