House-hunting proves tough for Las Vegas couple

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series on people buying a home in Las Vegas.

It can be tough buying a house in Las Vegas these days.

Two people who know this all too well are Mike DePalo and Sarah Licavoli-DePalo.

The couple saw properties online that looked up their alley, only to learn the homes had several offers. They eventually bought a place for $205,000, but they’re not the only ones who picked up a house this year amid a sharp drop in availability.

There were almost 5,000 single-family homes on the market in Southern Nevada without offers at the end of September, down 33 percent from a year earlier. But buyers grabbed almost 26,900 single-family homes this year through September, up 10 percent from the same period in 2016, according to figures from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, which pulls data from its resale-heavy listing service.

The GLVAR says 2017 is on pace to be the “best year” for local home sales since at least 2012.

The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes — the bulk of the market — was $265,000 last month. GLVAR President David J. Tina, co-owner of Urban Nest Realty, said the “hottest market” in town is for homes under $300,000.

Some buyers are getting frustrated, as homes priced in that range can get offers in the first week, said the DePalos’ real estate agent, Tim Kelly Kiernan of RE/MAX Excellence. According to Tina, some offers are being made sight unseen.

Availability has been sliding amid increased demand from buyers, a still-large tally of underwater borrowers who can’t easily sell and a sizable number of rental homes that aren’t listed for sale.

Kiernan said that in his nine years as an agent, he’s never seen inventory this low.

“It’s a unique situation to say the least,” he said.

Money ‘down the tube’

Mike, 34, is a card dealer from White Plains, New York, and Sarah, a 38-year-old from Detroit, is a former dice dealer on disability. They have been married for almost five years and initially looked to buy a home in 2011 but shelved the notion because of Sarah’s health problems.

She has Chiari malformation – a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, as described by the Mayo Clinic – and went back and forth to UCLA for testing and treatment. Medical bills and related costs, including staying in Los Angeles for a week at a time, drained her finances.

“All my money, all my down payment for a house, went down the tube,” she said.

She had brain surgery — her second — in late 2011, but they started looking for a house again this year.

The rent on their apartment at Rainbow Boulevard and Smoke Ranch Road was set to climb by $100 a month, spurring them to go house hunting. Sarah also received a lump-sum Social Security disability payment, letting them pay medical bills, credit card debts and car payments while giving them money to help buy a place.

Don’t settle

They looked in the southern Las Vegas Valley and, after striking out on a string of listings, found a two-story, 1,485-square-foot house off St. Rose Parkway and Bruner Avenue near the M Resort.

Built in 2004, it was in their price range and featured an open floor plan, plenty of bedrooms and no carpeting. Those pros outweighed the cons of a tiny backyard area and no fireplace.

They paid closing costs but used funding from the state’s Home Is Possible grant program to cover their down payment. Backed by a $201,286 mortgage, they bought the house for $205,000, county records show. The sale closed May 4.

The buying process wasn’t smooth and easy. The couple said they had mortgage-related aggravations; Sarah said she “gained 20 pounds just from the stress,” and they looked into homes that already had offers at least eight or 10 times.

Asked what advice they would give other people looking for homes in the low-$200,000 range, Sarah said buyers shouldn’t live above their means. Don’t buy a more-expensive property just because they’re tired of looking in that range and not finding anything right away.

Also, Mike indicated, don’t buy a place simply because inventory is sliding.

“It’s such a huge purchase that you shouldn’t have to settle for something just because stuff isn’t available at the time,” Mike said.

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

Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like