With approximately 140 houses, condos and freestanding condos currently for sale at the near end of May, a low inventory compared to this time last year, buyers have a limited, but diverse selection of properties from which to choose.

Since we do not have any tract housing and virtually all our single-family residences are custom homes, buyers are going to have to compromise on their "want" lists to buy a home here in North Lake Tahoe. Those who are waiting on the sidelines may find a property or two that meet some of their criteria with the combination of location, floor plan, view and price range they are seeking, but most likely not all.

The vast majority of North Lake Tahoe real estate buyers have their primary residence located outside of the area and are looking to relocate to Nevada. It's not often that we have a first-time buyer looking in our community, so most people are familiar with the property search process. But, there are a number of factors that can make finding just the right place challenging in our local market.

With all of the different subdivisions, slopes, elevation differences, snowfall variations and rental regulations, among other things, it's not a simple matter of just looking on the internet for a place with the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms that fits your budget.

Most MLS systems are divided into several different categories and it's important to search each one that is applicable to your personal situation. As a result, most agents will set up property searches for a typical buyer in the three main categories, which include houses, condos and freestanding condos (also known as PUDs for Planned Unit Development). However, the investment residential and tenant in common (TIC) categories also are worth monitoring if they are applicable to your search parameters.

It's important for agents and buyers to cast a wide net when searching for properties in our Tahoe market. Occasionally, a property with the attributes a buyer is seeking will be listed in a category other than where they have focused their primary search.

Many out of area buyers are only used to seeing houses and condos and are not familiar with the large variety of freestanding condo developments that we have in the basin. It requires the skills of a professional agent to educate buyers about this category of properties that could very well contain something of interest.

Free standing condos can be very attractive to a vacation home buyer because they often combine the best elements of a single-family home and a condo. Most freestanding condos are part of a small to medium-size development rarely exceeding 30 units. The homeowners association generally maintains the common areas, landscaping and snow removal and may provide exterior maintenance.

However, unlike a traditional attached condominium you do get your own four walls and sometimes a little slice of land depending on the development.

Buyers should take the price estimates that they find on home valuation services on the internet with a grain of salt. Estimates of property values that are created by a computerized algorithm are based more on dollars per square foot and the age of the structure than anything else.

These estimates on Zillow, Trulia, House Values and other services are mostly inaccurate when evaluating properties in communities such as those at Lake Tahoe. The Zillow algorithm does not know whether a house has been remodeled, comes with a panoramic lakeview, usable lot, coverage restrictions or dozens of other factors, all of which can have a dramatic effect on the value of a property here in the Tahoe Basin.

Buyers may wish to use relatively broad search criteria and look in property categories they might not have originally considered. Sometimes a buyer who was initially shopping for a condo because they did not want to do yard work will find a single-family home with a natural landscape that they fall in love with.

Also, search above your target price range because you never know when the seller of a property you like will do a significant price reduction.

Be creative in your property search and you just might find what you're looking for when you least expect it.

Sabrina Belleci and Don Kanare are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.