Waterfront home sales at Lake Tahoe tripled this summer over what they had been the year before.

More than $270 million worth of lakefront property changed hands this summer, including some record-breaking estate sales on the turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe’s East Shore.

Fueled by a strong buyer penchant for clean air and open space, Tahoe/Truckee sales were up across the board, but the surge in lakefront sales offers a curious statement about the preferences of today’s wealthy buyers. If open space is the new luxury, then Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, represents the pinnacle of luxury living in a post-COVID landscape.

Big Blue wasn’t the only lake in high demand this summer. A new record was set at Donner Lake, where a six-bedroom with a dock on the South Shore sold for $4.75 million in just five days on the market. That was one of four lakefront homes to change hands at Donner Lake this summer, with the most affordable being a remodeled 1960s cabin that sold for $1.825 million cash after just a few days on the market.

Some of the estates fetching the highest price tags this summer had sat on the market for years.

Sierra Sunset, a 24-acre estate on the shores of Zephyr Cove, sold in August after more than four years on the market. With an eight-bedroom main house, guest house, caretaker quarters, and horse stables, the property was unique in its class. Sales price: $38 million.

A little north of there in Glenbrook, The Pines Estate also sold this summer for $27.5 million. With a stunning remodel by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, the property featured an expansive lakefront home, a charming guest house, and a swimming pool and spa in a park-like setting on more than 13 acres.

Incline Village saw a similar trend, with eight lakefront homes changing hands this summer for a total sales volume of $84.6 million (up from $28.7 million last summer). The home that tops the charts there this summer is a brand-new contemporary home with walls of windows overlooking Crystal Bay, and a funicular that carries you down to a 110-foot sheltered cove with a pier to be shared by the neighboring new home. It sold for $24.85 million cash, and the similarly designed home next door is on the market for $23.95 million.

With low inventory, the west side of lake was a little more quiet than usual this summer. Five lakefront properties sold on the West Shore, ranging from a two-bedroom cabin in Meeks Bay that sold for slightly more than its $2 million asking price, to $8.75 million for a Rubicon Bay Estate featuring double guest houses, and 100 feet of white sand beach with a private pier and boat house. It was on the market only 10 days.

As we move into fall, it remains to be seen whether the trend will continue. As more people can work successfully from home, and students are able to attend class remotely, buyers are beginning to view second home markets like Tahoe as more of a primary residence.

In its August report, The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing identified Tahoe as one of five U.S. markets that are experiencing this post-COVID phenomenon. In the Hamptons, early summer sales were up 50% over what had been the year before. Other hot spots include the Palm Beaches in Florida, Hawaii, and remote areas like Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, which has seen an unprecedented influx of wealthy buyers from Oregon and California.

“One trend is clear,” the Institute concluded. Affluent homeowners are “more than willing to move away from the metropolis and urban living to embrace what has traditionally been designated as second home communities and to enjoy a more ‘country style’ of living.” 

~ Jackie Ginley is a broker associate with Chase International Real Estate. You can see her listings at tahoeishome.com.