In Camden County alone, the total assigned real estate taxes in 2019 were $74.08 million. Of that total, $60 million came from real estate taxes and $14 million from personal property taxes.

Real estate. It’s the economic engine that helps drive growth and prosperity at the Lake of the Ozarks. 

In Camden County alone, the total assigned real estate taxes in 2019 were $74.08 million. Of that total, $60 million came from real estate taxes and $14 million from personal property taxes.

Numbers are slightly less for Miller and Morgan counties, but the ratio is the same.

And we all benefit.

Our schools, fire districts, roads and bridges, libraries, senior citizens and, of course, the counties and state all get a piece of the pie. Each of the taxing entities has its own tax levy upon which the amount they receive is calculated.

So, the health of the real estate market is critical in sustaining the services we enjoy. The Lake painfully remembers what happened from 2007-2012. On December 30, 2008, the Case–Shiller home price index reported its largest price drop in its history.

But Realtors — and lenders — in general are a happy lot these days as the economy and real estate have rebounded significantly. Real estate sales on both the east and west sides of the Lake are good. Numbers in nearly every category showed growth from 2018-2019. 

The Bagnell Dam Association of Realtors, headquartered in Osage Beach, saw total volume of sales jump 6.23 percent from 2018-2019. And get this: From 2016 to 2019, total sales volume skyrocketed 29.7 percent. 

The Lake of the Ozarks Board of Realtors data shows prices increased from 2018-2019 in all categories except vacant lots. The LOBR shares the MLS (multiple listing service) with the BDAR.

The LO Board of Realtors saw waterfront single family home prices increase 3 percent, enjoyed an 11.7 percent increase in offshore homes, a 6.6 percent increase in condo sale prices and a 4.9 percent hike in villas. 

The average list price increased for all types of properties on the west side from 2018-2019 by 5.4 percent; the average sale price for all properties on the westside increased 6.3 percent.

According to MLS data compiled by Helen Riggins of Helen Is Sellin’ Team RE/MAX at the Lake, 45.4 percent of all property types were sold on the west side in 2019, indicating a relatively balanced market on both sides of the Lake.

But there are challenges ahead.

“Overall, the demand is very high, but the inventory is low,” Riggins noted.

In other words, it’s a seller’s market.

“We don’t have enough inventory to meet the demand except in vacant lot sales, and that category has been stagnant for several years,” she added.

As of Jan. 10, there were only 324 waterfront homes on the market, and that’s along 1,100 miles of shoreline. The offshore market across the entire Lake only has 360 homes for sale.

“I’ve been selling the Lake of the Ozarks lifestyle for more than 45 years, and I don’t ever remember the inventory situation like this,” she noted. “Buyers are clamoring and it’s not there.”

Buyers want waterfront homes in the $200,000 to $400,000 range and the inventory is lacking, she said. 

“Everyone wants to be on the water, in a deep cove with a gentle terrain and it’s just not there in that price category,” the veteran Realtor said.

Nancy Rogers of Lake Buy Realtor, another westside venue, says her company has seen steady growth in sales prices since the market hit bottom in 2015 — lagging behind the rest of the country, as is often the case. She has seen sale prices increase an average of 3-5 percent a year.

“With interest rates remaining low, more and more people are able to afford a second home at the Lake,” she pointed out. “And Lakefront property continues to be a great investment opportunity, with many people opting to use their second home as a vacation rental when they aren’t occupying it.”

Conda Davidson, of eXp Realty, LLC, in Lake Ozark, has the same take on the market.

“The Lake of the Ozarks market continues to remain strong due to limited inventory. The general principal of supply and demand is creating this market trend,” she noted. “But all property is unique and requires an in-depth market analysis to be accurate.”

The largest increase in volume growth and average sales price was seen in the commercial segment as the Lake market continues to grow, Davidson explained. Recent improvements in highway infrastructure opened up additional property availability and demand. The only significant decline in volume and average price was seen in the over $1 million market which decreased in total sales volume by 21 percent and average sales price by 15 percent, according to the Association of Realtors (The BDAR and LO Board of Realtors MLS).

Riggins sees the real estate market as cyclical.

In the spring she sees a “feeding frenzy” with buyers who feel that they have to have a home for Memorial Day weekend. The next big wave of buyers is the group that has to be in by the 4th of July. The final wave of buyers comes right after Labor Day. 

“Those are the folks who have been down to the Lake and played all season and decide that they should have their own Lake home,” she explained.

But once Thanksgiving rolls around, or the weather gets bad, “we get very quiet until the ‘feeding frenzy’ starts again when the weather breaks in spring, she said.


Construction is Booming

A telltale sign that a real estate market is doing well is in new home construction and remodeling, and commercial construction. It’s a sign of confidence as lenders become more likely to lend on new construction, seeing less of a likelihood of repossessions or foreclosures. Future homeowners share that confidence behind a stronger economy and improved job market.

