I was showing houses in Truckee the week before Christmas, and Bay Area buyers queried if perhaps they should wait to buy, asking questions about what will happen in 2020, speculating maybe prices would go down?
Analysts like to talk about the housing market on a “national” level, and while that’s great for economists and forecasting, it doesn’t really tell you anything about what will happen on the micro level here in Tahoe.
A home at Lake Tahoe is not the same as a home in Detroit. And the buyer looking to invest in a vacation home, which is largely what we offer here in Tahoe, has a different set of goals and finances than the person looking for the necessity of a roof over their head.
The overall Tahoe market looks pretty much the same as it did in the middle of 2019, with prices inching up over last year, and overall sales volume down. The median sales price of a single-family home in Tahoe/Truckee was $750,000 at the close of 2019, up about 1% over last year.
And overall sales volume was down 4% over 2018.
Incline Village and Crystal Bay, where favorable Nevada taxes tend to lure higher-income buyers, saw a median sales price of just under $1.3 million, only slightly higher than last year.
Some market segments here in Tahoe/Truckee are responding to declining volume with a correction in pricing. The luxury market (homes priced over $1 million), for example, saw the median sales price fall to just under $1.6 million, a 3% decrease compared to 2018.
In a market that had $1.3 billion worth of sales in 2019, that’s not a cause for concern; it’s a healthy response to a shifting market. And if the sheer volume of sales at the ski areas and Martis Valley are any indication, there is no shortage of luxury cash buyers in Tahoe/Truckee.
At Northstar, Squaw, and Alpine, single-family home sales were stronger than in 2018, with the median sales price rising to almost $1.2 million, a 7% increase over 2018. And in the luxury sales arena, Northstar led the pack with almost $51 million in total sales, and a median sales price of $1,649,000.
Half of Northstar’s Top 10 sales were technically “condos,” beautiful contemporary construction in the Mountainside development near The Ritz-Carlton, selling for well north of $2 million, and on par with the custom homes of Big Springs, which have traditionally fetched those price points.
At the lake, single-family home prices rose to $725,000 in 2019 (up from $685,000 the year before). But sales volume fell 26% to $350 million.
A similar pattern could be seen in Martis Valley, home to the luxury communities of Martis Camp, Lahontan, and Schaffer’s Mill. The median sales price there in 2019 was $3,795,000, which is $100,000 over asking and a slight increase from 2018. But sales volume fell 27% over the year before.
However, not all markets were following the upward pricing momentum.
Tahoe Donner, a community of some 6,000 homes and condos in the hills above Truckee, closed out the year with a flat median sales price of $720,000. The third quarter shift in Tahoe Donner’s home market showed a downward trend in pricing, especially compared to the spring of 2018 when we were seeing some sales approach $100,000 over asking. Tahoe Donner closed out this year with $215 million in total sales (similar to last year).
So, buy now or wait? It’s a question that really hinges on the property you’re considering and your own personal goals. If you’re looking at cashing out on stock options, and the market feels too volatile, real estate can be a good alternative. If you’re financing, interest rates are incredible right now.
It also depends on the property itself. A home that’s sat on the market for three months might present a better chance for a below-asking offer than brand new construction.
~ Jackie Ginley is a broker associate with Chase International Real Estate. You can see her listings at tahoeishome.com
Main Image Caption: ELEGANT AND CONTEMPORARY, this town home (both interior and exterior) on the ski trails at Mountainside at Northstar sold last spring for $2,861,000. New Mountainside homes are fetching prices on par with custom homes in other areas of Northstar, a resort that has seen strong appreciation over 2018 sales. Photos courtesy Dylan Griffin