Excellence in Las Vegas Real Estate

Eight of the Valley’s top Realtors on common mistakes of first-time buyers, their most memorable sales and the possibility of another housing bubble

Editor’s note: In conjunction with our inaugural Real Estate Issue, Vegas Seven is honoring eight local Realtors who are among the leaders in their field. Each Realtor was selected based on a variety of criteria, including longevity in the Las Vegas market (at least 10 years) and sales volume (each ranks in the top 50, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors). We asked the honorees to share their experiences and insight about the Valley’s real estate market, as well as provide tips to potential buyers and sellers.

randy_char_WEBRandy Char

Char Luxury Real Estate, 410 S. Rampart Blvd., Suite 180,702-750-1092, CharLuxury.com.

Realtor since: 1995.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 1995.

Primary areas served: One Queensridge Place (a luxury high-rise near Summerlin).

The most important trait for a Realtor … is negotiating skills. Information is easily available, so the value [of a Realtor] is in orchestrating the deal.

Before putting your house on the market … get an expert opinion on how to stage the home, and use top-notch photography.

When considering whether to invest in home improvements prior to sale … it’s important to evaluate where the most bang for the buck can be achieved. This will vary depending on the home’s size and price point—the higher price-per-square-foot, the more justification for home improvements. [This is especially true] in today’s market, where buyers typically will pay a premium for a more modern, turnkey home.

The most important lesson learned from the Great Recession … is that investing is much different than speculating. Buying and holding is not always the right move.

Five years from now … the Las Vegas real estate market will be much deeper for luxury properties. With future high-end and vertical developments in the works, Vegas will continue to evolve into a maturing metropolis.

My most memorable sale … was a $7.7 million penthouse at One Queensridge Place. It was one of the highest recorded [local] sales in the last decade, and it was an unfinished shell.

gavin_ernstone_WEBGavin Ernstone

Simply Vegas, 3042 S. Durango Dr., 702-523-3677, TheDHS.com.

Realtor since: 1987.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 1995.

Primary areas served: Luxury guard-gated communities.

The No. 1 piece of advice for anyone who is considering becoming a Realtor … is answer your phone.

Before putting your house on the market … call a Realtor to walk through the house and advise you as to how best to prepare it so it shows well to potential buyers.

In my sector of real estate … nine months to a year is too long for a house to sit on the market. But at the lower end, probably 90 days.

The most important lesson learned from the Great Recession … is don’t overborrow.

If I could choose anywhere in the Valley to own a home … it would be Azure in the Ridges [in Summerlin]. It’s where I live, and I love it.

If the first three rules of real estate are location, location, location … the fourth is hard work.

dale_snyder_WEBDale Snyder

The Snyder Group, 9420 W. Sahara Ave. Suite 100, 702-625-3202, TeamDrivenRealEstate.com.

Realtor since: 2005.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 2005.

Primary areas served: Summerlin.

I moved to Las Vegas … to pursue a career as a professional rock climber after graduating from Boise State University in 1999. I was working at Caesars Palace at night and rock climbing during the day. When my girlfriend became pregnant, I had to make a career shift into a field that allowed my income to grow and gave me flexibility to be with my children. I never had a father around to support and push me, and I didn’t want that to happen with my children.

The most important traits … a buyer or seller should look for when selecting a Realtor are trust, market knowledge, track record and hustle. Too many consumers get sold by smooth Realtors who are not true experts.

The most important lesson learned from the Great Recession … is live within your means. Save 10 to 20 percent of your income, set up an S-Corp and most importantly, always be humble. The market shifts, and you will always have a downturn when your income will drop. Be prepared for it.

I don’t see … another housing bubble happening in the next 10-20 years, but we will quickly forget and make the same mistakes. History always repeats itself.

My most memorable sale … was my first one! It was an $800,000 home that enabled me to quit my night job at Caesars Palace and pursue real estate full time. I’m so thankful for that client, and to this day we are still friends.

billy_alt_WEBBilly Alt

Wynn Realty/The Alt Group, 7495 W. Azure Rd., Suite 214, 702-250-1090, AltGroupLV.com

Realtor since: 2004.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 2004.

Primary areas served: All areas.

I got into real estate because … after 12 years in the nightclub and marketing business in New York and Nevada, I wanted a career that would allow me to [work] with people and control my own hours. Also, my family rented when I was growing up, and I always remembered how the landlords held all the wealth. Because of this, I truly believe in home ownership.

The biggest mistake … first-time homebuyers make is not interviewing agents [before signing with them]. It’s easy to get information on the Internet, but hard to decipher.

In this market … about 25 percent of sellers are listing their houses too high, and their time on the market is much longer. For the average-priced home, I always suggest that my sellers list at market value and not more than 10 percent higher. In most cases, that will get you offers in one to two weeks.

Five years from now, the local real estate market … will go back to being more “normal” with less peaks and valleys. We should appreciate on average 3 to 5 percent, and home ownership will increase as first-time homebuyers start to realize the low [interest] rates will not last forever. We have been spoiled with rates below 5 percent for a long time.

