You might wonder where people live in Las Vegas if your only experience with "Sin City" is the Strip. But if you’re considering a move, know there's more to the city than casinos: Just beyond the neon oasis are neighborhoods and homes aplenty.

"If you blindfolded somebody and plopped them into [an off-the-Strip community] on a Sunday afternoon, they wouldn't know they were in Las Vegas. They could think they were anywhere in the country," says George Kypreos, broker and owner of GK Properties.

For those not interested in living the suite life at a casino, U.S. News queried two of the top real estate agents in Las Vegas for advice on finding and purchasing a home for the first time in Las Vegas.

[Read: Before You Buy: Conducting Due Diligence on a Property.]

Do your map-work.

"It's a big place," Kypreos says. From Summerlin on the west side to classic east side neighborhoods such as Paradise Palms and from Henderson in the south to North Las Vegas, figuring out the right spot for you will take a little homework.

To narrow down your options, start with the basic question: What do I want to be close to? Is the answer work, good schools, the airport or nightlife? Once you know what is most important to you, an experienced agent can point you to additional resources for sussing out your ideal home base.

Understand what your budget can get you.

Depending on your perspective, Las Vegas real estate can either be a homebuyer's dream, or it can cause sticker shock.

If you're anticipating a hypercompetitive bidding war and pressure to act quickly, take a deep breath and relax. Although you always want to be prepared to make an offer when you see something you like, in Las Vegas you will typically not be competing with multiple offers. (Always ask your agent to find out if there are other offers.) Plus, your money will likely get you more in terms of square footage and quality than it would in pricier markets.

However, don't buy into the myth that Las Vegas is the land of foreclosures, awash with endless bargains. The housing market today looks very different from the market of 2010. "We've had six years of appreciation," Kypreos says.

[Read: Should You Buy a House in Your Market Now?]

Familiarize yourself with the condo market.

Condos are an option, but you should know that they are harder to finance than homes in Las Vegas. "You might see the $200,000 condo as perfect for your budget, but good luck on getting a loan," says Allison Jung, a Realtor with Universal Realty Inc. While a loan for a house may require only 3 percent down, it is not uncommon for a loan on a condo to require 25 percent.

Be prepared to renovate if you're after character.

If you imagine yourself in a gated community with a fine-tuned homeowner's association, you're in luck because Las Vegas has plenty. But if you're dead-set on a house with charm or loathe HOAs, you should develop an appreciation for midcentury and desert modern architecture, and get ready to renovate.

Neighborhoods like Paradise Palms, the Scotch 80s and McNeil Estates offer unique homes, but many have not been updated over the years. In Vegas, "people tend to buy a house, own it for 20 to 30 years, and then when the neighborhood starts to change, they just move farther out instead of spending the money and fixing the house," Kypreos says.

Know how to sweeten your offer.

Many first-time buyers in the Las Vegas market will be looking at houses in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. This happens to be the range that is also attractive to cash investors – buyers, typically from out of town, who plan to rent or flip the property and who pay in cash. Common in Las Vegas, cash investors can be more appealing to sellers because they can close deals quickly and without appraisal contingencies.

To be competitive, Jung says, "you've got to come in with your highest and best to begin with, especially if your agent tells you there are multiple offers."

[Read: 4 Under-the-Radar Neighborhoods in Las Vegas to Buy a Home.]

You can also make your offer more attractive to a seller by taking a home as-is or being flexible on the closing date. For example, offering a longer escrow period could give the seller longer to pack up and move out. "It might not be dollars that you're giving them, but you are giving them the courtesy of being flexible on the terms," Kypreos says.

Looking for a real estate agent in Las Vegas? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.


12 Hidden Costs of Homeownership


Slideshow

Home inspection

(iStockPhoto)

Since a home purchase is likely to be the largest financial investment of your life, it’s a good idea to have it professionally inspected beforehand. The cost of a home inspection, which can run several hundred dollars or more, is typically incurred by buyers before closing.

Pest inspection

Pest inspection

(Stefan Klein/iStockphoto)

Buyers should consider obtaining a separate inspection for wood-destroying insects, such as termites. Termite inspections typically cost between $50 and $200, says Greg Baumann, senior scientist for the National Pest Management Association.

Appraisal fees

Appraisal fees

(John Solie/iStockphoto)

Before you can purchase a home, your lender will require you to have the property valued by a professional real estate appraiser. Lenders use such appraisals, which typically range between $350 and $400, when determining the amount of money to offer mortgage borrowers.

Closing costs

Closing costs

(Steve Vanhorn/iStockphoto)

When you arrive to sign your closing documents, be prepared to pony up thousands of dollars for assorted fees. Such expenses—known as closing costs—can include processing fees, underwriting fees, recording fees, survey fees, and title insurance fees. Closing costs usually range between 2 to 3 percent of the mortgage loan amount.

Moving expenses

Moving expenses

(iStockPhoto)

Unless your new house is around the corner or you have a large group of helpful friends, you’ll likely need some professional help to transport your belongings. Such expenses can reach several thousand dollars or more, depending on the distance of the move.

Furniture

Furniture

(Paul Hill/iStockphoto)

Once you’ve lugged all of your furniture into your new home, you may find that your old sofa and dining room table aren’t nearly enough to fill out the house. The beds, lamps, and tables often needed to furnish additional rooms can add up quickly.

Property taxes and homeowners insurance

Property taxes and homeowners insurance

(Mike Manzano/iStockphoto)

If you have never had a mortgage, be aware that your monthly bill won’t simply reflect the loan amount plus interest. It will also reflect property taxes and premiums for homeowners insurance, which all mortgage borrowers are required to obtain.

Supplemental insurance

Supplemental insurance

(iStockPhoto)

Consumers who buy homes in areas exposed to flooding may have to purchase a supplemental insurance policy, says Guy Cecala, the publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. “[For] just about any mortgage you get now that’s in the 100-year flood plain, you have to get flood insurance,” Cecala says.

Homeowners association/condo fees

Homeowners association/condo fees

(Tom England/iStockphoto)

Consumers who buy into certain developments will have an additional monthly fee on top of their payments for principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Condominium and single-family developments often charge residents for services that benefit the entire community, like lawn mowing or employing a front-desk attendant.

Utilities

Utilities

(iStockphoto)

You may be surprised by how much you’ll need to budget to keep the house warm and the water running. Utility costs will vary by region and consumption. To get a sense of the costs, home buyers should ask sellers for monthly utilities estimates before they close the transaction.

Ongoing maintenance

Ongoing maintenance

(Chad Truemper/iStockphoto)

Although that big backyard might be a great place to grill burgers, it’s also an expense. As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to keep your property maintained. That means raking the leaves, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, and clearing out the gutters, among other tasks.

Repairs

Repairs

(iStockPhoto)

Remember, when you move out of that apartment, there’s no longer a landlord to call when the sink backs up. Instead, it’s up to you to contact—and pay—the plumber. And the sink is just one of the many home features or appliances that homeowners may one day need to repair.


Tags: real estate, Las Vegas, housing market, existing home sales


Misti Yang is a freelance writer in Las Vegas. Yang writes for several local publications and previously wrote the city's weekly Yelp newsletter. While she most often pens stories about food and travel, Yang also covers real estate and the tech economy. You can visit her website and connect with her on Twitter.

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