Buoyed by record level of absentee purchases and continued strength in the sub-$200,000 market, Las Vegas home sales rose to heights not seen in March for six years.

Meanwhile, a Nevada law is drastically reducing the pace of foreclosures spanning the state.

In March, 5,020 new and resale houses and condos sold in Las Vegas-Paradise metro area, up 18.4% above February 1.4% a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

A jump in sales between February and March is normal. On average, sales have risen 28.4% between the two months since 1994. March sales were 2% above the average number sold during that month, and were the highest for a March since 2006, when 8,486 homes sold.

The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Las Vegas metro area totaled $115,000, slipping 1.7% from $117,000 in March 2011. It’s the second consecutive month in which the median rose month-to-month, but on a year-over-year basis the median has been falling for 18 consecutive months.

Absentee buyers — mainly investors and vacation-home buyers — purchased a record 51.2% of Las Vegas-area homes sold in March. A year earlier, they bought 49.9%. Absentee buyers are those who indicated at the time of sale that the property tax bill will go to a different address.

Absentee buyers paid a median $95,000, down from $99,750 in the year-ago period.

Continuing a months-long trend, March sales were strongest in the lower price ranges. The number of transactions below $100,000 rose 5.6% versus a year earlier and represented 41.6% of all deals, about even with the year-ago level of 40% of sales.

Sales below $200,000 rose 2.4% year-over-year, while sales above $300,000 fell 3.3% and sales above $500,000 dropped 1.2%. 

Distressed property sales continue to comprise about two-thirds of the Las Vegas resale market.

Foreclosure resales accounted for 48.9% of Las Vegas resale activity in March, falling from 57.3% a year earlier. Foreclosure resales peaked at 73.7 percent of the resale market in April 2009. Last month’s figure was the second lowest for any month since July 2010. 

Short sales made up 13.9% of the resale market, rising from a year ago when they made up 11.6%. 

In the wake of a new Nevada law that creates additional requirements for lenders trying to foreclose on properties, the number of notices of default, or NODs, filed in Clark County plummeted in recent months. The notice of default is the first step in the formal foreclosure process.

In March, lenders filed 1,262 NODs, up 38.1% from February, but down a staggering 73.4% from a year earlier.

In March lenders foreclosed on 1,395 homes in the Las Vegas region, down 19% from the February and down a whopping 58.1% from a year earlier. From January to March, lenders foreclosed on 5,078 single-family house and condo units, down 39.1% from the same three-month period in 2011.