The Las Vegas Real Estate Insider Club is proud to host special guest speaker Mayor Oscar Goodman at their upcoming meeting, held Wednesday October 14th. In order to accommodate the increased number of guests expected to attend, the meeting will be held at a special venue this month… the conference center high atop the Newport Lofts in downtown Las Vegas. The mayor will likely address such topics as the state of the economy, the redevelopment efforts downtown, and the housing market in Las Vegas.
In addition to the presentation from Mayor Goodman, the Club will welcome its usual line up of speakers discussing current Las Vegas housing market conditions, the national economy, foreclosure properties and more. Tamara Bostrom from Spiral Digitial Media will discuss how professionals can use the internet to generate new business in this challenging economic climate.
The Las Vegas Real Estate Insider Club, which normally meets the second Wednesday of each month at Putters Grill on Rainbow at the 215, was founded almost three years ago by full time real estate investor Glenn Plantone. Glenn’s vision was to create a forum for other investors and professionals involved in real estate and related trades to meet and exchange ideas and opportunities as well as have the opportunity to hear timely, educational presentations from local and national real estate experts. Thus far, the Club has enjoyed tremendous success and anticipates welcoming over 150 members and guests to the Newport Lofts downtown for the October meeting featuring Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.
The Las Vegas real estate market has endured an amazing roller coaster ride in the last ten years. Homeowners in the Las Vegas valley saw very modest price appreciation throughout the 90’s and the early part of this decade. In 2003, sales began to pick up and by 2004 Las Vegas was the hottest market in the United States. Prices shot up to astronomical new heights only to come crashing down a few years later. The 2007 and 2008 season saw the Las Vegas real estate market become as cold as ice as both prices and closings plummeted and foreclosures soared. But all things come full circle and since the summer of 2008, the Vegas market has been picking up steam and has in fact enjoyed record sales going into the summer of 2009. In fact, there were more sales in June and July of this year than during any previous month on record…including the heyday back in 2004. The continued bad news, is that after 18 months of price drops the huge gains in appreciation that we saw from 2003 to 2006 have not only been erased, but we have receded to levels of a decade ago. The average median home price in Las Vegas has settled near $130,000. Virtually everyone that purchased in Las Vegas after 1998 is now upside down in their home. It does not make a lot of sense to most Las Vegans as homes are now selling well below builder’s replacement costs.
This drastic decrease in prices has brought droves of investors back into the Las Vegas real estate market. 80% of closings in the last several months have been on REO or post-foreclosure bank owned homes. Cash buyers have been dominating the market and getting great properties for around $40 to $70 per square foot. Unfortunately, the inventory of bank owned homes is now at an all time low of under 2000 units. This represents less than a two week supply of inventory based on the fact that the majority of the 4702 and 4602 closings in June and July were REOs. Even though Las Vegas is the “foreclosure capital of the world”, we are continuing to see foreclosure inventory shrink on a monthly basis. June and July saw nearly 3300 homes per month revert to the banks through foreclosure, but this pales in comparison to the over 3700 REO sales per month that we saw at the same time. This disparity means that we are loosing nearly 400 homes per month from the inventory of bank owned homes.
The low inventory is causing heavy competition for the homes that are available. REOs coming on to the market today are creating bidding wars as investors try to snatch up cash flowing properties at great, low prices. Both owner occupants and investors looking to take advantage of great buying conditions are finding that they are having serious difficulty getting homes under contract. This excess of demand is beginning to drive prices up on bank owned homes.
For months, I have touted the benefits of buying REOs directly from the banks. The process is simply and easy, and, until recently, investors could use this method to acquire great properties at great prices. But those days appear to be coming to a close, at least for the time being. There has been talk for over six months, since the moratorium on foreclosures ended in March of this year, that the banks have a surplus of inventory they are holding back. The problem seems to be that no one knows when or if this rumored inventory will be released. Until or unless that day comes, I am now advocating that investors change their strategy for acquiring properties in Las Vegas. Plan B is to buy homes at the trustee’s sale. After the notice of default (giving a late paying home owner 90 days to cure the late payment) and the notice of sale (giving them another 21 days) a home is sold at the trustees sale. At this sale, the property will either be bought by a third party (you or I) or it goes back to the bank and will eventually become a bank owned, MLS listed REO foreclosure property.
Previously, I have not advocated buying at the trustee sale because there are many restrictions and hassles involved in this method of purchase. Not the lease of which is that properties cannot be financed…cash must be paid at the time of sale. However, with the inventory of REO homes tightening so drastically, I am now finding that trustee sales are offering opportunities to purchase homes at 20-30% below the price that would be paid once the home becomes an REO. Buying at the trustee sale also eliminates the competition of multiple offers. This is where the true investor can now turn to get great wholesale deals. Investors must continue to adapt in order to profit in today’s real estate market. I believe trustee sales in Las Vegas are the next step in this evolution.
