Out of VegasOut of Vegas

It was in February that Greg and Debbie Phillips faced a housing quandary. The Reno transplants needed to latch onto a home with enough yard space to handle their two Labrador retrievers, as well as a swimming pool. They had already placed their 11-year-old daughter Faith in Tarkanian Middle School in the southwestern portion of the Las Vegas Valley, and Greg Phillips’ transfer to the Nevada Power Co. facility in North Las Vegas had become official. But weeks of combing the available homes in the Las Vegas Valley proved to be fruitless. No matter how hard they searched, no house made the grade.

The Phillips’ path to their new homestead lay on state Route 160. They followed it about 43 miles westward of Las Vegas, through Red Rock Canyon and over the Nye County line to Pahrump. Once there, they found their home, their yard space plus everything else they wanted. Quandary solved, mission accomplished — the weekday one-hour commute each way to North Las Vegas was a small price to pay to attain the elbow room they sought.

The Phillips moved into their William Lyon home at the Mountain Falls golf community in April, and in so doing, they showed that what happens in Vegas … can be reached from Pahrump.

“I prefer a warmer climate and I wanted to be in a small town, but next to a big town so I could have the benefits of a large town,” Greg Phillips said. “The climate and the proximity to Las Vegas are ideal. Vegas is a fun city, but Pahrump is an interesting place to live.

“It’s a little like Mayberry, except the people are more diverse.”

Mayberry clone or not, some Las Vegans have staked their claim in the growing Nye County town. Though some Pahrump-ians have come transplanted from California, most of them emigrated from Clark County in the past few years, according to sales agent Neal Huff of Pahrump’s Hafen & Hafen Realty.

Some Las Vegans may seek the quietness of a small town. Others might need the cleaner air and lack of light pollution, according to Huff. But in terms of home prices and lot dimensions, Pahrump establishes that size does matter — in comparison to Clark County housing scales.

“The homes were $100,000 cheaper out there for the same square footage in Las Vegas,” said Debbie Phillips, who bought a home with her husband on an 8,400-square-foot lot priced in the low $300,000s. “In Vegas, we would’ve paid $422,000 for the size of the home and the lot, as well as being in a golf course community — it would’ve been a lot more.

“And we just like the small-town friendliness. Anytime we ask someone for directions on where something was, everyone is eager to tell us. We never really ran into anyone with an attitude. Every restaurant we’d been into in Pahrump is so friendly. It’s just a friendlier atmosphere.”

The Pahrump Regional Planning Subdivision Map depicts 20,403 homes currently in various stages of planning, according to Paula Elefante of the Economic Development Authority for Nye County. The Mountain Falls community will contain between 3,500 and 5,000 homes upon buildout, and 350 of them have been sold. Corcordia Homes is building 400 homes at the Pleasant Valley community, where 800 total homes will be erected. The Focus Property Group’s master-planned community-in-progress, known as Stonewater, will bring a total of 7,400 homes to Pahrump.

“I believe a lot of the commercial developers have started to take notice of the residential growth that is taking place and as a result, they are looking at opportunities to develop their commercial and industrial property,” Elefante said.

Elefante also said that 21 percent of Pahrump residents commuted to Las Vegas every weekday, according to 2000 census figures, and that percentage has been on the rise. By 2005, the town’s population rose to about 33,000 people, according to statistics.

It’s no wonder that the amount of traffic traveling over the Nye/Clark County line on state Route 160 has literally doubled in the 10-year period of 1995 to 2005, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Like the rest of Southern Nevada, the town reached its sales peak during the summer of 2004, when there was a “frenzy” of people buying houses in Pahrump, according to Huff. Now, Pahrump is “seeing a correction of the marketplace,” and there are more homes than buyers, as is the case in many parts of the nation.

Still, home buyers like the Phillips have made the Las Vegas exodus, embracing the hallmarks that spell Nye County. The Pahrump Valley Winery is a major draw, attracting 100,000 visitors a year, according to Gretchen Loken, co-owner of the facility. Other highlights are the six RV parks and Terrible’s Lakeside RV Resort, which is considered “one of the best in the nation,” said Stormie Andrews, sales and marketing manager of Concordia Homes.

With the advent of the Mountain Falls Golf Course, the sport now ranks as one of the top amenities for Pahrump. Elefante referred to it as a “world-class” golf course.

“It is a friendly and challenging place to play due to the unique t-box layouts,” said Terry Connelly, senior vice president of operations at William Lyon Homes. “There’s also a lot of waterfall elements and the course is over 7,000 yards long.”

