Lake Havasu City, AZ is one of the more unique retirement and vacation locations in the United States. The city has grown significantly since its humble beginnings in the early sixties, but although there has been a progression and regression in housing in Lake Havasu that has loosely followed the national market, there have also been several anomalies that have improved real estate values in Lake Havasu, and they might surprise you.
Robert Paxton McCulloch was an entrepreneur and real estate developer who founded Lake Havasu City in 1963. He had made a large amount of money in the chainsaw business under a brand that bore his name, and had diversified this business into several others, one of which was the development of land and communities. When McCulloch founded it, he realized that the remote location would provide several challenges to attracting tourists, as there was really not much reason to visit except to relax on the Colorado River and enjoy the obvious water sports and boating that accompany a close proximity to lakes and rivers. McCulloch purchased the London Bridge and reconstructed it to span the river, completing the project in 1971 and creating an instant tourist attraction that began bringing both tourism and revenues to the community. What started as an Army rest stop in 1958 had become a retirement and vacationing community, complete with a world class tourist attraction.
The booms of Lake Havasu tourism came later, when it became one of the leading spring break destinations for college students to enjoy their spring vacations from school. Spring break destinations are generally a viral concept, with popularity being generated by “where are all of the other students going” sorts of questions. The actual location of spring break activities is less relevant to students than where the majority of their friends are going to be. Lake Havasu became an affordable alternative for University Of Arizona students to enjoy their break, being more accessible and less costly than other destinations in Florida or Jamaica. As more students came to the area during their break to have fun and enjoy the festivities on the Channel, word spread and eventually it became one of the most popular spring break destinations in the country. An entire industry catering to spring breakers was born, and injected millions into the local economy.
The biggest boost in tourist attractions to the area came when a movie called “Piranha 3D” was filmed in Lake Havasu. Portraying spring breakers being terrorized by killer fish in the river may have been ludicrous, but it did spread the word to students worldwide that Lake Havasu was the place to be during that time of the year. While the initial surge of spring breakers to the area has dropped off over time, the realization that Lake Havasu will be the place to find other college students in March of every year is well known, and the real estate in the area benefits from that knowledge.
Landlords and property owners in the area realize that there are several distinct times when their rental prices can increase dramatically. One time of year is when the “snow birds” vacation in Lake Havasu. These are middle aged people who come to the area during late December to late February in order to relax in the warm temperatures that are not going to be seen in their home states until summer. The other time is during March, when demand for short-term rentals for spring breakers drives prices through the roof. Many landlords will literal charge the same prices for a one-month stay in their properties than they would for a three month stay at any other time of the year. It is common for “snow birds” to purchase vacation property and rent it out for the periods that they are not there, paying for their mortgage and getting a free rental in a beautiful boating community for a few months out of the year.
Lake Havasu has always been a destination for relaxation, retirement and vacationing activities. With the new influx of large amounts of spring break money, the community is changing from exclusively “retirement based” to being more of a diversified population. More young people are being attracted to the area as jobs are created, and the face of Lake Havasu is changing as a result.