Oahu home costs dip
Median prices fall to a 12-month low of $600,000, but fewer homes are sold
Home prices on Oahu slipped again in January, recording a median price of $600,000 for the month, according to the latest figures from the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
That is the lowest the median has reached over the past 12 months, and only the second time in recent years that the median price has failed to exceed its year-ago level.
In January of last year, the median was $615,000. In December it was $613,500 and in November, $610,000.
Despite the dip in prices, fewer existing homes overall -- 263 -- were sold last month, which is 40 fewer than January of last year.
"There were no surprises in January as the residential housing market continues to stabilize, but we do see a resurgence in activity going on right now, so it will be interesting to see the figures in the coming months," said Berton Hamamoto, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
Inventory of single-family homes also grew, to 1,747 last month compared with 1,578 a year ago, according to the board's economist, Harvey Shapiro. The condominium inventory grew to 2,288 last month compared with 2,125 a year ago.
However, the total inventory remains less than it was three months ago, board figures show.
Homes are undoubtedly much slower to move on the market. Single-family homes remained on the market an average of 60 days in January, compared with 40 days in January 2005, Shapiro said.
The good news for buyers and sellers alike is that the U.S. Federal Reserve held the line on interest rates at its meeting last week.
Condominium transaction totals fared no better than single-family homes, with only 418 sold last month, which is 86 fewer than in January 2005. And condos, on average, remained on the market 55 days last month compared with just 28 days the same time last year.
However, the $320,000 median price for condos was 8.5 percent higher than in January of last year, when it was $295,000.
Scott Higashi, executive vice president of sales for Prudential Locations, said he believes the condominium market will remain strong.
"Last year, we thought the area growth was going to be in condominiums, and we still think that's the case for 2007," he said. "Condominium living is still affordable for a lot of folks."
Neighborhoods that have a more diverse pool of buyers, including mainland and international buyers, will help maintain higher price levels, he added.
Jim Wright, president of Century 21 All Islands, says the volume of homes sold shrank over the past five quarters but that more contracts are moving around, meaning that more shoppers are out negotiating.
"It's what I call a neutral market," he said. "It's not a seller's market and it's not a buyer's market. It's just a negotiable market. ... You're going to get a fair deal if you work it out."
Wright said he expects to see a 5 percent decline in value this year but also a higher number of units sold.
Margaret Murchie, a veteran Realtor at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, said buyers today are cautious.
"I think we were flying so high, we were due for a transition," she said. "It just depends on the neighborhood."
Murchie, who specializes in selling, said she has canceled a few listings from clients whose asking prices were unrealistically higher than the current market.
Sales seem to have slowed on the North Shore and Ewa side, according to Tony Kawaguchi, a Realtor associate at Re/Max 808 Realty.
On the east side or in town, meanwhile, there is plenty of demand but not a lot of attractive inventory priced below $900,000.
However, Kawaguchi said homes that are in the right location and priced right can still move in a few weeks.
Kawaguchi estimated he is representing about 60 percent buyers and 40 percent sellers.
"If you have a nice house, and it's updated with granite counters and wood floors and it's in decent condition, you can sell it in a few weeks," he said. "A lot of homes are not in great condition ... and people are just not buying those anymore because there's more selection."