Ask the Expert: 5 Things to Consider When You House Hunt in Las Vegas

Today's "Ask the Expert" post comes to us from Debbie Drummond, also known as @vegashomepro on Twitter. We learned a few things that may surprise you about the housing market in Las Vegas! Without further ado...

Home buyers who are moving to Las Vegas should know Las Vegas homes will not be the same as what you find in other areas. The following points should help you get a feel for the homes you will find in the Las Vegas market.

1. Big yards are the exception rather than the rule.  Fly into Las Vegas and you’ll see vacant land surrounding us. You may question why homes are built on such small lots. The Bureau of Land Management owns 85 percent of the State of Nevada.  Most of that vacant land you see surrounding Las Vegas belongs to them and is not available for homes.

Even in luxury home communities like the Ridges of Summerlin, you may find a $3 Million home on a quarter acre lot. There are some areas where we can find half acre lots. In the Centennial Hills area, we’re seeing some new construction homes on half acre lots.  If you want an acre or more, your options will be even more limited. Only 1.2 percent of the current homes for sale are on an acre or more.  

2. Everyone loves a pool.  There are some areas where having a pool will diminish your home’s value and make it more difficult to sell. That isn’t the case in Las Vegas. I’ve worked with buyers and sellers for almost fifteen years. We’ve only had a few buyers who didn’t want a pool.  

But that doesn’t mean that you’ll get the full cost of the pool when you go to sell your home. Appraisers will add anywhere from $10K to $30K for a pool on an average home. A luxury home with a lavish pool may see the appraiser give a higher value to the pool. The most important thing having a pool will do is qualify your home for more buyers. Those who can take or leave the pool will still consider your home. Those who MUST HAVE a pool will also consider it.

3. Las Vegas builders love Homeowner’s Associations. Some buyers prefer living in an HOA. They like having rules about when you can put the garbage out or how long you can park on the street. Others hate having an HOA tell them what to do. The monthly HOA fee is another consideration.  

There is a plus side. Subdivisions that are subject to an HOA sometimes have desirable amenities. Buyers who want to be in a gated community will find they are subject to an HOA. Subdivisions with a community pool or play ground will have an HOA.

If you don’t want to live in an HOA, you will not want to consider the master planned communities. This includes some of our most popular neighborhoods like Summerlin and Green Valley. In a master planned community, you will have at least one monthly association fee. You will have the master plan’s Rules and Regulations to consider. You’ll have to get approval when you decide to paint your home purple or some other neon color.

4. Energy efficiency is in.  Recent articles praised Las Vegas homes for being more energy efficient than other areas. Most new construction homes have desert landscaping in the front yards. Grass is permitted in back yards, but no more than 50 percent of the area can be grass. There are drought resistant trees and shrubs that still create beautiful landscapes.

The energy efficiency is included in the home’s materials.  Several of our local builders boast that their homes are “Energy Star." We’ve had some LEED certified construction. Energy efficient HVACs and appliances are the norm with new construction. Radiant barrier roofs and low-E windows are used by most builders.

In the luxury home market, Blue Heron Homes set the bar for Net Zero homes.  Now we’ve seen Pardee Homes, Pulte, and others offering more affordable Net Zero homes. The emphasis on energy efficiency has paid off.  The Southern Nevada Water Authority leased 150,000 acre feet of water to California. It will help California with their current drought and can be repaid to Las Vegas when we need it.

5. Rent vs Buy?  When moving to a new state, it is tempting to rent a home until you have time to scout out the neighborhoods. I considered renting for six months when I moved to Las Vegas. I chose to buy because I hate moving. Couldn’t bring myself to face repeating the packing and unpacking routine. On top of the hassle, it’s expensive to move a household. Low interest rates and rising home prices make buying a better choice than renting.  

Narrowing down your search to the neighborhood that works for you isn’t as daunting as it might seem. I like to start by pinpointing locations within a 20-30 minute drive to the job. Las Vegas traffic is easy compared to Southern California. It may get more congested as our population grows. That half hour drive today could stretch into an hour in a few years. Plus, we have great neighborhoods all over the valley. If you work on or near the Strip, that pretty much leaves the entire valley as an option for your home.  What you don’t want is to buy a home on the far West side if your job is on the far East side. Driving across town during rush hour isn’t fun.

If you have children, you will want to explore the schools in the area. There are great websites that show how schools rank. Once you’ve looked at them online, spend a day going to the schools you like best. Combine the school search with looking at a reasonable commute to work to map out the best location for you.

For those who are retiring to Las Vegas, the entire valley is an option. If you don’t have to drive to work, do you have friends or family here? Do you prefer to be close to them or have a little distance? What sort of amenities and activities do you want to be near?Talk with your Realtor about the things you want nearby. Start exploring neighborhoods that best offer what you’re looking for.  

One of my favorite tips for buyers moving to Las Vegas is to spend a few days in off Strip hotels.  If you’re considering Henderson vs Summerlin or the Northwest, spend a few days in each area.  Eat at neighborhood restaurants and ask the wait people how they like living in the area.  Go shopping in the neighborhood markets. If you spend a little time in the neighborhoods, it won’t take long for you to decide where you should buy your home. 

Las Vegas is a great City.  From the shows on the Strip to getting out and enjoying the desert, there is much to enjoy in Las Vegas! We have great homes to fit almost any budget. Find an expert Realtor who knows the various neighborhoods and find your Vegas home.

Debbie Drummond is a top producing Realtor and leads the Drummond/Petit Team. Debbie specializes in luxury homes but her team has worked with buyers and sellers in all price ranges.