Vacation homeowners help fire victims
By Elizabeth Daley
June 29, 2007
The idea came to realtor Larry Sabo when he was trying to find
a home for friends who had lost everything they owned in a fire
that has destroyed 229 homes so far near South Lake Tahoe: Empty
"The homes are already furnished and set up, so these people
can move right in and have stuff," Sabo said in an interview
Sabo estimates over 60 percent of homeowners in the South Lake
Tahoe area are vacationers, mostly from the San Francisco Bay
He has already managed to get 50 such homeowners to donate or
lease their homes to victims of the 3,100-acre fire that prompted
over 2,000 evacuations and is 60 percent contained since it began
Though the fire has not yet been extinguished, "the smoke's
cleared out," Sabo said, "everything's back to what
feels like normal."
However, since the fire started, the definition of normal has
been revised. "You are kind of on pins and needles trying
to see what the wind kicks up, a lot of people running around
with stuff in their trucks in case they have to leave," Sabo
"There are certain areas that are totally closed off because
they have caught people trying to loot, they made four or five
arrests. Everyone knows the local police so if you want to go
in [to burnt areas], you have to go with an escort."
Just a few years ago, the torched area near South Lake Tahoe
used to be home to more full time residents, said Sabo, who has
been a realtor in the area for 15 years.
"Within last five years, it's become a vacation area. Five
years ago, it was 80 percent owner occupied." Sabo said the
median price of homes in the area "went from $125,000 to
$425,000 over the last five or 10 years."
While the recent fire may devastate the local community, Sabo
said it's very hard to predict what the outcome may be for property
values. "We speculate it's actually going to improve the
real estate market because there are less homes. However, that
may be off-set by Bay Area people who don't want a home in a fire
Sabo said since the rise in prices, many people who work locally
could no longer afford to live in the South Lake Tahoe area. However,
since the fire, vacation homeowners are giving back to the community.
"I responded to Larry that we are interested in the possibility
renting for long term, possibly a year figuring that's how long
people will need," said vacation homeowner Dana Kreitter
of Los Altos.
Kreitter said his home is located between two and three miles
from where the fire began, at Upper Truckee Road and Seneca Drive
in South Lake Tahoe. "There are people there with pretty
extreme needs. In our case, our house would be in use for some
weekends per year, so it just seemed like a way to help the people
that really need it."
Sabo said most residents who lost their homes have home insurance,
so while they may not be able to re-furnish a new home, they do
have money to pay rent.
The Insurance Information Network of California reported yesterday
217 claims have already been filed for losses as a result of the
fire. "We are looking for a bit of generosity here,"
Those wishing to donate or lease their furnished vacation homes
to fire victims may contact Larry Sabo at email@example.com
or call 1800-987-SABO.
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