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Las Vegas home prices set record in March; sales shrinking amid virus

Updated April 7, 2020 - 3:03 pm

Las Vegas house prices hit a record high again last month, but the pipeline of sales shrank as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy.

The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes — the bulk of Southern Nevada’s market — was a record $319,000 in March, up 6.3 percent from a year earlier, according to a new report from trade association Las Vegas Realtors, or LVR.

A total of 2,758 houses traded hands last month, up 5.2 percent year over year, said the group, which pulls data from its resale-heavy listing service.

However, the tally of canceled deals nearly doubled from a year ago, and the number of newly signed sales contracts dropped sharply.

Southern Nevada’s home construction market showed similar results, as builders’ weekly sales-cancellation rate escalated through March, Home Builders Research recently reported.

The new coronavirus has upended daily life in Las Vegas and other cities and thrown the economy into crisis with sweeping business closures. Real estate pros have expected the outbreak to hit the housing market as well, given the soaring job losses.

Locally, the housing market started 2020 with a surge of sales before the coronavirus hit and showed cracks during the chaotic month of March when much of the valley — including its financial lifeblood, tourism — rapidly shut down to help contain its spread.

Closed sales, many of which were probably in the works before the outbreak hit Las Vegas, were up last month from a year earlier on the resale market. The median sales price of a single-family house also topped the previous record of $316,000, set in February.

Still, a total of 2,542 home sales were canceled last month, up 94 percent from March 2019, and buyers inked 3,175 sales contracts, down 24 percent from the same month last year, LVR reported.

LVR President Tom Blanchard, of Renters Warehouse, said in a statement that despite increased cancellations, the jump in closed sales “goes to show you how good our market has been,” though he expects “different numbers in the coming months as this virus affects the pipeline of sales.”

He added, “It just makes me wonder just how good the numbers would have been without this virus hitting us.”

Buyers also pulled back from newly built homes in Southern Nevada amid the pandemic, data from Home Builders Research President Andrew Smith show.

Builders signed 143 sales contracts and had 51 sales cancellations in the week ending March 29, compared to 357 sales and 28 canceled deals in the week ending March 8, Smith reported.

He told the Review-Journal Tuesday that he figures deals are falling through because buyers are losing their jobs or getting cold feet amid the turmoil.

“Even though I think most people expected it to be down, it’s still … shocking to see it happen so fast,” he said.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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