Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ancient history vs. Vegas development

Ashley Powers writes:

LAS VEGAS -- Local real estate agent Sandy Croteau made a somewhat surprising pitch as she traipsed through a vacant, gravel-filled wash: She wants to spare the expanse from home developers.

Trying to halt this city's growth may be a Sisyphean task, but Croteau, 60, is counting on help from some sun-worn mammoth bones. About 10,000 bison, camel and mammoth fossils have been unearthed in recent years in a nearly 13,000-acre ribbon of the Upper Las Vegas Wash just south of Desert National Wildlife Refuge. And with builders champing to get at the property, the federal Bureau of Land Management must figure out how much of the land to preserve.

Acknowledging the fossils' archeological import, Las Vegas officials have backed a plan that would shield about one quarter of the wash from development. But, they argue, conserving the entire area would thwart growth north of the city, where there is still room for homes and water and sewer lines.

With streets nearby already lined with bulldozers or adjacent subdivisions, Croteau and other activists have gathered hundreds of signatures in support of protecting the entire stretch.

"The first time I saw this, it changed my life," said Croteau, her shadow darkening mammoth bones still in the dirt. "Do we really need a Quickstop here?"

Market Conditions For Las Vegas

Scott writes:

The Grass is Always Greener….

Not if you’re looking to buy or invest in Las Vegas right now! The grass is definitely greener on your side of the fence. If you’re trying to sell your property right now, trust me, you’re feeling the pain – at the very least you are frustrated. While this manifests as doom and gloom in the press, it can be the opportunity of a lifetime if you can filter out the noise.

What is the noise? It is record numbers of foreclosures, short sales, limited financing availability, bank owned properties and a number of other things that are alarming to the market in general. These are the things that the media is focusing on. You don’t hear much about the buyers of properties that are 10, 20, even 30% below what was paid for them less than two years ago!

How can a house drop in value that fast and not be afraid of it? First off, there is a very mechanical process that happens during the foreclosure process now – elimination of the second mortgage. With all of the 100% financing that was going on, the bulk of those transactions had a 20% second mortgage in place to eliminate PMI. When the foreclosure becomes final and the property becomes bank owned (REO), the second mortgage is effectively eliminated – overnight drop in value of 20%! This is causing a real problem for those who are looking to sell their properties in a traditional manner. It is this problem that is being focused on in the media, doom and gloom.

Why shouldn’t I be afraid of this type of property? Simply because others’ pain is your gain. Look back at some of my past market reports (if you can’t find them, contact me and I’ll get them to you) and you’ll have my clear opinion on what the Vegas economy is setting itself up to do. When the local market strengthens it is those that had the foresight to buy when everything was on sale (right now!) that will be left holding the bag of money.

Las Vegas Condo Portfolio Sells for $75M

Tonie Auer writes:

While the Las Vegas condo market continues to move slowly, two condominium complexes just sold to an undisclosed buyer for a combined $75.4 million.

San Diego-based Grubb & Ellis|BRE Commercial and Grubb & Ellis|Las Vegas facilitated the sale of the two complexes, The Crossing at Green Valley and Martinique Bay, both of which are located in the Vegas suburb of Henderson.

The seller of the Crossing at Green Valley (pictured) was the Crossing Apartments Las Vegas L.L.C. with WLA Investments Inc. as the managing member. The seller of Martinique Bay was the Martinique Bay Apartments Las Vegas L.P., also with WLA as managing member.

Both properties are located in the master-planned community of Green Valley within the city limits of Henderson. Situated less than one mile apart, both properties are approximately a 10-minue drive southeast of the Las Vegas Strip.

The portfolio had 24 bids before the $75.4 million sale. Brokers in the deal said the quick sale and the price demonstrate that Las Vegas continues to be an active and competitive market for multi-family investors, despite the over-supplied condo market.

"Any solid market still has a demand for quality buildings in a solid location, and Las Vegas is still growing,” noted Diane Miramontes, a principal with Grubb & Ellis Co., who represented the seller in the deal. “There was a run up in the housing market that affected everybody a little bit, but there will always be … people who want to live in nice spots and these are nice products," Miramontes told CPN today.

