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South Lake Tahoe takes top spot as most popular U.S. city for 2021, according to Zillow


View of a large home surrounded by trees at twilight
Last year’s most expensive homes include property linked to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s family as Tahoe breaks the record for the number of pricey homes.

North Lake Tahoe typically gets most of the attention when it comes to record-breaking multimillion-dollar mansion sales. It was neighboring South Lake Tahoe, however, that took the No. 1 spot as the best U.S. city last year, according to Zillow.

South Lake Tahoe was named the top overall city in real estate company Zillow’s “Most Popular Places of 2021” list. The list looked at thousands of ZIP codes based on page view traffic, housing inventory, price appreciation and other metrics that indicate consumer demand.

The destination’s famed blue waters combined with its location and chill lifestyle rocketed South Lake Tahoe high up on Zillow’s online site, scoring 5,469 page views per listing.

Check out: Top 5 most expensive Lake Tahoe properties sold in 2021

“South Lake Tahoe boasts vacation-style living along the largest freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada,” Zillow noted in its list. 

“Lake Tahoe offers home buyers a small-town vibe, with an easy commute to the Bay Area and Sacramento to the west, and Carson City and Reno to the east,” Zillow added.

The accolade further adds to what has been a banner year for Lake Tahoe real estate. The Tahoe region saw sales of 10 homes priced above $20 million in 2021, which is an all-time high, according to real estate firm Chase International.

View of boats on the river
Boats ply the waters of Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe, near South Lake Tahoe, Calif., in Aug. 8. 2017 file photos. Rich Pedroncello, AP

South Lake Tahoe alone saw its median home price increase from $482,500 in 2019 to $749,000 in 2021, according to Compass Real Estate. 

Part of the reason for the surge in interest in Tahoe housing in the last two years is being attributed to changing mindsets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased acceptance of working from home.

An influx of Bay Area residents moving to Tahoe is also gobbling up available supply, said Sue Lowe, president and corporate broker for Chase International. 

“This is being driven by COVID lifestyle changes and lack of inventory,” Lowe said. “We still have nothing to sell.”

Five other cities made Zillow’s list of most popular places.

Calabasas, California

Boasting celebrity residents and typical home values of $1.5 million, this southern California city was named the “most popular small town” in Zillow’s list. The category is for cities with a population between 15,000 and 25,000.

Big Bear Lake, California

Another Southern California city, Big Bear Lake made the list as the “most popular vacation town.” The city, which has one of the highest numbers of homes classified as secondary or vacation homes, boasts plenty of outdoor amenities such as lakes and mountain trails.

Newport, Oregon

California may have nabbed honors for the most popular small town and vacation town. The claim for best beach city, however, goes to a place in Oregon. This city on Oregon’s central coast, which saw one of the highest numbers of Zillow listings with the word “beach” in its description, had a typical home value of $428,534.