Anyone interested in getting involved and finding great homes at the best prices with the least amount of competition feel free to get in touch with me for more information.
Over the last five years I have sold a lot of real estate in many different markets nationwide. In 2003, droves of investors came into the Las Vegas market and purchased single family homes and condos. In 2004, the scene repeated itself in the Phoenix market. In 2005, towns like Albuquerque and Austin saw investors moving in to snatch up large quantities of new construction homes. Finally, in 2006, the Carolinas became hot and certain areas on the Gulf Coast enjoyed profitable buying conditions.
I was on the move throughout this time period, visiting all of these markets and helping my investors find deals there. All the while, I was sitting on the sidelines at home. After 2003, home prices in the Las Vegas valley became too high to cash flow and purchasing here no longer made sense to investors. Of course, that all began to change in the summer of 2008 as the real estate bubble burst abruptly and prices began free-falling throughout much of the West. As home prices plummeted, Las Vegas began to make sense again for investors because the point of cash flow was once again reached. The “point of cash flow” is a simple equation in which the amount of money an investor can make from renting a home exceeds his/her costs of ownership. These costs of ownership include the mortgage, taxes, insurance, repairs, and property management. With a 20% down payment (or in many cases less), positive cash flow can now be achieved in the Las Vegas market for the first time in several years. This is due primarily to the rock bottom prices of the foreclosures that have been flooding the market. Not only has Las Vegas lead the nation in foreclosures for well over a year, but the amount of foreclosures coming on the market now are near triple the amount from just a year ago. Currently, in the Las Vegas valley, nearly one home in 40 is in some stage of the foreclosure process. The median home price has come down approximately $10,000 per month, every month for the last year and a half from a high of near $300,000 to a new median price of only $140,000. These drastic price reductions have created a new buying boom.
Local newspaper articles and analysts talk about a 30% declines in home values here in Las Vegas. But as a full time investor myself and a licensed Realtor, I can tell you the reality is that we are seeing prices that are being discounted 50-70% off of where they were just two years ago. Many of my deals over the last couple of months have been coming in at well below 50% of older, higher values from 2006. I recently sold a one bedroom condo at $31,000 that sold for $148,000 two years ago. That is nearly 20 cents on the dollar! Three bedroom homes, only two years old, that sold new as high as $300,000 are now priced under $120,000. I recently closed on a three bedroom, 1300 square foot home for $75,000. This same home sold for $244,000 just three years ago. Deals like these are typical of what I have been getting for my investors.
These incredible prices open the door for virtually anybody to step back into the Las Vegas market and begin buying once again. Utilizing the government’s Housing Recovery Foreclosure Bill, 1st time buyers have a $8000 tax credit to take advantage of and Baby Boomers and retirees looking to relocate to a warmer weather destination do not have to head south of the border as the Southwest has become affordable once again. The vacation capital of the world now makes sense for second home and vacation home buyers, and, of course, investors are delighted to be able to cash flow on their investments in Las Vegas once again. All of these groups will also benefit from price appreciation over the next several years as the market continues its recovery.
The only bad news, as we all know, is that lending guidelines have tightened up considerably over the last year. But, to offset this, prices are ½ of where they were two years ago. If you have a good job, and good credit, it is a great time to be buying a home. Interest rates are at historic lows and now is a great time to lock in a good rate on a 30 year fully amortized note, rates literally have no place to go but up. Current reports show that nearly 85% of closings in this market are being financed through a lender. So it is clearly still possible to get a loan. However, of the nearly 50 deals I have closed this year, only five of them were financed. Nearly 90% of my deals have been all cash. Not only am I getting more deals accepted, but I am getting them at or near list price in most cases and getting them pushed through rapidly. I just had a lender for a bank owned property countact me stating that they were willing to accept our lower than list price offer as long as we could close in 10 days with all cash (as we had stated). They had two other offers on the table for more money but banks do not want to fool around with financing either. They want to take the sure cash sale even if it is at a huge discount. This just goes to show that even though financing is available, cash is still king right now in this market.
June and July of 2009 have seen record sales in Las Vegas with 4702 and 4602 closes in each of the last two months. After 18 months of declines we have seen 3 months of holding steady on pricing. Investors have sensed the bottom has been reached and are coming in droves to pick up homes and condos at the bottom of the market. So, folks, if you have been able to save some money, or if you still have a line of credit open, I suggest you come back into the Las Vegas market and start looking around for some real bargains. The banks are ready to deal and the timing to buy a great foreclosure is as good as it gets.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed for an article written by Brian Wargo for the “In Business” section of the Las Vegas Sun. Following is a reprint of the article which was titled, “Single Family Homes Catch Investors’ Eyes – Buyers Focus on Rental Income More Than Appreciation Potential”:
Southern California investors have returned to the Las Vegas market in force to look for bargains on single-family homes and helped drive Las Vegas to a record number of sales in June, housing industry experts said.
