Report: Las Vegas housing market improved, but long way to go

An aerial view of a neighborhood in the southwest part of the Las Vegas Valley taken from a helicopter May 21, 2012.

The Las Vegas housing market improved last year, but the road to full recovery remains a long one, a new report says.

There were 5,544 new home sales in the Las Vegas Valley in 2012, up 42 percent from a record low in 2011, according to Home Builders Research.

Local builders also pulled 5,908 permits last year, up 58 percent from 2011.

“Once again,” the report said, “the annual comparison is with the worst year ever recorded.”

In the boom years, new home sales peaked at almost 39,000 in 2005, while new home permits reached nearly 33,000 in 2004.

Job growth is the key factor for sustained growth in any housing market, Home Builders Research President Dennis Smith said in the report. The economy is slowly improving, but Smith said, he is “still suggesting caution.”

About 60 percent of Nevada homeowners with mortgages are underwater, meaning their mortgage debt exceeds their home’s value. Florida has the second-highest rate of underwater borrowers, at 42 percent.

“So, we still have a long way to go to get out of this mess,” Smith said.