Tahoe Real-tor Talk: There’s no place like ‘Tahome’
June 5, 2017
I'm always amazed that when I leave Lake Tahoe — the place many of us love to call home — I am reminded of what a beautiful place we live in upon return. People from all over the world travel from their homes, too, and many come here to Lake Tahoe for their annual escape from reality.
They visit to see the iconic lake, hike the lush wilderness, try to strike it rich at the casinos, marry their sweethearts, and of course, ski, snowboard and even spa at our resorts (safe to say, after this past winter those folks will be back).
Need to appreciate where you live? Leave for a bit and return to be reminded, "There's no place like home," or as we like to say here in beautiful Lake Tahoe, "There's no place like 'Tahome.'"
They say the home is where the heart is; for some, it is simply a roof and a place to crash. But for most it is much more than that. Tahoeians do tend to appreciate where we live. While there is no "perfect" place on earth, Tahoe is as close as it gets and continues to lure residents and visitors year-round.
I was fortunate enough to purchase a home here two years ago. Sure, it has its maintenance issues. Houses are not unlike babies, in constant need of nurturing. My house is my baby … well, not really. Technically it's the bank's baby, but it will be mine someday in the future.
In retrospect, perhaps I should have bought five years ago when the prices were at rock bottom — but that would of course mean I wouldn't be in the house I'm in today. You learn through this thing we call life, timing is everything. So instead of lamenting about not purchasing five years ago, I'm grateful I purchased when I did, and mainly for two reasons: 1) I love the house (baby) I'm in and 2) As we now know, the housing market is tight for purchasers and renters alike due to a low supply of options.
The reasons for the tight housing market here are twofold: growth is limited by local jurisdictions and vacant land is scarce. Many of the vacant parcels are owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service.
Of course, most of us agree that this open space adds greatly to our quality of life. How many of us would trade biking and/or hiking trails for dense suburban sprawl? Certainly not those who have chosen this area to reside. Sure, we have a housing shortage in Tahoe, but that is a common aspect of living in a resort town.
A fellow realtor, whose family has lived in the Tahoe Basin for decades, recently told me that his brother-in-law has a copy of the front page of our local paper from the 1970s with the headline, "Affordable Housing Crisis."
Much has changed in the past 40 plus years, but not our housing shortage predicament. According to the California Association of Realtors, "With the California economy continuing to outperform the nation, the demand for housing will remain robust even with supply and affordability constraints still very much in evidence."
Here in Tahoe, we are seeing new construction at a rate controlled by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and most of these new homes sell in the $650,000 – $800,000 price range — not prices easily digestible for the typical Tahoe family. The vast majority of these homes will be purchased by tech executives or others with similar financial means as second homes.
How tight is the housing market here in South Lake? Currently there are 148 single family homes on the market for sale. Thirty-two of these are priced under $400,000 and 31 are priced from $400,000 – $500,000. Appropriately priced homes are selling very quickly — usually within the first 10 days of being listed. As far as long-term rentals, I continue to hear that there is virtually nothing decent for rent and that fierce competition ensues when a nice unit becomes available. When looking for housing, it requires resourcefulness, persistence and, of course, patience.
While it is hard to predict how and more importantly when the housing market will normalize, all signs point to the status quo for the foreseeable future. Home prices will eventually stabilize, which will likely have a similar effect on rents.
The intense winter may drive some folks away, which would help increase inventory. While it may be hard for some to believe, people do indeed get tired of snow when it's measured in the tens of feet and all the issues that brings.
Personally, I like the shoveling muscles that appear. But I do truly hope that the folks who really want to be here get to stay — as purchasers or renters — in beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Jennifer Fortune is a Realtor for Chase International South Tahoe Realty. Fellow Realtors, if you have ideas for stories or would like to share a story, please contact Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org.