Throughthe roof |

Throughthe roof

Susan Wood

A seller’s market, South Lake Tahoe real estate has remained grounded while heading into the summer season, despite a year of war and a sputtering economy.

The median price for a single-family home in a market that covers Christmas Valley to Gardner Mountain to Stateline has leaped this March by 18 percent to $330,000 in comparison to last year. In the last four years, the values have jumped $141,000 – fluctuating between 18 and 26 percent.

“The market is red hot. We don’t seem to have enough properties. And people are ready to buy. They’ve done their taxes and know where they stand and what they have to spend,” Coldwell Banker broker Klaus Utecht said Monday.

Pushing the upward trend is a low inventory of single-family homes available in the Tahoe market. Out of 210 listings, 103 single-family homes sit in escrow – placing 107 dwellings out there for the taking. There are only six homes falling to within the $251,000 to $300,000 range.

“It’s amazing. There are so many qualified buyers,” said Utecht’s associate, Madeleine Gutierrez, an agent.

Utecht also attributed the strength of Tahoe real estate to the popularity of resort towns as destination locations – places where city dwellers can get away from the pressures of metropolitan areas.

According to Utecht, the second-home owners – mainly from the Bay Area – dominate the growth of buyers.

South Lake Tahoe, in particular, has undergone a redevelopment that shows to prospective buyers the evolution of future growth.

“When real estate went down in the Bay Area and across the country, Tahoe stood its ground,” Utecht said. “Who would have thought real estate in San Francisco would go down?”

Lake Tahoe has stayed in line with rising California property values, with February’s median price reported as $394,300 – $66,700 higher than last year in that month.

Also fueling the fire of arguably the single most important investment of people’s lives – mortgage rates have remained substantially low. They’ve barely edged up to 5.75 percent as of Monday. Industry observers estimate rates will climb to 6.6 percent by the end of this year, Gutierrez mentioned.

“I think that’s what’s driving the market and the crush of buyers now,” agent Deb Howard said of the panic to beat increasing rates. “I tell my staff: ‘If you blink, you’ll not be aware that values have gone up $20 to $50 per square foot.'”

The trickle-down effect has turned into a flood of optimism to homeowners in the Carson Valley and Carson City area. In what used to be the last bastion of an affordable housing base for Tahoe workers, these people have seen their values go up 20 to 30 percent. Lyon County has become the fastest-growing region in Nevada’s trend of rising property values.

“Dayton now looks more doable,” Howard said. “I’ve never seen a market like this.”

She summarized the Tahoe-Carson regional market as outperforming the no-holds-barred year of 2000.

And with 80 million baby boomers as potential buyers, those seeking the slice of the American dream outnumber the sellers.

In South Lake Tahoe, the neighborhoods experiencing high rates of growth represent a cross-section of the community.

On the west side, Christmas Valley has gone up $155,000 in one year to a median price of $467,000. Real estate agents point to the blitz of new construction that has helped lift home values in this woodland area.

Heavenly Valley homes have surged in value by $200,000 to a median price of $525,000, while the Sierra Tract remains the most affordable but growing at $255,000. That’s a $28,000 rise in one year.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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