BLM puts 800 acres of land up for auction

The federal government is offering more than 800 acres of Las Vegas Valley land to the highest bidders next week.

But if last year’s auctions are any indication, buyers might leave a lot on the table.

The Bureau of Land Management said Thursday it plans to auction off 846.16 acres of government-owned land on April 26. The land, in the south valley, is being offered for no less than $85.4 million combined, or an average $100,927 per acre.

Throughout Southern Nevada last year, land sold for a median price of about $317,000 per acre, according to brokerage firm Colliers International.

The BLM said its parcels, ranging from 1.25 to 247.6 acres, are located north and south of Blue Diamond Road between Hualapai Way and Interstate 15, and between Keehn and Rettig avenues near the M Resort.

The sale is scheduled to be conducted in the Clark County Commission chambers, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.

BLM auctions are a source of land for homebuilders and other investors, and during the real estate bubble last decade, buyers spent huge sums acquiring sprawling project sites from the government.

In 2005, Las Vegas developer John Ritter’s Focus Property Group led a consortium that paid $510 million for roughly 1,700 acres in the northwest valley, outbidding developer Garry Goett for the land.

Months later, Goett, founder of Las Vegas-based Olympia Cos., led a group that paid $639 million for 2,700 acres in North Las Vegas. They outbid Ritter for the site.

BLM sales dried up when the economy crashed. In 2011, for instance, there was apparently only one auction in Southern Nevada, offering 6.25 acres for at least $1.08 million combined. Just 1.25 acres sold, for $19,501 — $1 above the parcel’s base asking price.

Moreover, projects planned on former BLM acreage got derailed during the recession.

Ritter’s group lost the 1,700 acres to foreclosure in 2008 before building anything, and Goett filed for bankruptcy protection for the North Las Vegas project in 2009 before a single house was built. In 2011 — still without any homes — the project went bankrupt again under different investors.

Las Vegas’ once-devastated housing market has improved from the depths of the recession. Ritter’s project site, now called Skye Canyon, is being developed by Goett. And the North Las Vegas property, formerly known as Park Highlands, was split between two groups of investors to pursue separate projects.

All told, builders sold about 6,800 new homes in Clark County last year, up 13 percent from 2014, and about 1,530 new homes in the first quarter of 2016, up 9 percent from the same period last year, according to Home Builders Research.

The land-buying frenzy of the boom years, however, is long gone.

In May, investors bought almost 358 acres at a BLM auction for $19.2 million, or about $53,700 per acre. But they passed on 240 acres that also were offered that day.

In November, investors bought about 260 acres at a BLM auction for $32.6 million, or about $125,000 per acre — leaving 365 acres on the table.

Buyers at those auctions — apparently the only ones held locally by the BLM last year — included homebuilders D.R. Horton, KB Home and American West Homes, as well as Seven Valleys Realty and Construction owner Khusrow Roohani and apartment developer Nevada West Partners.