As Kaldor’s fire spread, the houses in his path were still being sold.



The South Lake Tahoe three-bedroom home was up for sale in July as its location was just steps from the forest. Amid the booming real estate market in the region, a contract was signed with a closing date set for Friday.

The desert turned into an obstacle: the house in 1510 Ojibwa St. was only a mile from the devastating Fire of Kaldor, forcing the mandatory evacuation of the entire city.

Sierra Sotheby’s broker Demian Black advised his clients, buyers Michael and Ray Visherop, to postpone the deal even if they lose their deposit. The house could burn down, and he doubted whether credit or insurance companies would sign. His own office was forced to evacuate.

But that didn’t stop the Visheropov, and on Friday the property sold for $ 684,500, $ 35,500 higher than the original asking price. Fire shifted course, regretting a new purchase.

The Kaldor fire spread over nearly 213,000 acres and upended the Lake Tahoe region’s idyllic status as a blue-sky escape from the pandemic, choking on smoke and displacing tens of thousands of residents. But real estate experts say the fast-growing housing market in the area is robust.

“I definitely foresee a slight wobble” after the wildfire, Black said. But “people have been coming to Tahoe for a long time.”

In the second quarter, the average home price in South Lake Tahoe jumped 50% to $ 737,000 over the previous year, according to Sierra Sotheby’s. The truck that I saw unprecedented growth in San Francisco transplants added 63% at an average price of $ 1.2 million.

“This was probably one of the greatest real estate markets we have ever seen,” said Camilla Duvall, vice president of North Tahoe and Truckee Sierra Sotheby’s. “When they can work from anywhere, they spend their time here.”

The money continues to flow despite the imminent danger. Breck Overall, broker Sierra Sotheby’s closed a $ 4.5 million deal this week near Donner Lake and Truckee. The north side of Lake Tahoe, where he works, is farther from the fire and the air quality is better there.

“I don’t see a big shift when people say, ‘We’re not interested in this,’” he said. “I really don’t see this demand going down right now.”

The threat of the virus and new restrictions in the Bay Area will continue to push people to visit Lake Tahoe, he said.

Most of General’s customers are also fortunate to be able to move around easily when the smoke thickens. In 2020, his team worked with 102 families, all of them buying second homes on Lake Tahoe.

“I didn’t force any of them to call me and say that we wanted to leave,” he said. In his 18-year career, only five buyers planned to get rid of their other homes.

There has been some rebuff to the sharp rise in prices, so in general he expects the rate of growth to slow, but he doubts that prices will fall anytime soon. According to him, sellers are interested in making a profit, and only a few of them are experiencing financial difficulties.

There is more uncertainty for tenants.

Tristan Biles and his girlfriend moved from San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe during the pandemic last fall, worried about regular ski trips and going outside.

The purchase was too expensive, but they were able to rent an apartment near the Heavenly Mountain resort. “I never thought it would be viable,” he said. “We saw the opportunity and jumped at it.”

What he didn’t expect: He had to flee to Palm Springs last week.

He plans to return soon and remains loyal to Tahoe, and is not sure what it will take him to leave. He would have liked to have thought of a place that offered the same amenities and less risk, but did not find one.

“I think a lot of people don’t know what to think. You see it on the news, it’s really bad. Until you see for yourself, you don’t know what to do with all this, ”he said. “I’ve been fixated on the Tahoe for so long.”

Other parts of Northern California have seen more devastating wildfires. However, during the pandemic, the demand for housing only increased.

“Napa, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties have obviously experienced horrific fires in the past four years, but their markets have always recovered very, very hard and fairly quickly after the fires, and their average home prices are much higher than ever. said Patrick Carlisle, Paragon’s chief real estate analyst. “Buyers still want to live in these beautiful places. Historically speaking, Lake Tahoe will also recover from the current crisis. ”

Roland Lee is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email address: Twitter: @rolandlisf


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