With the grass torn out and heavy construction equipment on-site, Las Vegas’ former Royal Links golf course is on its way to becoming a sprawling housing tract.
Touchstone Living founder Tom McCormick, who acquired the now-shuttered course last year, said Monday that he hopes to start building model homes in the third quarter at the new community, called Independence.
Located in the eastern Las Vegas Valley — an area that accounts for a fraction of builders’ sales in Southern Nevada — the project is slated to feature 1,600-plus homes as well as parks, pools and playgrounds.
McCormick held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday, saying that Independence, along Vegas Valley Drive east of Nellis Boulevard, is targeting first-time buyers and will have homes in the $200,000 range.
The event was attended by dozens of people in blue-and-white Independence shirts that declared “Why rent?” as well as a coyote trotting along the west side of the property far from the people gathered there.
According to McCormick, this is the only new-home project in the valley in its price range.
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, whose district includes the site, told the Review-Journal that when people think of east Las Vegas, their thoughts turn to “older neighborhoods” and “rundown streets.”
Independence, he said, is “bringing vitality.”
“East Las Vegas is a great place to live, and hopefully this project will show that,” Segerblom said.
In Southern Nevada, home construction is heavily concentrated in suburban areas such as the southwest valley, Summerlin and Henderson. The east valley accounted for just 2 percent of builders’ net sales in the first quarter, Home Builders Research reported.
“There’s no land; it’s all built,” Segerblom said, adding that the converted golf course, which spans about 162 acres, is the last big piece of property on the east side.
Fueled largely by cheap borrowing costs that let buyers stretch their budgets, Southern Nevada’s housing market accelerated last year. Houses sold rapidly, buyers paid above the asking price, supply was tight, and fast-rising prices reached new all-time highs practically every month.
Sales totals have tumbled lately amid rising mortgage rates and prices that keep pushing higher.
In March, builders sold single-family houses in Southern Nevada for a median closing price of $483,000, up almost 18 percent from a year earlier, and condos and townhomes for a median of $357,468, up almost 21 percent, according to Home Builders Research.
Both prices were record highs.
Still, builders logged nearly 3,900 net sales — new purchase contracts minus cancellations — this year through March, down 15 percent from the same three-month stretch in 2021, and saw buyer traffic drop 18 percent from year-ago levels, the research firm reported.
Increased mortgage rates are “certainly hurting,” said McCormick, who figured all builders are “nervous” about the higher borrowing costs that make housing “less affordable.”
Nonetheless, rents also have accelerated in Las Vegas, vacancies are tight, and McCormick figures plenty of tenants still want to own a place.
Touchstone’s buyers at other projects had faced annual rent hikes of 10 percent to 15 percent, if not higher, he said.