Barrons’ Twenty Best Places to Buy a Second Home: North Lake Tahoe, California

North Lake Tahoe Gay Real EstateFor second homes in America’s most affluent locations, the past year was ugly. No way else to describe it. Median home prices were down 50% in North Lake Tahoe, and 44% on Martha’s Vineyard, to cite two examples.

Last year was brutal for second homes in the nation’s most affluent areas. But the market is firming up again. Here’s our list, expanded to 20 sites, for those seeking top-tier refuges.

Squaw Valley was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, the second one held in the U.S. Last September, KSL Capital Partners (of La Costa and Hotel del Coronado) took majority control of a company that merged the Squaw resort with neighboring Alpine Meadows and pledged to pump $50 million into the area. Combined with Vail Resort’s 2010 acquisition of nearby Northstar-at-Lake Tahoe and recent purchase of Kirkwood Mountain, that adds up to more investment in ski operations, mostly on the north shore, than practically anywhere else in the country. A recent problem in the area has been a dearth of natural snow.

Hedge-fund managers and tech executives dine on the seared foie gras of Chef Traci Des Jardins at Manzanita, located in Northstar’s two-year-old Ritz-Carlton. In 2011, a syndicate led by Bank of America bought the formerly troubled Ritz-Carlton hotel property at auction, while the Martis Camp development sold $91 million worth of land and homes.

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