While those of you who read the column regularly know I rarely have guest authors, a few weeks back I reached out to my friends and COMPASS colleagues in Tahoe at Team Blair and asked them to update us all on the impact the Caldor fires have had on the Tahoe basin, and gratefully, their marketing manager, Theresa Candon, replied. (Thank you, Theresa). I hope you'll enjoy today's article as much as I did. JG
There is no sugar coating the fact that the past 18 months have presented the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area with a host of challenges. Between a global pandemic that heavily impacted tourism, an influx of remote workers adding pressure to the local housing market, light winter snowpack, and several weeks of fire danger and smoke pollution, our community has been through the wringer.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of fire fighters from CALFire and supporting agencies from both California and Nevada, South Lake Tahoe residents were able to begin returning home within a week of evacuation. The Caldor fire is now 76% contained and no longer presents an immediate threat to the basin but the damage has been nothing short of catastrophic as well as heartbreaking to many of our neighbors and residents. More than 220,877 acres burned. (That gives a more profound meaning to the words "holy smokes!")
Experiencing first hand the destruction of the forests while the Caldor Fire raged reminded us all why local initiatives such as the Forest Futures Campaign are ramping up efforts to protect the forests and restore the ecosystem's health as soon as feasibly possible - there's not only a world-renowned legacy to consider, but an economic reality with respect to crystal blue skies and turquoise waters.
Now that North Lake Tahoe and the West Shore are experiencing clearer skies and Air Quality Index reports of less than 100, the cooler days of fall are signaling a return to homeowners and guests alike. As the outside temperatures begin to dip, and the smoke lifts, the beautiful Lake Tahoe that we all love has once again re-emerged. With a clear understanding of what's at stake, we've come out of the fire with a renewed appreciation for the power of nature to both scar and heal . . .
AND while the world struggled with the isolation forced upon many by the Coronavirus, weathering a pandemic was not as difficult for those of us with easy access to socially-distanced adventures just outside our front doors, and was likely the reason tourism continued to expand, in spite of Covid-19 restrictions.
Nor were we alone - many of our Bay Area friends made the trek to Tahoe (some permanently) to enjoy the freedom and to gather outside with family and friends, while much of the rest of the world had quite literally closed its doors to visitors. Hiking, boating, and skiing were a few of the many outdoor diversions Tahoe offered in abundance and relative safety, and we didn't lose a beat. In a word, Tahoe was busy!
So how did these historic events affect Tahoe real estate?
Like all local industries, real estate felt the impact - for better and for worse. Shortly after the pandemic lockdown began in March 2020, Lake Tahoe real estate sky-rocketed, and has continued at an impressive pace since. After pandemic restrictions eased in the second half of 2021, there's been a subtle shift in buyer demand. Consequently, the past four months required an evolving pricing strategy, but because of low inventory, sales continued at a rapid pace nonetheless.
In the face of the recent Caldor fire and the highly publicized evacuation of South Lake Tahoe, there was some speculation that safety concerns would discourage buyers from entering into contract. Which is to say that poor air quality and local access restrictions DID result in canceled showings and low foot traffic at open houses. (That's to be expected.)
However, the lull seems to have been temporary. As air quality has improved, buyer interest and activity has resumed to a somewhat normal level. After the buying frenzy of the past year, buyers are exercising a bit more caution, and days on market (DOM) have increased slightly; however, the forecast remains promising for Lake Tahoe real estate.
A recent article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune quotes Team Blair Tahoe Agent Jackie Arthur:
“I’ve got clients that are asking, ‘When can we come back?’” said Team Blair Tahoe Compass Agent Jackie Arthur. “They’re not really afraid of the fires. They’re just wanting to be more educated about the process of fire insurance moving forward.”
A good note for agents everywhere. As we head into fall, it’s fair to anticipate that the market will adjust again, keeping us all on our toes. Stay tuned!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.