Neighbor isle home resales surged in '97

All islands saw a sales increase while prices were generally lower

By Jerry Tune

Neighbor island home and condominium resales surged last year in every category, with increases ranging from 15.9 percent to 172 percent.

Real estate industry executives say the buyers include local residents who believe prices have bottomed out, retirees from Oahu, and investors from the West Coast who benefited from the mainland's economic upswing.

"We're very excited right now," said Stathie Prattas, president of the Kona Board of Realtors. "We're coming off a seven-year low, tourism numbers are up, and sales are up. We anticipate 21/2 years of an excellent sales market."

The largest sales volume was in Maui condominiums, which increased to 833 from 563 in 1996, according to figures compiled by Prudential Locations Inc.

Prices, in most areas, declined. The biggest drop, at 37.1 percent, came in condominiums on the Big Island's eastside.

Home resales statewide rose to 3,692 from 3,133 in 1996, an increase of 17.8 percent. Condominium sales rose to 3,475 last year from 3,013, an increase of 15.3 percent.

The statewide median home resale price dropped 7.1 percent to $241,462 last year from $260,040 in 1996. The median price for condominiums fell 12.8 percent to $144,729, down from $166,998 in 1996.

Prattas said the general perception is that 60 percent or more of the buyers are from western United States, mostly California.

"We are also getting some retirees and investors from Oahu," said Prattas, who is also president and principal broker at Coast Properties Ltd. "Waikoloa is hot right now with lots priced as low as $40,000 and homes at $185,000."

On the east side of the Big Island, most of the buyers are locals with some retirees from Oahu and the West Coast, said Edith Crabb, president of the Hawaii Island Board of Realtors.

"Sales are up because prices have come down so much," said Crabb, owner of Edith Crabb Realty. "It was slow at the first of last year, as (sugar) plantations closed, but by the end of the year people realized that prices are not going to get lower. This year we are very busy with inquiries."

Despite the sales increase last year, Crabb said the inventory of properties still is very high.

LaVerne Bassert, president of the Kauai Board of Realtors, thinks that 1998 will be a buyer's market if the interest rate remains low. The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is now below 7 percent.

Bassert believes prices will remain flat for this year as the Kauai economy is still coming back following Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

"For local people who are secure in their jobs, this is a good time to buy," said Bassert, president and principal broker at Maili Properties of Kauai/Better Homes & Gardens. "We expect investors will start looking at some of the high-end properties which are reasonably priced."

The neighbor island increases last year outpaced Oahu which had a 15.5 percent boost in home resales and 4.4 percent rise in condominium resales, according to Prudential's figures, which track resales but do not include new home sales.

The company's figures for last month, meanwhile, showed that the year ended on a strong note for neighbor island resales.

Maui condominium resales were up 54 percent, and home resales were up 5.6 percent.

On the Big Island's westside, home resales were up 33.3 percent and condominium sales were up 20.8 percent. The December numbers were mixed on the Big Island's eastside as home sales were down 5.1 percent, while condominium sales were up 75 percent.

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