The number of investors buying new and existing homes in Las Vegas rose 35 percent when June numbers are compared with June 2008, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.
The demand for investors buying existing homes has helped that segment of the market fare the best when it comes to real estate investing over the past year and kept housing prices stable between April and June, analysts said.
“Real estate has always been a good investment, and right now it has never been better from a residential standpoint,” said Steve Bottfeld, executive vice president of Marketing Solutions. “I just wouldn’t invest in commercial (real estate) because it is about to go through what residential already has.”
DataQuick reported that investors made up 37.5 percent of the buyers of both new and existing homes in June. That’s the second highest June this decade when it comes to investor-purchased homes, next to the 39.4 percent in June 2004. It’s also the highest percentage of investors as buyers since it was 37.6 percent in February 2006, said DataQuick spokesman Andrew LePage.
The influx of investors into the market is evident since it hit a low of 25.3 percent in September 2008 in the aftermath of the housing boom. In June 2008, investors comprised 27.8 percent of the sales, below the 30.3 percent average for Las Vegas between January 2000 and June 2009, LePage said.
No one should confuse this class of investors in residential real estate with those during the boom that bought and flipped houses, Bottfeld said. These investors are looking to hold long term and earn money off rental income, he said.
It makes sense because if someone can buy a home for $100,000 in cash and rent it for $1,000 a month, that equates to a 12 percent return before taxes and other expenses are included, Bottfeld said. Even getting an 8 percent return is better than the 2 percent they might get at their bank, he added.
Glenn Plantone, a Realtor and president of the Real Estate Insiders Club in Las Vegas, said investors are taking advantage of a steep drop in prices since they peaked in 2006. In some cases, prices of homes in the northwest fell 70 percent.
Homes that sold for about $300,000 are going for about $110,000 he said.
“They are buying them for cash flow,” Plantone said. “We are not even talking about appreciation potential.”
The market to rent homes remains strong because people understand the value compared to renting an apartment, Plantone said. And for those homeowners who lost their home to foreclosure, they want to stay in a home.
“It is a lot easier to rent houses than condos,” Plantone said. “We are getting people who are walking away from a $2,000 a month home payment and going across the street to rent a home for $1,200 in immaculate shape.”
Despite the interest in Las Vegas, it is not as strong as Phoenix where 39.6 percent of sales were bought by investors, LePage said.
Most of the investor buyers that Plantone said he has dealt with are Southern Californians. Many are small businessmen who have several hundred thousand dollars to invest and have been waiting for an opportunity in real estate.
Plantone said these buyers are savvy because none of his investors has bought a property for more than $121,000. They are looking for homes built in 2003 and later.
Robyn Yates, the broker-owner of Windermere Prestige Properties said not only are investors coming from Southern California but there has also been a lot of interest from foreign buyers, especially in Asia. Some are even buying homes without seeing them in person, she said.
Many investors have been hurt by the decline in the stock market and liquidated some of those assets or took out money from their 401k despite having to pay a penalty, she said. In some cases, there are a group of five people pooling cash to buy 10 homes, but most are individual investors, she said.
“Some of them were just holding onto cash until the opportunity was right,” Yates said. “I think they are going to be around for another couple of years.”
As long as homes can be bought much cheaper than builders can construct them, there will be a market for investors in Las Vegas, Yates said.
Plantone said that many of these buyers will leave the market when prices go up $20,000 to $30,000 because their investments won’t pencil out for rental income as they will now.
“That’s why investors have been so aggressive,” Plantone said. “I am telling people they may not see a better time to buy since the Great Depression.”
Investors are winning out over frustrated first-time buyers for the properties because they are offering more than the list price and because they have the advantage of offering cash, Plantone said. It was only three months ago that buyers could get properties below list price, he said.
Any investors who bought in 2007 or early 2008 wouldn’t have had any luck with appreciation, although buying single-family homes fared the best out of all real estate investment categories over the past year, according to Larry Murphy, president of SalesTraq, a Las Vegas housing research firm.
“The single-family home has always been the preferred house of choice with most people,” Murphy said. “Most people want the picket fence and the back yard and not being attached to someone.”
Between the first six months of 2008 and first six months of 2009, the median price of single-family homes fell 34 percent, Murphy said.
The best performer on price appreciation when it comes to planned communities was Silverstone Ranch in the northwest valley. The Pulte Homes community had a median price of $226,000 in 2008 and that fell 19 percent to $182,500 through the second quarter this year, Murphy said.
Homes performed better than an acre of undeveloped land, whose median price fell 42 percent over that timeframe, he said.
Third on the list were mid-rise condominiums, which fell 49 percent in the past year They were barely ahead of high-rise condos whose values fell 50 percent and other condos and town homes which fell 51 percent, Murphy said.
The worst investment over the past year was apartment conversions with values falling by 56 percent, Murphy said.
The worst of the that segment was the Meridian at Hughes Center on Flamingo Road, east of the Strip that was converted from apartments to condominiums between 2005 and 2007, Murphy said.
