Viva Las Vegas! Sin City Now Bargain City

Remember that old limbo line, "How low can you go?" Apply it to the housing market in Las Vegas and let's proclaim a winner.

The real question is: When will Vegas start a housing rebound like southern Florida has?

It appears it's already happened. The casino stage is set for prices to begin rising for two reasons: Tourism is ticking up and the investors have descended on it in droves.

Tourism means jobs. When tourists come to Vegas, they stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, spend money on shows and gaming. This eventually will translate into jobs, jobs, jobs -- although admittedly it hasn't so far. Officially, the explanation is that businesses lack confidence that the economy is improving. The more cynical among us might say that some business owners are opportunistic pigs who are taking advantage of workers so grateful to have a job that they don't flinch when the boss piles on the workload of three. Greed has never been more fashionable.

Search Homes for Sale Browse through photos of millions of home listings or search foreclosure listings Slave-ship attitude aside, there is no question that Vegas tourism has been hanging in there. According to Main Street Money Management's Nevada report, Las Vegas saw 4.2 percent more visitors in July than a year previous (3.47 million visitors came in July -- an increase of 140,000). Visitors also stayed a full day and night longer now than they did a year ago. And the amount of gambling revenue in Nevada also was up in July by 3.7 percent, or $30.4 million, from the same month a year previous. More people are coming, they are staying longer and they are spending -- OK, losing -- more. All great things for the tourism economy.

Need more proof? Celine Dion sold out 700 consecutive Vegas performances and topped the combine revenue generation of the Rat Pack, Liberace and Elvis. We won't even go near the Blue Man Group, but as a spokesman for the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors notes, "Tourism is on fire again."

Existing-Home Sales Near Record

Sure there are those scary figures that say Las Vegas home prices are at a 20-year low and 80 percent of the city's homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. That can also be read this way: Sin City is now Bargain City and investors are already on it like white on rice. Half of all sales are to cash buyers and three out of every four closed sales involve a lending institution -- REOs are half the sales and short sales make up another quarter of them.

Las Vegas will have more sales of existing homes this year than in any previous year in its history, projects Paul Bell, president of the GLVAR. Two Las Vegas agents made the Wall Street Journal's list of top-producing real estate agents in the country recently and one team alone closed more than 1,000 home sales in the past year. Vegas real estate appears to be churning, having shaken free of the stagnation shackles that still plagues much of the rest of the country.

Prices overall are at about 60 percent lower than their peak. The median price for a single family home sold in August was $120,000, down 14.3 percent from $140,000 a year earlier.

While sales volume is surging, Bell said that local home prices continue to be driven down by investors, mostly cash buyers, purchasing low-priced properties at rock bottom prices. In recent months, he said, roughly one-third of all local home sales have been for less than $100,000.

But even prices at the high end have dropped precipitously. We recent wrote about a Las Vegas home that was once listed at $11.5 million and was now offered for sale at $3.9 million.

And investors who use the properties as rentals aren't the worst owners to have populate a city, Bell says. "It beats having empty foreclosed homes just sitting there waiting for vandals."

Click on the images below to tour some of the homes for sale in Las Vegas:

See more Las Vegas homes for sale at AOL Real Estate.

Also see:
Open Houses of the Week: Oct. 1-2
Viewpoint: Feeling Guilty About Buying a Foreclosure?
Home Sellers Step In Where Banks Fear to Tread
Viewpoint: Why No New Houses May Be a Good Thing

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