Las Vegas home sales dip slightly in July

Home sales in Las Vegas continued to decline in July, mainly due to restricted supply, while prices edged up ever so slightly from the previous month, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

Realtors sold 2,890 single-family homes during the month, a 10.1 percent decrease from June and 8.7 percent decrease from the same month a year ago.

The median price rose 0.9 percent during the month to $133,000, the sixth straight month of increasing prices. They’re up 9 percent from a year ago.

Some housing market observers believe the price increase is artificially induced and that prices will fall again when lenders start unloading “shadow inventory.” CoreLogic financial analysis firm estimates 58,000 Las Vegas homes are in some stage of default.

“I think lenders are trying to get hold of people in default and go through with the short sale,” GLVAR President Kolleen Kelley said. “Sometimes they don’t answer the phone or open their mail. We’ve encouraged Realtors to get out there and do some door-knocking.”

The latest statistics show that about 40 percent of closings are short sales, for less than the principal mortgage balance, the highest percentage since the association began tracking such information. Foreclosures, meanwhile, have dropped to about 20 percent of closings, compared with a high of nearly 50 percent in recent years.

Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia.com online real estate service, said he’s seen housing price recovery clearly shift from Florida to Arizona, California and Nevada in the most recent quarter.

The largest quarter-over-quarter gains in asking prices were recorded in Tuscon, Ariz.; San Jose, Calif.; and Phoenix. Las Vegas was among the top 10 gainers with a 4.5 percent increase in asking prices in the second quarter. None of the metro areas in Florida was on the list.

“All of those increases in Palm Beach and Miami were in the beginning of the year, when so much of the housing recovery was about Florida, but now it’s shifting to places where the market is fundamentally strong,” Kolko said Tuesday from New York.

The median price for 3,496 new listings in Las Vegas in July was $149,500, up 3.2 percent from June and up 15.1 percent from July 2011.

Las Vegas saw the second-biggest decrease in vacant homes on the market, which is important to bringing the market back to health, Kolko said.

“Stronger job growth and declining vacancies, rather than bargain hunting, are now driving the home-price recovery,” the economist said. “This shift to market fundamentals helps housing prices in Las Vegas, Phoenix and the San Francisco, but hurts Florida, where investors had been boosting prices and where vacancies remain stubbornly high.”

The inventory of single-family homes available for sale in Las Vegas without a pending or contingent offer grew 16.3 percent to 4,293 units in July. It’s down 60 percent from a year ago. Total listings remained about the same at 16,944, though they’re down 24.5 percent from a year ago.

There were 682 condo and townhome sales in July at a median price of $66,500, down 3.2 percent from the previous month, but a 12.7 percent jump from a year ago.

GLVAR statistics are based on information from the Multiple Listing Service, and may not necessarily include new-home sales, sales by owners and other transactions not involving a Realtor.

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

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