Laguna Beach, Calif. Photo by Phillip K. Smith III/Shutterstock.

Staying Put and Getting Away

What’s the Native’s perspective on the threat of another Las Vegas housing bubble?

Let me preface by saying I am not a realtor, an economist or Nostradamus. I’m not a house flipper, either (though I wouldn’t mind being one), and I’m an investor only in the sense that I make house payments. I am, however, a lifetime Las Vegas resident who has participated in the housing game longer than I care to admit. So, based on those caveats, let’s jump in over our heads, shall we?

Prior to the real estate bubble of the last decade, Las Vegas homes saw a typical annual appreciation around 3 percent. Five percent? Well, let’s pop the Lowenbrau and celebrate! When I last bought a home (or rather, agreed to a mortgage) in 2002, things were looking solid. Las Vegas was brashly declaring itself a “recession-proof” economy, an international destination so hot that we joked that the Travel Channel was the de facto Las Vegas Channel.

But by early 2006, it was obvious (to some, anyway) that something was awry. I was getting handwritten notes taped to my door offering me double what I had paid for my house. Double! Many of my neighbors, who built their homes in the 1950s—1970s, took the money and ran. But despite the allure of an early and inexpensive surf and rum retirement in Mexico, I stayed. And by 2012, my house was “worth” about 30 percent of what I had mortgaged. Thur-tee-percent. Sayonara, surfing!

As they say at the Kentucky Derby, real estate is a long race. Things have changed since then. My house today? According to Redfin and Zillow, it’s worth 92 percent of what it should be worth based on 3 percent annual appreciation from 2002. Housing Bubble 2.0? Not yet. But when it happens? You’ll find me on a beach!

What’s your favorite summer day trip from Vegas?

Take your pick: Zion (two hours each way), Flagstaff (three hours) or Laguna Beach (three and a half hours). I do them all on the regular, with Laguna being the most recent. When I tell friends I can be driveway to sand in 210 minutes, they look at me in disbelief. Here’s how it’s done: Leave at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Take I-15 to CA-91 to CA-241 to CA-133—80 mph, no stops. After a day on the sand, I’m usually home by 10 p.m.

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