2020 was an unprecedented year for real estate in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. Once COVID-related shutdowns were lifted, money flowed into Tahoe like water.

Almost $3 billion worth of real estate changed hands in the Tahoe/Truckee and Incline Village/Crystal Bay markets last year. For single-family homes, that’s a whopping 87% increase in volume over 2019 — a staggering jump that no one has seen in recent memory, and more than double the gains we witnessed in 2012, when bargain-buying fueled a recovering market.

But there were almost no bargains to be found last year. Homes that were priced right and showed well received multiple offers and often sold for far over asking.

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The highest demand was for homes priced under $1 million, but luxury sales also soared in 2020. Close to half (45%) of the homes that changed hands in North Tahoe and Truckee last year closed for $1 million or more.

In Incline Village/Crystal Bay, a millionaire’s tax haven where the beaches are all private to homeowners and their guests, homes priced under $1 million are the minority. Two-thirds of all properties sold there in 2020 went for more than $1 million, and a handful soared far above $10 million.

As with other Tahoe luxury destinations, the volume of home sales in Incline/Crystal Bay more than doubled to $895 million last year, and the median sales price of a single-family house rose 12% to $1,455,000.

Driving the luxury market were well-heeled buyers seeking a retreat from the confines of their urban environments in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and other big cities. And they were showing a decided preference for tony, gated communities like Martis Camp, with its own lift on the backside of Northstar and a 55,000-square-foot clubhouse that boasts his and hers spas and a heated saline lap pool.

Sales at Martis Camp were close to twice what they had been the year before, with 60 homes selling for a total of close to $338 million (almost all of them cash). The vast majority were sellers cashing out; only eight houses were brand-new.

On the California side of Lake Tahoe, buyers showed a preference for lakefronts priced under $10 million, but it was also a summer marked by low inventory, with a number of beautiful estate properties only hitting the market in the fall. The Nevada side of the lake saw some spectacular estate sales. Over the summer, waterfront home sales in both states tripled from what they had been the year before.

At Gray’s Crossing, a golf course community just north of downtown Truckee, sales also doubled from the year before. Many of the homes there are built in “mountain modern” style, boasting contemporary finishes and walls of windows. With prices there hovering at or under $2 million for much of last year, Gray’s also represented somewhat of a bargain compared to other golf course communities like Lahontan, where, for much of the summer and fall, it was challenging to get an offer in on anything priced under $3 million.

Wealthy buyers weren’t the only hallmark of 2020. Seeing the spike in prices, many locals decided to cash out.

In Glenshire, for example, home sales nearly doubled over what they had been in 2019, and the median price of a family home rose 22% to $698,000. That’s a big jump for a neighborhood largely composed of full-time families locally employed in Truckee or Reno.

Prosser Lakeview and Prosser Heights, similarly full-time neighborhoods, experienced the volume of sales nearly tripling from the year before, and the median sales price rose 33% to $700,000. Those who owned their homes for a decade or more witnessed significant appreciation.

The same was true for Tahoe Donner, where even those who had owned for just a few years pocketed big gains. The volume of home sales doubled there, with more than half of all homes selling at or above asking, and the median sales price rising to a record high of $815,000.

So where are we headed?

Low inventory and high demand continue to put pressure on the market segment below $3 million, with the greatest number of buyers looking under $1 million. At the time of this writing, just after New Year’s Day, there were only 27 homes for sale in our entire market (including Incline Village) that were priced under $1 million.

Where we go from here depends a lot on the degree to which professionals can continue to work from home, and the strength of the economy moving forward. New inventory could help balance the market, and the key indicators to watch as we move into 2021 will be sales volume and days on market.

~ If you would like a personalized valuation of your home or neighborhood, call or email Jackie Ginley at (775) 391-9443 or jackie@tahoeishome.com.

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