Vegas Realty Crisis, Meet Reality TV: CNBC Flips Over Foreclosures

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If America's subprime mortgage crisis was an earthquake, Las Vegas would be the epicenter.

From 2008 to 2011, homes in the city lost approximately half their value. Meanwhile, its unemployment rate more than tripled. By 2010, nearly two out of every three Nevadan homeowners were underwater on their mortgages. As Business Insider commented recently: "[T]he subprime mortgage crisis" left "no major U.S. city ... more devastated than Las Vegas."

But all that suffering makes for great TV. Or at least CNBC hopes so, because the network is busy turning Las Vegas' economic disaster into a reality show.

Keying off of Las Vegas' still-prominent place on the national misery index, the cable news network plans to air a new reality television show called Flipping Wars: Vegas.

As CNBC sees it, "the housing market plunge" may have left thousands of families living in boxes, but on the bright side, it's "created big opportunities for folks who are willing to ... take a gamble" and buy a foreclosure in Vegas, to try and flip it for a profit.

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In the show, CNBC aims to follow "four teams of wheeler dealers who see dollar signs every time they bid on a foreclosed home." In other words, every week, Americans can tune in to watch profiteers buying and flipping the houses of poor working-class folks who were made homeless by the mortgage crisis.

It's basically Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets Lifestyles of the Opportunistic and Avaricious.

Surely, You Can't Be Serious

Yes, CNBC is serious. Last year, Las Vegas had the highest home foreclosure rate in the nation. This year, things are looking up, with "only" one out of 49 housing units in the Las Vegas area receiving a foreclosure notice so far.

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Top 10 College Towns for Buying Foreclosures
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Vegas Realty Crisis, Meet Reality TV: CNBC Flips Over Foreclosures

For real estate buyers who have the cash and credit to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates, there is one market type that tends to be more resilient than others: the college town.


Established, big-name universities, with their steady and ever-replenishing supplies of new students, faculty and administrators, virtually guarantee tenants and future buyers. Additionally, more retirees are choosing to move to college towns for the cultural amenities. Of course, the downsides for home buyers, particularly investors, are that renting in college towns is a somewhat seasonal business, with a summer decline, and there's always the threat of keg-party damage.


Foreclosure sales data compiled by Foreclosure News Report for the first half of 2011.

The College Town of: Stanford University


Amount of properties sold: 94


Average price of foreclosures: $350,886


Percent below the average price of properties: 69%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 17%

The College Town of: Ohio State University


Amount of properties sold: 999


Average price of foreclosures: $57,700


Percent below the average price of properties: 58%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 17%

The College Town of: University of Louisville


Amount of properties sold: 889


Average price of foreclosures: $84,495


Percent below the average price of properties: 51%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 25%

The College Town of: Northwestern University


Amount of properties sold: 74


Average price of foreclosures: $190,930


Percent below the average price of properties: 47%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 24%

The College Town of: Louisiana State University


Amount of properties sold: 221


Average price of foreclosures: $115,043


Percent below the average price of properties: 45%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 14%

The College Town of: University of Arizona


Amount of properties sold: 3,068


Average price of foreclosures: $116,916


Percent below the average price of properties: 41%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 50%

The College Town of: University of Tennessee


Amount of properties sold: 431


Average price of foreclosures: $108,595


Percent below the average price of properties: 41%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 8%

The College Town of: Florida State University


Amount of properties sold: 339


Average price of foreclosures: $112,790


Percent below the average price of properties: 35%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 29%

The College Town of: Texas Tech University


Amount of properties sold: 74


Average price of foreclosures: $91,454


Percent below the average price of properties: 33%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 5%

The College Town of: University of Michigan


Amount of properties sold: 130


Average price of foreclosures: $181,766


Percent below the average price of properties: 31%


Percent of foreclosures from all home sales: 24%

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Foreclosure-tracker RealtyTrac says Las Vegas is now only No. 9 in foreclosures. (Hurray!) But if anyone can figure a way to make a buck off of other people's problems, it's CNBC.

So get ready to take a lighthearted romp through the devastation that is the Las Vegas housing market. Make sure to set your DVRs ... assuming you still have somewhere to plug them in.


Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith holds no position in any company mentioned.
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