Neighbor island
home sales keep
up brisk pace

But the number of available
homes for sale is shrinking

By Lyn Danninger

The neighbor island real estate market continued its busy pace last month, even as shrinking inventory continues to be a problem for buyers.

On Maui, 70 single-family homes sold in August, down from the previous month's 110, and below a year earlier, when 106 homes sold during the same month. The numbers include new housing project closings as well as resales.

Median single-family home prices on Maui, now at $354,500, jumped 37 percent over August 2001, when the median stood at $258,750. Year-to-date, however, the median for single family homes has increased 23 percent over last year to $363,060.

The Kihei area was particularly active, with sales of 15 single-family homes and 65 condominiums during August.

On the island as a whole, 133 condominiums with a median price of $180,000 changed hands during the month. But unlike single-family homes, the median price of a condominium dropped $2,000 compared with August last year.

Even so, condominium median sales prices for the year so far increased $14,000 over last year, reaching $210,000.

Terry Tolman, president of the Realtors Association of Maui, said shrinking inventory in the middle price range is the biggest challenge on the island.

"The thing holding back single-family home sales being higher is the lack of medium-priced housing," he said.

In some cases, sellers are also pricing their homes too high, Tolman said.

"It's a seller's market," he said. "Where homes are priced right they are selling very quickly, but overpriced homes will take longer."

Tolman's assessment of the current Maui real estate market is "not white hot, which is good, but it is a seller's market."


Garden Isle

On Kauai, prices of single-family homes and the number of sales during August also continued to rise, although not as sharply.

The median price for a single-family home on Kauai for the month was $280,000, up 4.3 percent from a median of $268,500 in August 2001. The number of sales also increased to 66, from 44 a year earlier.

But condominiums dropped 13.2 percent to $155,000 even though the number of transactions, 34, remained the same.

Like other locations in the state, a lack of inventory is making it harder for buyers of low- to medium-range homes to find properties close to economic centers, in this case Lihue, said Karen Ono, executive vice president of the Kauai Board of Realtors.

"We are kind of restricted in inventory close to Lihue," Ono said.

There is also very little in the way of new construction slated to come online soon, she said.

The almost-completed small Schuler subdivision known as Ulu Ko, with single family homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, is selling well, Ono said.

In the resort communities of Kauai's north and south shores, however, it's a different story. Condominium sales, mostly to out-of-state retirees and part-time residents, continue to keep real estate agents busy, Ono said.

Ken Kubiak, broker-in-charge at Century 21 All Island's Kilauea office, was an investor in two recent new developments in the Princeville area.

The first one, a 41-unit townhouse project which sold out, has already had 15 resales.

The original sales price was $443,000, but resale prices have averaged $525,000, he said.

Similarly, at a 59-unit project about to break ground in the same area, every unit is spoken for.

"The second project, which just broke ground a month ago, has an average price of $487,000. Every one is now in escrow," he said.


Big Island

On the Big Island, single-family home sales and prices in August also showed a healthy increase.

During the month, there were 190 sales, up 32 percent from August 2001.

Likewise, the Big Island median price for a single-family home increased by just over 16 percent to $193,250.

Condominium median prices showed little change, edging up $500 from last year to $145,000, with a slight increase in the number of sales.

Because of the diversity of Big Island real estate, it's difficult for the numbers to tell the entire story, said Gary Davis, broker-in-charge at Clark Realty's Kamuela office.

"It's a huge range on this island, probably because we have so many different types of communities. Even so, our inventory is at a all time low," he said.

Buyers are experiencing a shortage in both the high and low end of the market while the medium range is considered a little better, Davis said.

Davis notes that at a new development in his own neighborhood of Waimea, 19 homes were spoken for on the first day reservations were taken. Prices for the homes range from $210,000 to $320,000.

"That development just came up for reservations a week ago and it's still a year or more until the homes will be finished," he said.

Vacant land, often the last area of the real estate market to move, is also being snapped up, said Dave Lucas, broker-in-charge at Century 21 All Islands in Kona.

In Waikoloa, which has some medium- and lower-priced housing, lots of about 10,000 square feet are now selling for about $100,000, Lucas said.

"Compare that to a year ago when you could have had your choice for about $60,000," he said.

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