Monday, July 19, 2004

Hawaii Realtors
outpace listings

In a booming market, real estate
agents outnumber properties
for sale on two isles

Affordably priced homes are hard to find on Maui, but buyers should have no trouble finding a Realtor to help them look for one.

Maui has 1,458 license real estate agents, or 1.2 percent of the resident population, according to the Realtors Association of Maui, reflecting a gold rush triggered by skyrocketing home prices.

That level is "probably a record" for the Valley Isle, said Terry Tolman, the association's executive director.

Tolman told an association meeting on Friday that licensees now outnumber available homes on the market, the first time that has occurred on Maui in the current upward cycle, which began in the late 1990s.

"That's fairly typical of a strong market," Tolman said. "When the market is up, everybody and their brother wants to get into it."

The Realtor population statewide has grown steadily in recent years.

Oahu has the most licensed real estate agents and brokers in the state, with 4,698 as of May, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. That's up from 3,507 at the beginning of 2002 and is now well above the number of available property listings, which numbered around 2,700 on Friday.

On Maui, which has the second-highest number and the highest per capita population of Realtors, the number has grown from 1,120 in June 2002 to the current 1,458, who are chasing a slightly lower number of property listings.

The Big Island now has 1,179 Realtors; Kauai, 566; and Molokai, 32.

Hawaii homes are selling at higher prices than ever, dramatically inflating the commission earned by agents. They are also selling faster than ever, but that does not mean Realtors are making an easy killing, said Mary Begier, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

Begier says today's market, characterized by sellers who are deluged by multiple competing offers, is taxing the skills of Realtors more than ever.

"It's extremely competitive. A lot of people get a license thinking it will be easy, but they quickly find out that it's really hard work to make a sale in a climate like this," she said.

Realtor numbers closely track the rise and fall of real estate markets. And if the market turns sour, a shakeout typically occurs.

But this rarely causes any hardship, said Tolman.

"Agents tend to see the writing on the wall pretty early. So if they haven't made a sale for a while, they'll gradually drift back into what it was they were doing before," he said.


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