LUXURY APARTMENTS IN LAS VEGAS

 

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StoryBook Homes is planning to build an apartment complex at the northwest corner of Grand Canyon Drive and Tropicana Avenue, as seen Sunday, July 19, 2015.

Homebuilder Wayne Laska, who sells smaller, lower-priced houses than other builders, is getting in on Las Vegas’ apartment craze — and infusing his project with a touch of luxury.

Laska, owner of StoryBook Homes, says he is gearing up to start construction of a stylish, four-story, 175-unit rental complex at the northwest corner of Tropicana Avenue and Grand Canyon Drive, in the southwest valley. It would be his first apartment development.

The partially built site — it already has an underground parking garage — was supposed to have pricy condos years ago, but previous owners lost the project, dubbed the Mercer, to foreclosure during the recession.

Laska bought the roughly 5-acre site for $1.25 million in 2012, county records show, far below the $5.45 million that the failed developers paid in 2006.

He said he hopes to start construction this fall. He said he’s “wrapping up” building plans and expects to submit them to Clark County in the next few weeks and that he’s getting close to finalizing a $22 million development loan. He’s been working on the financing package for the past year.

Project plans call for a rooftop deck; a courtyard with a swimming pool and movie nights; a yoga room; outdoor fire pits and fountains; and ground-floor retail space. Rental rates are expected to be $1,000 to $2,500 per month.

Laska aims to open the Mercer — he kept the name — in the first quarter of 2017.

“It was dead at one point,” he said. “We’re going to resuscitate it.”

The Mercer was one of countless real estate projects in Las Vegas that were abandoned, often midconstruction, during the downturn. And Laska is one of many investors who bought these zombie properties, typically at a steep discount, to complete them.

Condo projects alone included ManhattanWest, now called the Gramercy;Vantage Lofts; and Milano Residences, now called the Lennox.

Like the Mercer, those three developments were designed as for-sale condo complexes but now are rentals offering higher-endamenities.

The Mercer was initially designed to have 113 units. It was more than 50 percent pre-sold by time the developers broke ground in 2007, and asking prices reached $790,000, reports said. Amenities were to include hardwood flooring, stainless steel kitchen appliances, and granite and marble countertops.

Construction apparently stopped in 2009, the same year the project’s lender foreclosed on it.

Failed condo projects were “all over” the valley during the recession, and given their low prices, they were “hard to pass up,” said Dennis Smith, founder of Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research.

“It was a good deal,” he said of Laska’s purchase.

The apartment industry is one of the most-active areas of real estate locally and nationally, especially for development. In Las Vegas, investors have been buying andbuilding multifamily properties as younger residents shy away from homeownership and because many locals — their personal finances wrecked by the recession — haven’t been able to land a mortgage, let alone afford a down payment, and have to rent.

Apartment-complex sales volume is far higher than it was at the depths of the downturn but has fallen the past few years. The drop-off comes amid rising prices and, perhaps, a shrinking availability of lower-priced buildings.

Investors picked up almost 2,800 units in the first half of 2015, a pace of about 5,600 for the year, at an average price of about $84,700 per unit. In 2012, landlords bought 21,840 units for an average of $65,425 apiece, according to Colliers International.

Meanwhile, after opening just 367 rental units valleywide in 2013, developers completed about 1,700 units last year. As of December, they were projected to open roughly 5,750 units this year and almost 2,000 more in 2016, according to CBRE Group.

Not everyone’s cheering the workload. Some people have said developers are piling in too quickly and overbuilding, especially in the southwest valley, where it seems most of the projects are concentrated.

“Apartments have probably gotten a little ahead of themselves right now,” RCG Economics founder John Restrepo said a few months ago.

Laska, who runs day-to-day operations of StoryBook, launched the company with his wife, Catherine, around 2003. They sell 100 to 120 homes annually, mostly in the southwest valley.

Through June, StoryBook closed 68 sales this year, 15th-most in the valley, according to Home Builders Research. (Miami-based powerhouse Lennar Corp. was No. 1 with 667.)