The property, which had a failed attempt at trying to convert into a condo-hotel because of Clark County regulations, sold for $604 per square foot when it first entered the market. The average price was $539,000, Murphy said.
Through June, the average resale price has fallen to $87,611 or $121 a square foot, Murphy said. With that drop in price has come rising foreclosures. Murphy reports that 201 of the 680 units or 30 percent have been foreclosed upon, and that number is likely to rise. The foreclosures have been running as high as 25 a month so far in 2009, he said.
Murphy said he’s not surprised apartment conversions have fared the worst because in essence some are 20-year-old buildings that have a new granite countertop.
There was a strong demand for condo conversions during the housing boom because they were the only units available that could be bought for $200,000 or less. With homes more affordable today, that softens the demand for conversions, he said.
Land came in second after single-family homes because despite the meltdown in the market, it remains a precious commodity, Bottfeld said. Even though Las Vegas is overbuilt, there is a limited supply of land because of restrictions by the federal government, he said.
There is not as much movement on buying high-rise condominiums because the inventory is limited and banks have been reluctant to put that inventory on the market at bargain prices, Plantone said.
The high-rise condominium market that has fared poorly is condo-hotels in which buyers put the room in the daily hotel rental pool. Demand for hotel rooms has been weak in the economy and hotels only return about $30 for every $100 in rental income, Plantone said.
The last time I reported on the MGM Signature Towers was in late April when new low comps were established for both Studio and 1 Bedroom units at the close of the MGM auction. I wanted to take a moment to update my readers as prices continue to drop on these properties here in Las Vegas.
I have been following the MGM Signature Towers project since its inception in 2003 and 2004 and have stayed as far away as possible until recently as purchasing made no sense from a cash flow perspective. But as you know, things change quickly in Las Vegas and this investment is beginning to look a lot more lucrative. I will explain.
If you are unfamiliar with the hotel condo concept, it is quite simply explained as follows: You the investor buy and own the actual condo with all of its luxury furnishings, and the condo is put into a rental program and managed by a management company (in this case as part of the MGM Hotel and Casino). There are a lot of calculations that lead to how much revenue owners will make (or not make) from their condo hotel but a reasonably accurate estimate in the case of the Signature Towers would call for the owner to end up with about 40% of the gross revenues from the rental of the room. In simple math, if a condo hotel room is rented for $100 per night, the owner will net about $40.
Of course there are some perks to ownership of the unit as the owner can use it themselves (with a reservation) or the room does not have to be in the rental program at all. If someone wished to live in their luxury condo unit they could choose to do so. The home owner’s association fees are quite high, at near $400 for the studio unit and $900 for the one bedroom unit. These fees pay for the luxury resort amenities which are separate from, yet still attached to, the MGM Hotel. The Signature Towers resort features two exercise rooms, valet parking, guest services, coffee shop, lounge, deli, several pools, high speed internet service throughout and a gift shop.
The hotel condo project was sold in three stages with tower 1 (145 East Harmon) completed in 2005. This building is closest to the MGM hotel and was the first building of the three to be finished. Units in this building sold for between $300,000 to $600,000 for the smaller studio units (520 square feet) and $500,000 to $1,000,000 for the 1 bedroom units. The second tower was the 135 East Harmon tower which was completed in 2006. Studio units sold for a little higher, in the $400,000 to $700,000 range, and 1 bedroom units remained the same at $500,000 to $1,000,000. The last tower to be built, 125 East Harmon, sold for even higher prices. It was completed in 2006 with studio units selling for $500,000 to $800,000 and 1 bedroom units fetching prices from $700,000 to over $1 million.
Note that because tower one was sold at lower prices there have been less foreclosures coming on the market from this tower (145). As investors grossly overpaid for units in all buildings, but especially buildings two and three, we are now seeing a high rate of foreclosures begin to hit the market. I believe that as early investors begin to see how far upside down they are we may see even more people letting their units go as their equity or perceived equity is non-existent.
Over the last year there have been 92 re-sales as a combined total from all three buildings. As of April 2009 the lowest priced 1 bedroom unit had sold for $274,000 and the lowest priced studio unit had sold for $174,000. This was, of course, well below the original sales prices of just a few years earlier. Then in late April of this year, an auction took place at the MGM and 20 units were sold off in about 2 hours time. I reported on this auction in my blog as a new low of $202,000 for one bedrooms and $160,000 for studios were established.
It was about this time that I stepped in and began to educate my database of investors about these units as I could see that the prices were beginning to move closer to the point where they could hit bottom and actually begin to make sense as an investment for those looking to keep them in the rental program.
When looking at units from these high rise towers, each investor will want to be concerned with the price of the unit, its “rentability” potential, the profitability of the investment, and the future appreciation potential of the property.
