Sunday, May 25, 2014 | 2 a.m.
When people talk about Las Vegas housing prices, they usually marvel at how crazy things got during the bubble, how terrible they were during the bust and how fast the market has rebounded.
But what were prices like before the boom? What would you pay for a two-bedroom in, say, the 1950s or '60s, when Las Vegas was a small mobbed-up town?
To find out, we flipped through the archives of our sister paper the Las Vegas Sun, looking at decades-old real estate ads for both new and existing homes.
Turns out, property was pretty cheap in the old days, even when adjusted for inflation. Prices grew steadily over the years until they soared out of control a decade ago, when small, used homes in the suburbs cost $400,000, and ads promised little more than "many upgrades."
Houses were pretty simple back then and not too expensive.
Listings mentioned a home's appliances (refrigerator, dishwasher, dryer); that properties had fruit trees; and that houses had living rooms, dining rooms and hardwood floors.
You could buy a two-bedroom house for $14,000 (about $123,000 today), a three-bedroom for $16,000 and a four-bedroom for $22,750.
Land, however, was dirt cheap, selling for $300 an acre — a mere $2,635 today.
"Acreage! Invest in land, for quick profits or long term gain," read one ad, offering "fringe acreage" a mile north of Las Vegas city limits.
"Rapid development seems assured," it noted.
Homebuilders were running large, color ads, pushing homes that started at $17,290 or $17,500.
"NOTHING UNDER the SUN beats a SPROUL HOME!" read an ad from Sproul Homes for a development at West Charleston Boulevard and Carpenter Drive.
Amenities still were sparse, leaving builders mentioning properties' ovens, garbage disposals, refrigerators and heating and cooling systems.
"Words can hardly describe these 3 and 4 bedroom, 2 bath homes with large family rooms and patios," read an ad for Park Victoria, a development near Lamb Boulevard and what was then known as Salt Lake Highway.
With suburban sprawl taking over America — not to mention bell-bottoms and moustaches — a price gap among local homes widened and amenities were ramped up. Swimming pools and garages became more common.
Prices ranged from $25,000 ($119,824 today) for a three-bedroom house off East Charleston with block wall, large patio and carport; to $43,000 ($206,800 today) for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom with a brick fireplace, built-in barbecue and double garage; to $70,000 ($336,600) for a 5-acre ranch.
"Pool for summer comfort, fireplace for cozy winters," read an ad for a four-bedroom house priced at $46,900 ($225,500 today).
Talk about sticker shock. What once was an affordable place to live is getting a lot pricier.
A four-bedroom, 2,200-square-foot home with an Olympic size pool, automatic sprinkler system and large backyard cost $145,000 ($329,764 today); a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house with perks such as a fireplace and enclosed patio was listed at $96,500 ($219,464 today); and a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,600-square-foot home close to pianist Liberace's former house, near UNLV, cost $80,000 ($181,939 today).
Las Vegas becomes more sprawled out, and bigger homes come on the market.
Prices fluctuate, but not nearly as much as they do today.
In Green Valley, a 3,000-square-foot house with two master suites and a three-car garage cost $255,000 ($406,577 today); a four-bedroom, 2,330-square-foot home in Spring Valley with a "superb built-in kitchen with breakfast bar" cost $156,900 ($250,164 today); and a one-story, two-bedroom at West Cheyenne Avenue and North Rainbow Boulevard with "pretty landscaping" was priced at $99,900 ($159,283 today).
The valley's housing market is out of control, with bloated prices and rampant construction, banks approving mortgages for practically anyone, and investors, often with no real estate experience, flipping homes for profit.
Prices ran the gamut, but it seemed everything was overpriced. A two-story, three-bedroom house in Green Valley was priced at $399,000 ($499,105 today); a one-story, 1,800-square-foot house with a two-car garage in Rhodes Ranch cost the same; and a two-story, 2,600-square-foot home in Summerlin cost $495,000 ($619,190 today).
Used-home prices peaked two years later at $315,000 ($395,330 today) — but it was all downhill from there.
After plunging during the recession, prices have been rising for the past two years at one of the fastest rates nationally, fueled in large part by investors who have bought cheap homes, often in bulk, to turn into rentals.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes in Southern Nevada in April was $192,000, up 15 percent from a year earlier.
Used-home prices have jumped 63 percent since hitting bottom at $118,000 in January 2012, but they remain far below the peak of $315,000 in June 2006.
Today, you can buy a one-story, three-bedroom, 1,040-square-foot house built in 1981 for $89,900; a two-story, three-bedroom, 1,725-square-foot home built in 2003 for $194,900; and a one-story, four-bedroom, 3,800-square-foot house built in 2001 for $940,000.