Report: 2013 an ‘exceptional year’ for new-housing market

Carpenters frame a home at a residential construction site in the west side of the Las Vegas Valley in Las Vegas, April 5, 2013.

Las Vegas’ home construction sector had some ups and downs last year, but overall, things were much better than the previous year.

Southern Nevada builders sold 7,303 new homes last year, up 32 percent from 2012, according to a new report from Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research.

Builders also pulled 6,952 new-home permits last year, up 18 percent from 2012, a sign of rising construction plans.

Sales totals rose almost every month through the summer, from about 515 closings in January to 763 in August. Business, however, dropped for much of the rest of the year, sliding to 544 sales in December.

The consumer pullback came amid soaring prices and borrowing costs that, while historically low, are on the upswing.

Last month, new homes in Southern Nevada sold for a median price of $298,601, up 37 percent from a year ago, Home Builders Research reported. That was the largest year-to-year percentage jump in nine years.

Meanwhile, interest rates for 30-year mortgage loans averaged 4.46 percent in December, up from 3.35 percent a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage finance company.

Some people might say Las Vegas’ housing market “ended the year with a ‘whimper,’” but 2013 “will go down as an exceptional year,” Home Builders Research President Dennis Smith said in his report.

“Any time we can report new-home closings increasing by 32 percent, it should make everyone very happy,” he wrote.

Still, as he often does in his monthly reports, Smith essentially told his readers not to get too excited.

He issued “very cautious and conservative” projections for 2014, saying that sales and permit activity during the first half of the year will be roughly the same as the second half of 2013.

He noted that several clouds hang over the housing market, including that Las Vegas remains America’s capital for underwater homes and that local job growth trails the national average.