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Month: July 2011

For New Homes in Las Vegas, Demand Is Up

It may seem contradictory that in the real estate market leading the nation in foreclosed homes, where prices have fallen so dramatically that a large percentage of homeowners are underwater, new home developments can be succeeding.  But in Las Vegas, they are.

Why?  Because there is demand for newly-built Las Vegas homes. With prices lower than they’ve been since the early 2000s, many Las Vegas homebuyers are capitalizing on the opportunity to get a brand new house at a super-low price.  Many say, “Why buy ‘used’ when I can get such a great deal on a new home”?

Some analysts say that’s bad for the Las Vegas real estate market – that we’ll never get out of the real estate funk until we deplete the excess supply of homes on the market.  Indeed, there are far more homes listed for sale than there is demand for Las Vegas homes.  And the laws of supply and demand tell us: prices won’t rise (not significantly anyway) until demand is greater than supply.

But there are Las Vegas neighborhoods – and certain types of Las Vegas homes (namely, new builds) – that have their own demand, unique from the broader real estate market.  Roughly 25 percent of Las Vegas home sales were new builds.  And that’s a good thing, because new housing developments help support the Las Vegas economy.

Buyers will find new home developments across the Las Vegas area.  In Henderson, KB and Ryland Homes are developing vacant land at Horizon Ridge Parkway and Gibson into plots for more than 200 single-family homes.  But they’re going about their development a bit differently this time around.  Instead of a “build it and they will come” approach, many Las Vegas home builders are instead selling homes first and then building them

Buying a new Las Vegas home

One benefit of buying a new home over a resale is that you can design it just so. Upgrades, layout, décor – choose whatever best suits your needs.  Another benefit: new homes come with at least a one-year top-to-bottom, inside-out builder warranty (not something you’ll typically get in a resale).  And, new homes may be more energy efficient (and those savings can really add up).

A point of caution: many potential homebuyers think that buying a new home means they don’t have to hire a real estate agent – and most home builders don’t eagerly suggest otherwise.  But it’s important to remember that the builder’s sales agent works for the builder – to sell you the home for the most money they can get.

Doesn’t it make sense then, to have someone on your side, working for you?  (Remember, the seller pays the buyer’s agent – you won’t have to pay anything for the benefit of having an experienced real estate agent helping you through the process.)  In most cases, builders require that you bring your real estate agent with you the first time you visit the sales office or model homes.  So give us a call today at 702-376-7379.

3 Reasons Now is a Good Time to Buy a Home in Las Vegas

Have you wanted to own a Las Vegas home but figured you could never afford it?  Well, when sales prices were in the $300s (or higher) that might have been true.  But now that the median sales price of a Las Vegas home is in the low $100s, homeownership might be in the cards for you after all.

And now could be the time to buy.  Statistics from the Las Vegas housing quarterly report by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Nevada point to 3 great reasons why now is a good time to buy a Las Vegas home:

  • Las Vegas home prices are dropping. The median Las Vegas home price is now $130,000 – down from $135,000 a year ago.  The price per square foot is down, too, from $74 to $72.  That means more house for less money.
  • Las Vegas leads the nation in the number of foreclosed homes.  And, Las Vegas has the highest negative equity rate among all U.S. metropolitan areas. (In other words, more homeowners in Las Vegas are underwater – owing more than their homes are worth – than anywhere else in the country.)  Significant negative equity can make it difficult for homeowners to keep their homes when circumstances change (interest rates adjust, a homeowner loses a job, etc.).  So it’s not surprising that Las Vegas also leads in the nation in the number of foreclosures.But for buyers, a large supply of foreclosed homes (also called REOs, or real estate owned by the bank) can mean a great opportunity to buy a nice home at a great price.  Remember, banks aren’t in the business of owning homes – they’re eager to sell these homes (the longer they hold onto them, the more money they lose).  Yet buying a Las Vegas foreclosed home can be trickier than buying a traditional resale – so the help of a real estate agent experienced in REO purchases is important.
  • The Las Vegas foreclosed home rate is slowing. Although Las Vegas has the most foreclosed homes in the nation, that trend may be shifting. The CBER report shows that foreclosure filings are down (not gone yet, but down).  So now may be the right time to get in on a great Las Vegas REO deal.  Hiring a real estate agent with knowledge (and experience) like Shelter Realty can help you find a good deal on your Las Vegas home – before the good deals are gone.

