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Las Vegas home sales fell in the first quarter

The beginning of the year is usually a slow time for the housing market. Before the spring buying season kicks in, everyone’s shaking off the holiday doldrums. It’s cold, and people are waiting for tax-refund checks.

But early this year, Las Vegas home sales tumbled from previous slow periods amid nation-leading price growth.

Following a stretch of year-over-year sales jumps, Southern Nevada’s first-quarter resales and new-home sales both dropped from 2018 levels.

Buyers picked up 8,073 previously owned houses, condos and townhomes in the three months that ended March 31, down 14 percent from the same period last year, according to data from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, Home Builders Research reported builders closed 2,293 new-home sales in the first quarter, down 4.6 percent from a year earlier.

The early-year slowdown does not necessarily mean sales will fall through all of 2019. If anything, some factors point to a possible boost in deals.

Mortgage rates, which climbed last year, have been sliding for months, reducing buyers’ borrowing costs. Also, the tally of ignored listings in Southern Nevada has soared, giving house hunters more choices, and sellers are increasingly slashing their prices.

The economy overall is on stronger footing, too — Las Vegas’ population is expanding, and the jobless rate is shrinking.

But home prices keep climbing, creating “affordability challenges” for some would-be buyers, and mortgage rates remain higher than they were a few years ago, said Brian Gordon, co-owner of Las Vegas consulting firm Applied Analysis.

Southern Nevada home prices in February were up 9.7 percent from a year earlier, more than double the national growth rate of 4 percent, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index released Tuesday.

Las Vegas’ prices grew fastest among the 20 markets in the report for the ninth straight month, and its year-over-year growth rate was in single digits for the first time since September 2017.

Amid the pricing surge, the once-depleted tally of available listings has shot back up. Almost 7,100 single-family houses were on the market without offers at the end of March, up 85 percent from a year earlier, and the number of condos and townhomes were sitting without offers more than doubled to about 1,750, GLVAR data show.

Despite the shifts, it’s not a buyer’s market yet, analysts say, though house hunters are in a better position now than they were a year ago.

We’ll see in the coming months if sales pick up, buyers keep backing away or the market goes in another direction altogether.

We’re still in Las Vegas, a famously volatile market that, not too long ago, rode a terrifying real estate roller coaster. Last quarter’s sales drop is nothing compared to what happened after the market crashed.

According to Home Builders Research, developers closed nearly 39,000 new-home sales in Southern Nevada in 2005 alone — and then just 3,900 in all of 2011.

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

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