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Pinellas County real estate: It’s not Silicon Valley

Real estate agents in two very different California markets are thinking that 2012 might be a banner year for high-end real estate sales. Even though these two markets are more than 200 miles apart, they are banking on the same circumstances to boost their high-end sales.

Silicon Valley, around the southern tip of San Francisco Bay

Silicon Valley, around the southern tip of San Francisco Bay

The two areas are San Francisco – or Silicon Valley, to be more specific – and Lake Tahoe, about 200 miles to the east. Real estate agents in both of those markets are thinking that economic developments in Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry might create a huge stimulus to high-end real estate sales in their areas.

A little history; the Lake Tahoe area has long been a favorite vacation spot for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Lots of high-tech CEOs and other highly compensated executives have long been drawn to the Lake Tahoe area on the California-Nevada border, just a four-hour drive from the San Francisco area.

One upcoming business event really has captured the attention of real estate agents both in Silicon Valley and in Lake Tahoe; the expected IPO of Facebook. That single event, if it takes place as expected, will create a new generation of Silicon Valley millionaires, many of them young adults with families.

Young, wealthy adults with families are a perfect fit for high-end lakefront properties in Tahoe.

The Tahoe market for million-dollar vacation properties has been depressed during the last few years, as you might expect. But the sales of premium Tahoe properties perked up during the third quarter of 2011, and observers of the market say Silicon Valley high-tech execs were right in the thick of those sales. Sales of those premium vacation properties stretched from a million dollars to four million or more.

Some buyers from the tech industry have snapped up vacation homes recently that run from $1 million to $4 million or more. Observers of the real estate scene in the Lake Tahoe area noted that one expensive lakefront development, Martis Camp, had 20 parcels bought up in the past year by executives for such high-tech companies as Google, Facebook and Apple, all based in Silicon Valley.

Facebook may be the biggest IPO player on the horizon, but it is not the only one. Ernst & Young says that 25 high-tech companies in the San Francisco Bay area are getting their Initial Public Offerings together.

“That’s all just great,” you may say. “But, really, what does all that have to do with real estate here in Tampa Bay? After all, Silicon Valley and Lake Tahoe couldn’t be much further away from here.”

True enough. But here is why I think this discussion is relevant:

Silicon Valley has Facebook, Google, Apple and literally hundreds of other high-tech companies. Most of them are doing really well. Somewhere around 25 of them are planning to go public very soon. When that happens, the high –end real estate markets in at least two separate geographic areas of California will boom. Sales of home in the middle price ranges should benefit, as well.

iStock_000016449443XSmallSo where is our Silicon Valley? Where are all the IPOs in Tampa Bay?

There isn’t one, and there aren’t any.

We don’t have a sluggish real estate market; we have a sluggish economy, with little in the way of good-paying jobs and bright financial futures.

I’m delighted for Silicon Valley and for the Lake Tahoe area. But their success may mean little to real estate’s big picture if we don’t find ways of igniting this country’s economy once again.

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