TOP 10: What you need to know before buying a house in Tahoe

Top 10 things to know before buying a home in Tahoe

So, you are thinking of purchasing a home in the Lake Tahoe area.

That’s a great choice!  Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful areas in America, and is frequently on many travel sites “Top 10” vacation lists for a variety of reasons.  Located high in the Sierra Mountains of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is truly a paradise for anyone who loves outdoor activities.  The Lake is one of the clearest in the world, and has a view-able depth of over 60 feet!  Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed spots in the world.  The average daily temperature in the summer is a comfortable 80 degrees.

But how do you choose what area of the Lake to purchase a home?  And what other things should you know before signing the purchase agreement?  Here are the “Top 10” things you need to know, based on questions a lot of people ask, and some things they wish they had asked before buying their house.

1. How Do You Pick The Right Location

At 21 miles long by 12 miles wide, and over 75 miles of shoreline, Lake Tahoe is pretty large area.  Most people divide the Lake into 6 areas:

Although no matter where you are there is going to be tons of outdoor activities to enjoy, each area has it’s own unique feel and varying levels of amenities.  You can find out more about the individual areas at Lake Tahoe Neighborhoods.

2. How Much Will A House Cost

How much you want to spend on a house will be one of the main factors on deciding what area around the Lake you want to look at, as price ranges vary drastically in areas just a few miles apart.  From a $59 million dollar lakefront estate down to a $275,000 small cabin, there is something available for almost every budget.  A local real estate agent along with a mortgage broker can help you figure out what area to look in to find something that fits your budget.

3. What Do You Like To Do

Are you a road and mountain biker or hiking enthusiast?  You may want to find a house located near the vast Forest Service land surrounding the Lake that offers a multitude of trails including the world famous Tahoe Rim Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.  Or would you rather test your luck at the Casinos?  Then maybe something close to the bus line so you don’t have to worry about driving after a long night at the tables.  Want to be able to ski to your front door?  Some of the Ski Resorts offer mountain side living with ski in/ski out access.

The great thing about Tahoe is that no matter where you live you are only a few miles away from ski resorts, beaches, and shopping.  So if you don’t mind getting in the car and driving for a few minutes you can have a house that is near-by pretty much everything.  But if you definitely want to step out your front door and be on the beach instantly, you may need some assistance sorting through homes to find the perfect one.

4. It Snows Everywhere, Not Just At The Top Of The Mountains

Believe it or not, during the winter it snows every where in Lake Tahoe.  That majestic home on the mountain-side with a steep driveway may be fine during the Summer.  But as soon as a few inches of snow falls, the steep driveway could turn into a sled hill and your car will end up sliding down putting a new opening in your garage door.

Finding a good snow removal company is vital, unless you are one of those people who find it rewarding to clear the snow off your driveway yourself.  Some areas get more snow than others, with more snow falling on the west side of the lake and less snow on the east side.

5. When the Snow Melts

Your beautiful meadow-front cabin may be perfect in the Winter with it’s flat driveway.  But when Spring comes and the snow melts, you may end up having your own private lake at the end of your driveway from pooling water.

Keep melting snow in mind when looking at homes, especially if they are located in flat areas close to Lake level.  There are some areas that tend to have more issues with pooling water than others.  Your local real estate agent can let you know if the home you are interested in is in one of these areas.

6. That’s A Really Big Dog!

Bears, almost as common in Tahoe as the Grey Squirrels.  When living in the mountains you have to accept the fact that there are wild animals in the area.  There are a few simple things you can do to make living in the mountains a lot easier.

“Bear and a Tree” – L. Agnew Photography
  • Get a bear box.  Bears are smart, and they have learned which days the garbage pick-up is for almost every neighborhood so that they can go rummage through cans that are put out the night before for free food.  Bear boxes make it so that you won’t wake up to a front yard full of the weeks trash.  They are metal containers that go at the end of your driveway, and usually hold 2 garbage cans.
  • Don’t leave food in your car.  Everyone in Tahoe knows of someone who has had their car broken into by a bear because they left some kind of food item in their car.  Cleaning out left over food and food wrappers at the end of the day should help you prevent having an unwelcome passenger tear up your seats.
  • Leave the babies alone.  Baby bears are so cute!  But if you see a baby bear cub that looks like it’salone, don’t go near it.  The mom is going to be very close by, even if you can’t see her.  So unless you want to see a charging mamma bear up close, or enjoy running for your life, please leave the baby bear cubs alone and keep a good distance away from them.

7. Got Kids?

Lake Tahoe is a Family Destination Paradise.  Over the years a lot of people have left the big cities and taken advantage of the clean air and peaceful setting to raise their kids here.  Do you have young school aged children who will be attending elementary, middle, or high school?  Picking a home located in the right neighborhood for the school you want to enroll your kids in is very important.

Lake Tahoe has some really great schools, including the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School that currently has a 10/10 rating on and test scores at this school are consistently far above the state average.  You should research what school you want your kids to attend.  When you find the school you want, contact a local real estate agent to find out what homes are in the boundaries for that school.

8. Being Fire Safe

All of those beautiful trees surrounding your perfect Tahoe house are great at providing shade and giving you some privacy.  But living in the forest means you are also at risk of fire danger.  The best way to protect yourself and your home from a forest fire is by making sure you have enough defensible space around your home.

You can get more information on defensible space and other fire safety topics at Fire Defensible Space at Your Home.

9. Do You Have a Boat?

From a small fishing boat all the way up to luxury sailing yachts, Lake Tahoe is home to some of the best boating around.  If you want to be able to step out your back door and walk a few feet onto your boat, you will need to find a home on the shoreline.  Your options for having easy direct access to your boat are:

  • Lakefront Homes are in the higher price range than other Tahoe homes.  Most come with their own private or shared piers and docks and offer a private setting for those people who want the full Lake Tahoe experience.
  • Tahoe Keys is the only development of its kind – a unique private 750-acre marina resort community of 1220 homes and 335 town-homes sitting on eleven miles of inland waterways.

Can’t afford a lakefront home?  Don’t worry.  There are plenty of marinas and private boat docks you can rent to keep your boat in the water during the Summer.  You can also store your boat at your house and use one of the 18 ramps around the Lake.

10. World Class Ski Resorts

Lake Tahoe boasts one of the largest concentrations of ski resorts in the world.  The 12 unique mountain resorts offer a world-class experience for any level of skier, snowboarder, or cross-country enthusiast over 935 trials and 184 chairlifts.

Most locals have a specific resort that is their favorite for a multitude of reasons.  They may want some serious moguls, epic tree skiing, or deep powder back-country.  Finding a home located near your favorite resort makes it super convenient to get from your living room to the lift in a short period of time.  You can also take advantage of the resorts free shuttle services.

With resorts surrounding the entire Lake, no matter where your Tahoe home is located the slopes are always close by.

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