Real estate in Las Vegas seen as a safe bet | Bedford Real Estate

This is a good time for Canadians to gamble on real estate in Las Vegas, say realtors on both sides of the border.

Housing prices in the city are down almost 60 per cent compared to their high point in August 2006 but rents remain relatively steady – a good scenario for investors.

“Where in Canada can you currently buy a $50,000 property that you can turn around and rent for $1,000 a month?” says real estate broker Steve Martel of Martels Real Estate Inc. in Ottawa, who specializes in the U.S. realty market.

According to the most recent 2011 Standard & Poor’s Case-Schiller Home Price Indices, released Sept. 27, housing prices were marginally higher (0.9 per cent) in July than in the previous month across most of the U.S. This compares with a 4.2 per cent decline in the first quarter of 2011 in addition to the 3.6. per cent decline through the fourth quarter of 2010, which brought housing prices nationally back to mid-2002 levels.

“With July’s data, we are seeing not only anticipated monthly increases, but also some fairly broad improvement in the annual rates of change in home prices,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee, when the monthly report was released. “This is still a seasonal period of stronger demand for houses, so monthly price increases are expected and were seen in 17 of 20 cities. The exceptions were Las Vegas and Phoenix where prices fell, while Denver was flat.

“We are still far from a sustained recovery. If you look at the state of the overall economy and in particular the recent large decline in consumer confidence, these combined statistics continue to indicate that the housing market is still bottoming and has not turned around.”

With the continuing decline of housing prices in Las Vegas, prices were down a further 0.2 per cent in July from the month before and now are 59.3 per cent below the August 2006 peak.

This was the year that Las Vegas realtor and investor Jim Eagan of Limestone Investments LLC moved from California to Nevada.

“I made a boatload of money getting out of the real estate I had in California at the peak and got my butt kicked in Las Vegas,” he says. “Most of the stuff I purchased six years ago is worth 30 per cent less than what I purchased it at. But the cash flow of business is excellent and the typical return for my investments ranges anywhere from nine to 20 per cent.”

Eagan explains that although rents are about 10 per cent lower than they were four or five years ago, they have not dropped nearly as much as property prices and “the speed at which a property gets occupied is a function of price.”

“Two years ago, you could get a three-bedroom, twobath house for $25,000,” he says. “Not now. On the other end, monster homes above $100,000 are still bleeding. The optimal spot is a threebedroom, two-bath between $70,000 and $90,000. You can still pick up equity and your cash flow on rentals is going to range from nine to 12 per cent.”

California-based investor Bob Evans, who currently owns nine properties in Las Vegas and runs a website directed at investors (, says, “Las Vegas is one of the most attractive places in the U.S. from a landlord or investor perspective. There’s a sweet spot for entry-level homes (three bedroom, two bathroom, two-car garage) at about $85,000. They were built at the peak of the market four or five years ago, so they are energy efficient, and they have come down about 60 per cent in price.”

He adds that prices on these houses are “inching up, because they are the homes that investors typically buy. By contrast, larger models ($100,000 to $150,000 and higher) will likely lose another 10 to 15 per cent of their value, based on the foreclosure inventory that still has to be gotten through.”

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