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Are there fewer move-up homes?

Q: We’re interested in buying a bigger home. We’ve been looking casually for a couple of years and noticed that there seems to be a lack of move-up homes for sale lately. We’re looking for something priced over $250,000. I keep hearing that the number of homes on the market is going up. But it actually seems like there were more of these homes for sale in past years. Is this true? And why aren’t there more move-up homes on the market? — Jayne C., Las Vegas

A: My experience as a longtime local resident and Realtor tells me that your observation is basically correct.

To shed some light on this subject, I looked up some statistics from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.

I found that the number of existing single-family homes listed and sold here in Southern Nevada between $250,000 and $500,000 has been declining in recent years.

It’s difficult to track how many homes were listed in certain categories over long periods of time, so I focused on how many homes meeting your description were actually sold here in the past few years. I used GLVAR statistics for August, since that’s the most recent month for which we have data.

In August 2008, GLVAR reported that 775 of 2,545 existing single-family homes sold that month were priced between $250,000 and $500,000.

In August 2009, even though total home sales went up from the previous year, the number of homes sold in that price range went down considerably, to 407 of 3,229 total single-family homes sold that month.

The number of sales in your move-up price range went down even further in August, when only 340 of 2,819 single-family homes sold that month sold between $250,000 and $500,000.

A few points to consider here: First, it’s subjective to define what a move-up home is these days and to chart how that may have changed in recent years. I’d say you’re description of a home with at least 2,500 square feet priced between $250,000 and $500,000 is fairly accurate, especially if you’re accounting for the ups and downs in our local housing market over the past several years.

Keep in mind that local home prices soared from 2003 through 2006, then dropped dramatically for a couple of years. According to GLVAR statistics, the median price for a single-family home sold in Southern Nevada peaked at $315,000 in June 2006.

GLVAR statistics for August show that the median price for a single-family home sold here today is about $140,000.

The good news here — at least for homeowners and people in the real estate industry — is that local home prices have actually been fairly stable since early 2009.

You can obviously buy much more home for your money today than you could during the housing boom.

As for possible explanations for this decline in move-up inventory, I’d attribute it to a combination of factors at work in our local housing market.

Especially in this challenging economy, the larger and more expensive the home, the longer it takes to sell. That, in turn, leads to fewer people trying to sell (or build) such homes. This is especially true here in Southern Nevada, which has historically been more of an entry-level housing market. With today’s bargain prices, I think that’s more true today than ever.

Home builders are also building smaller and less expensive homes today than they were in years past. Compared to four or five years ago, I see very few new home developments in Southern Nevada matching your criteria.

Finally, I think owners of the homes that you’re interested in buying are reluctant to list their home today because they would likely have to sell it for less than what they paid.

For more information, contact a local qualified Realtor or visit lasvegasrealtor.com.

Rick Shelton is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has worked in the real estate industry for 20 years. GLVAR has 12,500 members. To ask him a question, e-mail him at ask@glvar.org. For more information, visit lasvegasrealtor.com. Questions may be edited for space and clarity.

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