The national economy has been inching south for months and many dot-coms have turned to toast, but for Shari Chase, business has been heating up like a Nevada summer day — her Lake Tahoe-based real estate company reported more than $200 million in revenues last year. This year, Chase anticipates reaching a company record of $230 million.
During the mid-1980s, Shari Chase found herself torn over whether to remain in the Bay Area or move to British Columbia. Nearing the end of a big development project that had consumed all her time, Chase was ready for a change of scenery. During a work-related visit to Lake Tahoe, she quickly forgot about her previous living options. “Lake Tahoe, without a doubt, is one of the most beautiful spots in the world,” she said. “There is a uniqueness here. It’s very spiritual.”
Chase relocated to Incline Village, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. The community, which boasts a population of 10,000, consists of 9,000 acres of lakefront property, two golf courses, a ski area, three private beaches and a variety of shops.
Chase did more than settle down in Incline Village — in 1986, she decided to start selling it by establishing Chase International Distinctive Properties. “When I was visiting Lake Tahoe before I started my company, I realized this was an untapped market,” said Chase.
Chase International targets high-end clients with a hefty pocketbook seeking luxury homes. Most properties average around $1 million, exhibit charm and provide a sense of retreat, said Chase, now president and CEO of the firm. “People don’t come to Lake Tahoe to do business. They come to Lake Tahoe to do life,” she said. “I originally started this to provide a service to the wealthiest people in the world who were looking to obtain sales and acquisitions. Not trying to be all things to all people has allowed us to target a specific market. We don’t take a listing just to take a listing. It has to fit our criteria.” Less than a decade after opening the doors to her business, Chase landed a high profile deal — arranging the sale of the Thunderbird Lodge, which was ultimately sold to the Del Webb Company for $50 million. The three-year deal marked the highest price ever paid for a private home in the nation.
In recent years, Chase has expanded the company’s services and locations. Chase International now has three offices in Nevada, two in California and one in London. The company is also associated with Leading Estates of the World magazine and offers a concierge service to its clients. From finding a trendy restaurant in Lake Tahoe to sending chocolates to Turkey, Chase said no task is too big for its concierge service.
Despite the healthy revenues last year, reports of economic turbulence have not been lost on Chase. “It has put a damper on our business,” she said. “The majority of our business is from the West Coast. We have the utility crisis in California, and Silicon Valley has taken a hit. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the coming months.”
Chase said that while inventory was hard to come by last year, this year she is finding herself having to educate property owners. “There are fewer runners in the race right now. Buyers have more to choose from,” she said. “We did notice that between January and June, the market had certainly softened up. But we tend to have our best months coming up and we anticipate a record sales year.”