Photo courtesy of Telluride Tourism Board

Photo: courtesy of Telluride Tourism Board

As Candy Evans reported last week,  the consensus of vacation housing  experts speaking at the NAREE (National Association of Real Estate Editors) Conference which took place in New Orleans in June is clear — these days vacation housing is all about the family.

Children are accompanying parents on vacations and second home buyers are looking for properties that are comfortable for all ages. Among the most family-friendly mountain destinations in the U.S. is the southwestern Colorado city of Telluride, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its free public gondola system this year.  

What’s the big deal about this unique coach in the sky?

(more…)

Banner photoYear-round views steal the show at 739 Lakeview Ave., which is on the market for $2.7 million in South Lake Tahoe Calif. Listing agent Theresa Souers says this one is “probably the best buy all around the lake.”

Plenty of Texans go for vacation homes near Lake Tahoe.

“But be prepared that our houses aren’t as big as they’re used to,” real estate agent Theresa Souers adds with a chuckle. “I always tell them that upfront.”

Size doesn’t matter so much, however, when you’re breathing mountain air and pondering a looming, pristine lake that straddles California and Nevada.

Wealthy Californians are known for flocking to little towns on the Nevada side to avoid state income tax and enjoy a lower cost of living. Both options offer unfettered views and a sense of tony, tucked-away escapism, but it’s the area’s unbeatable year-round beauty and perpetual sports — including hiking, snow skiing, and waterskiing — that give Tahoe its biggest advantage over seasonal resort spots.

Serious buyers come because “they like the clean air,” says broker Chris Plastiras, of Lakeshore Realty. “They like the low crime rate, they like the educational system.”

220 Glen Way exterior739 Lakeview: Water and mountain views abound at this South Lake Tahoe property.

Home sales are up 30 to 35 percent this year by Sours’s count, and Plastiras’s company has seen a more than 100-percent increase, from $94 million in total sales to around $225 million.

The numbers aren’t a huge surprise, however; typically, California’s property sales foretell Tahoe’s to some extent.

“If you study the historical trends,” Souers explains, “we follow the Bay Area,” usually with about six-month to yearlong lag.

And guess what? The Bay Area is starting to fly high.

As for Tahoe, “we kind of flattened out around November,” Souers said, “but I don’t think it’s a permanent thing.”

Tahoe-area properties are often carefully regulated, for better or for worse; building permits can be scarce, which keeps neighborhoods quaint but frustrates some homeowners.

220 Glen Way interior(Above and Below): This low-elevation, lodge-style home offers direct access to a tennis and recreation center. 220 Glen Way is listed for $2.2 million in Incline Village, Nev.

739 Lakeview Living Room

“Even if you own [an empty] lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be able to build up there,” cautions Dallas resident Joyce Jacobson, whose family has kept a beloved second home in South Lake Tahoe — right on the state line, she says — for more than 20 years. Lake houses seem to hold their value better over time, she figures, but they’re also subject to strict regulations. In some cases, she adds, that means rules about what sort of blinds an occupant can hang from his or her windows. Seriously.

Her husband, Bob, has a funny story about their own vacation getaway, which isn’t on the lake. Seven or eight years ago, he said, Joyce and their grown children began pressuring him to sell.

“I put a real high price on it,” he says with a mischievous laugh — $1.2 million, which was several times what the family paid for it years ago — “thinking, ‘if we do [sell], we’re going to get something good.’”

A prospective buyer popped up immediately.

“They were so depressed,” Jacobson said of his family when they got the news. “They were hardly talking, and just walking around with their heads drooped down.”

Then and there, they changed their minds about leaving.

“Compared to Dallas,” Jacobson muses, “everything’s quiet. You get up in the morning, and the birds are making noise. You hear all these little animals. Last time I was up there, there were like six deer walking on our main street.”

Or maybe it’s the other humans — and myriad human diversions — that make die-hards keep coming back.

“It’s all the recreational spots, with all the skiing and the hiking and the water sports,” says homeowner Leroy Hardy (a relative of mine), whose custom-built Incline Village, Nev., house includes a creek, and is on the market.

“It’s unsurpassed.”

Georgia and Matt2Georgia Fisher is a Dallas expat now living in Reno, Nev., with her fiancé. Her interests include cats, Internet videos of cats, and cats watching Internet videos of cats. While she adores her quaint historic rental in Reno, she tries to escape to Lake Tahoe as often as possible.