“Our market is very solid if not crazy right now,” Otto Construction owner Tony Otto says. “We have been very busy the last 10 years and we feel like this year will be the same.”

New custom homes on the Lakefront are doing well for most custom builders, he said, noting that most builders are six to eight months out from being able to even start a home.

New spec home construction on the water has picked up as well in recent years, he noted, citing recent development of the old Shooters 21 property.

New spec home construction off the water has also picked up over the last year, Otto pointed out.  

“In my opinion, it feels like we are getting more people to move to the Lake area and the demand for housing in general has really picked up. We are seeing a steady rise in the prices for off-water properties, which in turn has spurred a few builders to increase their spec building activity out on Horseshoe Bend.  It has been a long time since we have seen that kind of activity in the off-water, full-time housing market.”

The remodeling market at the Lake, another significant barometer of a healthy real estate scene, has been great for a number of years on primarily Lakefront properties, Otto said.  

“And we do not see that letting up this year, either,” the long-time builder said. The projects are numerous, and the size of those projects continues to climb.   

“We feel this is due to people enjoying their current location and not being able to find that ‘upgrade’ house in a better location, so they are just making their existing homes into what they want by adding on or remodeling,” Otto said.  

With Quaker Windows, a major window manufacturer under construction in Eldon, there is a growing housing demand in that community of more than 4,700. 

“I really think a bright spot on the local area is the demand in Eldon for quality housing.  They are going through a large boom and it is awesome to see Eldon doing so well,” Otto offered.   

Another Lake-area builder, Chad Backsen of Backsen Development and Construction, echoes the outlook of his fellow builder.

“Construction at the Lake is booming,” he said. “There seems to be an increase in custom homes, remodels and commercial projects going up around the Lake area. I have been fortunate enough to be able to focus on high-end Lakefront homes but have also enjoyed some really great middle-income homes as well.”

He has completed more new construction homes than remodels in the past 12-18 months, but he says there is a lot of remodeling going on around the Lake.   

Backsen sees a collaborative effort Lake wide in boosting the industry.

“We have some great subcontractors to work with who offer competitive pricing and quality work. And thanks to some guidelines by the fire departments, homeowner’s associations, etc., we have more cohesive guidelines for all builders to follow.”
Challenges for builders?

“The most expensive and exciting thing about building at the Lake is the elevation changes of the ground. When building on a steep lot, the concrete and excavating can be a challenge,” he said.   

Additionally, many Lake-area lots require an engineered sewer due to a lack of a central sewer system in many areas. These can be costly and take up a lot of space.  

“But it’s worth the expense to keep our Lake clean,” he said.

Backsen adds another challenge, one that is shared by nearly every employer at the Lake.  

“We could also use additional skilled labor in the industry,” he said.


Follow the Numbers

Data compiled from Camden and Miller counties, and Osage Beach, Lake Ozark and Camdenton reflect what Otto and Backsen say and what is evident around the Lake area.

“There’s a ton of construction going on,” Camden County Chief Deputy Assessor Byron Willis said. 

People are not only building new homes, they’re getting permits for all types of renovations and additions, he said. Not all of 2019 information has been compiled yet, but 141 permits were on the books. That compares to 170 in 2018, but Willis expects the final 2019 numbers to show growth.

Last year, the Camden County Planning and Zoning Department issued 140 permits. Of that total, 124 were for single-family residences, 15 for duplexes and one for a four-plex.

Approximate total value of the construction was $41.49 million, with $34.15 million for residences, $6.64 million for duplexes and $700,000 for the four-plex.

In Miller County, the appraised value of new construction for 2019 was $23,024,973. That's about $10 million shy of 2018 numbers, but Ameren Missouri undertook a massive project at Bagnell Dam that accounted for most of the difference. 

“There’s definitely more new construction — including renovations — in 2019 than in 2018,” he said.

In Camdenton last year, 107 permits were issued (including commercial and residential) for $4.35 million in estimated value. In 2018, Camdenton recorded 103 permits totaling $6.18 million in value.

In Osage Beach last year, there were 68 permits issued for new construction and renovations totaling $4.91 million. In 2018, Osage Beach issued 51 permits totaling $5.38 million.

In Lake Ozark last year, there was an estimated $13.24 million in new construction or renovation. Of that total, more than half -- $7.48 million – was for commercial construction, including some $7.2 million for the new School of the Osage Early Childhood Center on Bagnell Dam Blvd.

In Lake Ozark in 2018, total construction was estimated at $11.4 million, with $5.78 million commercial construction.

The bottom line: If you’re thinking of selling your property, now is the time to get your best return on investment. If you want to build a new home or make a renovation, there are numerous qualified contractors available.