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.