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As We See It

[Neon Eden]

Vegas real estate porn—the upside of our crappy economy

Serious dealers await willing buyers

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Properties like this used to be way out of most people’s price range, but thanks to a tanking economy, they are much more affordable now.
Photo: Leila Navidi

What if I told you I could offer you a two-bedroom, two-bath condo in Summerlin—well, basically Summerlin—for the price of an Acura MDX: Is that something that would interest you?

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. We’ve heard this before from the real estate pitchmen. In 2006, you couldn’t lose because prices would never go down. In 2007, you were lucky to be getting in during this pause in appreciation. In 2008 and 2009 and 2010, you got a steal compared to 2006!

But now, with real estate prices less than half of what they were at the peak, there might be something to it.

Real Estate Tour

I say that not as investment advice—God forbid you take investment advice from me—but because when you take a tour of properties around the Valley, you get an intuitive sense that prices are downright rational.

Given the pain and anxiety endured by our neighbors, it’s not easy to say, but it’s true: The real estate collapse hasn’t been bad for everyone. For many, it has made ownership affordable. In that light, I decided to take a tour of the craziest deals. I call it real estate porn.

Our guide is Joe DiRaffaele of Coldwell Banker, and he’s one of the best in the business. He sold 176 homes in 2010 and was recognized by The Wall Street Journal last year for being one of the top sellers in the country.

We begin in the Northwest at the end of a cul-de-sac, 3123 Surf Spray Street, at a house of nearly 2,700 square feet, with a three-car garage, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It sold in March, 2006 for $509,000. Now it’s bank owned and goes for $254,900. It’s airy and boasts a big kitchen with skylights and a center island. The windows of the master bedroom offer a nice view of the obligatory giant wall that surrounds the property. Yeah, I said it was a good deal, not my dream home.

DiRaffaele isn’t a pollyanna—on our way to the next spot, he says he hated watching developers cram cheap houses onto tiny plots during the bubble. Nothing can be done about it now, except to sell the stuff at half price.

Next, that condo I mentioned earlier, the Residence at Canyon Gate, selling for $39,900. The previous owners trashed the two-bedroom, two-bathroom place, so it will need some work. DiRaffaele, who spends a lot of time working with contractors now on behalf of banks, says for $12,000 he could have the place shining. A dollar goes far with desperate contractors these days, he says. Walk-in closets and a sunken Jacuzzi-style tub make this ideal for young buyers.

At Red Rock Country Club, a palatial house at 11310 Winter Cottage Place that once went for $1.2 million is selling for $599,900. It has a Mediterranean-style courtyard entrance with “Romeo and Juliet” balconies, four bedrooms and five bathrooms. Inside, there’s a curving staircase with a birdcage railing. Of course, it offers great views of the golf course. The Sopranos could live here, and maybe a version of them did.

We slide down the socio-economic ladder at 8261 Abercrombe Way, just around the corner from Tivoli Square, where a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house goes for $79,900 and would make a great first home for a young family. Even with no money down, the mortgage payment would be less than $400 per month, the taxes just $1,000 per year.

Finally, we’re Downtown at what was once the Streamline Tower and is now the Ogden, a high rise just a block from the old City Hall, which will soon be home to Zappos. It’s a one bedroom with a walk-in closet on the 18th floor, with views of the Sheep Range. Below are two vacant lots. Hopefully, the coming of Zappos will change that. You can walk to all the cool bars and restaurants Downtown, including a much-talked-about Thai place. Standing on the roof deck where the pool is, you can look south right down Las Vegas Boulevard at the glittery dreams of the Strip.

Yours for $109,900.

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