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Real estate:

Las Vegas is the best (and worst) place for first-time homebuyers

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L.E. Baskow

A house is shown for sale Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Las Vegas.

Wed, Mar 20, 2019 (2 a.m.)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — to buy a first home in Las Vegas, that is. Depending on which expert ranking you chose to believe or not believe.

National real estate database Zillow Group released a report Tuesday ranking Las Vegas as the second-best market in the nation for first-time homebuyers.

But wait, not so fast.

On Monday, consumer finance website Bankrate released a similar ranking of the 50 largest U.S. cities, listing Las Vegas as 43rd-best for first-time buyers.

So, which is it?

Janet Carpenter, president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, falls on the side of the Zillow ranking.

“If you go back to last fall, low inventory was affecting the market quite a bit,” Carpenter said. “Since then, things have changed. The market has slowed and we’ve seen inventory increase.”

The latest monthly update from the association, which came out earlier this month, showed the Las Vegas Valley had more than 7,000 listings without an offer.

Carpenter said she recently had a home in the $235,000 price range that stayed on the market for more than a month, something that would have been unheard of even six months ago.

Skylar Olsen, a researcher for Zillow, said prices of homes in the lower third of the market have risen so much in some places, they are no longer affordable for many people. “But markets like Tampa and Las Vegas still provide plenty of bargains,” Olsen said in a news release.

Zillow based its findings on median home values, forecasted appreciation and available inventory. It ranked the 35 most-populated U.S. housing markets, basing its scores on where first-time buyers would likely nab a home likely to appreciate the most.

The Bankrate study, which advised first-time buyers to steer clear of many major markets on the West Coast, focused on 13 metrics related to affordability, the job market, culture and safety.

Of Bankrate’s top 10 cities for first-time buyers, only three — two in Missouri and one in Oklahoma — were west of the Mississippi River. Six of the seven worst markets were in California, and only two — Miami and Memphis, Tenn. — were east of the Mississippi.

Carpenter, meanwhile, expects the housing market in Las Vegas to heat up this spring.

“I think part of the slowdown has also been because of the poor weather we’ve had,” Carpenter said. “Buyers typically start to look around more in April. They may have some tax return money and the weather is nicer. Late April into May is when the market might start to heat up again.”

While some of the national market experts are at odds, it’s not a bad time to purchase a home, Carpenter said.

“Interest rates are really low,” she said. “The market is 10 times better for buyers than it was last fall.”

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