Bouncing at the bottom


POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

The median single-family home price on Oahu slipped to $566,000 in August, following an increase through the previous two months, according to the latest statistics from the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

But industry experts say the housing market still appears to be bouncing along at the bottom.

Home prices last month were off 4.9 percent from $595,000 reached in July, and down 10.9 percent from $635,000 in August 2008.

A total of 247 existing homes were sold last month, down 3.1 percent compared to 255 in the same month last year.

Condo median prices, meanwhile, fell to their lowest level this year, to $290,000, off 7.1 percent from $312,000 in July and down 11.6 percent from $328,000 in August 2008.

The median condo price last month matched its lowest level since October 2005, according to the board.

Sales rose 1.7 percent in August, to 351, compared with 345 a year earlier.

Still, Sandra “;Sam”; Bangerter, board president, says the relatively stable sales numbers indicate that “;we've stopped declining and that we've hit a bottom in the housing market.”;

“;In fact, there is new energy in the market, as many sellers are seeing multiple offers on properties that are well priced,”; she said.





        The number of homes sold on Oahu in August, with the median price and percentage change from the same month last year:





August 2009 247


August 2008 255


Change -3.1%




August 2009 $566,000


August 2008 $635,000


Change -10.9%






August 2009 351


August 2008 345


Change +1.7%




August 2009 $290,000


August 2008 $328,000


Change -11.6%


Source: Honolulu Board of Realtors


Low inventory levels are also a contributing factor, according to board economist Harvey Shapiro.

In August, a total of 1,624 homes were listed on the market, down 23.4 percent from the 2,119 homes listed at the same time last year.

For condos, 2,140 condos were listed, down 22 percent from the 2,743 of a year ago.

Shapiro says the Oahu housing market seems to be operating in miniature — that is, with an overall smaller volume in terms of sales, inventory and new listings — which are all at lower levels than in past years.

“;This balance, particularly the shrunken inventory, is the reason for our stability and why we've avoided the significant price adjustments experienced on the mainland,”; said Shapiro. “;Prospective buyers and sellers continue to sit on the sidelines and wait for a sign that the economy is shoring up, but akamai buyers are already searching for bargains, especially with financing costs at record lows.”;

Sellers, as well, are holding back because they were expecting 2006 or 2007 prices, said Shapiro.

Only a total of 385 new home listings were added in August, the lowest number all year, and 25.1 percent less than 514 a year ago.

Interest rates, on the other hand, are very attractive for homebuyers with the added incentive of up to $8,000 in tax credits for qualified first-time buyers.

Abe Lee, of Abe Lee Realty, said that despite terrific interest rates, some buyers are having a tough time getting qualified due to tighter lending restrictions.

“;They (lenders) are going through everything with a fine-toothed comb,”; he said.

Still, Lee said, some properties can still fetch multiple offers, if priced right.

“;If it's priced right, it'll move,”; said Lee. “;The bottom has hit for certain areas, anywhere the prices are moderately priced and people think there's a perceived value.”;

Median days on the market, or the speed at which homes were sold, remained stable at 46 days in August versus 46 days a year ago. Condos sold stayed on the market for 51 median days versus 48 days a year ago.