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Las Vegas house prices more than tripled in past decade

Updated February 14, 2022 - 6:57 am

Las Vegas’ housing market was in bleak shape a decade ago.

Property values had plunged, banks had foreclosed on homes throughout Southern Nevada, and builders’ sales had evaporated.

Today? Prices have never been higher.

Fueled by cheap money, Las Vegas is in a prolonged buying boom, marked over the past year or so by rapid sales, owners selling above their asking price, builders putting buyers on waiting lists and fast-rising prices that reach new all-time highs practically every month.

The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes — the bulk of the market — was a record $435,000 last month, up 26 percent, or $90,000, from January 2021, trade association Las Vegas Realtors reported.

Last month’s median sales price was up more than threefold from a decade ago, when it bottomed out at $118,000 in January 2012, according to association figures.

Of course, there is no telling what will happen the rest of this year, especially if America’s rock-bottom mortgage rates — the main fuel for the frenzy — head upward, or if waves of people get priced out by Las Vegas’ escalating home values.

It’s anyone’s guess when, or how, the frenzy will end. But after the easy-money-fueled housing craze of the mid-2000s flamed out, Las Vegas was a mess.

Southern Nevada’s once-booming construction industry largely ground to a halt after the bubble burst, and the resale market was dominated by bank-owned houses and short sales, or when a lender agrees to sell a home for less than what is owed on the mortgage.

According to LVR data, 73.6 percent of all home sales in January 2012 involved underwater or foreclosed properties, compared with just 0.8 percent last month.

“There (were) no normal listings; they were all distressed properties,” recalled Tim Kelly Kiernan, a sales manager with Realty One Group.

Kolleen Kelley of Urban Nest Realty, who was president of the housing association in 2012, recalled that the market leveled off that year.

She also said builders were “dumping” properties, as they couldn’t make a profit either.

“It was like starting all over again,” Kelley said.

Bargain-hunting investors bought cheap homes in bulk to turn into rentals after the market tanked, helping pull prices out of the gutter. But overall, Las Vegas’ recovery was a long one.

It took more than 13 years for Las Vegas’ median house price to eclipse its bubble-era peak of $315,000 from mid-2006, reaching a then-record $316,000 in February 2020.

The next month, the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life in Southern Nevada, sparking catastrophic job losses as casinos went into state-ordered lockdown and the Strip became a ghost town of shuttered resorts.

The outbreak also caused some turbulence in the housing market, as the pipeline of sales shrank rapidly amid the chaos.

But the market soon regained its footing and embarked on its unexpected hot streak, fueled not only by record-low interest rates but also by people seeking more space amid widespread work-from-home arrangements.

It’s also just the latest time that housing has heated up in Las Vegas, where the population is known as a transient one, and the real estate market and tourism-fueled economy are prone to big swings.

As Kiernan, of Realty One, noted, Las Vegas’ housing market has long been on a roller-coaster ride.

“Some people have benefited greatly from it. … Others, not so much, unfortunately,” he said.

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

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