What to consider before buying a vacation home in Tahoe

Published Date: October 19, 2023

Lake Tahoe Modern home exterior
Dreaming of a vacation home in Lake Tahoe? Who wouldn’t be, with its crystal-clear alpine waters, stunning vistas and endless year-round recreation opportunities. But before you take the plunge (the water’s cold!), here are five key questions to ask yourself. 

1. What type of home fits my needs? 

As a popular multi-season vacation and recreation destination, Tahoe offers all kinds of properties, from condos and timeshares to single-family homes and full-fledged mountain chalets. Vacation home owners in Tahoe tend to pick properties based on their personal interests — would you rather be close to one of Lake Tahoe’s six world-class ski resorts, or along the shores of the lake for summer watersports? Simply put: What kind of memories are you hoping to make in Lake Tahoe? (More on Tahoe’s specific neighborhoods below.)

2. How much can I afford?

Just like any real estate purchase, what you can afford comes down to your interest rate, down payment amount and your level of comfort with the monthly payment. When considering a Tahoe vacation home, however, there are a couple more factors you should keep in mind. First, you may be considering using the home as a vacation rental, given the area’s popularity with tourists. If so, you’ll need to factor in property management fees, increased maintenance costs and potential tax intricacies. Second, Lake Tahoe gets an average of 200-plus inches of snow each year, so winter maintenance like snow removal is crucial to keeping your home in good condition, and it can be expensive — as well as tricky to manage from afar. To maximize your vacation home budget, consider buying a Pacaso. As a co-owner of a second home in Lake Tahoe, you can enjoy all the benefits of ownership without the full price tag. Instead, you could own a budget-friendly ⅛ share of a property that might otherwise be out of reach. 

3. Where should I buy in Tahoe?

Believe it or not, there’s no actual city called “Lake Tahoe.” The famous lake is called Lake Tahoe, of course, but the name also refers to the entire area surrounding this recreation destination. The lake itself straddles the California-Nevada border, and the biggest towns are on the north and south ends of the lake, as well as along the Truckee River. Here’s a quick rundown: 
  • Tahoma: The town of Tahoma, California, is on the western shore of the lake. A popular summer destination for outdoor enthusiasts, Tahoma offers seemingly endless hiking trails and is home to gorgeous Meeks Bay Beach. 
  • Truckee: With a charming historic downtown, a vibrant cultural scene and easy access to North Lake Tahoe’s most popular ski resorts, Truckee is (not surprisingly) a very popular vacation home location. 
  • Incline Village: This hilly enclave boasts magnificent mountain estates and ample activities. Summer brings the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and adrenaline-pumping mountain biking, while winter sees skiers flocking to Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe and the Diamond Peak Ski Area, the latter of which is within city limits. 
  • Tahoe City: The small mountain town has an enviable location where the Truckee River meets Lake Tahoe’s north shore. Residents of Tahoe City love its walkable downtown, lakefront boardwalk and historic sites (some of which just may be haunted). 
  • Olympic Valley: Located halfway between Truckee and Lake Tahoe, Olympic Valley is considered one of the best places to ski in the U.S. Since hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) has been a haven for experienced skiers looking for long, steep runs. 
  • South Lake Tahoe: The largest of the cities surrounding the lake, South Lake Tahoe offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities, casinos and nightclubs, or outdoor recreation. 

4. How often will I use the home?

According to our Second Home Sentiment Report, only 25.6% of second home owners used their home more than four weeks a year. Close to a third said they use their home more in the wake of Covid-19, but over half say they use it the same amount. What’s more, among would-be vacation home owners, almost 17% say they won’t use the home enough to justify the purchase. When you buy with Pacaso, you can co-own as much of a single-family home as you’ll use for just a fraction of the cost of full ownership — and you’ll never have to worry about it sitting unused. 

5. Would renting it out cover my ownership costs?

When you’re buying a second home in a popular destination like Lake Tahoe, it can be tempting to try to recoup some of your ownership costs by turning it into a vacation rental. However, the vacation rental market in Lake Tahoe is highly seasonal, with the bulk of rentals taking place during the relatively short winter and summer recreation seasons. And, when you factor in property management fees, it can be hard to make short-term rentals pencil out. In addition, short-term rental regulations in some municipalities can restrict owners from offering nightly rentals of their properties. One benefit of Pacaso is that homes are occupied only by owners and their guests, and they are never rented. This means you are free to enjoy your second home without the stress and hassle of managing a rental property. 

Discover your Lake Tahoe second home with Pacaso

If snowy winters, sun-kissed summers and incredible natural beauty are your top criteria for a second home destination, Lake Tahoe might be just the right place for you. Take the first step by viewing our Tahoe listings and learning more about Pacaso co-ownership.

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Jen Lyons

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