Las Vegas-area home sales rose in March to a level not seen in six years, according to new figures compiled by DataQuick.
The sales boost was aided by a record number of absentee purchases, the most new-home sales seen in a month since mid-2010, and strength in the market for homes priced below $200,000.
During the month, 5,020 new and existing homes/condominiums closed escrow in the Las Vegas/Paradise metro area, up 18.4% from February and 1.4% from a year ago. This is the highest number of sales for a March recorded by DataQuick since 2006, when 8,486 homes changed hands. (DataQuick has kept tabs on the Vegas market since 1994.)
The median price paid for new and existing homes/condos in March rose 2.7% from the prior month to $115,000, but fell 1.7% compared to the year ago.
The median home price paid has risen for two consecutive months. But prior to that, values had been sliding for 18 consecutive months. (The March 2012 to March 2011 decline is the smallest seen during that period.)
“Recent data on Las Vegas definitely indicate the market is improving,” DataQuick president John Walsh told this publication. But asked if prices in the market could be bottoming out, he added, “We don’t think they have hit bottom yet.”
Walsh noted there are troubling trends remaining, including a high percentage of investor purchases. “This does indicate that we are close to the bottom, and at these prices there are buyers,” said Walsh.
“However, the number of potential investors and the amount of money they are willing to invest in Las Vegas isn’t inexhaustible,” he said. “At some point, in order to return to a more normal market, the percent of owner-occupied purchases is going to have to significantly increase.”
Other factors preventing the market from bottoming include a continuing high REO inventory levels as well as regulation and political pressure that slow foreclosures. While these continue to reduce available inventory, putting a downward pressure on prices, they are “only pushing the problem down the road,” Walsh said.