A First-Time Homebuyer's Guide to Las Vegas

Local real estate agents offer advice on buying a house in Las Vegas.

U.S. News & World Report

A First-Time Homebuyer's Guide to Las Vegas

Clear winter sky above golf course homes and casino resort towers in Southern Nevada.(Getty Images)

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.

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.

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."

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.

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