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Las Vegas region June home sales climbed to the highest level for any month since December 2006 as more than two-thirds of all buyers in the resale market continued to snap up foreclosures. The median sale price held steady, marking the second month in a row in which it didn't erode on a month-to-month basis, as it had for 16 consecutive months prior to May, a real estate information service reported.

About 70% of the Las Vegas-area houses and condos that resold in June were foreclosure resales, meaning those homes had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months. That was up from 59% in June 2008 but the lowest for any month since it was 68.9% last December. Foreclosure resales peaked in April at 73.7% of total resales, according to MDA DataQuick. The San Diego firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.

A total of 5,519 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Las Vegas-Paradise metro area (Clark County) last month, up 21.7% from May and up 44.1% from a year ago. It was the highest sales total for any month since 5,780 homes sold in December 2006, and the highest for any June since 8,110 homes sold in June 2006.

June marked the 15th consecutive month in which sales of existing single-family detached houses rose on a year-over-year basis. The 4,042 single-family house resales last month were the highest for any June since 4,846 sold in June 2005. Resale condos have seen an annual sales gain for 12 straight months.

Sales of newly built homes remain extraordinarily low, largely because home builders cannot compete with heavily discounted foreclosure resales. Last month's 475 new-home sales rose 30% from May but were 49% lower than a year ago. June's new-home total fell 74% short of the average number sold in that month since 1994, when DataQuick's complete (all home types) Las Vegas region statistics begin. The lowest month for new-home closings was January 2009, when 249 sold.

The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Las Vegas metro area last month was $135,000, unchanged from May but down 41.3% from $230,000 a year ago.

The region's all-home median sale price has fallen on a year-over-year basis for 26 consecutive months and in June stood 56.7% below the region's peak $312,000 overall median in November 2006.

The median price paid for resale single-family detached houses - by far the region's largest home-type category - is one of the best gauges of overall price trends. That median also held steady at $140,000 in June, the same as in May, but was 37.9% lower than a year ago. Aside from May, June's $140,000 resale house median was the lowest for any month since it was also $140,000 in February 2001, and stood 55.2% below its $312,250 peak in June 2006.

Another gauge analysts watch has also fallen sharply from its peak: The median paid per square foot for resale detached houses held at $77 in May, the same as in May but down 35.3% from a year ago. It was 59.5% below the $190 peak reached in June 2006.

Before May's overall median sale price of $135,000 inched up 1.5% from April's, the region's overall median hadn't risen from one month to the next since August 2007. The lack of a month-to-month decline in the median since May is not a clear sign that prices have hit a bedrock bottomed. The median could be holding steady simply because of the combination of a lower%age of sales involving discounted foreclosure resales, as well as a higher%age of sales for new homes, which tend to sell for more than the typical resale home. A better indicator of price stability would be if the median price paid per square foot for resale houses were to hold steady or rise over the next six months.

The time of year is adding some upward pressure to the median price. This is when most traditional home buying occurs, when more individuals and families move because of a job change or to re-situate before school starts in late summer. More people are looking for the right house in the right area, sometimes moving up to larger homes or homes in more desirable neighborhoods. There's more driving the market than hardcore bargain hunting by investors and first-time buyers.

Looking ahead, the Las Vegas region will still have many foreclosures to burn off, and that inventory of distressed property will weigh on home prices. In June, lender repossessions spiked: Nearly 3,600 houses and condos were lost to foreclosure in Clark County, up 54% from May and up 34% from a year ago. It was the second-highest monthly total, behind 3,718 this February, since foreclosures began to surge in 2006. The figures are based on the number of trustees deeds filed with the county recorder's office. The document signals that a home was lost to foreclosure.

The region will continue to rely heavily on first-time buyers and investors to absorb much of its foreclosure inventory.

A popular form of financing used by first-time home buyers - government-insured FHA loans - accounted for 51.8% of all June purchases, while absentee buyers bought 37.5% of all Las Vegas-area homes last month, according to an analysis of public property records. Absentee buyers are often investors, but could include second-home buyers and others who, for various reason, have their property tax bill sent to an address other than that of the home they've purchased.

Across the West, year-over-year declines in the median sale price - the point where half of the homes sold for more and half for less - have sometimes overstated the extent to which the value of the typical home has fallen. It's because the median is being tugged lower not just by price depreciation but by shifts in the types of homes selling. For example, more of today's sales involve foreclosures, which tend to sell at a discount and be concentrated in more affordable areas. Also, the August 2007 credit crunch made larger "jumbo" mortgages more expensive and harder to obtain, which has led to sluggish sales - in some cases the lowest in many years - in higher-priced communities. (A dropoff in high-end sales can pull down the median.)

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