Before you choose to buy vacant land in South Lake Tahoe, there are some things you should know! First of all, you will want to find a lot that has the physical characteristics that you want such as location, topography, views, size, ect… More importantly there are the local regulations, codes, and restrictions that the TRPA and the local building departments have implemented and enforce. I feet that the most important items to think about when choosing lots in South Lake Tahoe are IPES scores, coverage, and Allocations.
IPES stands for Individual Parcel Evaluation System. Each vacant lot in Lake Tahoe has been given an IPES score ranging from 0 to 1017 based on relative erosion hazard, runoff potential, access, stream environment zones, condition of local watershed, ability to re-vegetate, the need for water quality improvements near that parcel, and the distance from Lake Tahoe. The build-able IPES score for El Dorado County has recently been reduced to 1, which means that any of the lots in South Lake Tahoe with an IPES score of 1 or greater may apply for a building allocation. Although lots with an IPES of less than 726 may now be buildable, they may not have sufficient coverage to build. Additionally, coverage for lots with IPES below 726 is scarce, and can be very expensive! I advise my clients to find a lot with an IPES above 726 or make sure that it has enough coverage for your project.
Vacant lots in South Lake Tahoe are given a percentage of ground coverage that may be developed. For example, an 8000 square foot lot that has been allowed 30% coverage (30% is the maximum allowable coverage for lots over 6000 sf.) has 2400 square feet of ground coverage. What this means is that 2400 square feet of the lot can be covered with impervious structure such as the foot print of the building, driveway, walkways, decks, stairs, ect… . It is possible to build a 2800 square foot two story home with 1800 square feet of coverage. If a lot less than 9000 sf. has less than 1800 sf. of coverage, or if a lot over 9000 sf. has less than 20% coverage, it may possible to transfer or purchase additional coverage. Additional coverage may be transferred from a parcel within the same hydrological area from a parcel with an equal or lower IPES. However there are guidelines to the amount of allowable coverage each size lot can have. The maximum allowable coverage is 1800 sf. for lots that are between 4001 and 9000 sf. and a maximum of 20% for lots over 9001 sf. . Remember coverage for lots with IPES below 726 in all hydrological areas is scarce and expensive. Coverage for lots with IPES above 726 is also becoming harder to find in some hydrological ares, and may or may not be available by the time you are ready to build. Again, to be safe, I recommend that you choose a lot that has enough coverage for your planned project.
When you are planning to build a homes in South Lake Tahoe is another consideration. To build on your lot you will need a building allocation. There are a couple of ways to obtain an allocation. If your lot is in the City of South Lake Tahoe, you can get on the waiting list at the city building department by bringing in your grant deed, proof from the TRPA that the lot is buildable , and a check for $1300. The wait can be from 9 to 11 years! If the lot is not in the city, but the county, bring the same information to the El Dorado County Building Department and wait 3 to 5 years. Another option is to but a lot that already has an allocation. Lots that have allocations are available at usually a higher price than those without allocations. A third option is to purchase and then deed restrict a sensitive parcel so the parcel may noe be developed in the future. The TRPA will assign an allocation to the parcel to be developed. These sensitive parcels have been selling for around $70,000. For lots with IPES above 726 there is one more option. A residential unit of use ( these come from tearing down and existing structure) can be transferred to a parcel with a development right, this together will give the parcel an allocation.
I hope that this information will help you to make an educated decision when choosing to buy vacant Lots in South Lake Tahoe!