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.