Donner Lake under the snow in winter, Truckee, Ca.
With remote-work and distance learning becoming the norm across the country as the pandemic continues, it is not a shock to see people seeking refuge in resort communities like those in Truckee, Calif. Tahoe Mountain Realty, a luxury real estate brokerage located in Northstar and Tahoe-Truckee resort areas, has seen record sales this year, but owner, Jeff Brown, says he saw a trend towards these locations even before the virus was known.
Having worked and lived in the Tahoe area for almost 15 years, Brown possesses an intimate understanding not only of the Tahoe-Truckee market but the community as well. I recently reached out to Brown to discuss the state of the market and what stood out to him this year. His comments have been edited for clarity.
SE: How quickly after stay-at-home orders were implemented did you notice a turnaround?
JB: When the quarantine first started, everything fell out, all the deals we had underway fell apart. But almost immediately we saw our backend analytics absolutely skyrocket. That’s indicative of people sitting in their homes looking at real estate, which to some degree is just an idle time phenomenon — people click through listings and fantasize.
Then one week became two and three — you could see the intensity starting to pick up and people reaching out with very specific questions and asking for FaceTime tours and that sort of thing. Even before we had a sense that we were going to come out of quarantine, we started seeing offers signed off-site.
By late April, we’ve got people saying ‘if I’m going to be hunkered down, I’ve already had the notion to get a mountain place, let’s just go ahead pull the trigger’. After a week or two, we noticed we were getting multiple offers, and from there, things really started to cascade.
SE: Are there more permanent residents than before?
Some people have fully declared this is their primary home— where they get mail, where their kids go to school, that sort of thing. But the vast majority have said ‘we are staying indefinitely; we may go back to San Francisco, but it won’t be the same as before’. Tahoe-Truckee has become a much more significant part of their lives now.
JB: Were there other factors that led to this record year for Tahoe real estate?
These trends were already very present pre-COVID. As the wealth profile of the Bay Area has grown so much over the last decade, we have benefited from these increasingly younger and younger families migrating here.
What has been appealing to them is less the cabin in the woods but more the modern, contemporary, well-amenitized community. This product has perfectly matched the consumer over the last decade and I think that’s really what’s fueled this record-breaking growth over the past six months.
SE: Do you think the foundations associated with quarantining that partially created this boom will generate lasting change in the Tahoe-Truckee market?
JB: I do. I’ve got three kids and we were in that over-programmed mode, with sports practices and shuttling around from place to place, and the time spent during quarantine has been a revelation. We learned that absent all that structure we get some really nice, quality family time, and the kids get to be active and engaged in a mountain lifestyle. I think those elements will stick.
The overriding reason I say that is because the virus may have been a major accelerator, but these trends were already present in our market. Because we are so driven by the Bay Area market, which has always been on the cutting edge of remote-work or non-conventional work rituals, we’ve seen the lines between primary and secondary homes blurring more and more, even as recently as the first quarter of 2020.
Consumers are no longer asking what’s it worth, the question now is what’s it going to take, and that’s very novel for us. We’ve always sort of had this conundrum where the consumer needs to feel like they are justifying this purchase of a second home because it is such a luxury item. They walk in the door with statements like ‘it needs to be a good investment,’ and we’ve worked so hard over the years to say it doesn’t. It is an investment in your lifestyle. It’s a happy place, a place to make good memories.