Investors Purchase Nearly 360 Acres at BLM Auction, 240 Acres Unsold

Last week, Southern Nevada investors purchased nearly 360 acres of low-priced government land at an auction conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, held at North Las Vegas City Hall.  Despite the  auction’s competitive pricing, 240 acres of land remained unsold.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, 357.6 acres sold for $19.2 million, or about $53,700 per acre, as part of a 597.6-acre offering.  The portfolio was offered at no less than $29.7 million total, or $49,700 per acre, with parcels ranging from 1.25 to 247.6 acres.

The land was scattered around the valley, including north of Blue Diamond Road in southwest Las Vegas and east of the Lake Mead Parkway-Boulder Highway intersection in Henderson.

BLM auctions such as this one are a source of raw land for Las Vegas homebuilders, whose business is picking up steam this year after falling hard in 2014.  Many of the buyers at the sell-off included builders KB Home, American West and D.R. Horton.

It’s unclear why a large portion of the portfolio didn’t sell.

BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said the agency did not hear any reasons for the unsold parcels, as every parcel up for sale is nominated by investors who want to buy it or by municipal officials who want it developed.

“There’s always a level of interest,” she said.  And the prices were far below market average.

In the first quarter this year, investors bought 899 acres valleywide for $170.6 million, or $189,766 per acre, according to data from brokerage firm Colliers International.

One buyer today, identified by the BLM as Sao Tome LLC, bought the 247.6-acre parcel for $1.85 million, or just $7,472 per acre. It could not immediately be learned who is behind the company.

Overall, builders sold 1,378 new homes in Southern Nevada in the three months ended March 31, up 8 percent from the same period last year, according to Las Vegas-based Home Builders Research.

The median sales price of March’s closings was $312,204, up 9 percent year-over-year. Builders also pulled 1,849 new-home permits in the first quarter, up 34 percent from the same time last year.

Dennis Smith, president of Home Builders Research, said last month the housing industry “is improving from its ‘OK’ performance” most of last year, when sales volume plunged 18 percent from 2013, prices were volatile and construction plans tapered off.

The uptick in sales this year is “not a huge change,” given Las Vegas’ usual volatility, but it’s “still a positive, upward movement,” Smith said.