Carson City housing market: An opportunity for sellers, a hurdle for first-time buyers

The Melara family, from left, Alexander, 3, Alicia, 8, Enrique and Laura, have been in their new home in North Carson City for three months.   BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal

The Melara family, from left, Alexander, 3, Alicia, 8, Enrique and Laura, have been in their new home in North Carson City for three months. BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal

Jose and Laura Melara started their house hunt two months ago hoping to find something nice for $225,000.

"But that's history now," said Laura Melara, 24. "There's nothing out in the market that's $225,000. Unless you want a shack."

The Carson City couple got a loan for up to $250,000. After looking at 15 homes, the Melaras bought $10,000 over their budget to get a house in a nice area for their two children.

"We had to stretch it to $260,000 and we weren't expecting to spend that much," she said. "The house we bought now is probably at its max."

Melara, a loan processor for Citizens for Affordable Homes Inc., said she looks at her 1,305-square-foot house, and other houses in that price range, and is shocked by how much it cost. They still have a lot of work to do on it. She's happy to be out of an apartment, but it came with a heavy price.

Carson City's average housing costs have increased 13 percent from a year ago, according to the Northern Nevada Regional Multiple Listing Service. The average home cost of $358,000 is up 10 percent just from the first quarter of 2005.

This isn't a surprise to Lynda Mars, Landmark Homes vice president of sales and marketing. She said the price of homes in Carson City and Dayton have increased 10-16 percent in a year, depending on the area.

"I don't believe prices are inflated at all," she said Friday. "I think the appreciation will level off. Prices will continue to appreciate, but maybe not to the extent they appreciated in 2004 and 2005."

Emily Sermak, who lives off Kings Canyon Road, has benefited from that appreciation. She and her husband are doing what many Californians have done: jump ship and buy a larger, less-expensive home in another state. The Carson City couple are going to Idaho.

The Sermaks bought their four-bedroom house in 1999 for $287,500, according to assessor records. They are asking $670,000 for it. The property has been on the market since last summer, but she thinks it'll sell soon for around that price.

"If we can eliminate our mortgage then we can buy a nice house in Idaho and pay cash for it," she said.

Housing costs here are nowhere near what they are in California. The housing median there was $275,000 in 2002, about $118,000 more than Nevada, according to the Taxpayers Network, a nonprofit social welfare organization that publishes state comparison research.

Builders put much of the blame on increased construction costs, an increase that could be as much as 20 percent in the last year. Other builders say it's the cost of land and supply and demand.

Some homeowners in Northern Nevada, like Sermak, can sell now and profit, maybe even avoiding capital gains taxes.

Gil Yanuck, assistant state director for the AARP's Tax-Aide program, said if the profit is less than $500,000, the seller is married and has lived in the house for two out of the preceding five years, the seller can get the $500,000 exclusion.

For many, that's worth the move.

-- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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