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Forecast for Las Vegas’ housing market in 2020 remains unclear

The question is all too common in Las Vegas: What will happen with the housing market?

Will it rise, stumble, inflate, crash or stall? Is it time to buy, sell, rent or just wait it out?

Las Vegas’ economy is on solid footing as 2020 gets underway, and the housing market, despite cooling down last year, is not giving signals it’s about to fall off a cliff, having ended 2019 with a burst of resales in normally slow December.

So, what will happen this year?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Las Vegas’ housing market is prone to hot and cold streaks. It has a transient population that, for the most part, doesn’t earn big salaries, and has a steady inflow of newcomers from California and elsewhere. It also gets speculators who flip homes or buy them as rentals, and, above all else, has a tourism-dependent economy, dominated by casinos, that can easily slump if people outside of Nevada are pinched for cash and don’t take vacations here.

Housing groups have put out reports predicting what will happen in 2020 across the country. But the forecasts are just that: attempts to tell the future.

Listing site Realtor.com predicted early last month that Southern Nevada’s median sales price of previously owned homes will fall 1.1 percent this year, compared with a 0.8 percent gain nationwide.

It also said resale totals would slide 1.8 percent nationally but drop 9.5 percent in Las Vegas, the third-steepest fall among the 100 metro areas listed in the report.

A week later, the National Association of Realtors forecast something entirely different for Las Vegas.

It said the market is one of 10 that will “outperform over the next three to five years,” though it did not offer specific sales or price predictions for each metro area.

Meanwhile, listing site Zillow released a survey this month that said 41 percent of its panelists expect Las Vegas to outperform the national average of 2.8 percent home-value growth this year. Also, 24 percent said it would be about the same, and 36 percent said it would underperform the U.S. at large.

Like the Realtors association, Zillow did not offer specific price predictions for the metro areas.

Last year, Las Vegas’ market slowed down after a heated stretch sparked affordability concerns. Prices rose at a slower pace, sales totals dipped and the tally of available listings on the resale market climbed much of the year.

Homebuilders, for instance, closed the most sales in more than a decade in 2018 and fetched record prices. But buyers pulled back last year from single-family houses — builders’ best-selling product in Southern Nevada — and gravitated toward condos and townhomes, which tend to be less expensive.

All told, buyer activity has picked up lately in Las Vegas, almost surely helped by mortgage rates that tumbled from 2018 levels. Will sales keep rising throughout 2020? Will prices climb or fall?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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

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