I have identified 7 items that have a direct effect on these factors. These 7 items include the following:
1. Odd/Even address numbers: Odd = strip side views and Even = mountain views.
2. One bedroom unit (874 or 847 sq. ft) or studio unit (520 square feet)?
3. Handicapped unit or regular unit?
4. Does the unit have a balcony or not?
5. Is the unit located on a high floor or a low floor?
6. How is the View (strip/mountain/airport/pool)?
7. Is it a penthouse floor (29 to 33)? (Comes with a higher ceiling.)
Since April I have been working with several investors and fighting to get the lowest price possible for them on the units they are looking to take down. All this hard work paid o this past Friday the 17th as one of my investors closed on a lower oor studio unit at only $99,000. This new low blew away the previous low comp of $140,000 for a studio from only a couple of months back.
The very next day, Saturday July 18th, I attended the second auction for the MGM Signature Towers with cashiers check in hand ready to pounce on a 1 bedroom unit for another client. And as I predicted, a new low was achieved when the 1 bedroom sold at auction for $180,000 ($22,000 less than the previous low). The unit was in tower 1 ( first building), 7th floor, with a balcony and a nice pool view on the mountain side (even number). The unit sold originally for $540,000 and made for a nice deal at 33 cents on the dollar from the original high. This lower comp should help motivate the banks to continue pushing prices down into a range that will produce more investors traffic as people look to scarf up these luxurious condo hotels.
As of this writing, there are 155 units listed for sale in the entire MGM Signature Towers project. There are only 22 that are REO/bank owned foreclosures and 68 short sales. The remaining 65 units listed for sale are upside down owners who will not be able to resell their units at their asking prices for many, many years.
Anyone seriously interested in taking down a unit at today’s new lower prices should contact me as soon as possible as inventory is very light at this time. I am not sure how low the prices will go but I truly believe a studio at $100k and a one bedroom unit at $150k are very good deals.
This Friday the 24th of July there will be a third (silent) auction that will be taking place on 10 units at the MGM Signature Towers. You must be registered in advance in order to bid online. The highest bidder’s o er will be presented to the bank. If the bank accepts the bid, you will get the condo at your winning bid price. If the minimum (unpublished reserve bid) is not met, the deal will be renegotiated or you can walk away. There is no earnest money required for the silent auction. Call or email me for details to register.
For the last 18 months real estate investors, market analysts and other experts have speculated as to when the long awaited bottom for the beleaguered real estate market would finally arrive. Rather than offering guesses as to how long the down market would last, I have tried to focus on identifying the signs of a bottom approaching, so that myself and my investors would be able to identify this buying opportunity as it arrived.
If you have followed my articles and blog posts, you have noted that I consistently advocate using a three step process to identify the coming of the real estate market “bottom” and the possible beginnings of a recovery. This process involves analyzing three sets of variables: First, the standing inventory of homes for sale; second, the volume of existing home sales; and third, the median home price for a particular area. A few weeks ago, I confidently announced the arrival of the real estate market “bottom” in my local area: Las Vegas. I cited as evidence for this claim data from each of the three areas listed above.
First, the inventory of available single family homes in Las Vegas has decreased rapidly in the last few months after remaining relatively stable at around 22,000 homes through much of 2008. This inventory is now at a level of just under 12,000 homes. Inventory is nearly ½ of its 2008 levels. Homes under $200,000 have less than 4 months standing inventory. Homes under $100,000 have less than 3 months inventory. A normal healthy inventory is considered a 6 month supply of homes. This decrease in standing inventory was our first indicator that the Las Vegas real estate market was bottoming.
Second, the volume of existing home sales has exploded in Las Vegas in the last few months. In fact, sales of residential homes reached record highs in June. According to data published by the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, sales of single-family homes and condos rose 87 percent in June from a year ago…to a total of 4,702 sales. This total breaks the previous record high set in June of 2004, during the peak of the housing bubble.
Finally, we must also consider median home prices, which after falling for over a year and a half in the Las Vegas valley have finally stabilized near $140K in the last three months.
I used all of this data to arrive at the conclusion that we have hit bottom in Las Vegas (and many other areas of the country as well.) And I stand by that assertion. However, unfortunately for many American home owners, we are beginning to witness the fact that real estate markets may create bubbles, but they don’t operate within them.
Two years ago, home prices cooled across the United States and as the real estate bubble began to burst it triggered the freezing of the credit markets, which in turn brought on the greatest recession this country has seen since the Great Depression. Since then, the general economic downturn has rolled on independently of the struggling housing markets. It has grown to encompass the stock market, the job market, the banking industry, and all other major economic areas. All the while, there has been no doubt that the catalyst which provoked this whole mess was the rapid decline of housing prices, accelerating foreclosures, bad loans and the accompanying problems surrounding the burst of the real estate bubble. Unfortunately, the cause cannot now bring the remedy.
