Sales of single-family homes rise in November

Reflecting bargain prices and strong demand, single-family home sales in Las Vegas rose to 3,159 in November, a 1.3 percent increase from the previous month and 13.8 percent increase from a year ago, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

The median price was $125,000, up 3.3 percent from October, but a 7.3 percent decrease from a year ago.

Just as important, the inventory of available units on the Multiple Listing Service fell to 20,818, down 8 percent from November 2010. The number of homes without contingent or pending offers fell 22.3 percent to 9,780 in November.

The modest increase in median price is attributed to strong demand, coupled with decreasing supply, said Paul Bell, president of the Realtors association.

Real estate agents have been expecting a decline in inventory after a Nevada law that took effect Oct. 1 requiring lenders to provide an affidavit of authority to foreclose and other documents, backlash from the robo-signing scandal that emerged last year.

"It's more of a function of our third year with 40,000 or more closings," Bell said. "There's just less inventory, especially in areas where homes are really selling ."

The number of desirable properties listed for sale continues to decrease, especially in good neighborhoods in master-planned communities and near large employment centers, he said.

Bell said that ongoing sales surge continues to be driven by investors buying homes at bargain prices.

"Investors are definitely making a difference right now by restoring homes and helping to drive up prices," he said.

The market saw a slight uptick in short-sale closings, or homes sold for less than the principal mortgage balance, which could be in response to the new law, Bell said. Also, asset managers have been approving more short sales and taking incentives offered under programs such as the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative, or HAFA.

There were 150 to 250 homes a day receiving default notices before the law went into effect. Now it's maybe three to five a day, said Tony Martin of LV Default, a company that buys homes at trustee auctions.

Bell said the full impact of the law won't be realized until the first or second quarter of next year.

A lot of Las Vegas neighborhoods have gone through 40 percent to 60 percent turnover of inventory, and that's another reason why the market has seen a decline in inventory, he said.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@review or 702-383-0491.