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GLVAR president advises reader to buy, not rent

: I am thinking about renting one of the many unsold condos in my area. To me, the rent they are asking is still on the high side, considering how many units remain. Is it acceptable to bargain? If so, what is a good rule of thumb to use when making an offer? Also, are there other things I could offer to bring down the price — for example, paying a number of months of rent in advance, having some sort of stipulation in the lease so they can sell the unit, etc.? This is uncharted territory for me! Thanks. — Sarah M., Las Vegas

A: Before I answer your questions, let me ask you one.

You suggest that you can afford “paying a number of months of rent in advance” to rent one of the available condos in your area. Maybe it’s my point of view as someone who has been helping people buy and sell homes for nearly 30 years, but this makes me wonder why you don’t simply want to buy one of these condominiums, or something similar.

To me, you can put your savings to better use by making a down payment on one of the condos you like. In today’s market, there are all sorts of incentives and tax credits for first-time homebuyers, along with Federal Housing Administration loans available to potential buyers like you. I suspect you can get into a home of your own for less money than paying several months of rent in advance.

As you may know, local home prices have now fallen to levels not seen since early 2003. According to the latest statistics from the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, the median price of a condo or townhome in Southern Nevada is now $75,000. That price is 6.3 percent less than what it was the previous month. It’s also half the price of a median priced condo or townhome one year ago.

Not only are prices as affordable as I can ever recall, but mortgage interest rates just dropped again, reaching historically low levels. The relative cost to own your home is now so low that renters with decent savings and credit can often save money by purchasing the home they’re currently renting.

Another factor favoring buyers is the great selection of housing options on the market right now. By the end of February, GLVAR reported that there were 5,686 condos and townhomes listed for sale in its Multiple Listing Service. That’s 5.7 percent more inventory than we had one year ago.

If you are interested in buying a property here, I wouldn’t wait too long. People are clearly getting the message that this is a great time to buy a home in Southern Nevada, where GLVAR statistics show 108 percent more homes and 166 percent more condos and townhomes sold in February 2009 than in February 2008.

Getting back to your question, the first rule of negotiation is that you won’t get anything unless you ask for it. You have nothing to lose by proposing a lower rental amount, committing to a longer lease term or even asking for free rent for a month or two.

In any case, just as we’re in a buyer’s market, many experts will tell you that renters are holding more of the cards these days than landlords. So, whatever you decide to do, I think you’re wise to negotiate the best deal you can.

For more information on such subjects, visit lasvegasarealtor.com.

Sue Naumann is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has worked in the real estate industry for nearly 30 years. GLVAR has more than 14,000 members. To ask her a question, e-mail her at ask@glvar.org. For more information, visit lasvegasrealtor.com.

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