The desire for new luxury homes during the COVID-19 pandemic hit record levels in 2020 and shows no signs of slowing in 2021 given the acquisition of custom lots by the likes of Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis and a builder willing to construct a $12 million mansion in Southern Highlands on spec.

Home Builders Research President Andrew Smith reported that there were 313 closings of single-family homes of $1 million or more in 2020, up 26.7 percent from 247 in 2019. Sales of new homes of $750,000 and above grew by 11.7 percent in 2020.

“It ties into the California factor of people moving here and how nice of a house they can get for $1 million in Las Vegas,” Smith said.

Sales of existing homes of $1 million were up 38 percent in 2020, dwindling the supply of inventory on the market. That market remained strong in January with 87 luxury closings while 210 $1 million-plus sales were pending at the end of the month, according to Realtor Forrest Barbee with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

In the custom-lot department, there were 44 closings of $1 million and above in 2019. That jumped to 62 of $1 million and above in 2020, an increase of 41 percent. When comparing all lot sales, there were 106 lot closings in 2019 and 155 in 2020. Lake Las Vegas, the Summit Club in Summerlin, Ascaya, Southern Highlands, The Ridges in Summerlin, MacDonald Highlands and Seven Hills in Henderson were among the leaders in sales.

That was led by Davis who set the record in 2020 for fetching the highest price for selling his custom lot in The Summit Club at $10.5 million that he sold to investment fund manager Evan Michael Stone on July 31, according to public records. That’s $2 million more than Davis bought the 1.21-acre lot for in December 2017.

Davis turned around days later and paid $6 million for a 6.34-acre custom lot in the hillside community of Ascaya, which is closer to the Raiders’ headquarters. That was the fifth highest lot sale of 2020.

Luxury builder Blue Heron is constructing a home for Davis of which details haven’t been released.

“Blue Heron is honored to be Mark Davis’ chosen architecture, interior design and construction firm for his new home,” said Blue Heron owner Tyler Jones. “His home design has been completed and we’re in the process of laying all of the groundwork necessary to start the build. Mark’s home is a collaboration of client vision and our professional team, resulting in an experiential design we look forward to bringing to life.”

The second-highest lot sale in 2020 was for $9.1 million in MacDonald Highlands in Henderson and sold to Horizon Lights LLC.

The showhome at Lake Las Vegas was the most expensive and prominent new home sold in 2020 at $6.5 million. It’s on the North Shore in the Estates at Reflection Bay. It measures 8,838 square feet with 300 feet of waterfront property.

Lake Las Vegas developer, Raintree Investment Corp., said it’s the most expensive sale since 2007. The buyer was Joseph Martin of Reno and Forbes Entrepreneur Trust, according to Clark County records. That sale is expected to easily be topped in 2021 based on the strength of the luxury marketplace.

There’s a $12-million mansion under construction in Southern Highlands, and it’s a spec home in a display of confidence in the marketplace. The home, which is expected to be completed in four months, has more than 18,210 square feet on 1.33 acres. It has nine bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. The Mediterranean-style home is being built by a Beverly Hills developer and investor, the Attia Group, which constructed luxury mansions in Beverly Hills and Bel Air, according to Bob Barnhart, owner of Luxurious Real Estate, the listing agent of the home.

“There are many California buyers looking at the property right now,” Barnhart said. “There’s a lot of excitement because you’re getting a huge house for the money, especially if you’re coming from California. It feels like it is half-off.”

There’s even a local connection to the home. The architect is Quinn Boesenecker with Pinnacle Architectural Studio of Las Vegas. Robbins Construction of Henderson is the contractor.

The home with a six-car garage has two main stories and a walk-out basement that has a poker room, hair salon, movie theater, ultra lounge, day spa, workout room and two guest suites.

The main floor has a secondary master bedroom, office, living room, family room, formal dining room, kitchen, chef’s kitchen and two other guest suites. The home has a detached guest casita in the front portion of the house.

The upstairs has three guest suites and a master bedroom, Barnhart said. The home has a double staircase and fireplace in the center and looks dramatic when walking through the front door with a large skylight.

