New homes accounted for just 7 percent of total housing sales in April, a radical departure from past years when they were about 40 percent of the Las Vegas market, a local housing analyst said Tuesday.
Home Builders Research reported 258 new-home sales during the month, down from 293 the previous month and down from 471 in April 2010. For the first four months of the year, new-home sales declined 33 percent, to 1,020.
The new-home industry was once a huge contributor to the Las Vegas economy with as many as 30,829 closings in 2005. That number fell to 15,584 just two years later and then to 4,761 last year.
The reduction in new-home market share is an "unbelievable alteration" and sums up how the Las Vegas housing market has changed, Home Builders Research President Dennis Smith said.
"It's hard to compare to the way things used to be," he said. "This is what the market is resetting into, something it's never been before. I'm not saying it's bad. It's different."
Adapting to the changing market, homebuilders laid off most of their staffs and cut operations to the bone, Smith said. He counted 323 homebuilding permits in April, for a total of 1,130 for the year, down 45 percent from a year ago.
It's not a fair comparison because last year's numbers reflected increased demand from the government's homebuyer tax credit, he said.
"The numbers are sobering," the analyst said. "Closings are one thing, but I watch permits. I'd be really surprised if we don't see an increase (in permits) in the coming months."
Customer traffic at new-home subdivisions has slowly increased and net sales per subdivision have climbed to about 0.4 a week, about double from the beginning of the year, Smith said.
D.R. Horton pulled the most permits in April (182) followed by KB Home (157) and Lennar (133).
The median price of a new home in Las Vegas dropped 7.2 percent from a year ago, to $188,450 in April.
The resale segment continued to chug along, with 3,849 recorded closings in April, largely boosted by investor purchases. For the year, existing home sales increased 3.8 percent, to 14,375.
Median resale price was $112,000, a loss of $16,000, or 12.5 percent, from a year ago. Smith noted that 19 homes closed escrow for $1 million or more .
Smith said he's seeing signs that Las Vegas may be emerging from the recession, such as packed restaurants and an uptick in discretionary spending.
"There's some good news around the country and hopefully it'll filter down to us," Smith said.
Contact reporter Hubble Smith at email@example.com or 702-383-0491.