Las Vegas, “The Sure Bet”

Those of a “certain age” remember when Las Vegas, Nevada was known as “Sin City.” Vegas was the place you went to gamble, drink a decadent amount of alcohol, men went to gentleman’s clubs or you saw a top entertainer’s show. The nickname which dates to 1906, underwent an image change in 2003. The city’s desire to attract more families and family-friendly activities launched its new slogan “Las Vegas, What Happens Here, Stays Here.” It is a slogan that has help shape not just the image for the area but brought in the expansion it sought. Vegas has seen tremendous growth in its economy, increased construction, a growing job market, and its richest commodity, people. And, as with a growing population, housing takes top billing. Trish Nash, Broker of Signature Gallery Homes in Henderson, Nevada shared insights, which makes Vegas a serious contender for those looking for a warmer climate, no state tax, and an affordable housing market. Those who live in Vegas call the cities of Henderson and Las Vegas, “The Valley.” The Valley has a combined population of about 3 million residents. Unlike California traffic, which to many is a parking lot on the freeways, the Valley is viewed as a doable drive, even though traffic has increased with its population growth. When searching for real estate in the Vegas area, Trish noted, “It’s important to drill down what’s important to you. Affordability will depend on the pocket areas. Older Henderson may be more affordable, but not have the amenities a family is seeking. Are parks important to you? Are you a cyclist? Is it near cycling trails? And once we know that, we can figure out what’s your affordability? What are you qualified for? What are you comfortable with as your payment? Then we narrow it down and have that buyer investigate some areas.” 

Some families find that while they can afford a higher monthly payment, the price point they want to have monthly mortgage payments doesn’t buy them the pristine condition house they are seeking. When the market uses phrases such as it’s a buyer’s market, there is an unrealistic expectation to stay under a specific price range and unrealistic expectations regarding the condition of a property. For example, Trish worked with a client that wanted to stay under $300,000. She had a specific home size, location, and turnkey requirements. Turnkey meaning move-in ready requiring no renovations, remodeling, or updating. 

Trish provided a list of properties in the indicated price range, in different neighborhoods. Knowing her areas, Trish knew the buyer’s expectations would not be met. However, it was a process the client needed to experience firsthand before deciding to increase her purchasing budget. The home the client ended up buying wasn’t turnkey, but it was livable. It had a very tired-looking landscaping, odd-colored paint, older tile countertops, and a very warn carpet. However, the client stayed within a payment she could make and with a “to-do” list she was willing to take on. The other option would have been to purchase a home at the $400,000 price point, giving her the amenities she was seeking and a monthly payment she didn’t want. 

How much of a reserve will a buyer need in order to bring a property to their minimum expectation? Nash stated, “It’s on a case by case basis. The buyers I work with, I know personally, I work more with sellers. Because they are referrals or I’ve helped sell their home, they are willing to trust me and listen to the information I have to offer. One of the things I do offer people, because of my REO days, I have access to some great contractors who will give them a bid. It will give them an idea, if you want to do this, this is what you need to expect, a realistic amount. Often time when we’re going thru the qualification process with the lender, that’s when the reserve topic comes up. Because that’s when they find out they must have a certain amount of reserves to qualify. You need that so you can’t go spending that on appliances or things for the house ahead of time. They want to know, how much am I going to need? That’s when I get the contractor involved.” 

When Trish works with sellers, the conversation looks a little different. When they know they have a dated home, how does that conversation go? Trish shared, “It’s specific to the seller. Most sellers are not open to going and spending money on updates. But it’s so refreshing when you have somebody that gets it and they’re willing to spend a couple of thousand dollars, $4,000 or whatever to take out the tile countertops, and put granite, or maybe just paint their cabinets, their old oak cabinets white and put some pulls on it.” She recently had this scenario happen. The seller didn’t know her, but after showing him the numbers of an as-is sale at $345,000 versus the return if he did a total renovation, the price would be closer to $465,000. In this case, the total renovation came to $45,000, including a pool resurface, and his return was significant. Some sellers are not in a financial position to make renovations, but Trish has the conversation and has them make the final decision. A suggestion Trish made was to work with a contractor who is willing to get paid at the close of escrow. This only happens when you have a good working relationship with the contractors, and you are a reputable trusted professional. 