Vegas Strip shows

Barry O'Brien writes:

LAS Vegas claims to be the city where dreams come true. Trouble is, in Vegas there is no time to sleep, let alone dream.

It's been 30 years since I last visited Vegas and, although there have been massive changes, it was in many ways just as I remembered it: all glitz and glamour.

Everywhere you look, cranes dot the skyline creating new gambling palaces.

The old Aladdin's Casino, which had a Moroccan theme, has had a $75 million facelift and is now Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, incorporating the Miracle Mile Shops, a mall of 170 stores and restaurants.

Across the road, MGM is creating a city within a city with towers, condos, residential properties and a resort.

On the site of the former Boardwalk, which boasted a roller-coaster ride, the MGM project is the largest privately funded development ever.

Housing downturn boosts multifamily rentals

Tony Illia writes:

Reeling residential and subprime mortgage markets have increased the number of renters in the Las Vegas Valley. Potential home buyers required to come up with substantial down payments amid tightening credit are increasingly turning to high-end multifamily rentals, reports the Bentley Group, a local real estate advisory firm.

"Nearly 40,000 hotel rooms are coming on line over the next four years, creating more than 285,000 new jobs," Bentley Group President Christopher Bentley said. "Demand for multifamily product will increase to meet the housing needs of new employees."

Yet, the 23,494 homes listed for sale last month have created a "shadow" rental market. Roughly 25 percent or more of those units are being used as rentals until the housing market rebounds. Multifamily builders, as a result, will only deliver 1,500 new units this year, or about 1,000 fewer than in 2006, reports Marcus & Millichap, a real estate brokerage. Vacancies are expected to remain low as rents grow by 3 percent.

...A Boston-based investor, for example, recently bought the 18-year-old, 256-unit Martinique Bay Apartments at 3000 High View Drive in Henderson for $31.85 million, or $124,414 per unit. The 12.92-acre, 278,840 square-foot complex is mapped for condominiums. The sale price equals $114 per square foot. Grubb & Ellis' Joseph Kupiec, Diane Miramontes and Darcy Miramontes represent the seller.

"While many continue to paint a 'doom and gloom' picture of the Las Vegas real estate market, fundamentals within the industry remain healthy," Bentley said. "The multifamily market in particular has remained healthy and is expected to continue to offer sound investment opportunities."

TECHSHOW-Economic worries mar tech show's glitz

SAN FRANCISCO/LAS VEGAS, Jan 8 (Reuters) - The world's major technology companies are trying to convince consumers they need an expensive, digitally connected home with the latest high-tech gadgets.

But there's a problem: an increasing number of consumers are having trouble just paying for the roof over the heads, much less a 150-inch television.

Few company executives at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week can avoid questions about the state of the economy, and the combination of a surge in the U.S. jobless rate, oil around $100 and a worsening credit and housing crisis has many on edge.

"The fourth quarter is full of strange, unanswerable situations related to unemployment, related to GDP, related to everything else," Sony Corp (6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research) Chief Executive Howard Stringer said on Monday after a briefing at the show. "So it's too soon for us to be pessimistic, but I read the papers."

Bubble markets to rebound?

Dean Foust writes:

In Las Vegas, the construction of new casinos is giving rise to bulls who predict that a housing rebound is around the corner. To quote from this article by Associated Press reporter Ryan Nakashima:

One think tank already is predicting a housing shortage by late 2009, assuming workers flock to the state to fill jobs created by billions of dollars of new construction on the Las Vegas Strip.

"We're merely at the bottom of one cycle and heading back up on another one," said Jeremy Aguero, one of Applied Analysis' principals.

He points to the stream of Strip mega-resorts planned to go up over the next few years, from Las Vegas Sands Corp.'s $1.8 billion Palazzo, opening in January, to Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $4.8 billion Echelon in 2010.

In all, the surge is estimated to add more than 40,000 hotel rooms by 2012 and create around 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to Deutsche Bank.

