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Economic woes hit home

Single-family home sales in Las Vegas tripled in September from the same month a year ago and inventory remained stable, but median prices dropped 31.8 percent, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

Home sales have increased in all but one month this year as prices continue to fall, indicating that the housing market is still declining.

“These two statistics are obviously related,” association President Patty Kelley said. “As home prices keep getting lower, sales keep going up. This month’s statistics show the greatest increase in year-over-year sales that we’ve seen in many years.”

Kelley has been saying for months that the unprecedented number of foreclosures on the market continues to drive down prices. Roughly two out of three home sales in Las Vegas over the past few months have been bank-owned properties, she said.

Realtors sold 2,783 single-family homes in September, compared with 2,545 sales in August and 990 in the same month a year ago. Sales of condos and townhomes increased 81.2 percent from a year ago to 386 in September.

The inventory of homes on the Multiple Listing Service remained steady at 22,784 in September, compared with 22,710 in August. It’s down 5.9 percent from 24,218 in September 2007.

The median single-home price slipped 7.1 percent to $195,000 in September. Condos and townhomes were down 2.9 percent to $119,450.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see the median price under $200,000,” Kelley said. “The bottom must be in sight because I don’t see how much further we can go. There’s great buys if you can get the funding. I’m trying to get someone closed today, but it’s becoming an impossibility. It’s getting tougher and tougher to get them closed.”

Prices of properties listed for sale fell in 21 of 26 major markets, according to a report published by Mountain View, Calif.-based Altos Research and market analysis firm Real IQ.

Asking prices fell at the fastest rate in Las Vegas, down 3.5 percent during September and 8.1 percent over the most recent three-month period. It is the sixth consecutive month that Las Vegas has posted the fastest rate of declining prices among major markets.

The Altos 10-City Composite Price Index showed a decline in asking prices of 1.4 percent in September and 2.9 percent for the past three months. Denver, San Diego and Houston are the only markets showing three months of sequential price increases.

“The fleeting signs of stability we saw during the summer have largely vanished,” said Michael Simonsen, chief executive officer and co-founder of Altos Research. “Job losses and the credit crunch will aggravate typical seasonal weakness during the coming fall and winter months.”

Citing Moody’s Economy.com, the Wall Street Journal reported that roughly 12 million households, or 16 percent of all U.S. households, owe more than their homes are worth. Steve Hawks of ReMax Platinum said it’s more like one in three in Las Vegas.

Local real estate transactions tracked through the MLS totaled nearly $642 million in September, up 1 percent from August and up 84.2 percent from a year ago.

Nearly 68 percent of all single-family homes and 58.3 percent of condos and townhomes sold within 60 days.

As prices continue to plummet, houses are selling more quickly, Frank Nason of Residential Resources said. Homes are on the market for an average of 58 days, he said. Nearly 29 percent of single-family homes and more than one-third of attached units are under contract in 15 days.

Nason said his experience with buyer representation continues to be frustrating in that most bank-owned properties receive multiple offers. Buyers are frequently outbid even when a submitted offer is above list price, he said.

Association statistics are based on data collected through the MLS and do not necessarily account for new homes sold by local builders and other transactions not involving a Realtor.

“The good news in the equation is sales are up and inventory is down,” Rick Brenkus of Keller Williams Realty said. “The third leg is prices need to stabilize, and unfortunately we haven’t seen that yet. We’re still burning through the foreclosures and bank-owned properties.”

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at hsmith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0491.

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