As the US economy improves, Southern Nevadans with megamansions to sell are breathing a sigh of relief. Local real estate is starting to pick up, and few are taking their unsold properties off the market. The result: an unusually wide-ranging portfolio of massive, opulent homes for sale, with amenities such as elevators, horse stables, wine cellars, and movie theaters.
But be sure to bring a hefty checkbook. Prices, although reduced from a few years back, are still high. The sellers are often successful business types who are in no rush to unload their homes and are budging little, if any, on the asking price. Some have actually upped the price tag, despite the scarcity of big-ticket sales in recent years. “They’ll wait until they get what they want,” says luxury-homes broker Florence Shapiro of Shapiro & Sher Group.
This confidence comes with the recovering economy and, perhaps more important, the rising stock market, where many high-end buyers and sellers earn a good portion of their wealth. In the first three months of this year, 54 homes sold for at least $1 million in Clark County, up from 33 during the same period last year, according to data compiled by broker Ken Lowman, owner of Luxury Homes of Las Vegas.
Lowman’s most expensive listing, at $10.95 million, is a 13,706-squarefoot mansion at 587 St. Croix Street in Henderson’s MacDonald Ranch. It has seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 27 flat-screen TVs, an eight-car garage with four climate-controlled spaces, and a theater that can seat up to 20 people. The estate had been listed at $10 million, but the price was raised in late January. In May 2009, by comparison, it was listed at $13.85 million.
The high-end market had been “very, very soft” in recent years, says broker Bob Barnhart of Luxurious Real Estate. Average prices during the boom years peaked at $730 per square foot, then plunged during the bust to as low as $350 per square foot. He says the last house to sell for more than $10 million in the Valley was in spring 2011, when casino mogul Phillip Ruffin paid $15 million for an 11-acre estate on Tomiyasu Lane that used to belong to the Sultan of Brunei. The most expensive home to sell this year, at $6.3 million, was a 9,303-square-foot mansion on Orient Express Court in Queensridge.
Many sellers refuse to budge on their price in part because the Valley has few empty lots where new mansions can be built. Moreover, unless homeowners need to move out of town, they are wealthy enough to wait for the right price. “Why sell when you don’t have to?” says Barnhart.
Gavin Maloof knows this firsthand. Maloof upped the price on his Southern Highlands mansion in January by 60 percent, to $12 million.
Within a few months, though, he took it off the market—shortly before his family sold their majority stake in the Sacramento Kings for $347 million. The 13,489-square-foot house at 27 Eagles Landing Lane has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, an elevator, a movie theater, a curtained massage room, and a 10-car garage. Maloof bought it in July 2007 for $10 million and has tried to sell it on and off since April 2009.
Others are still looking for a big payday.
In March, Marc Schorr, then chief operating officer of Wynn Resorts (he retired from the company on June 1), listed his 9,000-squarefoot, two-story condo for $9.8 million on Redfin, a real estate listing service. The 19th-floor home at Park Towers has access to a private elevator, and the master bedroom includes a gym.
If he or other sellers get desperate, they can always call Lacy Harber. In the past three years, the 77-year-old Texas businessman has purchased more than a dozen luxury homes (most in the range of 10,000–12,000 square feet) in Las Vegas as investments. He usually plunks down $1 million to $2 million for remodeling and has so far flipped 11 of the homes for a hefty profit—including a 14,306- square-foot, seven-bedroom, 11-bathroom house on Spanish Heights Drive that used to belong to actor Nicolas Cage.
If you call him, though, be prepared for a hard bargain. “What they list them for and what they take are two different figures,” Harber says. “I don’t ever pay retail.”