Honolulu Board of Realtors President Mary Begier, who also owns her own realty, credits diversified buying activity for enabling the Hawaii housing market to remain healthy.

Realtors president says
market in fine form

Mary Begier

>> Job: Owner of Mary Begier Realty on Oahu and the Big Island

>> Board: Recently named president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors, which has about 4,300 members and is governed by a 19-member board of directors

How strong is the current housing market?

The housing market is fabulous. It's very healthy. And when I say healthy, that doesn't just mean great sales, it means a marketplace that's got a lot of mixed activity. The buyers are coming from a lot of places -- our own local market, entry-level buyers, move-up buyers. We also have plenty of people from out of town. There are a lot of buyers coming from California, Oregon, Washington, Europe and the Northeast.

Why is Hawaii's housing market in such demand?

This is always an awkward thing to try to explain We've benefited so much from things that have happened adversely throughout the world in the last couple of years... You feel embarrassed to take pleasure in other people's misfortunes, but it's caused Hawaii to be viewed as a very safe environment. This is also paradise. I don't want to sound trite in saying that, but you don't have to travel very far from Hawaii to be envied by everyone you encounter for being able to call Hawaii your home. We have an incredible climate, an incredible environment and we have the most special people.

Are Hawaii buyers being priced out of the market?

In terms of prices, we do have a shortage of inventory here in Hawaii. We can't just go build on the next prairie. But there is still a great deal of affordable homes available on Oahu. There's more affordable homes here than on Maui and Kauai. The diversification of our developers has made that possible. We also have a larger amount of older stock. Many of our people, who would like to purchase homes but can't, it's not just because of income. Sometimes it's know-how, sometimes it's a credit history, possibly a relationship that caused that credit history, and that's where our partnership with Hawaii Home Ownership Center takes us in the right direction for trying to reach out to more of those people who need assistance.

Are we in a real estate bubble?

I don't believe that we are in a bubble. I've been selling real estate for 24 years and I purchased my own home prior to that. I've seen cycles of real estate, but the circumstances that exist today compared to when we did have a bubble are not the same. In the 1990s, we had an Asian demand. In the 1970s, there was an Arab demand. In the early1980s, we had a Canadian demand. We are more diversified now and that makes it a very different situation.

Is it better to buy high and take advantage of a low interest rate or wait for prices to come down and take a chance at a higher interest rate?

Prices are still at a pre-1990 high in many areas-- so they still have somewhere to go in terms of going up. I'm a believer that unless you are able to spend cash, and very few people are, if I'm going to be using someone else's money, then I'd want to use it at the lowest cost possible.

What do you enjoy most about being a Realtor?

Being a Realtor has enabled me a lifestyle and a group of friends that I can't imagine any other industry providing to a person. Real estate is a master and you do have to serve it. A lot of times clients don't understand how much you really care about them. I lie awake at night sometimes over my clients' problems. It's often anticlimactic when they go off with the excitement of their life and you have a little hole that you have to fill. My clients are a part of my life and I think that's true for most Realtors.

Are there any new trends in real estate?

Everybody thinks they should have a fixed 30-year-rate mortgage, but sometimes if you know you won't be in that home for a long time or in the area, an adjustable rate mortgage is worth exploring. It's particularly suited for young military and corporate people who have come to Hawaii for training and will leave after they complete their courses.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to


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