The main kitchen opens to the family room, and it has more of a formal entrance to that goes into the dining room, Barnhart said. It has a walk-in wine cellar. There are a lot of windows and pocket doors across the back of the house. It opens up to the Southern Highlands’ golf course and two-level swimming pool. It has a walk-thru garden.

“What stands out is the grandeur of the home,” Barnhart said. “It’s impressive. Most custom homes are tight side-by-side with no backyard. This has a porte-cochere and motor court in the front of the house, basketball court, two-level pool, gazebo, outdoor patio, and a large barbecue cabana area. It has that estate feel that’s hard to find in Las Vegas anymore.”

The developer was willing to take a chance based on the supply and demand, Barnhart said.

“Luckily, the demand is much higher than the supply currently in Las Vegas for luxury homes,” Barnhart said. “The timing right now between now and this summer I think is at the highest level we have seen so far in Las Vegas as far as a surge and comeback and people exiting California and coming here (who) want a home of this stature.”

Erika Geiser, vice president of sales and marketing for luxury builder Christopher Homes, said the luxury market remains “very hot” at the start of 2021. They’re seeing a lot of buyers from California and that there’s a low amount of inventory for them to choose given the strong 2020 in terms of luxury sales.

“There’s low inventory from a new-home perspective where builders don’t have standing inventory,” Geiser said. “It’s all gone and even in the resale market, homes are coming on the market, and they are disappearing quickly if it’s priced right and looks right.”

Christopher Homes had three sales in December, three in November, three in October, four in September, two in August, and five in July. In January, Christopher Homes made nine sales — both single-family and paired homes — in its Vu Collection in MacDonald Highlands.

“In one month, that’s the most we’ve had in years,” Geiser said. “Our average prices are more than $2 million. We’re the only new-home luxury-type production, semi-custom that offers full-on Strip views. We’re also the only builder that’s on a golf course with new homes. If someone wants to live on a golf course, there’s no new-home golf course communities in this town. You either have to buy a custom or an old resale home. People are realizing that if you want a golf course house or Strip view, we’re it.”

Mark Wiley, head of luxury division for Keller Williams Southwest and Southern Nevada, agreed the biggest issue in the luxury marketplace is the lack of inventory. Builders are overwhelmed and vendors and delayed, and that’s prompted some buyers to seek out existing homes and remodel them.

Wiley said he’s working with unnamed developers looking to launch a couple of new-home luxury projects in late 2021 and 2022 to keep up with the demand in the $1 million to $2 million category. Southern Highlands and Lake Las Vegas are the targets for one-story homes 3,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet on bigger lots with privacy.

“They are identifying needs and deciding to get into that space,” Wiley said. “It’s not a traditional builder. They have done it in the past on a smaller scale. They see the opportunity.”

People have seen what luxury builder Blue Heron has done with their luxury modern-home designs built in Southern Highlands and MacDonald Highlands in Henderson and high demand for their product, Wiley said.

“People were buying them for $2 million and putting them back on the market for $3 million in Southern Highlands,” Wiley said.

There are a lot of buyer clients who have been frustrated with the lack of inventory of new homes, Wiley said. Instead, they’re looking at places like Country Club Hills and find a 5,000-square-foot home, redesign the layout and get a new backyard and have modern finishes. People can put a home there for about $1 million to 1.2 million and put $500,000 to $600,000 into the remodel.

“It gives you as close to a modernized home as you get,” Wiley said. “The benefit is it puts you right in the heart of these communities they wanted to stay in — close to Summerlin and the country club they have been members with for a long time. That reconstruction is going to have to grow.”

Wiley said these buyers want to put a lot of money into their backyards, while others focus on the inside. They change rooms to what they want. They take French doors in the rear of the home and install disappearing doors. They want to update to a modern look of taking old fireplaces and putting in linear ones, changing out colors like browns to grays that people want, today.

Buyers want a backyard with a pool and entertaining space, including outdoor kitchens and gazebos since people are spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

California leads Wiley’s buyer pool but he has others from other parts of the country. People have developed equity in their homes, and that’s driving the desire for Las Vegas luxury, he said. COVID-19 should continue to spark activity in 2021.

“They are looking at that and saying if they can cash out and have a great interest rate, their affordability is better than it ever has and will be,” Wiley said. “So they’re saying let’s go for it and get the house they always dreamed of.”