weather icon Clear

Las Vegas brokers amazed by sales activity in luxury housing

About a month ago, Las Vegas broker Gavin Ernstone put a house on the market for $1.8 million. It didn’t take long to find a taker.

Six minutes after the listing went up, he said, he got a call from a buyer from California to write a full-price offer.

Kristen Routh-Silberman listed a sleek Henderson mansion for $12.5 million early this month, and within days, she said, she was negotiating two offers.

Like the broader housing market in Southern Nevada, the valley’s luxury sector is rapidly accelerating. Buyers are snapping up high-priced homes soon after they hit the market, and sales totals are rising fast.

Las Vegas’ high-end housing sector comprises a fraction of the overall market, given the properties’ big asking prices, and typically, the homes don’t sell quickly or always fetch the price the seller wants. But Southern Nevada brokers who move mansions from one owner to the next say the business has reached its most frenzied pace in memory.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ernstone, owner of Simply Vegas.

Zar Zanganeh, owner of brokerage firm Luxe Estates &Lifestyles, said it typically takes six months or a year for a multimillion-dollar home in the valley to go under contract with a buyer, and he would need to do a lot more marketing to get attention for the listing.

Now, depending on the price, luxury homes are getting offers in the first 30 days they’re on the market.

Zanganeh said he has been working in high-end real estate for almost 20 years, and he has never seen the luxury market move this quickly.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said.

‘It’s like a bargain’

Luxury-home sales are surging as rock-bottom mortgage rates make it cheap to borrow money, the rising stock market makes the rich even richer, and high taxes in other states prompt wealthy buyers to look to Nevada, which boasts no state income tax.

Plus, home prices, including at the luxury level, are often lower in Las Vegas than in other big markets, and the pandemic has left many people working from home without the need for a commute.

In neighboring California, a long source of newcomers to Southern Nevada, someone in Los Angeles or the Bay Area can make a fortune selling their house and buy one here for a price that would give sticker shock to most locals, but not to the new arrival.

“To them, it’s like a bargain,” said Patty Martinez, director of sales and marketing for luxury builder Sun West Custom Homes.

Overall, 816 homes in Southern Nevada sold for at least $1 million last year, up from 592 in 2019 and the most in at least a decade, according to trade association Las Vegas Realtors, which pulls data from its listing service.

This year, 500 homes had already traded hands for $1 million or more by late April, up from 182 during the same stretch in 2020, the association reported.

“This is the craziest luxury market I’ve ever seen,” Keller Williams Realty agent Zach WalkerLieb said.

Fast sales

Ernstone, of Simply Vegas, said the inventory of luxury homes is “extremely” low, and it’s “very strange” nowadays to have a house listed for sale for more than two weeks without landing a buyer.

“Everything we put on the market, we sell straight away,” he said.

Routh-Silberman, of Sotheby’s International Realty, said that buyers who previously left pricey California for Arizona, skipping America’s casino capital because they thought it was too “low brow,” are now coming to Las Vegas.

“It’s way more sophisticated than they ever thought,” she said.

Luxury Realty Group founder Bruce Hiatt said he was working with a buyer from California who didn’t believe it when Hiatt told him to offer close to the asking price on a $5 million home in the wealthy MacDonald Highlands community in Henderson.

He was outbid by four people, Hiatt said.

“He was shocked, and then he was mad, because his wife wanted the house,” Hiatt said.

Amid the tight inventory, buyers are also looking to build custom homes.

Martinez, of Sun West, said her firm is getting more calls than usual from prospective clients.

Forté Specialty Contractors founder Scott Acton said that he has also been getting “an extraordinary amount of activity.”

He typically works on about 15 to 20 homes at any given time, he said, but “this year, we’ll double that.”

‘Not even close’

Southern Nevada’s housing market was thrown into turmoil last year when the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life, as the pipeline of home sales shrank rapidly after the outbreak shut off much of the economy.

Kamran Zand, owner of Luxury Estates International, said he had 10 $1 million-plus home sales that got canceled after the pandemic hit. Buyers figured that the market would crash like it did a decade or so ago during the Great Recession and that they would be able to buy everything at half-price, he said.

However, the market overall regained its footing and then embarked on a now-monthslong hot streak of record prices and rising sales, thanks in large part to cheap borrowing costs that have let people lock in lower monthly payments and stretch their budgets.

On the luxury side, if a home is priced well, it can now sell in days, Zand said.

Of course, as with the rest of the housing market, it’s anyone’s guess how or when the luxury boom will end. But for now, the market is showing no signs of slamming the brakes.

Acton, of Forté, said he got into the luxury residential business seven or eight years ago and has lived in the valley for nearly 30 years, and he’s never seen the high-end housing market act like it is today.

“Not even close,” he said. “Who has?”

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.