Rising housing prices convincing some to leave Vegas | NevadaAppeal.com

Rising housing prices convincing some to leave Vegas

HUBBLE SMITH

Isaac Brekken/Las Vegas Review Journal Geno and Kathy Brown stand in front of their former home Oct. 22, 2004, in Las Vegas. They bought the two-bedroom home eight years ago in the Summerlin section of Las Vegas for $105,000. They recently sold it for $250,000 in a matter of hours. The Browns are moving to Salem, Ore., where they're buying a new three-bedroom home for $153,000.

LAS VEGAS – Jason Roth worked for eight years in Las Vegas before leaving town saying he couldn’t afford a home.

“As first-time buyers, we could not afford the incredibly inflated price in Las Vegas,” said Roth, who works in public relations and recently married.

Roth and his wife bought a 1,600-square-foot house with a pool and a yard in Chandler, Ariz., for $170,000. That was about half the cost in Las Vegas, where the median resale price of homes has increased 42 percent from a year ago, to $250,000.

“We love Las Vegas and miss it greatly,” Roth said. “But we had no choice. We wanted to live in a nice neighborhood and we wanted a newer home.”

Roth isn’t alone. Some 40 million Americans moved between 2002 and 2003, according to the U.S. Census. Many move for employment reasons, others to be closer to family. Some, like Roth, seek cheaper housing.

“There’s lots of different reasons,” said Kristine Reiter, a Realtor with Help-U-Sell Real Estate Innovations in Las Vegas. She said at half her clients were moving out of Las Vegas.

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“A lot of people are taking advantage of the equity they have in their home here and they figure they can get something a lot cheaper elsewhere,” she said.

Las Vegas ranked 168th of 322 U.S. markets in housing affordability in a recent report by Coldwell Banker. The average sales price in the area, $263,125, was behind Green Bay, Wis., and ahead of Portland, Ore.

The Reno-Sparks area, with an average sale price of $347,100, ranked as the 98th most expensive U.S. housing market. La Jolla, Calif., was most expensive, at $1.7 million. Minot, N.D., was the most affordable, at $130,300. Seven of the country’s 10 most expensive markets were in California.

John Murtagh, chief executive officer of Longford Group in Las Vegas, said he’d lost talented, educated young employees because of high local home prices.

“Some of our entry-level people want to start a family and can’t afford a house any more, so they move back to Utah, Arizona, Albuquerque, (N.M.), where they came from,” he said.

Arizona was second to California as the most popular destination for former Clark County residents, the U.S. Census Bureau reported.

Although the county gets 7,000 to 8,000 new residents a month, about one-third of that number also move away, said Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“The question is what is going to be their income versus their expenses,” Schwer said. “They may decide to go back to California because they can find a better job. If housing price is significant to them, they’re going to move to Oklahoma City.”

Push-and-pull factors are contributing to a real estate boom in states such as Wisconsin, according to Landwatch.com, an Internet-based business for buyers and real estate professionals.

In Ellsworth, Wis., a small town in the northwestern part of the state, officials are talking of expanding the interstate highway to accommodate urban sprawl from Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Besides Wisconsin, LandWatch named Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas as popular states for relocations.

In Las Vegas, some area residents sold homes at a profit when investors rushed in and home prices went up.

Some moved to places like Phoenix, where new-home permits are projected to reach 40,000 this year, said Dennis Smith, president of Home Builders Research in Las Vegas.