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Home builders eye Pahrump, as Las Vegas land prices take off

With land prices accelerating in Las Vegas, home builders are increasingly eyeing rural communities sprinkled around Southern Nevada for potential new projects.

Most, if not all, of the major builders in the region “are seriously investigating opportunities” in outlying areas such as Pahrump, Indian Springs, Moapa Valley, Mesquite and Laughlin, according to a new report from Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research.

Homebuilding has long been occurring in these areas, but perhaps now is the start of a broader “acceleration” to “address the needs of buyers in the lower price ranges,” the firm’s president, Andrew Smith, wrote in the report.

Builders’ land acquisition costs are a key factor when they decide how to price their homes, and lately, amid Southern Nevada’s housing boom, buying acres of dirt in the Las Vegas area has become increasingly expensive.

Nearly 1,700 acres of Las Vegas Valley residential land sold last year for an average price of $11.80 per square foot, compared with almost 1,970 acres sold in 2020 for an average price of $5.76 per square foot, according to John Stater, Las Vegas research manager for commercial real estate brokerage Colliers International.

Those prices equate to about $514,000 per acre last year and $250,900 per acre in 2020.

Cheaper offerings

Small communities an hour or so outside Las Vegas don’t have nearly as many job opportunities or amenities as America’s casino capital. However, they have plenty of open land, and it typically costs much less.

As seen on listing site LoopNet, current residential-land offerings include about 23.3 acres in Laughlin for $6.5 million ($279,210 per acre); 17.75 acres in Mesquite for $3.2 million ($180,282 per acre); and around 16.6 acres in Pahrump for $955,000 ($57,669 per acre).

Southern Nevada’s housing market has accelerated over the past year-plus with rapid home sales and record-high prices, fueled largely by rock-bottom mortgage rates that have let buyers stretch their budgets.

Amid the frenzy, Las Vegas Valley builders have put buyers on waiting lists, regularly raised prices, taken bids for lots and in some cases drawn names to determine who gets to purchase a place.

The median sales price of newly built homes in Southern Nevada in February was ​​$453,353, up 19.2 percent from the same month last year, Smith reported this week.

Builders also pulled 2,899 new-home permits this year through February, up 13 percent from the same two-month period in 2021, indicating an increased construction pipeline.

‘It won’t last long!’

With house prices increasing fast in Las Vegas, a rising tally of buyers have looked to Pahrump, an unincorporated town in Nye County some 60 miles west of the Strip.

Pahrump has been known for its history of libertarian leanings, widespread gun ownership and legal brothels outside of town, not to mention open space, plenty of retirees and an overall slower pace of life.

When it comes to housing, it also has offered lower prices, big lots and less competition, though prices may not be as cheap anymore as some people think.

As seen on Zillow, a four-bedroom, 2,675-square-foot house in Pahrump was listed in early March for $539,900, more than double its sales price in fall 2017.

The house, built in 2008, features a solar-heated pool, a “luscious” lawn and a 224-square-foot casita.

“This beauty truly must be seen to be believed,” the listing declares. “It won’t last long!”

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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