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Hot market: High demand for rural real estate at Lake Tahoe

A house for sale in the South Lake Tahoe area. There is low inventory at Tahoe and the market is as busy as ever amid the pandemic
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

BY THE NUMBERS

South Tahoe real estate stats for the last 30 days as of July 17: 130 actives / 202 sendings / 96 sold Incline Village/Crystal Bay as of July 12: 20 new listings / 24 in escrow / 15 sold

Almost everything has been affected by the coronavirus, including the Lake Tahoe real estate market.

Since the pandemic, everybody seems wants to escape to Tahoe.

Many are second homeowners who have decided to make Tahoe their primary residence. Many just want to get out of claustrophobic-feeling cities.

“For people who had second homes here that were maybe using it as a vacation home or planned to live here full time when they retire, it [coronavirus] has ‘forced their hand’ in the sense of they have moved out of the city now that they can work remotely and live in their secondary home,” said Sabrina Bellecci, owner and broker of RE/MAX North Lake in Incline Village.

For buyers who were already looking to get out of the big city, the pandemic gave them the push to look for rural property with more space in the Tahoe Basin.

“If their kids are going to school remotely, if they are going to work remotely, they are going to live where they want to live,” said Bellecci.

The influx of buyers coming from cities has decreased market inventory. In the real estate world low inventory means higher prices, competition and bidding wars.

“We are getting an average of eight new properties on the market everyday, and about 12 go in escrow everyday,” Bellecci said. “It is good and bad for our community.”

Bellecci says things are definitely changing with more people moving to the basin and secondary homes becoming primary ones. People are more willing to manage a bigger yard or even take on a fixer. Second homeowners might already have places that need renovating or additions depending on their needs.

In previous years, Bellecci said when buyers were looking for property in the basin, they were looking for averaged-sized, low-maintenance and already remodeled houses as their secondary homes.

She said with the increase of full timers in Tahoe we have to be more wary of things like forest fires and the older infrastructure at the lake. She also sees the pandemic affecting future development and believes the increased need for space will change how homes are built, spaced out and how they are even positioned on properties in the future.

“More people are looking for space from their neighbors because they are typically going to be spending more time at home,” said Bellecci. “It [coronavirus] is even changing the type of properties people are looking for.”

People are looking for space whether it is more space from neighbors, more space from the city or even more space in their homes for home offices or gyms.

Having easier access to hiking trails are becoming more attractive to buyers as well. Buyers are looking for the amenities that Bellecci says we took for granted living in Tahoe.

“The reason why many people were living in these cities is for the lifestyle and culture of the city that just doesn’t exist during COVID,” she said.

2020 President of the Board of Directors for South Tahoe Association of Realtors, Rhonda Keen, also sees that people are now gravitating towards houses with extra space to work from home.

“An extra bedroom or living area is ideal when one or both partners are working from home, or as a space for children learning at home,” said Keen in an email.

Keen says that they are seeing an influx of people from cities looking for homes in Tahoe with more space.

Chase International agent Fawne Hayes said she’s never seen the market so active.

“I’ve never seen it so busy up here in the 15 years I’ve been doing this,” she said.

Bellecci said the market was delayed this year and the demand has gone through the roof. Usually properties start appearing on the market, March through June, but due to coronavirus, more people waited until July.

Keen also said there was little activity in the first two months of the state’s stay-at-home order. The market now, and in the last couple months, has been wildly active.

“Inventory is low and there is a lot of pent-up demand after the no-travel order to our area was lifted – this includes local buyers and people looking to relocate here to make this their permanent residence and telecommute,” said Keen.

Another possible reason inventory is low is that people who may have wanted to sell their property, are not selling in fear that they might not find a replacement property or that they don’t want people in and out of their home during a pandemic. However, it is a seller’s market.

Sellers are likely to get what they are asking or close to it.

Bellecci said that while inventory is low it is still a good time to buy if it is right for the individual.

“It is a great time to buy if you want to move here,” she said. “There are a lot of options because sellers are realizing they can get a good price for their home.”

Keen suggests that one thing that could be fueling the current market activity is the low interest rates right now. “They are so low right now that if someone has a secure job/income stream and good credit it’s a great time for them to buy.”

Bellecci says that buyers need to have competitive offers, be pre-qualified, know their numbers, and willing to jump on a property within 24 hours of it coming on the market.

Buyers shouldn’t wait for prices to dip because they most likely will increase for the duration of the pandemic.

“If COVID-19 sticks around for the long term like 12 months out, I do not see prices going down because we don’t have any more land in the Tahoe Basin to build and my guess is that prices will continue to rise,” said Bellecci.

“If you want to move here, buy now otherwise you may be paying more for the same property you would have bought six months ago.”


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