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I don’t get Las Vegas real estate

If you had to pick an epicentre for the housing bust of 2008, I’d say that Las Vegas would be a pretty safe bet.

Las Vegas home prices doubled between 2002 and 2006 (the peak), and then fell 62% through to 2012! According to RealtyTrac, Las Vegas saw the highest rate of foreclosure (in 2009) compared to any other major city in the US. 1 out of every 13 properties was in foreclosure. That’s pretty incredible.

Now, hindsight is always 20/20, but from the beginning I had a hard time understanding Las Vegas from a real estate standpoint. You have a city that’s running out of water and who’s major economic drivers are tourism, gambling and conventions. Not only are these industries highly cyclical, but they don’t create a lot of high paying local jobs.

So for home prices to double in the span of 4 years, it must mean that there’s a lot of investor activity in the market. But how much is a lot? As one example, the 678 unit Meridian Private Residences, which was a condo conversion done by American Invsco, apparently only sold 14 units to end users. The remaining 98% of the units were bought by investors.

Those are pretty scary numbers – both for investors and end users. And while times today are certainly nowhere near as frothy, I still don’t get Las Vegas real estate.

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