With interest rates up, and today’s stock market feeling like a roller coaster ride, the economy ended 2018 on wobbly knees. But that does not seem to have dampened enthusiasm for the Tahoe/Truckee real estate market, which closed out the year with a record $1.3 billion in sales.

Fewer homes sold than in 2017, but higher prices pushed the region’s overall volume up to a record high that’s almost three times the dollar volume that sold a decade ago, when the slide into the recession had just begun. Tahoe/Truckee single-family home sales were up last year almost $174 million over 2017.

New construction has certainly contributed to the gain. We have more homes now than we did a decade ago — that’s a fact. But, significantly, the majority of the new homes are being built for luxury buyers who can afford prices well north of $1 million.


Many of those homes are being built in Martis Valley, home to Schaffer’s Mill, Lahontan, and Martis Camp, the gated community with amenities ranging from booking your own sommelier to a private clubhouse at the base of Northstar’s Lookout Mountain, where you can have lunch and catch the express lift to the top.

At Martis Camp, almost a quarter of a billion dollars of real estate changed hands in 2018, up 24 percent from the year before. But those gains paled in comparison to Lahontan, which saw a 41 percent uptick in sales during the same period.

The granddaddy of Truckee’s gated communities, Lahontan, was established in the late ’90s in the sprawling meadow areas near the base of Northstar. Architectural styles here were long based on the craftsman tradition, with a blend of Greene and Greene and big-timber mountain style. Today, as Lahontan moves toward a more contemporary aesthetic, the community seems to be gaining back some of the ground it lost to the modern motif that Martis Camp has welcomed since its inception.

The median price of a Tahoe/Truckee home rose in 2018 to $722,000, an almost $50,000 gain from the year before, at a price point that remains unaffordable to many locals (think: school teachers, nurses, and the folks who keep the streets plowed).

Median prices in many areas of Tahoe/Truckee were below the luxury $1 million price point, with several communities seeing median home prices in the mid-to-high 600s. But in a real estate market with a wealth gap as vast as the Grand Canyon, less than 2 percent of last year’s home sales were at or below the affordable $300K entry mark for new buyers.

Close to a third of the homes that sold in 2018 went for $1 million or more, and half of those sold for cash. At a time when the financial markets are volatile, real estate remains a solid long-term investment, which could be a motivating factor for some buyers.

Tahoe Truckee’s top sales of the past year were at the lake and at Martis Camp, with number one being a 9-acre lakefront estate with guest houses beside Ward Creek on the West Shore that sold for $40 million cash.

The bargain of the year was a 1940s summer cabin on the South Fork of the Yuba River that went for $175K (also cash).

Most areas saw year-over-year gains from 2017, but the exceptions were the basin’s ski areas, which were down roughly a third from 2017 sales. Even Northstar, with its outstanding new homes near the Ritz-Carlton, experienced a 24 percent drop in volume over the previous year.

Tahoe Donner, with $214 million in sales, saw modest growth over 2017. Median home prices there inched up to $719K, a 6 percent gain over the year before.

Tahoe Truckee sales data was obtained from the Tahoe Sierra MLS.

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


  • Jackie Ginley

    Jackie Ginley is a former journalist and Moonshine editor who shelved the pen in 2013 to pursue a career in real estate. With deep roots in Tahoe, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and après-everything with friends. Jackie lives in Truckee, and is currently building a home in Tahoe Donner.

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