Las Vegas’ housing market reaches most heated levels in years

Seven or eight years ago, Las Vegas’ housing market was all but dead.

Banks were foreclosing on homes all over town, property values were plunging, and developers were walking away from unfinished projects.

Today? The market has reached the most heated levels in years.

Home prices are rising at one of the fastest rates in the country, builders are selling the most houses in a decade, and developers are opening more and more apartment complexes.

There’s been an ever-present concern in Las Vegas about whether we’re in, or about to enter, another bubble — a reasonable fear, given how horribly the last one ended. Also, while home prices are still a lot cheaper than in other large cities, I doubt people want them to climb so high that Las Vegas sheds its status as a more affordable place to live.

Still, it’s worth remembering that, by almost any measure, the market is still below the peaks of the mid-2000s real estate craze — in some cases by a lot.

Is a crash around the corner? Your guess is as good as mine. But for now, let’s look at where things stand.

Resales

Perhaps the biggest issue in the resale market is the lack of inventory. Las Vegas isn’t alone in dealing with a shortage of listings, but it’s helping fuel the fast-rising prices — a boon for sellers and heartburn for buyers.

The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes — the bulk of the market — was $289,000 in April, up 16 percent from a year earlier. Around 3,800 houses were on the market without offers at the end of April, down 25 percent from a year earlier, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported.

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index, prices here are climbing at the second-fastest rate nationally, behind Seattle.

Resale prices are still below the peak of the bubble: The median for a single-family house topped out at $315,000 in mid-2006, according to the GLVAR.

But the median also has more than doubled since hitting bottom in early 2012 at $118,000.

Homebuilders

Las Vegas’ home construction industry was basically wiped out during the recession, as sales evaporated and builders went out of business.

Today sales totals are rising fast, buyers have been paying record prices, and builders keep snapping up more land.

Builders closed more than 3,200 sales in Clark County this year through April, up 22 percent from the same four-month period last year, and booked a median sales price of $374,440 in April, up 11 percent from a year earlier, according to Home Builders Research.

How do things compare to the boom years? Builders closed 9,400 sales in Clark County last year, the most in nearly a decade — but they sold almost 39,000 homes in 2005 alone.

Apartments

Las Vegas might be known for its sprawling subdivisions of cookie-cutter houses, but there are also plenty of apartment complexes, and the rental market has taken off in recent years.

The vacancy rate is among the lowest in the country, rents are climbing faster than the national average, landlords keep buying more properties, and builders are putting up more projects.

More than 6,300 new units are expected to open this year, compared with 4,100 last year and more than 3,500 in 2016, according to CBRE Group broker Spencer Ballif.

Investors also bought 105 local apartment complexes last year for about $2.7 billion combined, compared with 31 for $346 million in 2011, according to figures from brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

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

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