Ignore the gloomy economic headlines and the negative talking heads. This is the perfect time to buy real estate, especially in Lake Tahoe.
That’s the advice of multimillion-dollar real estate investor Larry Zavadil, mortgage lender Norm Hansen and luxury home Realtor Jerry Boren.
“It’s a challenged market,” said Hansen, managing partner at Amwest Mortgage in Zephyr Cove. “It’s also what I’m calling the perfect storm, meaning that in the mortgage business, the financial markets are so volatile that on any given day you can’t tell what the rates are going to be, except that they are low.”
Right now, home prices and mortgage financing rates are low, but it won’t stay that way, he warns. By the time the media and “talking news heads” start to find something positive to say about the economy, it will be 30 days too late for investors, he predicts.
“It’s actually the perfect time right now to do something,” Hansen said. “The fence sitters need to get that through their heads.”
Zavadil couldn’t agree more.
This Midwestern businessman has been building up his finances since his mid-20s in Glenwood, Minn., when he founded American Business Forms, now known as American Solutions for Business, in the basement of his home.
Today he owns 52 properties across the United States worth nearly $100 million. Four of those properties, worth more than $18 million and listed with The Boren Group are in Lake Tahoe. His properties up for sale include a private lakefront property on Lincoln Park Circle, another home in Zephyr Cove, Elks Point and two units that are ski-in, ski-out under construction in Quaking Aspen.
“We also have our eyes on some remodels in the Stagecoach area because that’s another hidden area that’s going to be revitalized in another 10 years,” he said. “We have $18 million invested in Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side. To me, it’s all Nevada. If you go to California, you might as well be in Sacramento. I just don’t see the value there. They just have so many more people. It’s not the same.”
Besides, he likes Nevada because of the “tax advantage,” the lifestyle and great investment value. He has property in Florida, and several properties in California, Minnesota and Texas. He believes that those areas are still the strongest areas to have his money, even when the market was the “stinkiest.”
Zavadil said the real estate market is a buyer’s market and the “cherry pickers” are out in full force, some from Europe and Canada. Zavadil, also president of Zavadil Development, said by the time the average buyer gets down to buying, the mortgage rates are really “going to be cooking,” probably another 10 percent higher than they are right now.
Zavadil’s development group is starting to raise prices on its properties.
“We’ve started to raise prices on our projects around the country because we’ve passed the bottom,” he said. “The reason I say this is that people are waiting for mortgage rates to get down to 4.7 percent. By the time it hits, they’re going to miss 10 to 15 percent appreciation on real estate property. There is a pent-up demand.”
That pent-up demand, some experts say, is centered in Lake Tahoe, also known in some circles as the “secret hideaway” of the rich and famous. Few people know the pulse of the Tahoe luxury real estate market better than Boren, managing partner of The Boren Group, an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s Great Estates. As a Realtor and broker in Nevada and California, his 43 years experience has earned him the title of one of the best known agents of luxury homes in Northern Nevada.
He sells the “sizzle” in Tahoe, meaning the lifestyle: the skiing, the beaches, the casinos, fine restaurants and privacy for those seeking a peaceful, autonomous environment to relax in.
“We had the best lakefront selling season in Tahoe in the year 2007,” he said. “We sold more lakefront properties than ever before.”
To Hansen there is “absolutely no question” that when the markets are in turmoil they will eventually correct themselves.
“So while they’re in turmoil there is blood in the streets and you should act,” he said.
Still, there are two things to keep in mind. This is not the time to buy on margin, even if you could.
“They’re going to make you have some skin in the game,” he said. “They want you to take some physical ownership, which is good because that allows you to be in the game.”
Boren expects the real estate game to be even better in 2008 and agrees with Hansen and Zavadil that now is the time to buy. Any negative news about the economy, foreclosures, price of oil or political drama just rolls off his back.
“Negative news is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “I’ve been a Realtor for more than 40 years and I have said this over and over again. Every time we have hit a recession or something to that effect, I would love to go out and do training sessions with Realtors to get them out of their state of mind. Their negativity feeds off of one another.”
To Boren the market has flipped around thanks to the baby boomers, the postwar kids that have grown up wanting more than their parents. They want the best homes in the right neighborhoods.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” he said. “They want gorgeous homes better than what they’ve been raised in or are living in right now. They want a place where their kids and grandkids are going to visit. That’s one factor. The other is that now, more than ever before, people have better second homes in Lake Tahoe than they have, let’s say, in the Bay Area.”
He notes that a lot of astute wealthy buyers are looking at Lake Tahoe. There is a supply and demand factor going on and “no other place” in the United States can meet what the area has to offer.
“Lake Tahoe is second to none across the United States,” he said. “Years ago when I came up here, the inside rim (of Tahoe) was in 21 percent private ownership. Since then it’s been bought back by the forestry service, the state of California or Nevada, or the federal government. It’s now down to 13 percent private ownership. It’s an economic principle that when you have less and less (land) and more and more people, something has got to give.”
He recalls that when he first met Zavadil, he told Boren that the “most valuable property he has ever invested in is Lake Tahoe.”
“Here’s a guy who puts his money where his mouth is,” Boren said.
Throughout the years Zavadil has survived the worst of the economy and still made money.
“Yes, we survived the worst,” he said. “We just got moving around and waited for the bubble to burst again because it’s really a mental thing. What’s going to happen by the time the TV or USA Today states the market is back, you’re going to miss by 30 days or more.
“People who sit back and watch the news don’t have a clue,” he added. “So the media really drives the mind-set. Perception becomes the reality and that’s what they live by.”
Meanwhile, as the economy continues its roller coaster ride up and down, Zavadil invests and enjoys his life, especially in Lake Tahoe.
“At the end of the day when they put you in the ground what do you take with you?” he asks. “It’s the people that do it who are successful and do other things successfully as well. They love the thrill of the hunt and the challenge.
“They take risks. When other people walk, they run. When people run, they walk.”