During the past few years patience was considered a virtue when shopping for real estate at Lake Tahoe. Buyers who waited until late summer or fall to make a purchase decision were finding a lot of excellent opportunities and an unusual willingness among sellers to negotiate price and terms. But times have changed in a most dramatic fashion and buyers who wait around hoping to pick up a bargain in September or later in the year are going to be severely disappointed in 2013.
With nine properties going under contract and 13 more properties closing escrow during the past week, real estate sales activity continues strong in Incline Village and Crystal Bay. Recently, three properties that came on the market had accepted offers within just a few days of being listed on the Incline Village MLS. Houses and condos that have asking prices close to fair market value are getting a large number of showings every week as the crowds of summertime visitors pursue buying opportunities unlike anything we have seen since 2007.
While we have not yet returned to the feeding frenzy of the real estate boom during the previous decade, prices are trending upward and buyers are out in full force. During the recession, large numbers of prospective buyers sat on the sidelines waiting to see when the market would bottom out and looking back we know that occurred about 18 months ago. With real estate prices on the Nevada side of North Lake Tahoe clearly on the rebound, buyers who were in a wait and see mode during the recession have returned with a vengeance.
As of this writing, there are 279 houses, condos and freestanding condos listed for sale on the Incline Village MLS. This compares with 388 properties for sale at the same time in 2012 which means the inventory has declined by approximately 28% in just the past year. With more buyers competing for fewer properties this is helping to create upward pressure on prices. But what it is also doing is giving buyers an incentive to make purchase decisions during the summer instead of hoping that the property they like the best will still be available in the fall.
The strategy of waiting until after the summer crowds depart and then trying to negotiate a great deal between September and December is a losing proposition in 2013. Buyers who procrastinate this year will find that the property they hope to pick up at a bargain price after summertime will likely no longer be available. Some sellers are sticking to their guns and refusing to budge very much off the asking price, but this does not mean that when the off-season arrives they will be any more motivated to cut and run. More likely, they will sit tight in the up-trending market and possibly ask for an even higher price next year.
If you have been shopping for real estate in Incline Village or Crystal Bay, returning in the fall to write an offer on your favorite property will probably result in disappointment. There is so much pent up demand among buyers who exhibited patience during the recession that it is unlikely the property you are holding out for will still be available when the Aspen trees start changing color. While we will continue to see a fair amount of new listings arriving on the market between now and the middle of August, buyers should not expect a wide variety of new properties to be put up for sale once the schools are back in session. After the third week of August there will be fewer new listings to choose from and the current inventory will have steadily eroded to a lower level than where it sits now.
The best buying strategy in 2013 is to be decisive and not procrastinate if you are seriously interested in purchasing a particular property. Your agent can provide you with comparable sales information and guide you through the negotiation process to help you strike the best deal. However, with only a handful of short sale or bank owned properties currently listed for sale, the days of bargain hunting have faded into the past. The long-term intrinsic value of owning real estate in Incline Village and Crystal Bay means that buyers can proceed confidently knowing they are making a good long-term investment when purchasing a property in 2013.