Surge in home sales


POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Oahu's housing market has turned the corner, but could waffle along for the next two years, according to Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics.

“;I'm sticking my neck out and calling January 2009 the bottom of this cycle,”; Brewbaker said.

This is not the first time Brewbaker has gone out on a limb. He raised eyebrows in 2003 with a prediction that Oahu's median home price would surpass $600,000 in the last cycle. In fact, the market topped out just shy of $645,000 in 2007, he said.

Brewbaker said Oahu's housing market has bounced off an artificially low bottom associated with the financial panic of 2008 and has begun to “;rebound into a stabilization phase that will run through 2012.”;

While he is the first to call a bottom to Oahu's housing market, other real estate industry experts agree much was positive in the latest statistical report released yesterday by the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

Oahu single-family home and condominium sales soared in November as prospective homeowners rushed to cash in on a federal $8,000 first-time homebuyers' tax credit.

The Nov. 30 deadline has since been extended, and now an eligible first-time homeowner or repeat buyers have until April 30 to enter into a binding contract and until June 30 to close.

Home sales jumped 46.5 percent to 249 last month from 170 a year ago while condo sales more than doubled to 407 from 201.

The median price of single-family homes slipped 0.75 percent to $590,000 last month from $594,500 a year ago and edged down 2.4 percent from $605,000 in October of this year.

Condo sales' median price rose 1.2 percent to $320,000 from $316,200 a year ago and climbed 8.5 percent from $295,000 in October.

;  Brewbaker said Oahu's seasonally adjusted median home prices were up 10 percent through October.

“;We may spend some time re-establishing a foundation for future price increases,”; Brewbaker said. “;Prices fell about 30 percent this cycle, so we are only part of the way back.”;

Between 2012 and 2014, Brewbaker said he expects Oahu's housing market to meet the last price peak.

“;The pattern has always been that once sales rebound, it takes about three years for prices to rebound,”; he said.

Chason Ishii, president of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, was hesitant to call a bottom, but said Brewbaker's data has merit.

“;I agree that 2009 has shaped up better than expected and the market has stabilized,”; Ishii said.

More than 13 percent of November sales closed at or above asking price as compared with 7 percent at the same time last year, he said.

“;The lack of inventory is driving prices,”; Ishii said.

HBR reported that single-family home inventory dropped nearly 43 percent to 1,199 from November 2008 to last month. During the same period, condominium inventory dropped more than 34 percent to 1,749 listings.

Sales and median prices were up in the Ewa Plain/Kapolei, Hawaii Kai, Kailua, Waimanalo and Mililani, said John Riggins, owner of John Riggins Real Estate.

“;Those neighborhoods have probably seen the bottom,”; Riggins said.

Oahu's housing market will show improvement through February when compared with a dismal last year, Ishii said. Still, foreclosures and unemployment need to be watched, he said.

“;2010 is going to be a sloppy year,”; Ishii said.

Riggins said foreclosures will have to drop and tourism will have to rise before Oahu's real estate market fully recovers; however, for him, business is good.

The end of the federal homebuyer tax credits in March and the possible rise in interest rates could hamper 2010's market, Ishii said.

By 2011, he expects to see a more sustained recovery in Oahu's housing market.

“;Eventually, as the cycle moves up, it will hit the high of the last peak and historically it will almost double before it moves back down again,”; Ishii said.

Oahu's median single-family home sales price, which was around $300,000 in 1995, climbed above $600,000 in 2005, Ishii said.

If this cycle followed history, the median would rise above $1 million by 2015, he said. But whether or not that happens is anyone's guess, Ishii said.