Lake Las Vegas Makes a Major Comeback
by buck wargo
Given how far Lake Las Vegas fell during the housing crash and recession, its first steps toward recovery are welcome news—and the proverbial canary in the coal mine that Las Vegas real estate’s comeback is in full swing.
Only three years ago, headlines still depicted the shining lakeside oasis as having lost its luster after going through a foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings. Even its casino shuttered for a while, its main hotel, Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas, closed, and two of its three golf courses went through foreclosures.
But in October, the national news spotlighted Lake Las Vegas as a happening place, with President Barack Obama staying at the Westin Lake Las Vegas while preparing for his debate against Mitt Romney.
The upscale community was already building on a boost from two months prior, when Raintree Investment Corp. and hedge fund operator and billionaire John Paulson purchased 835 acres in Lake Las Vegas for $17.3 million. With that acquisition, Paulson is placing a long-term bet on Lake Las Vegas that home builders will want to buy lots and build homes as the economy continues to recover.
The 3,600-acre master planned development that Golf magazine once named as one of the top communities to semi-retire was dependent on secondary-home buyers, the very consumers who pulled back on their discretionary spending during the recession. Lake Las Vegas went into foreclosure in 2007, when owner Transcontinental defaulted on $540 million in loans. Atalon Management Group, which manages Lake Las Vegas for the owners, acquired the property in 2008, only to soon file for bankruptcy protection, which it emerged from in July 2010.
“When you have new money come into an investment, that’s a good sign, especially when it’s someone with the track record of John Paulson,” says Atalon Group principal James Coyne. “Everything is moving in the right direction. It has turned the corner.”
Renovations to Lake Las Vegas Parkway were completed in January, and trails are being connected to the trails surrounding Henderson. Water and sewer improvements are underway in phase two of the renovations, to pave the way for future home building.
It’s all part of a continuing face-lift: the Ritz- Carlton closed in May 2010 and reopened in February 2011 as Ravella. Loews switched to the Westin this past March in a move that boosts its reservation system through the Starwood network. Lake Las Vegas’s sole casino, Casino MonteLago, reopened in May 2011 after being shuttered for 14 months.
Meanwhile, new home construction and sales of existing homes are slowly picking up. There were 90 sales of single-family homes in 2010 and 95 in 2011. That number was already surpassed in 2012 by the fall, but final totals weren’t ready at press time.
Condo sales in 2012 surpassed the 44 in 2010 and 56 in 2011, according to broker Robyn Yates, owner of Windermere Prestige Properties based in Lake Las Vegas. The $484,129 average sales price of homes in the community in 2012 is up from $425,515 in 2010 and $449,900 in 2011.
“The numbers are great news and show we have come up from the bottom,” Coyne says. “It’s behind us, and I think we’re changing from a second-home community to a primary-home community.”
As the number of listings of existing homes has been cut in half since 2011, all of this new demand for Lake Las Vegas properties has created a market where multiple offers are made on homes, which has caused prices to inch up for the first time since the recession.
“What Paulson did shows a lot of confidence, and that spread to other people who have confidence to operate businesses out there and buy property out there and continue to live out there,” Yates says.
Additionally, Lake Las Vegas real estate has been aided by foreigners, especially Canadians who see an opportunity with the reduction in prices, which are still considered low.
“It is exciting to see the people from outside Las Vegas who come in and are so excited about Lake Las Vegas,” Yates says. “It’s been a slow comeback, but it’s definitely coming back. The big factor will be the economy. There won’t be a huge comeback if the economy is still struggling; that’s the reality. People have to feel comfortable about spending money.”
photography by natalie white; courtesy of windermere prestige properties