Bell reflects on 2011; welcomes 2012 columnist

This being Christmas Eve, I’d like to begin my final column by wishing all of you a healthy and happy holiday season.

I also hope the new year is more prosperous for all of us than 2011, when Las Vegans and those of us in the real estate industry dealt with well-documented challenges that continue to face local homeowners, our housing market and our economy.

I’m not predicting any dramatic rebound in housing prices or an end to our problems with foreclosures in the next year. But being an optimist, I know I see us making progress as we enter 2012. Here are a few reasons for my belief that things will only get better — albeit gradually better — in 2012.

• Local homes are selling at a record rate. In early January, when we finalize the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors’ housing statistics for 2011, They will likely show that this past year set a record for sales of existing homes on GLVAR’s Multiple Listing Service. Through November, we already sold more properties in 2011 than we did in all of 2010, when we sold 43,877 total properties. That puts us ahead of the record sales pace set in 2009, when GLVAR reported 46,879 total sales. This sales surge proves that the demand for real estate in Southern Nevada is as strong as ever, if not stronger.

• It’s a great time to buy a home. Local home prices and mortgage interest rates are at historically low levels. And they can’t stay that way forever. As I’ve said many times, you know something is a bargain when you can buy it for less than the cost to produce it. At least for now, that’s what we’re seeing with local home prices. UNLV economist Stephen Brown put it this way in a Dec. 14 Review-Journal story: “We’re seeing houses sell for below replacement cost. That’s something that’s not sustainable.”

From the steadily increasing number of visitors coming to Las Vegas to our gradually declining unemployment rate, the local economy is starting to bounce back. As the economy and job market improve, so will our local housing market.

Even with all the obstacles we’ve faced this past year, I’ve enjoyed being president of the GLVAR. One of the highlights of this job has been the opportunity to answer questions from readers of this column. I want to thank the R-J for allowing me to address some important issues in this space over the past year.

Now that my one-year term is ending, I can assure you the GLVAR and this column are in good hands as I turn over the reigns to longtime local Realtor Kolleen Kelley. She will begin handling these and other duties when she becomes GLVAR president Jan. 1.

She has worked in and around the real estate business all her life. Her brother was an appraiser. Her father was a banker. And her mother worked as a real estate broker since 1948. Kolleen is a 35-year resident of Las Vegas with more than three decades of professional experience, working for many years as a real estate agent before going into management. She has handled large commercial real estate transactions. She has worked on condominium conversion projects and sold new homes for builders. She has earned several professional designations and served on many committees for our local and state Realtor associations.

Her first column is scheduled to run in this space on Jan. 7. So please welcome her by emailing your real estate questions at ask@glvar.org.

As always, if you’d like more information about the local housing market, buying or selling homes and related issues, consult a qualified local Realtor or visit lasvegasrealtor.com.

Paul Bell is the 2011 president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, and has worked in the real estate industry for 30 years. GLVAR has nearly 11,500 members. To ask him a question, e-mail him at ask@glvar.org.

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