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RISMEDIA, Jan. 11, 2007-(MCT)-Las Vegas median home prices dropped to $306,100 in December, down 2% from the same month a year ago, and the inventory of homes for sale shrank for the second straight month to 17,834, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Monday.

Realtors sold 1,644 single-family homes during the month, a 32.5% decline from a year ago.

The number of homes for sale on the Multiple Listing Service decreased 9.6% from 19,729 in November and is down from a record high 23,474 in October. It's still up by a third from last year.

Devin Reiss, new president of the Realtors association, said this year is going to be about "balance in the market." He expects to see a continued reduction in housing inventory without a significant drop in home values. GLVAR statistics show home prices have remained stable for the past 14 months.

"Prices have decreased so slightly that it's hard to believe that we can expect anything other than the status quo for this market through 2007," Reiss said. "The continued decrease in housing inventory shows that the scale is tipping toward a more balanced market than what we saw last fall."

The GLVAR statistics are based on data collected through the Multiple Listing Service and do not necessarily account for newly constructed homes sold by local builders, sales by owner and other transactions not involving a Realtor.

The median price of a condo or townhouse is off 4.4% at $195,000 and the number of units for sale is up 86.2% to 4,833. There were 372 condo sales in December, down 36.6%.

While national studies continue to predict double-digit declines, Reiss said there is nothing that suggests prices will drop significantly in Southern Nevada.

"Many have said that 2006 was a bad year for the Las Vegas housing market, yet this was a year that saw very little change in the median housing prices," Reiss said. "While we do not discount the national studies that have come out, we recognize that the studies do not take into account local economic conditions, such as lack of private land for development and the continued job and population growth that make Southern Nevada different from other parts of the country."

Debi Averett of Phoenix-based said she hears that Las Vegas housing analysts dodge the "bubble" issue all the time, some of them saying the downturn is simply a "blip on the radar."

She points to what happened in Phoenix with the savings and loan crisis. Average single-family home prices peaked in the first quarter of 1987 at $93,000 and fell by 7.5% between 1987 and a low point in the fourth quarter of 1990 at $86,000, a four-year downturn in appreciation. Prices gradually rose after that and returned to the $93,000 mark in 1993.

"People that managed to hang onto their properties throughout that period did fine. People who picked up cheap properties during that time made some tidy profits," Averett said. "However, the S and L's went under and foreclosures around here were rampant. A lot of damage happened during that time period. Some people who didn't want to miss the boat ended up losing their boat at a foreclosure sale."

Copyright © 2007, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.