That means it's going to take a lot longer for the Las Vegas market to recover.
"It doesn't have a lot of resiliency in down markets to weather the storm, and I think a lot of investors when they look at that get a little bit skittish about investing in Vegas," Habibi said.
Some economists expect sales of previously occupied homes nationally to rise 8 percent this year to about 4.6 million. That's still well below the 5.5 million annual sales pace that is considered healthy.
Many would-be buyers are having trouble qualifying for loans. Or they can't afford larger down payments being required by banks. A Federal Reserve report last month showed that many banks tightened their mortgage credit standards this summer.
Still, the housing market is steadily improving and is poised to contribute to economic growth this year. Modest growth and job gains are encouraging more Americans to buy homes.
Jonathan Basile, an economist with Credit Suisse, said improving prices should boost sales further in coming months.
"When Americans become more comfortable with selling their home, they also become more comfortable with buying another one," Basile said.
Veiga contributed from Los Angeles.
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