Pricing for an entry-level property around 1,500 square feet, three bedrooms with two baths is about $275,000. A newer area within proximity to shopping and schools will range between $325,000 – $345,000. Homeowner Association communities are viewed differently in the Valley and very much sought after. There’s a different feel between an HOA community vs. a non-HOA. The reasonable monthly fee ensures community residents maintain very well-kept homes, parking areas and are nicely landscaped. A huge bang for your buck at around $13 a month. The communities with no HOA could have boats parked in front of the house, cars on stilts, and landscaping all over the place because there is no HOA to enforce. Not all the HOA communities are that low, but worth venturing to see the difference in esthetics. You get a lot of value, that’s why location, location, location is so important. When it comes to the luxury market in the Las Vegas area, pricing begins at around $750,000. Exclusive neighborhood pricing is closer to $1Million and the square footage is around 2,400 square feet. Their market is smaller than California, New York, or Miami. However, $2Million can buy you approximately 6,600 square feet. 

When thinking about relocation to Las Vegas, consideration must be given to its climate and air dryness. There is a difference to desert living. It may be an adjustment for new residents. It gets very dusty because of the winds and causes dryness to the skin and eyes. Some can’t tolerate the heat. Nash shared there is an influx of people moving from California. So much so, someone she knows jokingly said ‘California was the best thing that ever happened for real estate in Nevada.’ “We have so many people that are moving here in spite of the dryness, in spite of the heat, in spite of all that because they’re fleeing, the high cost of living, they’re fleeing the traffic, they’re fleeing the high taxation and the not so pro-business atmosphere. And, so they’re coming here because we don’t have state taxes and, the housing affordability is much more advantageous here than it is in California. So, it is a very, very interesting phenomenon that’s happening right now with California. And, it’s been very, very good for our real estate market.”

Another gauge in determining potential growth is being informed and keeping your finger on the pulse. How does one do that? “I knew the importance of being informed would help me gain the confidence of clients because one of the things that I started to see was that I was dealing with people that were very knowledgeable of what was happening in their area. And I didn’t know enough to answer what was happening in my area because I was new to Las Vegas, at the time. So, I really saw that I needed to know all of that. So that was when I decided to get involved with our Chamber of Commerce. And then, got involved, and asked to be on a committee with our City of Henderson and then just through that, became involved in some things in Las Vegas and got to know our current governor who just won the election and actually went to the Governor’s Ball. And so, you know, I attend these things because it’s important, I believe, in the position that we are in as real estate professionals, is to be connected, to understand what’s happening in our community. It adds credibility when I’m dealing with clients. And so, I find out about things that are happening because I am so involved from the community development standpoint. I know about things before they’re even announced,” Nash commented.

If you are looking to sell your Las Vegas area property, take note of Trish’s suggestions. First, use the right agent. Sellers who grossly overprice their properties will lose valuable marketing time and money. Don’t be lured by the discount broker. There’s a difference between getting your house sold or just listed. Second, if dealing with someone with years of experience, listen to them because it will eliminate lots of drama. Doing it your way can cost the seller lots of money. Advice that is good anywhere in the country. 

If Nevada is on your radar Trish observed, “We have over 300 days of sunshine a year. We have no state income taxes. The affordability of housing still exists in Nevada. We are now becoming a place that has professional sports. We’ve got the Golden Knights and the Raiders coming in. Top restaurants and we are attracting some of the top entertainers that are coming here. I mean, there’s just always, always something fun to do.”

There you have it. I guess the new moniker, “Las Vegas, What Happens Here, Stays Here” is making its mark, and a growing number of people calling Vegas home.