StoryBook, like the rest of its industry, was battered by the economic meltdown last decade. The company, and the Laskas, were on the brink financially as Southern Nevada’s homebuilding sector, which had been white hot during the real estate bubble, all but collapsed.

“We almost filed bankruptcy three times,” Wayne Laska said.

Today, his sales volume has doubled from the depths of the downturn — his company sold 69 homes in all of 2009, according to VEGAS INC research — and he’s getting into the apartment business in a big way.

Not only is he developing his first project, but he and his wife are planning to move to a 4,000-square-foot, fourth-floor corner unit at the Mercer.

Also, concerned that he might not find tenants for all of the retail space, Laska said he might move his company’s headquarters from Town Center Drive at the 215 Beltway to the ground floor of the apartment complex.

http://vegasinc.com/business/real-estate/2015/jul/24/homebuilder-storybook-las-vegas-apartment-market/

Home sales up fastest pace in 8 Years!

ABQ Mansion

Americans bought homes in June at the fastest rate in over eight years, pushing prices to record highs as buyer demand has eclipsed the availability of houses on the market.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes climbed 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million, the highest rate since February 2007. Sales have jumped 9.6 percent over the past 12 months, while the number of listings has risen just 0.4 percent.

The median home price has climbed 6.5 percent over the past 12 months to $236,400, the highest level – unadjusted for inflation – reported by the Realtors.

Home-buying has recently surged as more buyers have flooded into the real estate market. Robust hiring over the past 21 months and an economic recovery now in its sixth year have enabled more Americans to set aside money for a down payment. But the rising demand has failed to draw more sellers into the market, limiting the availability of homes and sparking higher prices that could cap sales growth in the coming months.

Some of the recent sales burst appears to come from the prospect of low mortgage rates beginning to rise as Fed officials consider raising a key interest rate from its near-zero level later this year. Past efforts by the Fed officials to reduce their stimulus efforts have led to higher mortgage rates, creating expectations that homebuyers will face increased borrowing costs later this year.

That possibility is prompting some buyers to finalize sales before higher rates make borrowing costs prohibitively expensive, noted Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac, a housing analytics firm.

The premiums that the Federal Housing Administration charges borrowers to insure mortgages are also lower this year, further fueling buying activity, Blomquist said.

It’s also possible that more homebuyers are aggressively checking the market for listings, enabling them to act fast with offers despite the lack of new inventory.

Properties typically sold last month in 34 days, the shortest time since the Realtors began tracking the figure in May 2011. There were fewer all-cash, individual investor and distressed home sales in the market, as more traditional buyers have returned.

Sales improved last month in all four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

Still, the limited supplies could prove to be a drag on sales growth in the coming months.

Ever rising home values are stretching the budgets of first-time buyers and owners looking to upgrade. As homes become less affordable, demand will likely taper off.

Home prices have increased at more than three times the pace of wages. The average hourly wage has risen just 2 percent over the past 12 months to $24.95 an hour, according to the Labor Department.

Construction has yet to satisfy rising demand, as builders are increasingly focused on the growing rental market.

Approved building permits rose increased 7.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.34 million in June, the highest level since July 2007, the Commerce Department said last week. Almost all the gains came for apartment complexes, while permits for houses last month rose only 0.9 percent.

The share of Americans owning homes has fallen this year to a seasonally adjusted 63.8 percent, the lowest level since 1989.

Real estate had until recently lagged behind much of the six-year rebound from the recession, hobbled by the wave of foreclosures that came after the housing bubble began to burst roughly eight years ago.

But the job market found new traction in early 2014. Employers added 3.1 million jobs last year and are on pace to add 2.5 million jobs this year. As millions more Americans have found work, their new paychecks are increasingly going to housing, both in terms of renting and owning.

Low mortgage rates have also helped, although rates are now starting to climb to levels that could slow buying activity.

The average 30-year fixed rate was 4.09 percent last week, according to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. The average has risen from a 52-week low of 3.59 percent.

 

Las Vegas-area home prices up 10.1 percent in June

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Las Vegas-area home prices are up by double digits compared with a year ago. The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that the median home price in June was $220,000, which is up 10.1 percent from last June. The number of existing homes sold in June was nearly 3,700, up… Continue reading

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