Foreclosure Central--a.k.a. Las Vegas--has not been a hotbed of construction activity of late. In Clark County, residential permits through July were down by 20%. And with 14.8% unemployment, there are a lot fewer people looking to buy a home in the suburbs of Sin City these days.

“With the national recovery showing signs of slowing, the Nevada, Clark County, and Washoe County [which includes Reno] economies remain moribund,” wrote Stephan P.A. Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Nevertheless, market conditions aren’t completely bleak for builders here. Geoff Gorman, vice president of sales for Harmony Homes, told the Las Vegas Review Tribune last week that Harmony’s sales agents are seeing an increase in buyer interest at its 16 Las Vegas Valley neighborhoods, which include Las Rosas, where prices for three-bedroom houses start at $97,990. This Saturday, Shea Homes is scheduled to open Adiente, an age-restricted community with 11 neighborhoods and 10 home designs whose starting prices will be in the mid-$100s.

Ryland Homes recently opened a new townhouse community in North Las Vegas called Centennial Crossings, located outside of the Aliante master-planned community (that will share access to its amenities and recreation space). Centennial Crossings offers three house plans—1,535 square feet, priced at $151,990; 1,934 square feet priced at $171,990; and 2,170 square feet priced at $177,990. Ryland opened its models last week and has started construction on the first phase. When completed, Centennial Crossings will have 98 units.

The public builder acquired the land for Centennial in the first quarter of 2010 as part of a deal with the FDIC. Rogers says that land prices, which had been going for between $800,000 and $900,000 per acre during the peak of the last housing boom, “have dropped to 2001-2002 levels.”

Centennial Crossings is starting up just as Ryland is closing out three other local communities: Crestone at Mountain’ Edge, a 100-unit neighborhood which had been active since January 2006; Cameron at Mountain’s Edge, with 110 units, which opened around the same time as Crestone; and the 127-unit Kingwood Knoll at the Vistas, which opened in October 2005.

The Calabasas, Calif.-based Ryland sells from 11 communities in greater Vegas, and business there, says its division president Dana Rogers, has been “pretty steady.” Hanley Wood Market Intelligence estimates that Ryland has closed 156 homes so far this year, at a median price of $195,000. (See chart below.)

John Caulfield is senior editor at BUILDER magazine.

Ryland Homes’ Closings in Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.

Year    Closings                       Median Sales Price

2010     156 (as of Sept. 30)       $195,000

2009     277                               $205,190

2008     292                               $266,008

2007     293                               $344,750

2006     530                               $361,091

2005     792                               $271,104

Source: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.