Lake Tahoe storms expected to boost demand for rentals

Rob Sabo
Rental demand remains strong for high-end properties in the Lake Tahoe Basin, such as Bulls Head Lodge, seen here. Property managers hope recent snowfall will usher in a new wave of rentals.
Courtesy Tahoe Getaways |

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Vacation rental firms at Lake Tahoe are hoping the latest incarnation of the Pineapple Express brings a bit of green with its ample supply of wind, rain and snow.

The storm that hit Northern California and the Sierra Nevada late last week could provide the spark needed to spur rental demand throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Vacation property managers say the dismal snowfall totals last winter have many prospective renters sitting on the fence and waiting for conditions to improve at Tahoe-area ski resorts.

Jim Winterberger, owner of Tahoe Getaways, manages about 200 properties around Tahoe City and Truckee. Though Tahoe Getaway’s properties are booked solid for the Christmas and New Year weekends — peak rental time for winter tourism — year-over-year rental volume at Tahoe Getaway’s is up just 2 percent.

Most renters are wealthy Bay Area residents, Winterberger says, but so far many former and prospective clients who might rent a house or condominium for week of skiing still are hedging.

“The Bay Area is on fire economically, and people are well funded,” Winterberger says. “There is a little bit of hesitancy on bookings; that can be attributed to snow. Even with that sandbagging the market, it’s still trending up year-over-year. Sprinkle some snow on the market and it will really take off this winter.”

Tim Golobic, co-owner of Heavenly Village Condos, a third-party rental service for timeshares at Marriott Grand Residence Club at Heavenly Village, says last winter was the worst year of condo and timeshare rental for his firm in the last seven years.

However, Heavenly Village Condos had an excellent summer followed by strong slate of fall bookings, Golobic says, though the jury is still out about how this winter will shape up.

Occupancy for the 160 units HVC rents out dipped to just 57 percent during the winter of 2013-1014. Occupancy averaged 72 percent the previous winter.

“If this storm that rolls through brings what it promises, hopefully our winter kicks into gear,” Golobic says. “It’s all driven by snow. It was a pretty significant setback last winter.”

Chuck Maas, marketing consultant for Lake Tahoe Accommodations, which has four office locations around Lake Tahoe, says vacation rentals are trending up between 10 and 15 percent — numbers that should improve significantly if snow conditions do the same.

Owners aren’t looking to raise rental rates, Maas notes, since improving occupancy is of greater concern.

Kelly Dietz, president of vacation rentals for Tahoe Luxury Properties in Tahoe City, says prices have remained flat as well. Tahoe Luxury Properties manages 160 properties on the north shore and in Incline Village.

The company still had vacancy during the upcoming holiday weekends, but Dietz was confident the major storm that socked the region would spur additional bookings.

In fact, she adds, last-minute bookings have become much more commonplace in the Lake Tahoe vacation rental market.

People used to book so far in advance, but now they wait because are so many more beds in Tahoe,” Dietz says.

More and more homeowners in the Lake Tahoe Basin are offering their properties as vacation rentals.

Adam Annen, public relations manager for vacation rental management firm HomeAway, Inc., which manages more than 1,000 properties at Lake Tahoe, says HomeAway has seen a spike in rental demand for its properties located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, as well as strong growth in number of available properties.

Demand in the Incline Village area remained hot with an 88-percent year-over-year rise in consumer inquiries about properties and a 35-percent increase in properties listed with HomeAway to 487.

In South Lake Tahoe, year-over-year inquiries about rental properties dipped 38 percent, but the number of properties listed for rent with the service rose 16 percent to 879 properties.

In Tahoe City, a total of 208 properties are listed, a dip of 15 percent from the prior year. Inquiries about rental properties also are down 18 percent.

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