The data says it all: there are great deals to be had by Las Vegas home buyers.  From foreclosed homes, short sales, new builds, and traditional resales, there is lots of great inventory out there.  For now.  For helping finding the right home at the best price, give Shelter Realty a call today at 702-376-7379.

Las Vegas Short Sales: Do You Qualify?

While only your lender can make a final determination about your eligibility for a short sale, you can get a good idea of your qualifications before you begin by having a frank discussion with a qualified short sale specialist.

You know the value of a short sale.

A short sale is a special arrangement with the bank that allows you to sell your home for less than what you own. By doing a short sale, you’re avoiding foreclosure, doing less damage to your credit and finalizing your obligations to the bank leaving you free and clear to get a fresh start. A properly negotiated short sale can prevent your bank from having the ability to collect more funds from you after the sale, and you can avoid bankruptcy, which many are forced to use as means to escape the legal hounding of the banks.

You’re in financial trouble.

You can’t have a short sale just because you want one. A vast majority of homeowners in Las Vegas are upside down on their mortgage if they bought during the boom years. The bank isn’t going to approve a short sale just because you don’t want to deal with the big payments anymore. On the other hand, if you can’t deal with your payments anymore thanks to a hardship like unemployment, rising interest rates and payments, pay cuts, or a new financial obligation like child support or new dependents, you’re much more likely to be approved for a short sale.

When to seek help?

If you know you’re not going to be able to keep up with your payments, now or in the future, it’s time to get a professional opinion. A great REALTOR® with a proven track record in short sales (at least 20 closed listings) will be able to look at your individual situation and advise you on your potential suitability for a short sale.

Work closely with your REALTOR® to get the application process started. It can frequently take up 60-90 days to get approval from the bank for a short sale, and starting as soon as you’ve missed payments gives you the biggest window for sale possibilities. Waiting until you’ve missed months of payments can make it hard to get approval for a short sale before you’re looking at foreclosure action by the bank.

Why is a real estate agent proficient in short sales so crucial?

It’s almost impossible to do a short sale without the help of an experienced REALTOR®. You’ll need industry connections and bank contacts to work through the various steps required to complete the process. Your agent will help you understand the process, handle all the phone calls and paper work, and give you advice on how to make your house more attractive to buyers interested in your property.

Most importantly, a short sale is a sale of your home and will be treated as such by you and your REALTOR. Any time you’re selling a property, you need to be actively working to make your house available to prospective buyers and be ready to move on to your next home at any time.

In the case of a short sale, you’ll be moving either as a result of the sale or after foreclosure if you’re unable to arrange a sale in time. Your REALTOR will help you throughout this process, and by working closely with him, you’ll be much more likely to see a positive result from your short sale giving you a chance to pursue a new life free of a huge debt obligation.

If you’re considering a Las Vegas short sale, get the help of a real estate professional with proven short sale success.  That’s us – give us a call today at 702-376-7379.

Disclaimer: I am a Las Vegas real estate expert, but not a lawyer or a tax accountant.  Nothing I’ve said here should be construed as legal or tax advice.

Don’t Sell Las Vegas Short Sales Short

The Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® reported last week that short sales accounted for 21.6% of all Las Vegas homes sold in June (not counting new builds).  What’s a short sale? It’s when the mortgage holder agrees to accept less than the value of your mortgage as payoff on your home (when the sales price is short of what you actually owe).

So clearly, now is still a good time to do a short sale in Las Vegas – if that’s the right decision for you.  Is it?  Here’s a very simplified decision criteria: Do you owe more than your Las Vegas home is worth?  Do you have to move?  Can you no longer afford your mortgage payments?  If you answered yes to at least two of the three questions, a short sale might be right for you.

If a short sale might be right for you, here are 5 steps you’ll need to take:

1. Hire a real estate agent with experience (and proven success) dealing with Las Vegas short sales. A short sale is far more complicated than a traditional home sale – it involves everything a traditional sale does (pricing your home right, marketing it to potential buyers, etc.) as well as negotiating with the bank (remember, the bank has to approve the short sale).

2. You’ll have to document hardship. The mortgage holder isn’t going to approve a short sale if you’ve got enough cash in the bank to cover the difference between the sales price and what you owe.  Or even if you are underwater on your mortgage but you can afford your payments and there’s no real reason you have to move.  Your mortgage holder will tell you the documents you need to gather as evidence of hardship (they’ll likely include an explanatory hardship letter, recent tax statements, a list of your assets and liabilities, pay stubs, etc.).