In fact, the general economic malaise now threatens, in fact almost promises, to thwart the recovery of the housing market. Economists warn that rising unemployment rates will bring a fresh round of foreclosures as home owners, even those not burdened by questionable loans or upside down property values, lose the ability to stay in their homes. Also, to spite consistently low interest rates and government incentive programs for new home buyers, banks still seem reluctant to loan money. Instead of thawing, credit markets continue to tighten in many areas as banks raise rates and cut limits on unsecured credit lines and charge cards…even to good customers with perfect payment records.
These factors conspire to throw a bucket of cold water on the hot housing market that we are now observing. As the economy continues to decline, I would not be surprised to see our newly found real estate bottom begin to give way once again. Although I do not think that we will see declines that come anywhere close to the plummeting prices of a year ago, I do believe that rising unemployment and the continuing credit crunch may prompt home prices to begin another, more gradual, downward slide.
This doesn’t mean that the current market is not still a great time for investors to begin loading up on properties. Cash flow is always king when it comes to real estate investments, and the cash flow opportunities in Las Vegas and across the country are more promising than they have been in decades. But, as always, investors should proceed with caution and look to purchase for the long term. Naked appreciation plays are risky under the best of conditions, and they have no place what-so-ever in a volatile market such as this.
In February of this year, I wrote an article addressing the plight of renters in the Las Vegas valley. The Las Vegas Sun had run an article detailing how many renters were facing the need to immediately vacate their homes, which had gone into foreclosure without their knowledge. (Click here to read my article.) In most cases, the renters had no idea that the owners of the property were in trouble until the Sheriff arrived on their doorstep to serve eviction papers.
A new law, passed May 20th and entitled the “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009”, provides safeguards for renters in the event that an owner allows a property to enter foreclosure. This protection comes in two forms. First, if the renters have a lease, the new owners of the property must honor the lease, allowing renters to stay in the property until the end of the term provided they remain in good standing. The only case in which this statute does not apply is in states where state law allows leases to be terminated at any time upon notice. Even in that case, the new owner of the property must intend to occupy the property as a primary residence in order to evict the tenants before the end of the lease. The second safeguard extends to renters who are on a month-to-month agreement. In this case, the new owner of the property (whether it be a bank or a private individual) must provide 90 days written notice to the tenants in order for them to vacate the property.
Many states already have laws protecting tenants in the case of foreclosure. In those states, the new Federal law will still supercede the state law, unless the protection afforded to the tenants under the state law is greater.
Of course there are conditions that must be met in order for the Helping Families Act to apply. The most notable are:
1. The tenants must have a written contract to rent or lease the property
2. The lease must be a result of an “arms length transaction.”
3. The rent must not be substantially less than current fair market rent for the property.
All things considered, I believe that this law represents a fair and equitable solution to the unfair situation in which many renters have found themselves since the foreclosure boom began.
If you are a renter, and you want to know if your landlords are current on their mortgage, you can often find that information on the County Assessor’s website. In the case of Las Vegas residents, the site would be www.accessclarkcounty.com/assessor. Once you are on the site, click on “record searches” then “addresses.” You will need to enter the full property address as requested. Once you have done this, you will receive a parcel number. Jot this parcel number down and then visit this site: www.accessclarkcounty.com/depts/recorder. Click on “search records” and then click on the “advanced search” tab. You will need to enter the parcel number (without any dashes) and hit “search.” The search will show you the name of the registered owner of the property and whether or not there are any documents filed against the property, such as a notice of default or a notice of sale.
The Las Vegas Real Estate Insider Club was pleased to host Richard Lee at our last meeting June 12th. Formally, Lee is Vice President, Public Relations Director, and a real estate consultant for First American Title Company of Nevada. But since 1989, Lee has also been the “go-to guy” for the Las Vegas community when it comes to development and growth. Developers, business owners, real estate investors and gaming companies rely on his insight for investment, lending and acquisitions. Simply put, Richard reduces a tidal wave of information into entrepreneurial opportunities.
At the meeting Richard spoke to the club on a wide variety of topics relating to real estate, the Las Vegas market in particular and the economy as a whole. He presented background information about what created this current economic crisis including insight into the sub-prime market, how notes are bought, debt is defused and property redistributed. And, although we may definitely be nearing the “bottom” of the real estate slide in Las Vegas, Richard explained how a factor called “Appraisal Drift” or “BPO Drift” may cause a continued downward slide in pricing of 1-2% over the next 12 months.
Richard offered his opinion, however, that Las Vegas is still a great place to purchase investment properties. He believes that jobs drive everything in local real estate economies by creating stability and growth. With sun, entertainment, great food and (now) housing prices below the curve, the outlook for the Las Vegas economy is strengthening. He also mentioned the fact that California may eventually approach a 60% total tax rate and, as a result, Las Vegas will continue to see population growth from those moving in from the west coast as well as baby boomers leaving other parts of the country.
