So You Want To Move To Las Vegas, Is It Right For You?

Who Should Move To Las Vegas? Las Vegas is once again pretty much a dirt cheap place to live. Home prices are at rock bottom with no recovery in sight as unemployment is up around 1.5% in the past three months. If you move here with a job, are an entrepreneur who can work from anywhere, or have your own nest egg or retirement income, now is a great time. If you are going to need a job, don’t fool yourself and say “I’m sure something will pop up in my field if I look hard enough”. Highly unlikely. With 1 out of every 5 Las Vegans unemployed or under-employed, employers don’t want to risk a new resident who is more likely do decide they don’t like it here and leave.

I’m Not Much Of A Casino Person, Can I Still Enjoy Living There? – This question came in a few weeks ago on the Living In Las Vegas podcast, and is a good one. It isn’t so much whether you are a casino person or not, but what kind of person you are? If you dislike setting foot inside casinos (probably not many of you among our readers, but we know that some of you may pass this page link on to others who are simply looking to relocate west), probably not the right place for you. Want to go to a movie? It will most likely be in a casino. Want to go bowling? Ditto. The gaming properties in the Las Vegas suburbs really are the local activity hubs.

Live And Let Live – If you are the kind of person who is up at 4:30 AM to do yoga, take a long bike ride, and commute to work in a hybrid with your organic lunch in a reusable bag, more power to you. Knock yourself out. BUT… keep in mind that your next door neighbor may very well work swing shift at a resort property, get off work at 3 AM, stop by the local bar for a French Dip sandwich and fries, have a couple pops of booze and a beer with his meal, then mow down a some cigarettes while he runs $20 through the bartop video poker machine before arriving home just about the time you come back from your bike ride. Which is perfectly acceptable and normal here. So if something like that is going to bother you, Las Vegas probably isn’t for you.

Sin City – If you do business nationwide (or worldwide), measure any possible side effects of being located here. West of the Rockies, Las Vegas is simply seen as another Western city. But many in other parts of the U.S. still have this notion that if you locate to (or are located in) Las Vegas, you must be crooked!

Politics – U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has been in the national spotlight significantly. That along with Las Vegas’s “liberal” approach to morals leads many to believe that Nevada must be a politically progressive bastion. Um, not exactly. Nevada is very libertarian (with a small letter “l”, I’m not talking about a bunch of Ron Paul voters). Nevada’s junior U.S. Senate seat has been in conservative Republican hands for over a decade. Both of Nevada’s past two governors (current and previous) are fiscally conservative Republicans. 2/3 of our state’s U.S. congressional delegation is in GOP hands.

Democrats hold the edge of registered voters in this state and both the Nevada State House and Assembly are controlled by Democrats. Hence, I’m not suggesting this is the most red of red states. But even with the voter edge, Rory Reid (Harry’s son, also a Democrat) was soundly defeated in his run for governor this past election cycle. If you want a super-blue state, you need to keep going until you hit a state that borders the Pacific Ocean. Some of the most unhappy people I know living here are strong progressives as the state doesn’t seem to have the will to increase taxes to fund things like education, transportation and social services.

Three Other Cities To Look At – If interested in Las Vegas, let me suggest three other cities to check out:

  • Phoenix – If you are a big-city person, the Phoenix area has it all. Major league sports teams, light rail, arts and culture, acclaimed institutes of higher learning, and a real sense of community. Or, pretty much everything we don’t have in Las Vegas! Just brace for the heat as summers are 3-4 degrees hotter than Las Vegas and summer humidity generally higher.
  • Reno – If moving to Nevada for the tax benefits but you are more of a Northern California type of person and like a more medium-size town atmosphere (while still enjoying a major airport and college sports), Reno could be your cup of tea. It does not have the Sin City image of Las Vegas and lost that “Divorce Capital” moniker decades ago. Expect plenty of Nevada sunshine, four actual seasons, and brisk winters.
  • Albuquerque – If you took Las Vegas, shrank the population just a bit, made it a few degrees cooler year-round, and removed all the casinos, you’d pretty much end up with Albuquerque. Like Reno, it has a major airport and college sports teams. Like Phoenix, a strong sense of community plus serious arts and culture plus their Rail Runner train for day trips to Santa Fe. And the Mountain Time Zone makes it a bit easier to do business with the east coast.

Me? I’m closing in on 20 years here in Las Vegas, and you couldn’t pry me out of here. But I’ve also known far too many people who relocated here from a traditional culture-rich area and ended up hating it. Do your homework first.

If you’ve made the move or are contemplating it, feel free to comment below.

Ted Newkirk

Is Las Vegas The Coolest Or Most Stressed City In The Country?

Within the space of a couple weeks, Forbes magazine published the results of a nationwide poll showing Las Vegas tying with New York City as the coolest city in the U.S. Hot on the heels of that was Forbes noting that Las Vegas is the “most stressed” city in the county. How could this be? Simple:

The local problems with unemployment and the housing market have nothing to do with your visitor experience. Tens of thousands of people bought homes in new neighborhoods here a few short years ago, paying well over what the traditional value of local homes has been. Many/most of them were also new to town and assumed that the boom-time wages helping them pay that inflated home price were the norm. Now they are underwater on the house, possibly out-of-work (or one spouse is unemployed), or they are underemployed and guess what: That is stressful. But that has nothing to do with your visitor experience.

A recent Review-Journal/KLAS TV poll noted that 71% of locals feel that the economy will stay the same or get worse over the next year. I agree. Here’s why: 34% of locals would leave if the could but can’t (no pending job elsewhere, too far underwater on home). This is simply going to prolong the pain. Here’s why:

The construction jobs that fueled this economy are simply not coming back. Not for many, many years. Construction workers needed everything from a haircut to car insurance to food… and that money trickled through the entire local economy. Which means that those jobs ALSO are GONE. So… you have 34% of the population holding on for dear life. Many of whom will be stressed to the point that they’ll still eventually throw in the towel. Their unemployment will run out, they will realize that the house payments are simply unmanageable, and they’ll pack up and drive away.

So then what? In 3-5 years, we’ll see the revitalization of the local population. Cheap housing (as a result of the continuing housing bust), lack of state income taxes, and a general cheap cost of living will start to attract entrepreneurs. In fact, I know first-hand that this is already happening. Add to that the fact that we have not lost our international airport (still one of the busiest in the country) nor the amazing entertainment and dining options. If you can deal with our 3 hot months of summer (which many would suggest are much preferable to somewhere with three months of serious winter weather), you have it made.

With entrepreneurs come great ideas. Where you have great ideas, amazing things happen.

But for the foreseeable future, you’ll still have very high unemployment, plenty of foreclosures, and other stressful conditions for a pretty significant portion of the population. This will not cease until natural selection has taken its toll and “thinned out the herd” of Las Vegas residents.

In addition, the people moving to town now didn’t live the boom. They didn’t think it was normal for money to be falling into their lap if they so much as got out of bed in the morning. They are moving here to couple risk taking, hard work and a business friendly environment and will be a lot less likely to assume that a magical jackpot (home appreciation) is going improve their lives.

As I noted, I know because I’m already meeting some of these people. And if they are any indication of what is to come, the city will bounce back nicely and continue to be a very enjoyable place to work, live, and do business.

Reference material:

  • Poll: Poor economy adds to angst – Few expect Nevada to rebound soon
  • Poll: Leaving Las Vegas in the cards for some
  • >Many agree Las Vegas ranks as most stressful city

Your Turn: Think I’m on the money? Is there something I missed? Am I out-to-lunch and you think that Las Vegas is on a slide that it will never recover from? All comments are welcome and appreciated below.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas