Las Vegas area home sales rose in March from a year earlier, when the homebuyer tax credit was in place, to a five-year high. Almost 5,000 homes sold in the Las Vegas metro area during the month, the highest volume since March 2006, according to DataQuick. Sales were up a staggering 27.3% compared to the month prior and up 1.6% compared to a year earlier. The San Diego-based research firm said that “unusually strong” demand came in the distressed properties sector, as activity among investors, cash buyers and others targeting properties less than $100,000 increased. In March, 54% of all homes were purchased with cash, up from 47.7% in March 2010. The median sale price for cash transactions was $88,450. DataQuick believes the trend toward more cash purchases reflects the effects of tighter lending standards as well as a preference among buyers to invest their cash in real estate as opposed to other investments. New home sales suffered because of dominant buying of distressed properties, dropping 17.9% to just 446 homes during March. Resale condos fared much better, selling about 1,000 units at a median price of $60,000. Driven in large part by distressed sales, home prices in the Las Vegas metro plummeted to $117,000, the lowest level since January 1996. Distressed sales accounted for 69% of all market transactions, with foreclosure resales accounting for 57.3% share of the resale market and short sales accounting for 11.7% share. DataQuick reported a sharp rise in the number of foreclosed properties in March. Lenders foreclosed on 3,331 single-family homes and condos during the month, up 41.6% from February and up 52.1% from March 2010. DataQuick just completed the acquisition of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Property Information Group, which includes MDA Lending Solutions and DataQuick Information Systems. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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