Return of the housing bubble? Not in Las Vegas

The entrance way to the main section of a “Next Gen” house built by Lennar Homes, Dec. 22, 2011. The homes were designed to house multiple generations of a family.

With cash investors snapping up houses, Las Vegas’ real estate market has been heating up with rising prices and multiple bids for listings.

But unlike last decade, the valley is not mired in a housing bubble, according to a new report.

Redfin, a real estate listing service, ranked the Las Vegas Valley 13th out of the 15 metro areas it analyzed for a report on which markets are vulnerable to a new bubble. Washington, D.C., was No. 1, followed by Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and New York.

In many cities, home prices are rising but not faster than incomes, the report said. The ratio of Las Vegas home prices to local income levels was 14 percent lower in January than in January 2000, compared to a 5 percent increase nationally.

Also, 14 percent of local homes listed in March went into contract to be sold within two weeks. Some 35 percent of homes nationally were sold that quickly.

During the bubble, listings and sales skyrocketed, banks lent money to practically anyone who wanted a house, and more than 25 percent of homes were purchased with no down-payment. Inventory is now at record lows, sales volume is average, obtaining a mortgage loan is difficult and almost half of all houses are bought with cash, according to Redfin.

In most cities, “the important factors that create a true bubble are missing,” the report said.

Despite the uptick in Las Vegas real estate, the market still pales in comparison with the boom years.

The median price of single-family homes sold in March was $161,000, up 31 percent from $123,000 a year ago. In 2006, the price was more than $300,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.

Additionally, 5,544 new homes were sold in the region last year, up 42 percent from a record low in 2011, according to Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research. Local builders also pulled 5,908 permits last year, up 58 percent from 2011.

Before the bust, new home sales peaked at almost 39,000 in 2005, while new home permits reached nearly 33,000 in 2004.