Las Vegas home prices stable despite fewer sales

Las Vegas home prices increased for the second straight month compared with a year ago, while sales declined and inventory remained stable, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

The median price for 2,884 single-family homes sold in May was $142,000, up 1.4 percent from the same month a year ago and unchanged from the previous month. Prices have generally been falling since February 2007.

Sales fell 11.4 percent from May 2009 and 2.3 percent from April. The number of homes listed for sale edged down 0.2 percent from a year ago to 21,143 units, though it's up from 20,875 in April.

The median price of condominiums and townhomes also increased in May to $72,000, up 2.9 percent from April and up 10.8 percent from a year ago. Sales rose 4.3 percent to 769 units.

Realtors association President Rick Shelton said he was encouraged by the statistics.

"I think most homeowners consider stable or appreciating home prices to be good news, especially considering the way the housing market has been the past few years," he said. "With prices stabilizing, we're starting to see more homes on the market. As long as the demand stays as strong as it has been for the past year or so, I think we can sell those homes in a reasonable amount of time."

Shelton said gross inventory on the Multiple Listing Service is irrelevant as a measuring stick for housing supply. The more critical number is the 8,049 available units without an offer, he said.

Realtors reported an increase in short sales and a drop in sales of foreclosed homes. Short sales, or homes sold for less than the mortgage balance, accounted for 29 percent of May sales, up 7 percentage points from February. At the same time, bank-owned home sales dropped from 53 percent in February to 40 percent in May.

Government programs are "gaining traction" and lenders are gradually becoming more willing to work out short sales as an alternative to foreclosing on homes, Shelton said.

Robyn Yates of Windermere Real Estate said median home prices are back to where they were in 1998, which is attracting more investors. They're buying all types of properties, including high-rise condos that allow long-term renters.

More than 40 percent of home sales over the past year were cash purchases, she said.

With a 2.7-month supply of homes for sale and closings down only slightly, Las Vegas is beginning to experience some increase in average sales price for single-family homes, Yates said. She's seeing more multiple offers on new bank-owned listings, short sales and competitively priced traditional sales.

Part of the National Association of Realtors' agenda in May was to push Congress for extension of the June 30 deadline to close escrow on contingent sales that qualify for the homebuyers tax credit, Shelton said.

"What we requested is a 120-day extension and it fell upon very receptive ears and open arms with our senators and congressmen," he said. "I believe they'll announce it at the eleventh hour."

Statistics from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors are based on data collected from the MLS and do not necessarily account for sales by owners, homebuilders and transactions not involving a Realtor.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at or 702-383-0491.