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Las Vegas, US housing markets end 2021 hot amid pandemic

Updated January 8, 2022 - 7:40 am

In the chaotic and scary month of March 2020, when Las Vegas rapidly shut down over fears of the coronavirus outbreak, the housing market faced a dangerous road ahead.

Job losses skyrocketed as businesses closed and the Strip turned into a once-unthinkable ghost town of shuttered megaresorts. Who would be able or even want to buy a house amid all the turmoil and near-overnight economic collapse?

Nearly two years later, the pandemic is still raging, and the valley’s economy, while having vastly improved, hasn’t fully recovered.

But Las Vegas’ housing market is red-hot.

Southern Nevada logged the most resales on record in 2021, prices have been hitting all-time highs practically every month, and houses have been trading rapidly. Homebuilders also are seeing sharp increases in closed deals, landing record-high prices, and drawing up a fast-rising tally of construction plans.

Of course, there’s no telling where the market will go in 2022, or how, or when, the buying boom will end. But the main fuel for the now year-plus frenzy, rock-bottom mortgage rates, hasn’t gone away, and there are no signs that demand for homes will disappear anytime soon.

It’s a similar scene around the country.

Economists with listing site Zillow predicted last month that America’s “tight supply of homes and low mortgage rates are not likely to change,” and they expect prices and sales to keep climbing “at a historically high rate” in 2022.

Las Vegas, for one, is at record levels following a year with sellers firmly in control.

The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes — the bulk of the market — was a record $425,000 in December, up 1.2 percent from the previous all-time high, set in November, and 23.2 percent from December 2020, trade association Las Vegas Realtors reported.

Overall, a record 50,010 residential properties, including houses, condos and townhomes, were sold last year, up 21.5 percent from 2020.

Last year’s tally topped the previous all-time high, set in 2011, by nearly 2,000 sales, according to the association, which reports data from its resale-heavy listing service.

Homebuilders aren’t closing nearly as many sales in Southern Nevada as they did during the mid-2000s bubble. But over the past year or so, they have put buyers on waiting lists, regularly raised prices and in some cases drawn names to determine who gets to buy a place amid fierce demand, higher materials costs and supply delays.

Buyers paid a median price of $444,677 for newly built homes in November, up 11.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research.

This marked the sixth time in 2021 that the monthly median closing price set an all-time high, the firm said.

What will the housing market look like a year from now? Who knows?

But not long ago, when a once-in-a-century pandemic turned our lives upside down and put millions of Americans out of work, I doubt anyone thought the housing market would soon hit the launch button.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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