Arrowhead’s New Marks

TIMES STAFF WRITER; Jesus Sanchez can be reached at (213) 237-7114 or by e-mail at

Despite having to commute up and down the side of a mountain each day, Riverside attorney Tim Hill has no complaints after recently moving into a new home in Lake Arrowhead.

“The air is clean and we actually have four seasons,” said Hill, 40, who along with wife Diane and three children moved into a $740,000 house in the Cedar Ridge section of Lake Arrowhead earlier this year. “You actually get to know and visit your neighbors.”

Hill is one of the many new buyers of year-round and vacation homes who have given a much-needed boost to the battered real estate market in Lake Arrowhead and surrounding hamlets in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The economic rebound in Southern California has prompted many residents to buy a second home as a mountain retreat, with some of the most coveted properties hugging the rocky shores of Lake Arrowhead.

The median price for Lake Arrowhead homes sold in October jumped 12.4% from the same month last year to $179,000, according to the California Assn. of Realtors and Transamerica Intellitech, a real estate research firm. Sales volumes at some of the mountain-top brokerages is up 15% over 1996, and about a dozen homes priced above $1 million have sold this year.


Agent Glenn Wehrle sold a $1.7-million waterfront property to an Orange County couple after only three weeks on the market.

“It’s been a slow recovery . . , but we have seen a lot of activity recently,” Wehrle said. “I’ve had one of my best years.”

Newport Beach resident Rosemarie Johnson said she and her family had considered buying a second home in Idaho before deciding it was too far. Instead, they bought a five-bedroom house with a boat dock on Lake Arrowhead, which is about a 90-minute drive from the Johnsons’ home.

“It’s just the epitome of living in Southern California,” Johnson said. “We live at the beach, and less than an hour and a half later we can be up there where there is snow.”

Lake Arrowhead has also benefited from an increase in home buyers looking for year-round residences. Such buyers used to account for only 30% of the homes sold by Mark Sanderson, owner of Coldwell Banker Skyridge Realty. Now, nearly 45% of home sales are to people who want to make a permanent home “up on the hill,” as residents describe their lofty locale.

As more permanent newcomers buy property, home builder Peter Rossi is finding himself building fewer A-frame vacation homes and more residences that would fit comfortably into any upscale suburban setting. The new homes are more functional for year-round residents and come with standard suburban features--such as enclosed two-car garages--that were often omitted from cabins and other rarely used vacation homes.

“People used to come up for A-frame cabins, and now you can’t give them away,” Rossi said.

Many professionals have been able to enjoy a mountain lifestyle and keep their flatland jobs by telecommuting, said Phil Jaffe, president of the Lake Arrowhead Chamber of Commerce. In fact, Jaffe said he wants to promote the area as an ideal place for people who run their businesses out of their homes. “It’s a great place for a home-based business,” he said.


A Rebound for Retreat

More people are buying year-round and vacation homes in the Lake Arrowhead area, giving the battered real estate market there a much needed boost.