The Yin and Yang of the Bustling Lake Tahoe Housing Market

There is a great deal of positive news about the RE market for current Lake Tahoe homeowners. For single-family residences, sales are way up, rising steadily since February of 2013. Unfortunately, for those seeking to purchase their first-ever home, things aren’t quite as cheery.

In February 2013, statistics showed the median value of a single-family home in South Lake Tahoe at $254,500. Figures released for June 2016 reflect it at $384,000, an increase of $129,500. Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors lists the June 2016 median for a single-family home in Truckee at $547,500, as opposed to $492,000 in February 2013, up $55,500. Numbers can fluctuate around the lake from month to month due to sales volume and sold pricing. But overall the news is rosy and values continue to rise.

The bad news, however, is for first-time homebuyers. Many are locals who have lived in Tahoe for their entire lives. Others have moved here, secured a job, and are now ready to purchase a house. But elevated prices have placed the proverbial carrot beyond their reach in far too many cases.

Jennifer Fortune, Realtor with Chase International South Tahoe Realty said, “Many of my clients feel they’ve missed the boat. I often hear them say they will need to wait for another downturn. The market turned around at the end of 2012. Some wanted to buy then, but waited. Now they’re sorry.”

Second-home ownership plays a role in the current circumstances. As of the 2010 census and reported by the Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Board, seasonal usage or second-home ownership is at 44 percent in the Lake Tahoe Basin. North Shore has the largest number at 52 percent, while 39 percent of South Lake Tahoe’s homes are second homes. These vacation home sales drive prices up as buyers from elsewhere, many the San Francisco Bay Area, overbid for the houses they want. This was never truer than in the mid-2000s when many Tahoe homeowners sold at inflated prices, creating a bubble.

“Ninety-five percent of my business is vacation and second home-buyers,” Fortune said. “In fact almost all of it is. Once in a while, you will find a Tahoe local who makes an effort to sell to another Tahoe local, but not often. Buyers come to Tahoe to purchase a vacation home and often pay cash. There are so few Tahoe buyers that can afford to do that.”

In the area of new builds, there is also a shortage of construction workers. Many left after the bubble burst to seek work and homes elsewhere. This contributes to higher costs for homeowners.

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