3. Recognize that the debt you owe might not be fully discharged in the short sale. Unless your Nevada short sale contract specifically states that the proceeds of the sale will constitute a “full and final settlement” of the mortgage debt, technically the mortgage lender has six years under Nevada law to pursue you for the deficiency (the difference between what you owed and the proceeds of the sale).  Now, I’ve never heard of a lender actually doing that, but it’s important to understand that they can – unless you can negotiate a full discharge as part of the short sale agreement.

4. If your lender does discharge the remaining debt, you’ll get issued a 1099-C. This form tells the IRS that you had a debt of x amount cancelled.  Before the 2007 Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act was passed, you would likely have owed taxes on the forgiven debt.  Now, through 2012 you likely won’t owe tax on the discharged debt as long as the debt was money used to purchase your principal residence.

5. Know that a short sale will in all likelihood negatively affect your credit score. A short sale isn’t typically as hard a hit to your credit score as a foreclosure is, but it will likely still be a black mark (typically the lender will report the debt as paid for less than the full balance).  Often more significantly, if you stopped paying your mortgage before the short sale, each of those delinquent payments will negatively impact your credit score.

Clearly, there is a fair amount of complexity involved in a short sale (and we’ve tried to simplify it!).  If you’re considering a Las Vegas short sale, get the help of a real estate professional with proven short sale success.  That’s us – give us a call today at 702-376-7379.

Disclaimer: I am a Las Vegas real estate expert, but not a lawyer or a tax accountant.  Nothing I’ve said here should be construed as legal or tax advice.

DIY Las Vegas Property Management? First, Consider This. . .

Las Vegas is the #1 market for rental property investors.  If you decide to take advantage of the rental property investment opportunity here, or if you already own a Las Vegas rental, how do you manage that property?  One option, of course, is to do it yourself.

DIY property management might save you the money you’d pay to a professional manager.  But property management can be a full-time sort of gig – and can present a host of legal complications and other headaches.  So is the hassle worth the potential savings?  Some points to consider as you think about whether to manage your Las Vegas rental property yourself or hire someone else to do it:

How much do you charge in rent? The amount you charge for rent should depend on comparable rents in the neighborhood your property is located in, the size of the home you’re renting, its condition, amenities, the other rental properties available – and any number of other factors.

How do you find quality renters? How will you connect with renters looking for Las Vegas homes to rent?  You can certainly put your own rental listing online, but does that give you access to the widest possible pool of the best quality renters?

You’ll maximize the income-generating potential of your rental property if you have great renters – ones who pay their rent on time, who stay in the property for the long term, and who don’t destroy the place.  But how can you tell, from the pool of potential renters, who are the great ones and who are the ones who will have wild and crazy parties then skip out on rent?

Do you know the ins and outs of Nevada lease laws? DIY property management is trickiest, in my opinion, because of the legal obligations you have as a landlord.  (There are over 50 provisions of Nevada state law addressing landlord and tenant rights.)  From the rental application (what can you ask?) to the lease agreement (what do you have to say?) to the eviction process (what are the tenant’s rights?) there is a host of laws you’ll have to walk within – all while protecting yourself legally and finically.

Are you going to do maintenance and repairs yourself or hire someone else to do it for you? Will you be the “handyman” for the rental property, or will you contract that job out?  If you contract it out, do you already know who you’ll hire?  (You want someone who will do the best job at the least cost.)  Even if you contract out the actual job of fixing the toilet, are you prepared for the 1 a.m. “the toilet’s plugged up again!” phone call?

Another alternative is to hire a professional property management company to take care of these issues for you. At Shelter Realty, we manage over 225 Las Vegas residential rental properties – so we know Las Vegas property management.  The associated fees might not be as high as you think (well worth it when you consider the difficulty associated with managing the property yourself).  It’s worth a phone call to explore the option, isn’t it?  Call (702) 376-7379 or contact us here.

Las Vegas is #1 for Real Estate Investors – 5 Reasons Why

Las Vegas is the #1 real estate market to invest in rental property, according to a report published Monday by HomeVestors of America, Inc. (known as the “We Buy Ugly Houses®” company) and Local Market Monitor (a leading forecaster of real estate markets). Here are the 5 reasons why (and why you should consider investing in a Las Vegas rental property):

#1: The Las Vegas real estate market offers the best three-year potential. ­The HomeVestors ranking is calculated based on “three-year forecasts of home prices (reflecting underlying home-price appreciation potential) and gross rents (as a proxy for potential investor cash flow).” On those measures, the Las Vegas real estate market tops the 99 other U.S. markets rated in the report.

