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Real estate market opens up

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Real estate agent Barbara Childs talks with a friend on the phone while waiting for visitors to her open house on Saturday. Another house was listed next door.
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Options, options, options. South Shore real estate buyers will notice a wider variety of choices on the market these days.

Deemed a market “correction” of sorts, the South Tahoe Association of Realtors reported 495 single family listings on the market with 59 in escrow. That’s up from the average inventory of 300-plus homes. Two months ago, the market showed 407 in current inventory.

Last year at this time there were 268 homes on the market.

“I don’t think it’s doom and gloom, but the pie is so much greater now. The buyers right now are smart,” said association President Theresa Souers, who works for Century 21, Tahoe Paradise. “We’re seeing a correction that’s happening across California.”

A few years ago, 88 homes were listed.

“But it’s still hard to find anything under $300,000,” she said.

The median asking price for a single family home is $575,000, just slightly below the average selling price for 2006 reported at the end of April. The 2006 median is 20 percent higher than 2005.

Still, the number of days on the market “isn’t that long,” Souers said for a market correction. Right now, it’s 75 days. A few months ago, the association reported 101.

If the timing and pricing are right, the homes sell.

Ninety-two homes that have closed year-to-date appear to be on track with 2004 closing price levels.

Century 21, South Lake Tahoe agent Barbara Childs agreed that buyers are testing the waters and so are the sellers in getting what they want. She’s noticed more withdrawals as sellers become frustrated with the offers.

“They have every right to do it, but if they listen to their real estate agent’s advice, these properties will sell,” she said.

They can’t change the location, but they can be flexible with the price and make improvements, she stressed.

There are 57 homes priced between $450,000 and $550,000.

“People have choices,” she said, while putting on an open house at 1467 Skyline Drive. She listed the 3,314-square-foot home in May. The seller is moving, so he’s reduced the price from $1.1 million to $899,000.

Five other homes are for sale on the Elks Club Drive-area ridgetop street.

Next door to Childs’ listing, Don Smith is selling his 3,100-square-foot home because he’s moving away as well.

Smith, an investor, has lived in Tahoe for 33 years and has seen the ebb and flow of real estate.

“I think it’s very quiet right now. I feel the whole market has slowed down,” he said. “I’m patient. I love Tahoe.”

However, Smith put the leveling off into perspective by calling 1999 to 2005 some of the best years he’s seen for real estate in Tahoe. For example, some prospective buyers bought homes without entering them in 1999 because of the shortage of inventory and reasonable prices compared to Bay Area homes.

A new world of real estate

California real estate has been in a recent state of volatility, but some areas do better than others.

Statewide, 51,750 houses and condominiums were sold in May, down 15.2 percent from the revised 61,000 sold in the same month last year, The Associated Press reported from a DataQuick market survey. The median price of a California home was $469,000 in May, up 9.8 percent from $427,000 seat a year ago.

DataQuick reported first-quarter foreclosure activity in the state increased to the highest level in more than two years – 18,668 notices, up 23.4 percent from the previous year. However, El Dorado County had fewer reports of foreclosures this year with 54, down 12.9 percent. It’s only one in three counties with fewer than the prior year.

South Tahoe real estate

— Median asking price: $575,000 (as of June 21)

— Median sales price: $489,000 (March 2006)

— $410,000 (2005)

— $189,000 (2000)

— 495 single family homes (as of June 21)

— 59 in escrow

— 75 days on the market

— 92 closed sales YTD to June 21

— 171 closed sales in 2005

— 182 closed sales in 2004

— 118 closed sales in 2003


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