Mixed messages from local economy

As almost anyone who owns a house knows, Las Vegas’ real estate market has been roaring.

Property values are rising at some of the fastest rates nationally, with used-home prices jumping 27 percent in the past year and new-home prices soaring 36 percent. Many listings receive multiple offers as investors gobble up homes to turn into rentals.

At the same time, though, Nevada’s foreclosure rate remains one of the worst in the country.

No matter how fast prices rise, the Silver State can’t shake its status as a foreclosure hotbed.

“(It’s) a tale of two markets,” local economist John Restrepo said.

The foreclosure rate itself is fluctuating — February’s was down 16 percent from January, which was up 28 percent from December, according to RealtyTrac.

Either way, the state is normally in the top 10 nationally, if not the top five, for monthly foreclosure filings. So what gives?

One culprit might be our personal finances. Nevada has the nation’s third-highest mortgage delinquency rate, says Trans-Union, and more than half of all households are in a “persistent state of financial insecurity,” according to the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development.

A family of four would need about $5,900 in savings to carry them for three months through a job loss or other emergency, but more and more middle-class homes in Nevada “fall short of that amount,” the organization has said.

Straightening out a family’s finances is tough here — hiring is tepid, wages are stagnant and the jobless rate is high.

“The traditional homeowner is still struggling,” Restrepo said.

In 2011, state lawmakers put the skids on Nevada’s soaring foreclosure rate with the “robosigning” law, which forced banks to provide more paperwork before seizing homes.

But last year, they passed laws that took both sides in the fight between homeowners and banks, and it’s still unclear how the bills will affect foreclosures. One requires lenders to have a single point of contact for struggling borrowers and forces banks to provide clients with foreclosure-prevention options and other information before seizing a house. Another softens the robosigning law, which required bank employees to sign an affidavit saying they have personal knowledge of the property’s document history before foreclosing.

Nevada’s foreclosure mess is unlikely to get fixed anytime soon, not when people can’t find work after years of looking for a job or keep splurging on clothes, electronics and restaurants when they should be saving.

But if your house is on the market, at least you’ll probably find a buyer.

Tags: Business