It's been an interesting year for the Big Bear lakefront real estate market. With Big Bear Lake's water levels hitting a 50 year low, to say that lakefront home buyers have been hesitant is an understatement.
Before looking at the numbers, let's take a look at the history of ups and downs the lake has experienced over the years.
Note the fairly regular declines and quick refilling that Big Bear Lake has experienced several times in the past. Many people reason that the pattern above suggests that we will see a rebound in the lake levels this winter. Although no one can say with any certainty what will happen, it does seem plausible that we might see significantly higher water levels by next summer.
Regardless, many buyers have justifiably been hesitant to invest in lakefronts with the water level significantly down. This has resulted in a decline in lakefront home sales with only 10 closings so far this year. This is a measurable drop from the 23 Big Bear lakefronts that sold last year.
But there have been some lakefront sales nonetheless, as buyers are literally buying low in hopes of profiting when the lake's levels are once again high. It is no surprise that shallow water lakefronts, many with beached docks, see their values decline significantly when the lake's water level is so low. Some savvy buyers have been willing to buy these homes in anticipation of a more full lake in the near future. Although there is the risk of the lake's water levels continuing to decline, many of these homes will see $100,000 or more in appreciation simply by the lake filling up.
As well, many people who have dreamed on owning a Big Bear lakefront home but who have always been "priced-out" are now able to afford a waterfront property now that the low lake level has resulted in lower prices.
As a result, with most purchases being shallow water lakefront homes this year, the average and median sale prices have plummeted. The average sale price of a lakefront home last year was $1,380,257 as compared to this year's average sale price being only $768,740. Obviously, this does NOT mean lakefront values have declined by 40% on a whole. It means that the environmental conditions have resulted in a shift in the type of lakefronts that are being purchased, which are generally of a less expensive variety.
Ultimately, the Big Bear Lakefront real estate market relies in part on Mother Nature in determining values. If the 50 year pattern extends to the near future, we should see a significant rebound in sales. In 2004, the lake was over 17 feet from full, just one foot higher than it is now. After a very wet and snowy winter, the lake's water levels rebounded to just a few feet from full by the following May. The result? Lakefront sales almost doubled in 2005, with a record 43 sales in 2005!
So the outlook for the Big Bear lakefront real estate market will depend on what Mother Nature has in store for us this winter. If the past is any indication of the future, next year could be a pretty big one for Big Bear lakefront home sales!