By Neirin Gray Desai, Daily Mail, July 22, 2023
Las Vegas‘ luxury property market is experiencing a resurgence as rich Californians – fed up with crime and a new mansion tax – swap their homes overlooking the Pacific for views of the Mojave Desert.
Actors Mark Wahlberg and Dean Cain, as well as singer Celine Dion and boxer Floyd Mayweather, are among the celebrities who have bought homes in prestigious Vegas neighborhoods.
And swathes of ordinary Californians are making the move with them.
This year, nearly 17,000 people have surrendered California driving licenses to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, according to data provided to DailyMail.com by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
‘The mansion tax in California has frustrated a lot of Californians,’ Alexis Michaud, a real estate agent for Vegas-based brokers the Millen Group, told DailyMail.com.
‘That, combined with their income tax rate, has caused so many Californians to come to Nevada, a tax-free, business-friendly environment.’
Actors Dean Cain and Mark Wahlberg are among the celebrities who have bought homes in prestigious Vegas neighborhoods
Last year a record-breaking 2,000 luxury homes were sold in southern Nevada for an average price of $1.8million, according to a report by the Nevada State Bank.
Now, the market is even hotter. ‘In the last six months of 2022, interest rates going up and a lot of uncertainty led buyers to pause relocation plans but starting in January we’ve seen an uptick and now, this summer, the market is quite busy,’ said Michaud.
Perhaps the most vocal proponent of the move has been Wahlberg, who in February sold his $55million Beverly Hills mansion.
That came after last year he bought two $15million plots in wealthy outskirts of Las Vegas – one was a $15.6 million 2.5-acre plot on which he planned to build a house, as well as a $14.5 million bungalow to live in while it’s under construction.
One of those properties is in a new private community known as The Summit in the affluent master-planned Summerlin neighborhood. Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and Dion have also bought into the exclusive community.
‘Summerlin is on the most western edge of Las Vegas, it’s against the mountains. It’s also a couple of 1,000 feet elevated, so it’s about 10 degrees cooler,’ said Michaud.
‘It has attracted a lot of high net worth people and the amenities that follow that demographic,’ she added.
Earlier this month Michaud oversaw the sale of a Summerlin property for $5.25million. The 5,671 square feet house sits on the very edge of the city and provides unimpeded views of the desert.
‘It backed up to Red Rocks conservation land, which is just the stunning red mountains. Vegas is known for its views but primarily its strip views, so this view was incredibly rare,’ she said.
The home features five bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as an oversized wine room, an outdoor kitchen complete with a gourmet pizza oven, a pool, two outdoor showers, several bars, an elevator and a movie theater.
New-builds are on the rise too. According to Michaud, many houses are sold by those looking to move elsewhere in the city and build even bigger homes in some of its new and even more upmarket neighborhoods.
‘A lot of sellers are building even larger luxury homes,’ she said. ‘And some sellers that used to be in the most prestigious neighborhoods in Las Vegas, now have an option for an increase.’
Darin Marques, CEO of the Darin Marques Group, told the Review-Journal earlier this year that developers are racing to place finished houses on the market.
‘Builders can’t build homes fast enough for the demand,’ he said.
Throughout the city more than 500 million-dollar new homes were sold in 2022, according to a report compiled local group Home Builders Research – more than double the 247 sold in 2019.
According to the Nevada State Bank report, nearly one in four luxury home sales in Southern Nevada were in Henderson, another wealthy neighborhood to the south east of the city.
The Mullin Group sold another property earlier in the month for $6.7million.
McDonald Highlands, on Cityview Ridge Drive, spans across 6,730 square feet and similarly boasts elevated views from out of the city.
The single-story estate features four bedrooms and five bathrooms, as well as an infinity edge pool, spa, outdoor kitchen and covered conversation areas.
Nevada has no state income or inheritance tax and its sales tax is around 2.5 percent less than that of California. Amid steadily high inflation of the dollar, in Las Vegas the cost of groceries, utilities and other essentials are comparatively low.
It has also become a destination for retirees, moving from either California or occasionally the east coast.
Stephen Miller, a professor of economics at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said that phenomenon had been occurring for more than a decade.
‘They retire, they sell their house, they come to Las Vegas and buy a house, maybe they downsize a but even if they don’t downsize, the price is going to be lower,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘And the equity they take out of the house in in Southern California, or Northern California, more than allows them to live comfortably here in Nevada, and maybe still have some money left over,’ he added.
Miller, who provided Nevada DMV data on driver’s license submissions, said although the results would have been impacted to some degree by DMV closures and Covid, they still to some extent demonstrate the scale of the migration.
And while the migration is contributing to rising home prices, so too is the fact that Vegas is a city in a bowl with very little room for expansion, unlike other major US cities.
‘Land around Las Vegas is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. It’s federal land,’ said Miller.
‘In Houston you can just go off and buy up farmland, keep going out into the distance and keep on building, but we can’t do that in Las Vegas unless the BLM releases land for development,’ he added.
For now, commercial and private development rages around Las Vegas, as landowners rush to meet demand and complete homes on the land that remains.
In some cases the land alone is worth a fortune, and once developed, the value of those homes could reach unprecedented highs.