Welcome to the Gayborhood
"First, the bad news," started out veteran gay realtor Rob Schlegel of Elite Realty (www.RobLasVegas.com). "In Las Vegas the average home price is dropping and will continue to dropuntil the homes that are currently priced too high for the market, drop and sell." The good news? "In Las Vegas the average home price is dropping and houses that have dropped in price are getting multiple offers," Schlegel said. The message is clear for today's gay real estate market in Las Vegas: it is a good time to buy, and a good time to sell-if your house is priced right for the market.
Randy Slovacek of Realty One Group (www.LVhabitats.net), who advertises in QVegas as an "out and proud" Realtor, says, "If you price your house out of the market because you need to get such and such an amount of money out of it, it will sit and sit and sit. But if you price it right, it will sell within a week or two." Brent Vanderpool of Liberty Realty (www.brentvanderpool.com), who also advertises in QVegas, calls this "Shelf position." Vanderpool says that you don't want to price your house higher or lower than the market, but right at the buyer's range. Slovacek says average home prices are in the $250,000 to $350,000 range. QVegas advertiser Roman Rush of Zip Realty (www.ZipRealty.com) says that homes in that range are currently getting multiple offers, reminiscent of the market in 2004. Schlegel's advice for those whose home value has dropped upside down to the purchase price: Hold on, if you can. "The market always recovers," he said, "and prices go higher than their former peak."
Some can't wait. Those who bought into the market when it was high and financed their homes with adjustable rate mortgages are facing note increases of 20, 30 and 40 percent. Meanwhile, they can't refinance because their home is worth less than they bought it for. Slovacek says, "Areas that experienced the last big push of new construction before the bubble burst have the highest number of foreclosures and short sells." "Buyers smell blood in the water," he said, "but I have to slow them down. $400,000 homes selling for $100,000 don't exist. If that's the deal they're looking for, this isn't the market." Rush concurs, "Foreclosures and short sells are already sharply discounted. Houses are currently selling within five percent of their list price with multiple offers. It is best to make an offer at the list price or slightly higher."
But foreclosures and short sells aren't the only bargains out there. "New home builders are offering lots of incentives to buyers," Slovacek said. Vanderpool explains, "Because we have such an excess of inventory, a buyer can purchase a new home closer to the home's base price."
"People who have average jobs can now afford a home," Rush said. Schlegel agreed, "Buying a home can be more affordable than renting. $1,200 rent can buy you a $250,000 home." He added, "The key to home ownership is having a good lender. It is important for GLBT people to find a lender who understands our relationships." Buying a home is one area where marriage discrimination works in a same-sex couple's favor, Schlegel said. When a married couple purchases a home, their loan is based on the lowest credit score of the two. However, if one of the partners in a same-sex relationship has bad credit it doesn't matter because the home can simply be purchased in the name of the partner with good credit. Unfortunately, he noted, housing discrimination based on sexual orientation is still permitted under FHA rules. However, Slovacek said that he's never had a seller turn down a buyer based on sexual orientation.
But how do you get a loan in today's tighter credit market? Schlegel said that some loans are tailored for first time buyers. Randy Slovacek said that buyers often think that they have to be low income to qualify for an FHA loan, but he said, "All you need to qualify is a FICO score in the mid-600s, a job and be able to put three percent down." He said FHA loans for up to $417,000 are available for conforming mortgages. Brent Vanderpool said that it is to the seller's advantage in this market to assist the buyer in paying down the points on a loan. Slovacek said that with an FHA loan a buyer can ask the seller to pay down three percent of the closing costs. Also a buyer can ask a seller to pay up to six percent of the sale price as "down payment assistance" on an FHA loan. Check out www.fha.com for complete details. (All the Realtors I interviewed emphasized that buyers should consult with a professional home lender or mortgage broker).
Slovacek said that the gay market makes up half of his clientele. "Gay clients new to Las Vegas often ask, 'Where is the gay neighborhood?'" he said. Schlegel said that "gayborhoods" never developed in Las Vegas because there were never any zoning restrictions that caused gay bars to cluster in one particular neighborhood. "The Fruit Loop [Naples between Paradise and Swenson] and the Commercial Center [between East Sahara and Karen] are the only gay business clusters in Vegas and both neighborhoods have limited housing possibilities for gay professionals." Both Schlegel and Slovacek said that some gay people gravitate towards older neighborhoods near downtown, such as John S. Park, because of their retro home styles. Slovacek said that he had also seen quite a few sales to gay and lesbian couples in some of the midrises, such as Manhattan West. The bottom line said Schlegel, "The best neighborhood to buy in right now is in whatever neighborhood you want to live. Gay people live everywhere in Las Vegas."
"I believe in the American dream," Slovacek said. "Gay people should own a home and now is a great time to buy. Don't wait until the market hits the bottom because you won't know we've hit bottom until we're on the way up." Vanderpool agreed, "If you find a smokin' deal, put an offer on it right away. We're seeing multiple offers. Don't wait." Slovacek said, "Buying a home is an incredibly exciting feeling for a gay couple--'Wow, we bought a home!'"