My most memorable sale … was to a Vietnam veteran looking to purchase his first home using his VA [Veterans Affairs] loan. I am a Marine veteran, and it was my honor and privilege to help him achieve the American dream.

tom_love_WEBThomas J. Love

The Tom Love Group, 10801 W. Charleston Blvd., Suite 102, 702-838-5100, TheTomLoveGroup.com.

Realtor since: 1990.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 1990.

Primary areas served: Valley-wide in the luxury market; guard-gated and golf-course communities.

The biggest misconception … about Realtors is that they are all the same. Trust me, they are all different, and like many other things in life, you get what you pay for. Experience is very important and directly impacts the client’s results.

It is critical for first-time buyers … to get pre-approved for a loan prior to looking at homes. That’s the very first step.

Before putting your home on the market … have it appraised by a licensed [professional] to ascertain the fair market value of the home. The appraisal removes all the mystery and uncertainty around pricing a home, and justifies the list price to a prospective buyer.

Most home improvements … will not give the seller a significant return on investment. Only those improvements that increase the net to the seller, add value to the property and make it more appealing to prospective buyers are worth it. A good broker can advise their clients on which improvements make sense.

I’m not concerned at all … about another housing bubble, because banks have made it very difficult for buyers to obtain financing. Buyers now actually have skin in the game and are very well qualified.

laura_harbison_WEBLaura Harbison

Realty Executives, 770 Coronado Center Dr., Suite 100, Henderson, 702-777-1234, HarbisonRealEstate.com.

Realtor since: 1986.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 1990.

Primary areas served: Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas.

I got into real estate because … I felt it was a profession in which a woman could excel without the “glass ceiling” that I was seeing in so many other fields. More than 6,000 successful transactions later, I know I was right.

The most important thing you should look for in a Realtor … is education. If the agent doesn’t care enough about their career to invest the time to learn more than the minimum required for licensing, that should be a red flag.

The biggest mistake first-time buyers make … is getting too emotional. That can cause [a buyer] to jump too quickly at the wrong house. Or worse, not jump quickly enough at the right house.

In most cases, I don’t recommend … investing in home improvements before putting a home up for sale. The exception would be if the “improvement” is needed to bring the home up to a comparable condition to other homes in the neighborhood.

My most memorable sale … was when a buyer once wanted me to ask [the seller] for the master bedroom furniture, the kitchen table and the dog—yes, the dog. I thought I would be thrown out on my ear when presenting that offer, but the seller agreed. The buyer I represented was tickled, and I learned that everything is truly negotiable.

If the first three rules of real estate are location, location, location … the fourth is cleanliness. And the fifth is location.

kenneth_lowman_WEBKen Lowman

Luxury Homes of Las Vegas, 7854 W. Sahara Ave., 702-216-4663, LuxuryHomesOfLasVegas.com.

Realtor since: 1990.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: April 1995.

Primary areas served: Luxury homes and guard-gated country-club neighborhoods.

I always say that real estate … is one of lowest-paying easy jobs in the world, but it can be one of the highest-paying hard-working jobs in the world. You have to work hard to make money.

The biggest mistake first-time buyers make … is buying a home in the wrong location or one that’s not large enough. Those mistakes cost money, because the buyers will have to buy again.

Before putting your home on the market … make sure to follow the three C’s: clean, clear and clutter-free. You have to start de-cluttering the home. Think: What can I take out of this room? What can I do to make my home feel larger, more orderly and more like a model home?

Spending money on home improvements … is a wise investment before putting a home up for sale. It’s like a car: If you wash, wax and clean it, it sells for a higher price.

I’m not concerned at all … about another housing bubble right now. The market has a lot more upside potential. We’re not even close to the peak pricing we saw in 2006-07. Barring unforeseen shock to the economy, there’s no reason why home values would go down.

If the first three rules of real estate are location, location, location … the fourth is timing.

frank_napoli_WEBFrank Napoli

The Napoli Group, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Nevada Properties, 6620 S. Tenaya Way, Suite 120, 702-378-3629, TheNapoliGroup.com.

Realtor since: 1999.

Working in Las Vegas real estate since: 1999.

Primary areas served: Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson.

The biggest mistake first-time buyers make … is buying out of emotion without long-term planning. Emotion is going to come into play when purchasing a home, but making a smart and educated purchase is most important. Your first home purchase most likely won’t be your last, so decide what your long-term goals are before you purchase and set yourself up properly [for the future].

The most important lesson learned from the Great Recession … is you should never buy outside of your means. Whether you are buying for a personal residence or investment, you should always examine your abilities to service the property long term, even if you have short-term intentions. We were all blindsided by the market crash, and many of us were left holding properties that were unaffordable. You should analyze best- and worst-case scenarios when making any investment to determine your ability to overcome any situation.

If I weren’t in the real estate business … I’d be a lawyer. I live for the thrill of the deal. I love to write contracts and negotiate on behalf of my clients. The next best thing would be to experience that thrill in a courtroom.

Location is generally the most important rule of real estate … but I [think] education should be first. Before making any investment in the market, educate yourself on all aspects of your purchase—including location.