May 15, 2012 (Shirley Allen)

A record percentage of purchases by investors helped push monthly sales of new and resale homes in the Las Vegas area higher in March, accounting for over half the purchases during the month, according to the latest data released from DataQuick.

A total of 5,020 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Las Vegas-Paradise metro area in March. Sales were 18.4 percent higher than the 4,240 homes sold in February and were 1.4 percent higher than in March of 2011.

Home sales in the region typically increase 28.4 percent between February and March and were 2.0 percent higher than the average number of homes typically sold during the month.

New home sales were 33.2 percent higher than last year and were at their highest level for the month since 2008 while existing home sales were 1.8 percent lower than in March of last year.

Cash buyers accounted for 54.4 percent of the purchases in March, which was up from 52.9 percent in February and up from 54.0 percent a year earlier. The record for cash purchases was in March 2011, when 56.7 percent of the sales were for cash.

The price that cash buyers paid for a home in March increased to $87,000 from $84,500 in February but down from $88,450 in March of last year.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for a record 51.2 percent of all homes sold in March, up from 48.2 percent in February. The prices they paid for their purchases increased to $95,000 from $90,000 in February but were down from $99,750 in March of 2011. The previous record amount of purchases made by absentee buyers was 49.9 percent in March of 2011.

The overall median price paid for new and resale homes and condos in March was $115,000, up from $112,000 in February but down from $117,000 in March of last year. Year-over-year, home prices have fallen for 18 consecutive months.

March’s median price is 63.1 percent below the peak median price of $312,000 in March 2006.

Distressed property sales accounted for 62.8 percent of the re-sale market in March with foreclosure re-sales accounting for 48.9 percent of total re-sales, up slightly from 48.6 percent in February, and short sales accounting for 13.9 percent of total re-sales, down from 14.8 percent the previous month.

Foreclosures fell from February to March with lenders foreclosing on 1,395 single-family homes and condos, down from 1,723 foreclosures in February. The highest number of loans foreclosed by lenders in a single month was in May 2011, when lenders foreclosed on 3,818 loans.

Notices of default (NoDs) increased 38.1 percent in the sixth month following the new Nevada law that created additional requirements in order to foreclose on a property, growing from 914 in February to1,262 in March. In September, the month before the new law took effect, 4,507 NoDs were filed.

Tags: existing home sales, Las Vegas, distressed properties, resale homes, condos, cash buyers, investors, median price