#2: Las Vegas is a housing jackpot. Sales of relatively low-priced Las Vegas homes hit a 5-year high in May. There is still a good supply of affordable homes that can relatively easily be turned into rental properties, but that supply is rapidly shrinking as savvy investors are buying up prime rental properties.

#3: Las Vegas homes are relatively affordable. Las Vegas home prices have dropped more than 50% since peaking in 2006, so the real estate market offers some great investment values. In the spring of 2011, 4 out of 10 homes sold for under $100,000 (Wall Street Journal), with investors buying 20% of all homes sold in April (MarketWatch).

#4: There is a high demand for rental property in Las Vegas. The homeownership rate in Las Vegas is a relatively low 55 percent. Demand for rental property here is higher than in many other markets for two reasons: First, with the casino and tourism industry, Las Vegas has a high proportion of lower-wage workers, meaning a larger-than-typical number of people who can’t afford to buy a home. Second, the Las Vegas real estate market has a relatively high rate of foreclosures – but people who have lost their home to foreclosure still need a place to live, and many prefer a house over an apartment.

#5: Rental properties can generate positive cash flow and tax advantages. In contrast to a fix-and-flip real estate investment, a rental property can generate a steady flow of cash. Plus, there may be significant tax benefits associated with owning rental property.

Clearly the Las Vegas real estate investment market is hot. If you’re looking to get in on the action, Shelter Realty can help. Give us a call at 702-376-7379 or contact us here.

Bank of America Now Allows Agents to Submit Back-Up Offers When a Buyer Walks From the Deal on Las Vegas Short Sales

Las Vegas real estate agents have long been frustrated when a buyer walks during the short sale processing period and then have to start the process all over again, even if they had a back-up offer with identical terms ready as a replacement offer.

Bank of America will now allow Las Vegas real estate agents to submit their back up offer if they lose their buyer without having to start from scratch. This is good news and will save homeowners and listing agents both time and the ability to save deals by quickly switching in a new buyer.

If you are interested in considering a short sale or just have questions because you are facing the difficulty of meeting your mortgage obligations, please give Shelter Realty’s short sale division a call at 702-376-7379.

Las Vegas Property Management: 3 Steps to a Successful Rental Income

Rents are up, and property values are down, making Las Vegas a great place to get established as a property owner. Of course, buying a rental home and actual getting it occupied and generating income are separated by a few crucial steps. All told, however, it’s easier than you think to start earning rental income.

Research and Buy Strategically

If you’re buying a rental property, you’ll need to lead with your head, not your heart. Start with the numbers, not the upgrades. You’ll need to get a solid idea of how much properties are renting for in various areas of Las Vegas. Then, you’ll want to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay on a mortgage in a particular price range. Start your search where the line between rent and mortgage cross.

If you buy too much property you won’t see a profit from the rental income, since it’s generally capped by the rental market of an area. If you buy a property that is ideally suited for an area and happens to be selling for far less than you can earn in rent, you’ll have a much higher profit margin. These numbers can be hard to find, but working with an experienced realtor or property manager can give you insight into the various neighborhoods and rent amounts to expect.

Make Ready

Ideally, the home you buy should be ready for tenants immediately after signing the mortgage paperwork, but this is rarely the case, especially when buying foreclosures and bank owned properties. Have a contractor on hand immediately after closing and a list ready to go from the inspection you had during the buying process. The faster you get the home ready to rent, the more quickly you can expect to see a profit.

If a home will take massive amounts of work to make ready, it will take a long time to recoup the costs of the repairs and renovations – this is something to keep in mind during the buying process. A rental home in the average market doesn’t need many bells and whistles.  A clean, fresh home with functioning appliances is your goal with the make ready, not a beautiful home to entice a reluctant buyer.

Find Renters

An empty rental home diminishes income rapidly. Your property manager who helped you locate the home can also help you rent in. The manager will handle the screening of tenants as well as showing the property to those interested in renting. He’ll do the necessary interviews, handle deposits and payments and forward you the rental income once the renters are established.

While it’s important to have a nice property to keep your renters comfortable and content paying you monthly for the privilege of living in your property, you also need an outstanding property management company.

Your tenants should have their concerns addressed quickly and any issues with the home or rent payments need to be handled professionally and promptly. A poor choice in management for your properties can run your tenants out, resulting in lost income while you find new tenants at the end of each lease agreement.  Learn more about what Shelter Realty can do to help you manage your properties by giving us a call at 702.376.7379 or visit the property management section on our website.