The problem in my mind is that most of those 100,000 new jobs will pay minimum wage. The casinos are not exactly known to be enlightened, nor generous, employers. The other article was a column in The Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein, who was reacting to some fanciful predictions by a local economist Steven Fuller:

Next Friday in Tysons Corner, Steve Fuller and his colleagues from George Mason University will release their annual outlook for the Washington area economy. The title of this year's confab:

"Will Housing Recovery Drive Growth?"

That's right, folks, housing recovery. As Fuller sees it, with the local economy likely to add another 40,000 jobs this year -- just slightly below last year's 44,000 -- and unemployment at historic lows, the only way to fill those jobs will be to recruit people from somewhere else. Obviously, those workers and their families will need somewhere to live. And with new-home construction at recession levels, it will be only a matter of months before the existing inventory is sold off and builders start breaking ground on new houses and condos.

And there you have it: a rebound in residential construction, a big new spurt of public construction and a steady flow of federal procurement contracts, all conspiring to keep the Washington economy growing at the modest annual rate of 2.8 percent in 2008.

It's just what the local business community desperately wants to believe. And it's all part of the larger story of how Washington has the strongest regional economy in the nation and is basically recession-proof.

Too bad it's also a fantasy.

Luxury condos still hot sellers

Tony Illia writes:

Okay, maybe the housing market has seen better days. But luxury condos are still hot sellers commanding big buck sale prices, reports Restrepo Consulting Group, a Las Vegas-based economic research firm.

"The luxury condo market saw a 48 percent increase in units sold in the third quarter," said John Restrepo, principal of Restrepo Consulting Group. "Although median sale prices slipped by 17 percent, primarily due to smaller unit sizes, the price per square foot increased by nearly 5 percent."

There have been 89 luxury condos sold year-to-date with a median price of $860,000, or $502 per square foot, Restrepo reports. Condos this year averaged 1,712 square feet in size and spent roughly 92 days on the market. Single-family homes, by contrast, saw a 38.2 percent sales drop this year despite a 4.9 percent price decrease. Condos similarly dropped prices by an average of 16.9 percent as opposed to 2006. But last year's units were 20.8 percent larger, averaging 1,161 square feet in size. Sale prices, as a result, are 4.9 percent higher in 2007 when compared on a square footage basis.

Las Vegas' MySpace marketing might

Ben Tinsley writes:

An increasing number of local businesses and area aficionados are taking their enthusiasm and excitement about Sin City to the Internet.

Their self-appointed task is attracting tourists and promoting local industry on their respective MySpace pages. And they're doing it with great gusto.

The result is an interconnecting, massive, and quite lively community on the World Wide Web dedicated to helping the city thrive and grow.

Aaron Auxier, 34, likes to use MySpace as a bully pulpit to correct mistaken news reports. He describes his job as a celebrity high-rise consultant with the Luxury Realty Group.

Auxier, who runs the "Vegas Condo Scene" MySpace site, often sends out letters to area media urging them to join him in his efforts to help the public better understand the Strip. Auxier said he gets 100 friend applications on his MySpace page each week.

"The key to the whole thing is original content," Auxier said. "It's a full time job. If you're not constantly providing updated and new information, people aren't going to pay attention."

One site, simply dubbed "Las Vegas" is run by an individual who only identifies himself as "Mr. Vegas." It's credited with having 100 views a day.

"I started this page for the general information of the world," Mr. Vegas said in an e-mail. "There was no MySpace page at all that answered questions about the past, present and also some future things. I thought it would be fun to do a page here for people."

Homes for sale in Las Vegas still sliding

From the Las Vegas Review Journal:

The number of single-family homes listed for sale in Las Vegas dropped to 22,005 in December from 23,494 in November, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported. Inventory is up 23.4 percent from December 2006.

Condo and townhome listings increased 14 percent from a year ago to 5,508 in December.

Foreclosures have driven the single-family home median price down to $260,000, a 15.1 percent decline from a year ago. Median condo prices are down 5.1 percent to $185,000.

