Las Vegas Real Estate: Residential Market at a Crossroads

The Las Vegas real estate market has seen a run up of about 32% across the board over the past year according to several sources such as Zillow.com and Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors released for the month of August 2013.

During the past three months there have been some fundamentals in the market that causing concern to a growing number of persons attuned to the Las Vegas Real Estate Market.

  1. Las Vegas’ unemployment rate remains high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate in Las Vegas declined from 9.7% to 9.6%. That figure of one tenth of one percent equates to about 1000 persons. Unfortunately 5,000 workers left the job market and are no longer considered part of the equation so although the rate dipped the actual number of persons without work actually increased. Las Vegas trails only Detroit in the highest unemployment rate of major metropolitan areas.
  2. Interest rates currently held down by Quantitative Easing (the Federal Reserve pumping money into the economy by purchasing bonds and other assets). Currently, the Fed buys 85 Billion dollars a month or over a trillion per year. Printing that much money will eventually stop and interest rates are then expected to rise. Remember, to the average home buyer getting a loan, a rise in interest rates erodes their purchasing power. This point goes to affordability. Since payments go up when rates go up, the amount a borrower can then qualify for goes down. In essence, the Affordability Rate goes down.
  3. The Wild Card, Investors – During 2010 through early 2013 as much as 50% of the purchases were made in cash, which most likely indicates investors and not long term homeowners. Las Vegas Realtors during 2012 were bombarded by institutional buyers such as hedge funds seeking to purchase homes directly off the Las Vegas MLS. The pitch was that these buyers were looking for a 5-10 year hold period for the assets they purchased and were mostly interested in attractive rents. Even Wall Street didn’t expect to see 30-60% gains in values in less than a year as some neighborhoods subsequently appreciated. It cannot be understated that as quickly as these investors came in, they could pull up stakes and leave by selling their assets. These owners are not here for the long term, they came simply to make money. If values were to go down, these investors would have to head for the door to protect their gains. Once that happened the market could become flooded with inventory.
  4. Inventory is up and closings are down. One thing appears fairly certain from my view, there is no upward pressure on Las Vegas real estate prices any further. The only question seems to be whether they will stabilize at current levels or begin to decline again. Sellers if considering selling their home may well be choosing a great time to sell.

Paul Rowe is a REALTOR® with Shelter Realty. He may be reached by calling 702 376 7379 or emailing at info @ shelterrealty.com.