Richard Lee also discussed an interesting phenomenon that is currently developing in Las Vegas real estate. As investors recognize the great buying opportunities that exist and rush to purchase properties at new, low prices…a certain “auction mentality” has begun to develop. Potential purchasers are finding themselves in multiple offer situations with properties selling above asking price. Those feeling that they have to get in now to avoid missing the boat are creating a dangerous over-bidding situation that could result in a second real estate bubble of sorts for the Las Vegas Valley.
The moment we have all been waiting for…for the past two years…has finally arrived! You will not hear about this on the national news…yet…because the news sources are always well behind when reporting trends. You will hear it from me: a full time investor and “on the street” veteran agent that is seeing firsthand a dramatic change in the face of Las Vegas real estate.
I am here to announce that the bottom of the Las Vegas housing market is here. Let me explain why I believe this to be the case, and why now may be the best time since the great depression to be buying up real estate, especially in the Las Vegas market.
In late 2006 and early 2007 the Las Vegas real estate market hit its all time median price high of around $320,000. Shortly thereafter, the now infamous “credit crunch” began in late summer 2007 and the entire economy, especially the housing industry, has been reeling backwards ever since. Over the last 18 months, the median home price in the Las Vegas valley has dropped an average of $10,000 per month…settling in at around $125,000. Prices have literally plummeted by as much as 75% in some segments of the Las Vegas market. And guess what? The free fall is over. They are not going to go down anymore.
I understand that this is a bold claim. But there are several factors that you must evaluate when trying to determine the bottom of a housing market. I have quoted these factors several times over the last two years, and have always maintained that they did not all line up…until now. The factors are: 1. The inventory of homes listed on the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). 2. The number of homes being sold in the marketplace. 3. The average median price of homes. Once the inventory stops increasing, the volume begins trending upward and the median price stabilizes… you have found the true bottom of the market.
Looking first at number 1: The inventory of available single family homes in Las Vegas remained relatively stable at about 22,000 homes through much of 2008. This inventory is now at a level of just under 12,000 homes listed on the market ready for sale. Inventory is nearly ½ of its 2008 levels. Homes under $200,000 now have less than 4 months standing inventory. Homes under $100,000 have less than 3 months inventory. A normal healthy inventory is considered a 6 month supply of homes. The inventory of available homes is getting scarily low as realtors are worried about what to sell if they do not get some fresh foreclosure inventory.
Foreclosures reached an all time high in March of 2009 with over 7700 new foreclosures announced in Clark County. A large factor in this number being so high was the moratorium announced by the Obama administration that ended in the first quarter of the year. In contrast, April 2009 totals are showing only 1289 homes were foreclosed on in Clark County. This is the smallest amount of foreclosures for the Las Vegas area in the last 16 months. As foreclosures dry up, this will continue to contribute to the huge decrease in standing inventory that we are now observing.
Moving on to #2: With each passing month since early 2008, sales volume has picked up in Las Vegas. There were over 4000 sales in the Las Vegas market in April of 2009. Because of the lower prices more people can afford to buy…and they are buying. More investors are entering the market as properties have not cash flowed like this in over 10 years, and home prices are now at 1998 levels. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that if you have 1300 new listings (new foreclosures), and you sold 4000 homes, your inventory is shrinking dramatically on a monthly basis.
The final factor to consider is median home price. The median home price in Las Vegas has dropped a TOTAL of $10,000 over the last three months…as opposed to $10,000 PER month…which had previously been the steady rate of decline for the last year and a half.
Inventory is getting smaller, prices have dropped to very affordable levels and appear to be leveling off, and sales are getting busier each and every month. The sheer numbers of foreclosures are finally decreasing from their highs also. All of this data helps to paint a clear picture of what is happening in the Las Vegas real estate market. But let me also share with you some non scientific observations that we can add to the equation.
As a full time investor and a licensed realtor I am getting shut out of properties left and right. Most properties both low end (under $150,000) and higher end ($300,000 and up) are receiving multiple offers and are now selling for prices above the list price. I am amazed at the amount of traffic I am coming across when I go out to look at properties. Some homes are getting 15-20 offers in the first couple of days after listing. More than 90% of all my purchases this year have been cash deals and I am still getting rejections in some cases even when we are coming in with full price cash offers.
Well, my friends, the cat is now out of the bag. Everyone now knows that Las Vegas real estate is cheap. Homes are well below replacement costs as the average foreclosed home is selling for around $78 a square foot. I just closed this week on a 2221 square foot home for $117,000 or $52 a square foot. It took nearly a month to negotiate this one down. Homes and condos are 50-75% off their highs and people are buying everything in sight. The good old days are back again. And, for the record, even if I am off slightly in my evaluation and we drop another 10% or so, it is still the best time to be buying real estate in Las Vegas. We have historically low interest rates of around 5%, great government incentives, especially for first time buyers with the $8,000 chameleon-like tax credit, and new lower comparable sales to justify banks accepting your lowball offers.
So if we have hit the bottom…as I suggest…how long will we be here? Will the market spike up or slowly trudge along the bottom until the economy as a whole begins to recover? I will explore those thoughts in more detail in my next article.
