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LAS VEGAS-The Las Vegas Valley potential condominium market continues to expand at a rapid clip, though the number of units that will actually be completed remains in question, according to the latest data from Applied Analysis, a locally based business advisory firm. The total potential inventory as of the end of June was 91,900 units in 135 projects that are either completed, under construction or announced. The figure has more than doubled in the past year despite insufficient demand to absorb the units, according to the report.

However, the report finds a significant number of these projects have failed to move forward as originally proposed. Of the 91,900 units of total inventory announced, 2,300 are built and 13,500 are under construction; pre-sales for another 6,900 units or so have been suspended, and projects totaling 1,900 units have been officially cancelled.

“The number of luxury condominium projects programmed in Las Vegas remains high, yet those projects actively marketing remains only a fraction of the inventory potential,” says Applied Analysis principal Brian Gordon. “While projects that are currently under construction have reached the critical mass in terms of sales to provide sufficient financing, the remaining 16,300 units vying for potential buyers will either prove their ability to move forward in the next 12 months, or not. Construction cost dynamics and consumer perceptions about extended sales periods decrease the likelihood for success for many of these projects.”

The report also found that re-sales of existing units are occurring at less than 75% of the average asking price ($1.1 million). “With relatively recent speculation about project suspensions and cancellations, several projects have witnessed a material decline in the number of investor purchasers,” says Applied Analysis principal Jeremy Aguero. “We are particularly concerned about closed units purchased by investors re-entering the market and creating some price instability.”

Despite the Related Cos. high-profile failings in the market–Las Ramblas and Icon Las Vegas, representing some 5,000 condo units–success continues to hinge on location, branding and experience. Projects by major operators and development companies are likely to have greater success, as are projects with proximity to, or views of, the Strip, and those with a high level of amenities, according to the report.

Making up a sizable portion of the total potential inventory are projects that offer the buyer the ability to generate revenue. Approximately 39,400 of the 91,900 units would be considered condo-hotels, which is to say they would include some sort of rental program. Of those units that have the potential to be rented out, nearly 70% are located on or around the Las Vegas Strip, according to the report.

Part of the boom in Vegas Valley condo development is that the area maintains a relatively low share of condominiums-to-total housing. According to Applied Analysis, the latest available data suggest Las Vegas’ share of condominiums-to-total housing is less than 15%, while more mature markets like West Palm Beach, FL, have nearly 30% of their housing in condos.

While there are 91,000 units in the development pipeline–most of them at the beginning of the pipeline—Applied Analysis estimates that only another 15,000 units may actually commence construction activity in the next five years. “While the depth of the market over the longer-run appears fairly strong, the likelihood that 2006 will repeat the feverish sales volume reported in 2005 is limited,” concludes the report.

The most recent projects to receive construction financing include Panorama North, a 381-unit 43-story project at Dean Martin Drive and Harmon Avenue being developed by Hallier Properties, which closed on a $208 million loan from iStar Financial in June; and Streamline Tower, a 21-story 275-unit project in Downtown Las Vegas by Barclays North of Everett, WA, that received $150 million from Corus Bank.

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