Thursday, May 13, 1999

Oahu new
home, condo
sales rebounding

Residences in the $200,000
to $300,000 range helped
lure buyers in 1998

By Jerry Tune


Sales of new homes and condominiums on Oahu rose 7 percent last year and are picking up this year, boosted by a recent trend by builders to construct condos on small lots -- but detached like single-family homes.

"Builders are making more sales. We're in the early stages of a sustainable recovery," said Mike Sklarz, director of research at Prudential Locations, which compiled the new home and condo sales figures.


According to those figures, there were 1,985 new homes and condos sold on Oahu last year, up 7 percent from 1,855 in 1997.

Builders say they are relying more on new features such as central air conditioning and less on low mortgage rate deals.

"We worked off the old inventory and then early last year we came out with the new product," said Harry Saunders, executive vice president of Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii Inc.

The Hoaloha Ike condominium project was so popular it helped Castle & Cooke lead Hawaii home builders last year with 403 sales.

"We just got figures for this year, through April, and we're running 8 percent ahead of last year for new orders," Saunders said.

Although Oahu's new home and condo sales rebounded somewhat last year, they are still a whopping 45.6 percent below the decade's peak year of 1993, when 3,648 new homes and condos were sold, according to Prudential Locations' figures.

Still, builders say, they finally have found the right combination of product and price to continue the rebound.

All of the major Oahu builders are offering residences in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range, including the detached condominiums.

Buyers haven't seen these types of prices since the late 1980s.

Haseko Homes Inc.'s Ocean Pointe project in Ewa has 101 occupied units and 69 in escrow or under reservation since hitting the market in June, said Vicky Gaynor, the company's assistant vice president.

"The new buyers know what to look for. They are very sophisticated," she said. "They don't buy on their first visit. It's not like eight or nine years ago but they do come back and they buy."

Saunders added: "People want detached homes, and they see that prices are back to 1988 levels, and interest rates are low. And unemployment figures are pretty good so they have confidence (in the economy)."

Castle & Cooke isn't calling it a housing boom.

"We're just cautiously optimistic," Saunders said.

Gentry Homes also has seen success with its condominiums at Lombard Way, Alii Cove and Alii Court.

"Our sales have increased each year since 1996," said Richard N. Hobson, Gentry's sales and marketing director.

He called the situation today "a promising market" that will be helped by the increase in resales of older Oahu residences. Those sellers can then move to new homes.

The 1998 Oahu resales totaled 5,127, up 27 percent from 4,025 a year earlier.

Prudential Locations uses tax records to track new home and condominium sales for clients and recently decided to release annual totals to the public.

The company's researchers found:

Bullet The 1998 sales included 1,137 condominiums, up 13.7 percent from 1,000 in 1997, and 848 single family homes, down nearly 1 percent from 855 in 1997.

Bullet In the condominium market much of the expansion occurred in the $200,000 to $275,000 price range. For homes, the market growth was centered mainly in the $275,000 to $375,000 range.

Bullet Top selling developers on Oahu in 1998 were: Castle & Cooke Homes Inc., 403 sales; Schuler Homes Inc., 307; Gentry Homes Ltd., 233; Waldron Ventures (1450 Young St.), 233; and Myers Corp. (One Archer Lane), 144.

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