December's statistics may not be a true reflection of the marketplace, association President Patty Kelley said Monday. December is traditionally a slow month, she said, and a large number of homes are vacant and owned by investors, banks and other lenders who sold last month at deeply discounted prices.

The association reported 167 condo units sold in December, down 55.1 percent from a year ago.

Las Vegas’ World Jewelry Center Gets Key Approvals

Scott Baltic writes:

The planned World Jewelry Center in Las Vegas has moved a substantial step forward with the completion of all local approvals.

The Las Vegas City Council has approved the Disposition and Development Agreement, Owner Participation Agreement and related documents, allowing the Jewelry Center to proceed as part of the master-planned 61-acre Union Park redevelopment in Downtown Las Vegas, between The Strip and I-15.

The multifaceted project will include 800,000 square feet of Class A office condo space, gem-grading labs, educational facilities, and meeting and exhibition space. In addition, the tower’s top seven floors will feature 20 to 25 luxury residential condominiums. Bill Boyajian, the Jewelry Center project manager and a onetime Gemological Institute of America president, previously told CPN that the residential condos will be offered to the office buyers first.

For the most part, the property will be open only to the trade: jewelry wholesalers, manufacturers, dealers and trade associations. However, an adjacent three-story building with 90,000 square feet of retail space, as well as a museum and café, will be open to the public.

Owners Suites® Launches Luxury Condo Hotel Property Management Company for Las Vegas Struggling Condo-hotel Market

Las Vegas, NV (PRWEB) January 10, 2008 -- today announced the availability of their new rental program directly targeted to owners of units at condo hotel properties around the world. On January 15, 2008, will launch its online property management company within the booming condo-hotel market. will manage nightly room availability and rates for the popular Las Vegas condo hotels at a competitive rate that undercuts those of from the hotel directly while still maximizing rental income. This new offering will bring special value and opportunity to both owners and business/leisure travelers. has relationships with global travel powerhouses such as Travelocity, Priceline,and Orbitz in addition to direct online booking access to more than a half million travel agents worldwide. In addition, owners will take comfort in the full service online, telephone and chat booking services provided by When an owner would like to relax in their unit for their own personal use, they simply log-on to and enter their log-in information on the reservations page specifically for owners and enter the requested dates. It's that simple.

"I couldn't afford to keep the property, thank God contacted me with information for my investment property that I didn't know existed." When users join the Rental Program at, they will enjoy a much more favorable revenue split; as much as twice the return from the on-site Hotel Property manager. "Before I changed management companies to, my average monthly rental income was $1,500 and my average monthly expenditures were over $3,500," says Lori Baker. "Currently, has doubled my average monthly rental income."

With the Condo-Hotel industry growing rapidly and representing over 10% of all new hotel room construction in the United States today, this is a positive and aggressive move for the individual and corporate investor within the condo-hotel industry.

For more information visit:

Lakeside resort trumps Las Vegas

From the IHT:

When the developer Ronald Boeddeker took a helicopter flight over the southern Nevada desert between Hoover Dam and Las Vegas in 1987, he did not see a harsh and barren landscape below.

He saw Italy's Lake Como.

Boeddeker, now 69, had just purchased the valley below and the 2,000-acre, or 800-hectare, parcel came with water rights, one of the last such arrangements between an individual and the U.S. government.

"It was a massive canyon, 200 feet deep in parts," recalled Boeddeker, president of the Santa Barbara-based development company Transcontinental Corp. "But like Lake Como, it was long and not that wide. I imagined it filled with water with the mountains cascading down to the shore and homes chiseled into the hills."

Today, the 3,592-acre Lake Las Vegas Resort rises from that desert floor, with its centerpiece a 320-acre lake with 10 miles, or 16 kilometers, of shoreline.

...Though 18 of the resort's 29 neighborhoods are sold out, lavish homes are available in the newer developments. There are condos, town homes and fully landscaped estates, many with views of the lake, the three golf courses and/or the Strip.