Real estate:

BLM auction another possible sign of housing recovery

Las Vegas Valley homebuilders bought at least 74 acres of public land at auction this week, another sign of the region’s increased appetite for new housing.

The Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday offered about 134 acres of land through a sealed bid auction and sold 109 acres for $21.4 million. The remaining land did not receive bids.

The property sold is undeveloped desert in the southwest valley near the Mountain’s Edge master-planned community, said the BLM’s Karla Norris, assistant district manager for the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.

Homebuilders snapped up at least 73.75 acres: D.R. Horton bought 51.25 acres for $9.4 million and Pardee Homes got 22.5 acres for $4.6 million, according to the BLM.

The auction’s other buyers were listed as L.H. Ventures (22.5 acres for $5.9 million), CanKids LLC (11.25 acres for $1.25 million) and G. Kular (1.07 acres for $18,000).

None of the bidders has closed escrow, Norris said. They had to make a 20 percent down-payment on Tuesday and have 180 days to provide the rest of the purchase price before they can take ownership of the land.

BLM land sales plunged in the valley after the housing market collapsed. In 2006, when the economy was roaring and Las Vegas was mired in a housing bubble, the agency sold at least 2,924 acres locally for $777 million, Norris said. From 2007 to 2012, it sold 107 acres, an average of 17.8 acres per year.

According to Norris, that total excludes the 480 acres of Henderson land that the BLM sold for about $10.5 million last June to would-be sports arena developer Chris Milam. Months after the sale, the city of Henderson sued Milam for fraud in connection with the arena project and, as part of a legal settlement, barred him from doing future business in the city.

Milam never closed escrow on the 480 acres, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the BLM, ultimately cancelled the land sale in May.

The BLM’s latest auction comes as the valley’s home construction industry picks up speed amid the relatively low supply of home listings.

Local builders sold 696 new homes in May, up 74 percent from May 2012, according to Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research. The median price of May’s sales was $254,550, up 32 percent from a year earlier.

Construction plans also remain on the upswing. Local builders pulled 809 permits in May — an “impressive” tally, the research firm said — up 22 percent from May 2012.

What’s more, land prices are skyrocketing. In March, Home Builders Research reported that prices were rising at an unsustainable and “downright scary” pace.