Keith Herron, a former Clark County resident who works at Country Roads RV in Pahrump, makes a point to practice his chipping and putting at the facility after work each weekday, and to spend his entire Sunday golfing there. The 46-year-old purchased a 2,000-square-foot Mountain Falls home with three bedrooms in October 2005 to be close to his “No. 1 hobby,” which he also calls his passion.

Having lived in Las Vegas years ago, Herron moved to Scottsdale, Ariz. for a time before a friend told him, “You should try this boomtown about an hour out of Vegas.”

Herron has since set himself up in a Phase One William Lyon residence on the fairway of the golf course.

“When I really thought about it, you read about different investment opportunities and you hear about a boom town right at the beginning,” Herron said. “The desert Southwest is growing at a rapid expansion, and I’ve always wanted to get involved in a small town at the beginning of a boom. Pahrump is just kind of a nice, rural boomtown.”

Herron was quick to point out the affordability factor of Pahrump, since his one-quarter acre lot and home cost $230,000, base price, before he opted for upgrades and having the lot at a premium location along the fairway, which elevated the price to $330,000. Like the Phillips, he considers the price to be a bargain, and it’s the top reason he relocated to the town.

“It’s less expensive in Pahrump because the most expensive real estate in Nevada is probably on Las Vegas Boulevard, right on the Strip,” Andrews said. “The further you get away from the Strip, the more affordable the land becomes. Based on those assumptions, we were able to build very nice homes at affordable prices.”

John A. Ritter, chairman and chief executive officer of the Focus Property Group, is developing the Stonewater project along the lines of Focus’ Mountain’s Edge community in the southwestern Las Vegas Valley. The difference will be in price.

“Our intention, overall, was to address the affordability issue in Las Vegas, but also to build a really nice master plan that had all the attributes of the master-planned communities in Las Vegas,” Ritter said of Stonewater.

“The homes will be available at a much more affordable price, so we think we’ll have young families living there, in which one or both of the heads of the household are commuting to Las Vegas for employment.”

Huff said a two-bedroom, two-bath home sitting on a 1-acre lot can be priced from $120,500 for a fixer-upper to a $710,000 luxury spread in Pahrump. The median price would be $215,000. In 2004, before the days of numerous tract homes in Pahrump when the housing “boom” was taking place, many people could buy 1-acre lots for as little as $60,000, and then build a home on the lot to the tune of $150 to $200 per square foot “easy,” according to Huff.

“In comparison to Clark County, Las Vegas or even Mesquite, you do have the opportunity to purchase an acre of land and have horses as well as a place for your children to play and grow,” Elefante said. “I think that people are able to sell their current homes in Clark County, make enough money off the sale, and either buy a brand new home in Pahrump, or purchase land, design the home of their dreams and build it.”

One such dream became reality for Damon Barkow, 60, and his 65-year-old wife, Billie, who will move into their 2,100-square-foot residence on a one-quarter acre lot within Concordia Homes’ Pleasant Valley neighborhood on June 25.

Having sold their 1,800-square-foot home at Silverado Ranch, the Barkows consider Pahrump to be an ideal place to spend their retirement years.

“We like Las Vegas, but I think there’s been a change in the people that are here now,” Damon Barkow said. “It’s not what it used to be, traffic-wise, and it’s become more crowded.”

The couple had resided in Las Vegas for 27 years, but are now enthusiastic about their new surroundings. They’re anticipating the panoramic view of Mt. Charleston, which they said is clearest at 1 p.m. daily.

They hope to pull out stops in Las Vegas regularly, too.

“I think, for us, the big plus for my wife and I is we can come into Las Vegas for the day, see a show, go shopping for whatever is in Las Vegas that we don’t have out there and then go home that evening if we choose,” Damon Barkow said.

Andrews clocked the drive to Las Vegas from Pahrump at 45 minutes each way, and said that it is “amazing” that a small-town atmosphere can be “so close” to Las Vegas.

Between the size of the lots in Pahrump, as well as the scenery and lifestyle, Andrews likened the town to Laverne, Calif., where he was raised.

“I grew up in a smaller town, where you can feel safe while your kids are running about — I don’t know how to put the small-town quality of life into words; it’s something that you really have to experience,” Andrews said. “Pahrump reminds me of the town I grew up in. It’s a place where you can leave your home for months out of the year, and it’ll be safe. It’s for retirees and it’s definitely a community where you’ll get to know your neighbors.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development is hosting Pahrump’s First Annual Homeownership Fair from noon to 4:30 p.m. on June 24 at the Bob Ruud Community Center.

For more information, call 262-9047, ext. 4.

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