Tahoe real estate: Typical trend or turning point? | SierraSun.com

Tahoe real estate: Typical trend or turning point?

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

LAKE TAHOE ” Local real estate professionals say there are a number of reasons more people have shown interest in Tahoe real estate during the last month.

But whether it’s the typical increase in business most brokers say occurs during the spring, or the beginnings of a new found confidence in the market, agents and brokers are happy to see some faces in their offices ” even if they are just window shopping.

“It seems like we might be at the beginning of things picking up,” said John Eppolito, a broker with Coldwell Banker Select Group Real Estate and Coldwell Banker Incline Village Real Estate. “In the last month we’ve gotten more walk-ins at our Kings Beach office then we had in the last several months, and we’ve seen more offers coming in as well.”

Eppolito added that this is not to say the inventory is starting to decrease ” meaning people are actually purchasing homes ” rather, the amount of inquiries has increased, which may lead to sales down the road.

“It’s a good time to buy,” said Eppolito, who mentioned that he is currently looking at a few Reno properties for a possible investment. “I don’t know if it’s just a seasonal thing, but it seems people are starting to regain confidence,” he added.

Elsewhere, realtors are seeing similar trends.

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“This always happens around tax season because people are told by their tax professionals to consider investing more,” said Sue Daniels, President of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors and broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Tahoe City. “Either way, the phones are starting to ring more and more and that’s good news.”

Karen Bruno, a broker with Chase International in Incline Village, said she has seen a noticeable increase in homes being shown to clients in the last month.

“We have definitely seen an uptick in showings, the phone is ringing and offers are being written,” Bruno said. “Why? Who knows? Low interest rates, a new President, the stock market rallying, possibility of being at the bottom of the market, post-tax time, first home buyer tax incentives, good prices and inventory, spring, the sun is shining – all may be contributing to some increase in activity.”

While any combination of factors could be a cause for the increasing interest in real estate, most professionals agree that distressed properties ” bank-owned properties, or REOs, and short sales ” are catching the eye of prospective buyers.

“Our real estate market has always lagged behind broader trends,” added Daniels. “I think it buffers us a lot from the damages and lets us see and prepare for what to expect.”

One way Tahoe real estate markets have prepared is by including a field on their multiple listing services, or MLS, which indicates if properties are distressed.

Both Incline Village and Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors have added search fields to their listing services that show if a property is bank-owned or a short sale.

One reason for this, Daniels said, is because it lets buyers and brokers know what they’re up against when looking at a property.

“A short sale can look like a great deal for the buyer, but it’s a really tough process and they have to be patient and flexible,” Daniels said. “The distressed property field is a disclosure to the buyer to let them know what their dealing with.”

In a short sale situation, the seller’s lender agrees to accept a payoff of less than the balance due on the loan, a process of negotiation that could take months, according Daniels.

With bank-owned properties, the buying process can be much quicker because the bank has already foreclosed, appraised and put the property back on the market. The downside for the buyer, however, is that there is less room for negotiation because banks typically want to sell at asking price, Daniels said.

But there are some differences between the Tahoe Sierra and Incline Village listing service requirements with regards to distressed properties.

When the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors decided to add the fields to their listing service at the end of 2008, they required realtors to update all previous listings that were still active to indicate if they were distressed.

In Incline Village, however, realtors are not yet required to change previous listings to show if they are a short sale or a bank-owned property.

But since the addition of the distressed property field is still new, Ron Stichter, Incline Village Board of Realtors President, said they are working on it.

On Tuesday in Incline Village, there were nine single-family homes in escrow: Four were bank-owned, three were short sales and two were regular sales, according to Karen Bruno, a broker with Chase International in Incline Village.

Down the hill, of the 174 real estate transactions in Reno throughout February, 93 were bank-owned properties and 27 were short sales, according to this month’s Greater Reno-Tahoe Real Estate Report.

And on the North Shore, five bank-owned properties and eight short sales were among the 63 single-family homes sold in the North Lake Tahoe/ Truckee area since March 1, 2009, a high percentage for this area, said Sue Daniels, President of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors.