Real estate sales around the lake top $1 billion for the first time ever in 2020

Dan Field
Real estate "Sold" sign

A year ago, the country was reeling from the declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us were urged to stay at home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Some areas of the country were placed on lockdown, schools and businesses were shuttered and store shelves were quickly wiped clean of all things – toilet paper, paper towel and tissue paper.

The panic had set in.

We at the Lake of the Ozarks feared we’d be in for potentially economic disaster since we, as a resort area, rely heavily on sales tax revenue generated by our friends the tourists to survive, and property values upon which real estate taxes are based. Nearly every public entity locked down for more than a month with the exception of essential services. Employees were either furloughed or laid off. Businesses recalculated their 2020 business plans in the anticipation of a significant economic downtown.

But an interesting thing happened in late April. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson lifted the stay-at-home order, leaving lockdown decisions to local governments. The Lake of the Ozarks leaders decided to follow public health and CDC recommendations and opened their doors – with public health restrictions.

Consequently, the Lake became a favorite escape for Missourians and others from across the country. Lodging facilities quickly filled as did lakefront swimming pools at waterfront restaurants. Bars and restaurants were busy, retail business surged, construction projects sprung up and everyone began to smile.

Now, with the tourist season of 2021 just around the corner, optimism abounds.

Boat dealers and marinas reported record sales during 2020; cities and counties reported better-than-expected retail sales revenue; builders reported they were busier than possibly ever before with new homes and major remodeling projects.

And get this – the Bagnell Dam Association of Realtors reported sales of all types of real estate topped $1 billion for the first time ever.

A critical yardstick of how well the lake economy does is reflected in new construction. It all adds to the tax base. Those numbers as well show that 2020 was, in fact, a pretty good year.


Most communities in the lake area had solid construction value numbers for 2020 despite the anticipated economic calamity that never really materialized here.

Lake Ozark led the way with combined retail and commercial values of $10.33 million for the year based on building permits. Residential construction was estimated at $8.9 million of that total with commercial ventures totaling $1.4 million.

That’s actually down a bit from 2019 which saw construction values of $13.2 million. However, that included new construction at School of the Osage estimated at $6.6 million. Remove that single item from Lake Ozark’s 2019 total and construction values were $7.25 million.

Osage Beach wasn’t far behind with 2020 construction values of $7.4 million, down slightly from 2019 figures of $8.2 million. Of those 2020 totals, $4.8 million was residential and $2.6 million was commercial.

In Camdenton for 2020, total construction value was $4.28 million – $3.1 million residential and $1.15 million commercial. In 2019, total construction value was $3.78 million with 754,000 residential and $3.03 million commercial.

Camden County is the only of the three counties in the lake area that has a Planning and Zoning Department, and it appears 2020 has been good to the county.

Total construction value for 2020 was $101,105,422, more than double the 2019 construction value of $50,738330.

The whopping total for 2020 included several houses valued at well more than $1 million.