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Summerlin developer sold less land for higher prices in 2020

Homebuilders bought less land in Summerlin from developer Howard Hughes Corp. last year than in 2019, but the average price for the dirt climbed.

Hughes Corp. sold 126.9 acres of residential land in Las Vegas’ largest master-planned community last year for an average price of around $772,000 per acre. That’s compared with 319.4 acres sold at an average of about $659,000 per acre in 2019, the developer reported Thursday.

The sales drop came amid the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic, which initially sparked sweeping business closures and other shutdowns and a burst of turbulence in Las Vegas’ housing market.

Homebuilders did not close any purchases of raw land in Clark County in April, the month after the pandemic hit, Home Builders Research President Andrew Smith reported last spring. At the time, he said the zero-sales month was an “almost unbelievable fact” and something he couldn’t recall happening over the previous five years at least.

The housing market later regained its footing and, despite huge job losses in tourism-dependent Las Vegas, embarked on a hot streak of record-high prices and rising sales. By all accounts, cheap borrowing costs have provided much of the fuel by letting people – at least those who could still afford to buy a place – lock in lower monthly payments and stretch their budgets.

According to consulting firm RCLCO, builders sold 1,439 homes in Summerlin last year, third most among U.S. master-planned communities.

Hughes Corp. chief executive David O’Reilly told the Review-Journal in December that Summerlin had an “amazing” year, and its performance was a story of “resiliency.”

“The way we got there has been nothing short of a yo-yo,” he said.

O’Reilly also said that he expects people to keep moving to Summerlin from outside Nevada in 2021 and that Las Vegas’ economy will bounce back, sparking more home purchases by existing residents.

“This could be an incredible year for Summerlin,” he said.

Summerlin spans 22,500 acres along the valley’s western rim and fetches some of the highest home and land prices in the valley. Around 116,000 people lived there as of year’s end, Hughes Corp. reported.

Of course, the company, like countless others, wasn’t spared the pandemic’s spillover effects. Hughes Corp. owns the Las Vegas Aviators and their stadium, Las Vegas Ballpark, but the team went dark last year after league officials shelved the 2020 season amid the public health crisis.

Hughes Corp. has built hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects, including the ballpark, in Summerlin’s commercial core off Sahara Avenue and the 215 Beltway. The Aviators, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, generated 2 percent of Hughes Corp.’s revenue in 2019, a regulatory filing shows, amounting to more than $26 million in baseball earnings.

The company still owns plenty of land near its open-air Downtown Summerlin mall, and last month, it unveiled plans for two more projects in the area: a 10-story office building immediately south of the baseball stadium and a luxury 295-unit apartment complex that it said is the next phase of its existing Tanager rental property.

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

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