Median prices fall, supply of homes holds in January

Inventory of homes for sale in Las Vegas remained stable in January at 22,117 and sales increased slightly to 983, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported.

The median price of a single-family home dropped 17.3 percent from a year ago to $249,900, largely a result of the high volume of foreclosed homes sold during the month. They accounted for 38 percent of sales.

“We continue to see the impact of short sales and bank-owned properties on our housing market,” association President Patty Kelley said.

A short sale occurs when a mortgage holder or bank allows a homeowner to sell a home for less than what is owed on the loan. These transactions are accelerating as thousands of investment groups have given banks approval to liquidate their residential real estate portfolios, Kelley said.

“This is a temporary fluctuation in the market that may continue to keep prices artificially low for the next couple of months,” she said. “The good news is that there are great deals out there for people to buy these bank-owned properties. This is a segment of the market where people can purchase homes at reduced prices, which is ideal for first-time home buyers or people looking to move up.”

Condo and townhome median prices fell to $162,000 in January, down 20.8 percent from a year ago. Sales dropped 47.2 percent to 168; units for sale grew 5.3 percent to 5,388.

Single-family inventory is up 0.5 percent from December, though it’s still 17.8 percent higher than a year ago. Sales are up 11.8 percent from December and down 39.6 percent from a year ago.

“I’m ready to state unequivocally that we’ve reached the bottom of the market in terms of sales,” Realtor Robin Camacho said. “Rising demand will equal rising prices at some point in the near future.”

Steve Bottfeld of Marketing Solutions forecast a 10 percent increase in resale prices this year and an 8 percent increase in new home prices at his Crystal Ball seminar in January.

Sources such as Moodys.com and Forbes magazine had predicted a 30 percent drop in Las Vegas home prices for 2007, prompting Bottfeld to take bets at last year’s seminar that prices wouldn’t drop.

They were right about the direction, but wrong about the number, Bottfeld noted. Median prices dropped 20 percent for new homes and 11.2 percent for resales, according to Las Vegas-based SalesTraq.

“I think prices are actually going to rise this year,” Bottfeld said.

Kelley said “we’re inching our way” out of a down cycle, but added that it will take a few more months to get free.

“We need to get the bank-owned homes off our inventory,” she said. “Once we get that gone, we’re going to see a whole new market out there.”

Dollar volume for all home sales tracked through the Multiple Listing Service totaled $302 million in January, off nearly 42 percent from January 2007.

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

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

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