On the shift that works in all places, a rich tech crowd invades Lake Tahoe

The mood is ahead of COVID in San Francisco: Airpods, electric scooters, cafe coworking, and cash offers for million dollar homes.

In fact, the scene unfolds over three hours northeast on the shores of sparkling Lake Tahoe.

With many companies from the tech-heavy Bay Area working remotely, the cities around the expansive freshwater lake are becoming a haven for the elite of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In no time, migration changed the region – to the horror of some locals who fear Tahoe could become another overcrowded, unaffordable playground for the rich.

Tech company workers made up about a third of home buyers in an analysis identified by their employment history. The real estate market is sizzling: South Lake Tahoe home sales nearly doubled year over year in the summer, and rising prices are making it harder for locals to buy property. Bay Area transplants are also pushing their way to a cooperating company where they were once a minority in their own right.

The steps show how the pandemic can transform the way people work and live – especially those who have the resources to weather the crisis comfortably. In the US, city dwellers have fled to larger areas during the coronavirus lockdown, which boosted home sales in areas like the New York Hamptons or the Connecticut suburbs. However, in expensive California, the trend may last longer as businesses become more lenient and workers choose cheaper lifestyles.

Nate Carrier, a product manager at Google, retired to his cabin in Tahoe with his then-girlfriend LeAnna in March, expecting to stay a few weeks. As weeks turned into months, they moved from their two-bedroom apartment in Silicon Valley & # 39; s Mountain View, stored their belongings, escaped, and were housed in their home in Truckee City for the foreseeable future.

"We hike, play tennis, paddleboard, and spend most of our free time renovating our cabin," said Carrier. "A lot of employees are jealous. I don't take calls outside because I don't want to point out where I live."

While Carrier doesn't personally know anyone who followed him on I-80, some of its employees made the move too. In the past few months, at least six Google employees have bought homes in Truckee, a small town of around 16,700 residents, according to Atlasa, a data-driven real estate agent. At least six others have bought properties in El Dorado County, the location of the South Lake Tahoe tourist area. According to Google, employees will not have to return to their offices until summer 2021.

It's similar in the industry. Atlasa's analysis identified the employers of 363 of the 625 homebuyers in Truckee and El Dorado Counties from June to late August and found that about a third – 126 – of the buyers were in the technical field, including 10 from Facebook and nine from Apple. Migration will change Tahoe's demographics, said Deniz Kahramaner, Atlasa's founder and CEO.

"It will reflect the wealthy equivalent of the Bay Area, which is absurd to say because the Bay Area is already wealthy," said Kahramaner. "The top 30% of the top 1%."

South Lake Tahoe was "July Bananas" for the property market, said Sharon Kerrigan, executive vice president of the local real estate association. A total of 372 properties, including condos and townhouses, were sold from June to August, up from 197 in the same period last year. In the Tahoe Keys Lake community, the average home price rose nearly 15% to $ 976,000 in the twelve months to August.

"Inventory is very low, we're seeing multiple offers, cash offers, and invisible offers," said Ginger Nicolay-Davis, real estate agent and owner of Lake Tahoe Properties. "It's great, but you worry too: can a market like this keep that up?"

While many buyers typically buy houses to rent out as vacation homes, they often use them as second primary homes today, Nicolay-Davis said. She saw a tangential effect firsthand: her sixth grader had seven new students in his class this year.

On the Friday before Labor Day, protesters stood at a roundabout on the route travelers take from the Bay Area to South Lake Tahoe. About a dozen were gathered with signs saying "Stop littering" and "Flatlanders = noise, traffic, garbage, pollution".

Josh Lease from Tahoe helped organize the demonstrations. "The Bay Area techies are definitely moving here," he said, hoping the local government will find a response to deal with the increasing traffic and litter.

"Morale for locals is currently at an all-time low," said Lisa Utzig Schafer, 41, who has lived in South Lake Tahoe since she was five and has a small retail store there. "We're hoping for a really bad winter so all these people who buy houses can see how hard it is to live here all year round and then they move."

Still, there are advantages. The new crowd is more diverse, a welcome change, she said. And it was good for their shop, which sells Tahoe souvenirs, as well as jewelry and local art. While it is only open half of its normal hours of operation due to COVID-19, it accounts for more than two-thirds of its typical income. Last Labor Day was even better than the year before, she said.

Down the street from Schafer's store is the Tahoe Bike Company, where employee Ed Weber said he had the busiest season he can remember.

"I sold some e-bikes this summer," he said. But while the influx has been good for business, it is struggling to find a new home because the market is overcrowded with wealthy money buyers.

The area has also been a haven for Bay Area residents escaping fire and smoke-filled air, said David Orr, co-owner of Cowork Tahoe, a shared office in South Lake Tahoe that provided the work area to evacuees. Tahoe's air was clouded by the haze in the west, but was less affected by California's record blazes for now.

"We're all very nervous about the fire now," Orr said. "It's always been a big problem for Tahoe. We've had some pretty catastrophic fires."

Orr has seen the wider shift towards more permanent transplants in the region. Before March, his 140 or so clients at Cowork Tahoe were roughly 80% locals and 20% Bay Area folks who used the space part-time. Since reopening in June after a pandemic, makeup has been more like 50% locals and 50% technicians, many of whom have recently bought real estate.

For South Lake Tahoe Mayor Jason Collin, it is preferable that the Bay Area transplants settle full time rather than investor-owned rentals remain vacant. Voters recently passed a measure banning short-term rents in much of the city from next year to address the housing shortage and lower rental costs for local workforce. Still, he admitted that out-of-towers might gain the advantage instead.

"Buying a home for $ 600,000 or $ 800,000 is unlikely to be in sight for many locals," said Collins.

Further north, Truckee Mayor David Polivy is less convinced that any of these trends will continue. "Part of my daily job is separating the fear, hearsay, and rumor," he said. No, 500 new students didn't enroll in Truckee's school district. it's more like 60, which is typical.

Regardless, it prepares for population growth in budget and policy talks and debates whether to fund more police officers or increase road capacity – issues that need to be addressed once it is clearer whether it is a short-term pandemic trend or a permanent one Shift is about lifestyle for people fleeing major metropolitan areas.

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