Home Values Double over a Decade
It was an idea ahead of its time.
The year was 2004, and the idea was to create a new community near downtown Truckee to fill the niche between the more affordable (and higher elevation) homes of Tahoe Donner, and the more exclusive, gated community of Lahontan, where some of Tahoe's most celebrated architects were designing homes that felt like a page out of a Craftsman Bungalow on a scale approaching the Ahwahnee Hotel.
The community was named for Joseph Gray, a Truckee founding "father" of sorts whose cabin still stands as an historic landmark downtown. Early lot sales were brisk. Investors and spec home builders gobbled up the early offerings, and by 2007, some prime lots were fetching more than half a million. The "median" price for dirt that year was well north of $300,000, and the early spec homes were asking just under $2 million for 4-bedroom Crafstman-style homes in the 3,000-4,000 square foot range.
Pushing the Design Frontier
The very early spec homes in Gray's didn't depart radically from the look of the '90s, but some architects like Greg Faulkner pushed a new direction. One home he designed on Coburn in Gray's Crossing featured windows and doors with no casings (or just an oversized header for effect) with subway tiles, and clean, crisp lines.
Faulkner, ironically, had designed the Clubhouse at Lahontan, an old-style Lodge with big timbers, and granite that feels like Greene & Greene-meets-Mountain -- very unlike the home pictured above and many of his later designs that would push the contemporary look even further.
Lahontan Clubhouse, pictured above.
Then the Recession hit, and the bottom fell out. In 2008, no homes sold at Gray's Crossing, and prices began to plummet the following year. Amid a market that presented terrific opportunities for buyers with cash, some builders threw in the towel. (One bank-owned home under construction with expired permits went for $140k, less than a third of what the lot itself had sold for as bare land a few years before.)
By 2011, the median price of a lot in Gray's Crossing fell to just $35k. I bought a home near Gray's that same year, and, like a lot of people, I wish I had invested in Gray's instead because what happened next put Gray's on the map as a neighborhood pushing the envelope of contemporary design.
The gated community of Martis Camp led that movement in Tahoe with off-the-charts contemporary designs like this Scott Gillespie home that won the 2013 Tahoe Quarterly award for Modern Design (click here for the full article I wrote on this property).
While other communities like Lahontan resisted the push toward flat roofs and big walls of windows, Gray's Crossing was quick to embrace the new trend. Fast forward a few years, and buyer demand began to shift radically toward the new, cleaner look of what eventually came to be known as "Mountain Modern, a blend of Old and New. Travertine and slate gave way to subway tiles and limestone.
Some homes, like this 4-bedroom for sale in Gray's, paired reclaimed lumber with contemporary architecture for a unique twist on the Mountain Modern (click here to view):
Gray's Crossing Home Values Doubled over the Past Decade
The results speak for themselves. Over the past decade, home values at Gray's Crossing have regained the value set in the early years, and then some. In 2016-17, 43 homes changed hands in Gray's, and the median sales price of $1,460,000 was inching toward the prices we saw when Gray's Crossing was the new hot thing on the Truckee scene. Homes fetching the highest price tags were outstanding examples of the Mountain Modern motif -- done well.
The knock-off way to do it is with roofs framed from engineered trusses, faux beams slapped on a ceiling like fake eyelashes, and low-budget cabinets and doors. Buyers can tell the difference, and the knock offs tended to drag down the median sales price that year. True craftsmanship, on display in the Mountain Modern for sale above, never goes out of style.
Many homes, like the Greg Faulkner design featured above, have sold for double or more than what they did a decade ago. With Mountain Modern making its mark as an elegantly new Tahoe look , Gray's is well positioned to hold its value in the years to come.