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StarBulletin.com

Maui realty nose-dives


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POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Maui single-family home prices plunged in April to their lowest level since 2003 and condominium prices fell to near a five-year low as buyers continued to work down excess inventory in the weak real estate market.

Sales also nose-dived last month, according to recently released data from the Realtors Association of Maui Inc.

But Terry Tolman, chief staff executive for the Realtors Association of Maui, said the island's real estate market “;seems to be at or near the bottom”; and noted that the inventory for single-family homes, condos and land lots is at its lowest level in recent months. He said the relatively small size of the Maui market can make month-to-month comparisons volatile, and that a lot of the selling now in the condo market involves short sales, which is when the lender agrees to take less than what is owed on the mortgage from a distressed owner, or bank-owned foreclosures.

“;Inventory is shrinking in all three categories (single-family homes, condos and land) compared to the previous several months, and the number of sales will start to pick up before median prices do,”; Tolman said. “;The large inventory includes many short sales, and REO (bank-owned) properties which will need to be absorbed as sales before we can move ahead.

“;I think we're pretty much done with (prices) going down, and we're looking at some point soon at going flatline or up.”;

The median price for single-family homes last month fell 14.3 percent to $495,000 — the lowest level since November 2003 when the median hit $492,500. A year ago, the median price for homes was $577,500.

Sales dropped 39.7 percent to 47 from 78.

For condos, the median price declined 51.7 percent to $290,000 — the lowest level since a median price of $277,425 in July 2004. A year ago, the median price for condos was $600,000.

Sales plunged 69.1 percent to 29 from 94 a year earlier.

Tolman said a lot of the condos sold were second homes or vacation getaways for people on the mainland, as well as short sales or foreclosures as people bailed out because of the slumping economy or loss of a job.

“;Our statistics reflect sales sold in the last month, but the sales prices and terms were agreed upon two months before or, possibly, six months earlier because short sales are taking banks a long time to approve them,”; Tolman said.

Single-family home, condo and land inventory is now below or near its lowest level in the past year.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,086 single-family homes either in the active-, pending- or contingent-status category, down from 1,150 in April and the lowest level in the last 12 months.

There were 1,675 condos in inventory, down from 1,796 in April and the lowest level since there were 1,638 in November.

And there were 648 land lots, down from 662 in April and the lowest number since there were 595 in February.