By Hubble Smith
Posted: Jan. 8, 2013 | 6:48 a.m.
Updated: Jan. 8, 2013 | 9:34 a.m.

The Las Vegas housing market went through a major transition from foreclosures to short sales in 2012, and the median single-family home price increased 24.2 percent to $149,000, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Monday.

Short sales, or lender-approved sales for less than the prinicipal mortgage balance, accounted for a record 45.8 percent of December sales. Foreclosures, which made up more than half of all sales a few years ago, dropped to 9.5 percent.

Las Vegas home prices haven't posted this kind of appreciation since 2004, when the housing boom was at its peak.

"Rising home prices were the big story of the year," said Dave Tina, president of the Realtors association.

There were 2,961 homes sold in December, bringing the total to 44,902 for 2012, the third-best year on record. Sales could have gone higher if not for a limited inventory of listings, Tina said.

The number of single-family homes available for sale on the Multiple Listing Service declined 24.1 percent from a year ago to 14,601 in December, and only 3,688 homes were available without pending or contingent offers. That's roughly a five-week supply.

Tina expects the steady stream of short sales to continue as Congress voted last week to extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act through Dec. 31. After that, any amount of money a bank writes off in a short sale will become taxable when sellers file their income taxes.

Tim Kelley Kiernan of Re/Max Extreme said extending the debt relief act is important to underwater homeowners who are considering selling. They will avoid having the forgiven debt counted as taxable income. "I have received 15 calls from veterans who were on the fence regarding a short sale, but now want to move forward," he said. "Short sales are still dominating the market, but REOs (foreclosures) are coming soon."

With rising prices and low inventory, real estate agents are seeing an increase in "traditional" home sales, or those not involving a lender. Meanwhile, the median price of condominiums and townhomes sold in December was $76,000, up 2.7 percent from November and up 29.8 percent from one year ago.

Realtors reported that 55.2 percent of homes sold in December were purchased with cash, compared with 52.7 percent in November.

The median price of bank-owned homes sold in December was $140,000, up from $139,001 in November. The median price of short sales was $139,800, up from $130,000 in November.

Association statistics are based on data collected through the MLS, which does not necessarily account for newly constructed homes sold by local builders, for-sale by owners and other transactions not involving a Realtor.

Las Vegas single-family home sales
  December Annual change
Available listings 14,601 -24.1 percent
Median list price $145,000 12.8 percent
Listings without offers 3,688 -58.2 percent
New listings 2,174 -31.7 percent
Units sold 2,961 -14.3 percent
Median sales price $149,000 24.2 percent
SOURCE: Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors