Where Are Las Vegans Buying Homes?


What is the hottest neighborhood in Las Vegas for real estate? John S. Park? McNeil Estates? Paradise Palms? Well, according to a report recently compiled by real estate website Redfin, not even close to any of the above. It’s Desert Shores, the suburban community just northwest of Buffalo Drive and Lake Mead Boulevard. In fact, no Downtown neighborhoods are included in the top five list, which reads like Suburbia’s Greatest Hits: Green Valley, Silverado Ranch, Iron Mountain (which I had to look up; it’s apparently as far north as you can go before hitting Mt. Charleston).

Of course, this is a fairly unscientific report. Why? It’s based on the increase in percentage from 2012 to 2013 of Redfin page views and “favorites” for listings in those areas. Those hits could be coming from anywhere—non-residents scouting for affordable homes with no knowledge of the city, for example—but if you look at the other cities on the list, you’ll see similarities: The “hot” neighborhoods tend to be on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, where larger lots can be had for less money … and there are plenty from which to choose.

If we dig into actual sales numbers, however, a different picture develops. Comparing Desert Shores with, say, John S. Park, we see that although both neighborhoods saw great bouncebacks in average sales prices over the course of a year, Desert Shores’ 26 percent average per square foot increase was blown away by John S. Park’s 86 percent. And actual overall sales in Desert Shores are down 11 percent, whereas John S. Park is up 75 percent. This isn’t surprising, given there are currently more than 200 homes for sale in Desert Shores, with only about a dozen available in John S. Park.

And that last bit of data is the key: scarcity. There are 270-plus homes for sale in Green Valley North. More than 400 in Silverado Ranch. And in McNeil Estates? Six. So, yes, people searching for plentiful, available homes in the Las Vegas area on a website like Redfin are statistically more likely to come across the vast inventory of properties in the master-planned communities ringing the Valley than they are the historic areas in the middle.

One common thread among most of the Vegas Valley’s neighborhoods—including Downtown’s—is that sales prices are lower than listing prices, and in many areas, the sale-to-list percentage has been dropping over the last year. What does this mean? It looks like home prices stabilized in 2013 after a year of sharp increases—as the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors concurred in a recent report—with fewer people paying top-dollar for overvalued properties, which is helping to avoid another real estate bubble … so far.

But if we want to call out a Downtown neighborhood for being “hot” based on scarce inventory, high sale-to-list ratio and year-over-year increases, John S. Park is as good a candidate as any. It might help that unlike other residential neighborhoods in the city’s core, John S. Park’s residents actually successfully petitioned for—and acquired—designation as a historic district, which means the homes in the area must conform to specific design guidelines that stay true to the neighborhood’s early-to-mid 20th century ranch, colonial revival and minimal traditional origins.

All that said, though, homes in Downtown’s historic neighborhoods—generally speaking, outside of, say, Scotch 80s or Rancho Circle—are still relative bargains, selling for about $20 to $30 less per square foot than their suburban counterparts … and about 86 percent cheaper than the top neighborhood in Redfin’s “hot” list, San Francisco’s Bernal Heights, where the median list price is $970,000.

Vegas Seven