Former UNLV coach buys $3M home in Southern Highlands

Former UNLV basketball coach and current Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is returning to Southern Highlands in a $2.9 million purchase that will serve as a part-time summer residence to be close to family and will ultimately serve as a retirement home.

Kruger and his wife, Barbara, closed on the home Dec. 18. The purchase is part of a larger trend of people seeking out Southern Highlands and purchasing homes there while luxury inventory dwindles. Southern Highlands’ sales were up 30 percent in the second half of 2020 compared to July through December 2019. The average sales price has risen 34 percent in that span.

The two-story home built in 2008 measures 9,245 square feet with six bedrooms, eight baths and a five-car garage. It sits on 0.62 acres and sold for $314 per square foot.

Kruger left UNLV in 2011 for the head coaching job in Norman, Oklahoma, and earns more than $2 million a year from the Sooners.

The 68-year-old Kruger said no one should read anything into his purchase as it relates to his coaching career. He has no plans to retire soon, and he and his wife go back and forth during the summer to Las Vegas where their son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter live.

“We are out there more and more during the summer,” said Kruger, who called it a retirement home. “We came across something we like and we might as well get started, now. We enjoy it here (in Norman, Oklahoma), but we really enjoy Vegas and people there. I expect to be there hopefully down the road in a few years, but we feel good about and love what we are doing (now in Oklahoma). There are no immediate plans for sure.”

Kruger said the Southern Highlands’ home sits empty and hasn’t been furnished. Kruger, who golfs, said they enjoyed living in Southern Highlands when he coached at UNLV. They even built a home in the golf-course community in 2010 and sold it about four to five years ago, he said.

“We love that area,” Kruger said of Southern Highlands.

As for the new home, Kruger said he “likes the flow and spacing.” It has plenty of room for visitors and family and accommodates “all of the things we are looking for.”

Kruger and his wife were represented by Kristen Vuckovic, a Realtor with the Realty One Group.

The previous owners were Kirk and Maxine Baerwaldt, according to public records.

The MLS listing was with luxury Realtor Ivan Sher with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. He describes the home as a timeless custom estate and “sophisticated gem that exudes warmth and rich character.”

“Upon passing through the perfectly manicured tree-lined streets lies this unique home with gorgeous curb appeal,” Sher said in his marketing description of the property. “The steeply pitched slate-covered rooflines lend to the charm of this European-inspired home. A stately entrance with a large driveway and ample garage space for five cars welcomes you.”

When entering the home, Sher said people notice the “luxurious details and a spacious floor plan with plenty of room for entertaining.” Downstairs features a massive chef’s kitchen complete “with the finest appliances and beautiful cabinetry.”

Adjacent to the kitchen is a family room with a TV wall and vaulted ceilings with beams highlighting the architectural detail. There is also a breakfast nook, Sher said.

“Formal living and dining spaces are generously proportioned and perfect for large gatherings,” Sher said. “Extras include a wine room, impressive office with stately built-ins, oversized laundry room, extra storage/craft room, and ample storage spaces.”

The master suite is on the lower level and offers a cozy sitting room with a fireplace, walk-in closet and spa-like bath with a steam shower and jetted tub, Sher said. An additional en suite bedroom with a private entrance is located downstairs and was previously used as a home gym, he said.

The secluded backyard features an infinity-edge pool, spa, barbecue, multiple covered patio areas, an outdoor bath with shower, putting green and fire pit, Sher said.

There are four bedrooms and three bathrooms on the second floor.

Upstairs, offers more space to play. An additional family room has an expansive balcony overlooking the backyard, and there is a huge bonus room with a wet bar, plus plenty of room for a pool table, lounging and gaming, he said.

Southern Highlands

The 21-year-old development west of the Interstate 15 at the south end of the valley has become a popular destination for current and former athletes and coaches in various sports, especially the Las Vegas Raiders. It has 1,000 homes in an exclusive gated area surrounding Southern Highlands Golf Club where the average home price is about $2 million and homes at the upper end are $6 million to $9 million. It has an additional 9,000 homes outside the golf course community.

Some of its homeowners include Raider coach Jon Gruden, quarterback Derek Carr and PGA Tour golfer Kevin Na, who won the Sony Open in Hawaii on Jan. 17.

Mitch McClellan, president and broker of Southern Highlands Realty, which sells the developer custom lots at Southern Highlands, said “it’s been a great year,” for the master plan.

In the final six months of 2020 in Southern Highlands, there were 395 sales through the Multiple Listing Services, according to Realtor Forrest Barbee with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. That’s up from 305 or 30 percent from the final six months of 2019. The average sales price during the final six months was $659,785 with two months of inventory, overall. A year ago, it was $493,822 for an average sale price during July to December 2019, which means prices rose about 34 percent, according to Barbee.

The construction of the Raiders headquarters and practice facility in nearby West Henderson has been a big boost for Southern Highlands, Sher said.

“I have been on the project for 20 years, and the circumstances have never been better,” McClellan said. “Those who know the golf course community and golf course and private club have always loved Southern Highlands. It’s the best private golf course in Nevada. They love the look of the community that feels so unlike Las Vegas with its greenery compared to the desert look of Las Vegas has been a plus for us. Everything has come together with the activity out here with Costco on St. Rose Parkway. It’s always been a great location for people that want to drive to Southern California and wanted to fly into McCarran International Airport or Henderson Executive Airport and access to the Strip — all of those positive circumstances have converged at the same time.”

The problem, McClellan said, is that demand is so strong that they’re about out of custom lots for those who want to build until more supply is readied and existing homes on the market are dwindling, he said.

“The luxury market is incredibly hot, and it’s been that way since COVID happened,” McClellan said. “It’s exploded far more than I think anybody anticipated. People have recognized that they don’t have to live in California. They can live anywhere and work remotely. People in other big cities said they wanted to get away where they can get fresh air and can take a breath a little bit, and if I am confined to my house I can get out and take a stroll. People just used to sleep in their homes. People now work from their homes and educate their children and entertain in their homes. They workout and exercise in their homes, and this has caused people to relook at them as the primary asset of their extra time.”

McClellan said Southern Highlands recently closed out two luxury production communities by builder Blue Heron. Growth Luxury Homes is building some speculative custom homes.

“Even custom homes between $2 million to $4 million don’t stay around very long,” McClellan said. “There is so little inventory available that it will be interesting to see what 2021 brings if we don’t find more sellers. I have plenty of buyers.”

It’s a problem throughout Las Vegas. Barbee said the luxury market of $1 million or more has five months of inventory, down from 19 months in April.

Sher said land prices in Southern Highlands didn’t appreciate at the same rate as the rest of the valley following the Great Recession and sales didn’t bounce back as quickly as Summerlin and MacDonald Highlands, and that has created more value with new homes in the community.

An existing home in Southern Highlands is about $150 per square foot less than in The Ridges in Summerlin, and people get more home for less money, Sher said. New construction is more than $100 a square foot less in Southern Highlands compared to The Ridges and MacDonald Highlands in Henderson just to start, he said.

“Builders were able to buy land at a great price and come out with a new product Growth Luxury Homes building these contemporary homes and selling before you can even build them,” Sher said.

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