Las Vegas-area home sales fell on a year-over-year basis for the seventh consecutive month in December as buyers struggled with a tight inventory of homes for sale and foreclosure resales continued to dwindle. The median sale price -- boosted by both price appreciation and the market's shift toward more mid- to high-end transactions -- rose to the highest level in nearly four years, a real estate information service reported.
In December, 4,476 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Las Vegas-Paradise metro area (Clark County). That was up 8.0 percent from the month before and down 7.6 percent from a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. The firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.
The region's sales typically rise between November and December, with that gain averaging 12.3 percent since 1994, when DataQuick’s complete Las Vegas area statistics begin.
December's total sales were the lowest for that month in four years and were 8.4 percent below the average number of homes sold during all months of December since 1994. However, if newly built homes are excluded, sales were above average. Resales of houses and condos combined were 23.1 percent higher than average for the month of December, while sales of newly built homes were 59.4 percent below average for the month. Although new-home sales remain low in an historical context, they’ve been rising in recent months, increasing 41.5 percent in December compared with a year earlier. December’s new-home sales were the highest for a December in five years.
In the overall market in December, sales of mid- to high-cost homes continued to jump compared with year-ago levels, while the number of low-end deals fell sharply.
Sales of homes priced below $100,000 fell 44.5 percent in December compared with a year earlier. Transactions below $200,000 declined 18.5 percent year-over-year. December sales of homes priced from $200,000 to $500,000 – a range that would include many move-up purchases – jumped 40.0 percent from a year earlier, while sales over $500,000 rose 37.1 percent. (Sales from $200,000 to $500,000 accounted for 26.4 percent of all activity, while the $500,000-plus market made up about 2.2 percent of all sales).
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Las Vegas metro area in December was $145,203, which is the highest since the median was $152,500 in February 2009. The December median was up 1.9 percent from November and up 26.3 percent from a year earlier. The median has risen year-over-year for nine consecutive months. The previous annual gains were 23.9 percent in November, 19.2 percent in October, 19.1 percent in September, 18.2 percent in August, 12.1 percent in July, 8.7 percent in June, 4.3 percent in May, and 1.7 percent in April. Prior to April last year, the Las Vegas region median price fell year-over-year for 18 consecutive months.
The recent sharp gains in the median sale price reflect price appreciation triggered by strong demand meeting a relatively low supply of homes for sale, as well as a change in the market mix: Fewer of the homes re-selling are lower-cost foreclosed properties, and more are mid-to high-end homes. Included in the latter is the increase in sales of newly built homes, which on average are more expensive than resale homes. In December, new homes accounted for 16.9 percent of total sales, up from 11.0 percent of sales a year earlier.
The December median sale price was 53.5 percent below the median’s November 2006 peak of $312,000. The median has been rising off a cyclical low point of $110,000 in January 2012, which was the lowest level since the median was also $110,000 in April 1994.
An alternative home-price gauge – the median paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses – rose to $78 in December. That was up 2.6 percent from November and up 20.0 percent from a year earlier, marking the seventh consecutive month with a year-over-year gain. (Last January’s $64 median per square foot was the lowest for any month since at least 1994.) The December 2012 figure was 59.0 percent lower than the peak $190 paid per square foot in May and June 2006.
Foreclosure resales continued to wane in December, while short sales made up a substantially higher share of the resale market compared with a year earlier.
Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 11.7 percent of Las Vegas resale activity in December – the lowest since June 2007, when it was 11.0 percent. December's figure was down from 13.5 percent the month before and 52.3 percent a year earlier. Foreclosure resales peaked at 73.7 percent of the resale market in April 2009.
Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – accounted for an estimated 43.5 percent of the Las Vegas-area resale market in December. That compares with an estimated 41.5 percent the prior month and 27.9 percent a year earlier. The estimated short sale level has exceeded the foreclosure resale level for the past seven months.
In the wake of an October 2011 Nevada law that created additional requirements for lenders trying to foreclose on properties, the number of notices of default (“NODs”) filed in Clark County plummeted. However, over the past few months NODs have trended higher compared with a year earlier. In December, lenders filed NODs on 1,711 single-family houses and condo units, up 2.5 percent from the prior month and up 85.8 percent from a year earlier. In 2012, lenders filed 17,666 NODs, down 59.7 percent from 2011. The notice of default is the first step in the formal foreclosure process.
In December, lenders foreclosed on 697 single-family house and condo units in the Las Vegas region, up 10.5 percent from the month before and down 60.2 percent from a year earlier. Last year lenders foreclosed on 13,087 homes, down 60.0 percent from 2011.
Many of these distressed homes are purchased by investors, who continue to account for a near-record share of all sales.
Absentee buyers – mainly investors and vacation-home buyers – purchased 50.6 percent of all homes sold in the Las Vegas area in December. That was up from 49.0 percent the month before and up from 47.2 percent a year earlier. The peak was 51.2 percent last March. Absentee buyers paid a median $125,000 in December, up 31.6 percent from $95,000 a year earlier. Absentee buyers are those who indicated at the time of sale that the property tax bill will go to a different address.
In December, 135 Las Vegas-area buyers purchased two or more homes on the open market (excludes foreclosure auctions). That was down from 157 multi-home buyers during December 2011, based on an analysis of buyer names in the public record. (Note: In some cases individuals and partnerships buy under different names). In December 2012, multi-home buyers purchased 512 homes, which amounts to 11.4 percent of all homes sold and represents a nearly 24 percent increase from the number of properties that multi-home buyers purchased in December 2011. There were 44 buyers in December 2012 that each purchased three or more homes, but only eight of them bought 10 or more. Combined, the eight buyers who purchased 10 or more homes in December 2012 acquired 185 homes, or about 36 percent of all homes bought by multi-home buyers. In December 2011, two purchasers bought more than 10 homes, buying a total of 38 properties.
Cash buyers purchased 52.8 percent of the Las Vegas-area homes that sold in December. That was up from a cash-buyer share of 50.7 percent of total sales the month before and up from 48.9 percent a year earlier. The peak was 56.7 percent in February 2011. Cash purchases are where there is no sign of a corresponding purchase mortgage in the public record. Cash buyers paid a median $120,000 in December, up 48.1 percent from $81,000 a year earlier.
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
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Media calls: Andrew LePage (916) 456-7157
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