Real estate | Mid-year home stats indicate stabilization |

Real estate | Mid-year home stats indicate stabilization

Matthew Renda
Annie Flanzraich / Tahoe Daily TribuneLakewide, total sales volume, which includes Incline Village, Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe and the East Shore, is up to $307 million for the first half of 2010 (January-June).

LAKE TAHOE – Positive feelings are coming from Lake Tahoe’s real estate community as mid-year statistics indicate a stabilization of home prices and an increase in activity for the high-end market.

Lakewide, total sales volume, which includes Incline Village, Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe and the East Shore, is up to $307 million for the first half of 2010 (January-June). That represents a 47 percent increase over the first half of 2009, when the sales volume reached $207 million, according to statistics from Chase International.

The overall number of units sold increased significantly as well, jumping 42 percent year to date with 444 units sold in the first six months of 2010 as opposed to 312 sold during the same period in 2009.

“There is hope in those statistics,” said Sue Lowe, vice president of Chase International. “Those are extremely strong numbers.”

However, Lowe said it is important to temper excitement because real estate activity was so depressed in the first half of 2009 that any duration can look

favorable by comparison.

“(The real estate community) can’t get too excited,” Lowe said. “It’s a positive trend, but things were so terrible before.”

According to Chase’s statistics, the lakewide median price declined slightly by 1 percent year to date, which stops short of indicating major trends.

Richard Bolen said the South Lake Tahoe-specific median sales price of $315,500 for the first half of the year indicates a stabilization in the market.

“The median sales price has been hovering between $310,000 and $315,000 for the past 10 or 11 months, which strongly indicates stabilization in the market,” Bolen said.

Combine market stabilization with historically low interest rates and the South Lake Tahoe market could be in for robust activity, Bolen said.

Chris Plastiras of Lakeshore Realty in Incline Village said his firm witnessed a 29 percent increase in the number of single family residence units sold year to date, with an 8 percent decline in median sales price.

“You can draw a conclusion from the numbers that prices have reached a level where it has begun to attract buyers and activity in the market has picked up as a result,” he said. “People are seeing values.”

Lowe said the bargain prices have attracted professional investors as well as those in the second-home market, and first-time buyers.

“First-time buyers can actually afford a house in Tahoe for the first time in years,” she said.

Government-crafted incentives designed to attract first-time buyers into the market have not affected the Lake Tahoe Basin the same as in Reno, Lowe said, where sales have been inflated by the program.

“Most of the sales around the lake are second homes,” said Lowe, who said the South Lake Tahoe market may have benefited slightly from government programs.

Al Colhoun, president of the Sierra Tahoe Board of Realtors, said activity is most pronounced toward the bottom and top of the market.

More than 376 units priced at less than $1 million were sold throughout the basin in the first half of 2010, compared to 277 units sold in the first half of 2009, representing a 36 percent increase, according to Chase. The number of units sold priced at more than $1 million jumped 60 percent from 2009 to 2010, from 35 to 56.

“The ultra-luxury buyer has re-entered the market,” Lowe said.

Plastiras said Lakeshore Realty sold three lake-front properties so far this year. In 2009, the firm didn’t sell any.

“There’s definitely a trend,” said Plastiras.

Lowe said all the numbers combine to paint an optimistic picture for the market for the rest of 2010.

“The $2 to $10 million market is still soft, but we have had some significant activity in the ultra high-end sales (more than $10 million),” Lowe said. “There’s been definite signs of a rebound this year compared to the first half of 2009, which was quite challenging. But inventory is down and prices are leveling off – we’re optimistic that the market is starting to stabilize.”

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