Bell: Housing inventory numbers can be deceiving

Q: We hear all the time that there's a glut of houses on the market. Do you agree with this? And is this keeping prices down?

-- Tiffany J., Las Vegas

A: I think the number of homes on the market right now is far from a "glut."

As strange as it may seem in today's challenging housing market, I'm actually finding that many of my clients and colleagues are having an increasingly difficult time finding the right house in the right location at the right price.

Though not quite a shortage, homes in established areas of town, in popular planned communities and in the $100,000 price range are becoming harder to find, especially in good, move-in condition.

As a result, I've been advising local real estate agents to inform their clients that it's a good time to buy such properties.

During the past few weeks, reports from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and its Multiple Listing Service have shown a dwindling inventory available in many areas and for many types of housing, including relatively rare product types like duplex, three-plex and four-plex properties. 

I recently worked with a four-plex client who was upset about the condition of a property he had under contract. He couldn't believe how fast four-plexes with two bedrooms and two baths have been selling and that tax records only showed 849 local properties matching that specification.

As I told this client, I fear that he and others are going to miss out on some great opportunities to buy such properties if current trends last another 12 to 18 months.

Lower housing prices have stimulated sales to the point where many of the people I work with are questioning when the next new four-plex will come to market.

While we're talking about local housing statistics, here are some of the numbers worth noting:

• From January 2008 through July 2011, GLVAR reports 117,000 single-family home sales in Southern Nevada. That represents 26 percent of the 448,000 total available local housing units, according to local property tax records.

By the end of 2011, current sales trends suggest that the number of local homes sold in the past three years will exceed 130,000.

That means about 30 percent of the local housing inventory will have changed hands in the past three years. That's an amazing number to me.

• Available inventory in many established and popular local neighborhoods has dropped to less than 5 percent of total units, which I consider a tight supply.

Some neighborhoods I know consisting of about 500 homes are down to just 10 homes being listed for sale, compared to the more normal 25 to 50 listings we would have seen two to three years ago.

• In response to media reports implying that our local housing market has been overbuilt, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development studies recently suggested that the available supply of local homes on the market should range from 16,000 to 18,000 units.

During the past three years, inventory has declined from more than 30,000 available units to fewer than 15,000 recently.

For more information on such issues, consult a qualified local Realtor or visit

Paul Bell is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has worked in the real estate industry for 30 years. GLVAR has nearly 11,500 members. To ask him a question, email him at For more information, visit