Within the realm of real estate investing, each type of investment (foreclosures, fixers, land, REITs, etc) has its good and bad times to buy. To be a successful investor you need to be able to identify not only which type of investment is the best at any given time but also which sub-category within that investment type you should look to specialize in, and when in the market cycle to buy.
Perhaps you are new to real estate investing (or not) and have heard that foreclosures currently abound and offer the best way for investors to gain instant equity in a property. This may well be very true. But the designation “foreclosure” is a general term comprised of many types of properties. Understanding the different types of foreclosures, where in the time line a particular foreclosure stands and which type of foreclosure offers the bet deal is critical to your success as an investor.
Along the time line of the foreclosure process, there are three basic areas that present buying opportunities for investors. The first of these has investors buying before the foreclosure auction. The second opportunity comes through buying homes directly at the auction. The third and final possibility is to buy properties after the auction is over, either directly from the bank or from an auction company. These bank owned properties are referred to as REO’s or Real Estate Owned. Each of these stages in the process provide unique benefits as well as challenges. The smart investor will need to contrast the pros and cons of each method in order to find the best and safest investment opportunities within the broad field of “foreclosures.”
The first opportunity for foreclosure investors, buying before the auction, encompasses the period of time when home owners are behind on their payments and realize they are in danger of losing their home but have not yet been foreclosed upon. This sub-category will include listed properties from the multiple listing service (MLS), short sales, notice of defaults (NODS) and notice of trustee’s sales (NOTS). For a number of important reasons, this is not a good time for anyone to be attempting to sell a home through “normal” retail channels. The sluggish nature of the housing market, the excess low priced inventory on the market, lending resrictions, and the anxiety of potential buyers willing to sit on the sidelines and wait for conditions to improve combine to make selling retail nearly impossible for most home owners. Sellers cannot compete against foreclosures so unless they too become a foreclosure they have no viable way to sell their home. This means that we as investors will have a very hard time finding a property to purchase with equity in it, at this stage of the foreclosure process.
There is one segment within this first stage to which we should direct a little bit of extra attention: short sales. A short sale occurs when an owner is in trouble and a potential buyer comes in and negotiates with the bank to purchase the property for a value less than the amount owed on the loan. This provides both a potential solution to the home owner and a way for investors to get a home at below market value. The downside to this method is that with the huge amount of foreclosures blanketing the nation, short sales are taking way too long to complete (4-6 months on average) or aren’t going through at all. Some recent statistics show that only about 20% of short sales actual close. There are still many companies, Realtors, and investors that are quite successful in short sales, but this niche is difficult and not one in which most investors find success.
The second opportunity for investors comes through buying properties at the foreclosure auction or trustee’s sale. Note that some states liquidate foreclosures through judicial proceedings, while others, like California and Nevada, have trustee’s sales that are held on the courthouse steps. The positive side of buying foreclosures at auction is that the competition for the property you are looking to buy is not usually all that stiff. However, in trust deed states you must have cash or the equivalent of at the time of the auction to be the winning bidder. This eliminates a huge majority of potential buyers as most folks do not have $100,000 or more easily accessible in cash. Because REO properties are now selling for levels under amounts owed on comparable properties in the (NOTS) stage, buying at the trustee’s sale is not a viable way to buy in most situations. Most properties brought to auction at this point are failing to sell for asking price and are reverting back to the banks and becoming bank owned REO’s. Again, there are professionals who are buying good properties at trustee’s sales and auctions, but it is not an easy way for a beginner to break into the foreclosure arena and it is a very small segment of the market at this time.
By far the best, easiest, safest, and most lucrative way to buy foreclosure properties at this time is during the third and final stage of the process: when the properties that are not sold at auction revert to the banks and become REOs. Because of the huge volume of foreclosures now on the market and the record numbers that will be coming in over the next 12-18 months, banks are lowering their prices daily just to move inventory. Banks are also, in many cases, placing homes with listing Realtor agents that specialize in selling REO homes.
If the properties do not sell in a 60-90 day period (after initial price discounting) many properties are going back to the bank and being re-listed t an even lower price with an auction company or sold off in bulk REO portfolios of $5 million and up for literal pennies on the dollar. Another benefit of bank owned properties is that they are almost always vacant, making it easy to get inside and inspect them before purchasing. This is usually not the case when purchasing in other stages of the foreclosure process where most homes are still occupied by owners or tenants.
As an investor and licensed Realtor that has bought homes in all stages of the foreclosure process, both for myself and for my investor clients, I am advising my clients to take full advantage of what could be one of the best foreclosure buying markets we will ever see. I personally am based in the Las Vegas area and I have seen the Las Vegas real estate market go from the #1 hottest in the nation in 2004, to one of the slowest in 2007. In 2009 volume is increasing and Las Vegas is once again becoming one of the best and busiest real estate markets in the U.S. There is one thing and one thing only that is driving this change: foreclosures.