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December home sales rise on Big Island and Kauai


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POSTED: Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Homes sales on the Big Island and Kauai were up in December, following a similar trend on Oahu, according to data released yesterday by Hawaii Information Service.

On the Big Island, 120 homes sold last month, a 22.5 percent gain over the 98 homes sold the same time a year ago.

The median price for a Big Island home, meanwhile, fell to $275,000, down 7.6 percent from December 2008, when it was recorded at $297,500.

On Oahu, sales jumped 36.6 percent in December as home prices slipped to $550,000.

“;We're all very excited to see the trend of sales going up,”; said Jackie Parkinson, executive officer of the Hawaii Island Board of Realtors. “;It is reflected in the business — lots of agents seem to be busy.”;

Parkinson attributed the boost, in part, to the extension to April 30 of the first-time homebuyers' tax credit of up to $8,000, and the expansion of the program to existing homeowners, who can get credit up to $6,500.

Many areas, particularly Kona, are still dealing with foreclosures, Parkinson said, but once those are sold off, the market can return to more normalcy. In North Kona, home sales in December were up to 287, about 17 percent over the prior year, showing that sellers are motivated. Sales in North and South Kohala also went up.

The tax credits provided some incentive for buyers, according to Gretchen Lambeth of Hawaiian Isle Real Estate, along with low interest rates and prices.

“;These are prices we haven't seen in Kona since early 2003 in a lot of properties,”; said Lambeth, also treasurer of the Kona Board of Realtors.

Condo sales on the Big Island rose to 36 in December, up from 21 the same time a year ago. The median price slipped 25.4 percent to $255,000 compared with $342,000 last year.

On Kauai, sales jumped to 36 in December, up 89.5 percent from 19 the same month a year ago. The median home price also went up on Kauai, which set it apart from trends on the Big Island and Oahu.

The Kauai median home price increased 8.2 percent to $530,000 from $490,000 in December.

Condo sales grew to 15, six more than a year ago, although the median price dropped 49.8 percent to $313,500 from $625,000 last year.

Debra Blachowiak, principal broker of Sleeping Giant Realty Sotheby's, said several estate sales over $10 million, some of which had been listed more than five years, skewed the single-family home median price higher in December.

“;It's like the buyers are finally willing to pull the trigger,”; Blachowiak said. “;I had one buyer say to me, 'I don't want to waste a good recession.'”;

The tax credit for both first-time homebuyers as well as existing homeowners moving up has provided incentive for qualified buyers, she said.

Sleeping Giant just launched a new Web site, http://www.kauaireale.com, with listings, statistics and blogs. While 2009 was one of the most challenging years Blachowiak remembers in her 31-year career, according to her blog, she's feeling optimistic about this year.

“;I'm optimistic for 2010,”; she said. “;It's not going to be crazy, where prices skyrocket, but there will be stabilization, which will appear as growth to those of us who just came out of 2009.”;