Homeowners pay to sell


POSTED: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Jill and John Wheeler were thrilled when they sold their Mililani home last month even though they had to come to closing with $48,000.

The Wheelers, who bought their home at the peak of the market in 2006, were forced to sell because they needed to relocate to Virginia. The couple had considered turning the property into a rental until the market picked up; however, they were worried that they might lose more if they waited and needed later to sell in Oahu's rapidly descending market.




Home sales


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





April 2009189
April 2008256



Median Price


April 2009$585,000
April 2008$639,000







April 2009257
April 2008384



Median Price


April 2009$310,000
April 2008$327,000



Source: Honolulu Board of Realtors


“;It's horrible to have to pay to sell your home, especially when you are planning for retirement,”; Jill Wheeler said, “;but we are happy that it sold so quickly. Now we'll have a fresh start.”;

It's a sign of how far Hawaii's once-booming real estate market has fallen that some homeowners are content to bring money to a deal and consider it a success if they managed to avoid a short sale or a foreclosure. While sellers, especially those that have had their properties for five or more years, are still making money, few are netting the gains of the boom years.

Sales and prices of single-family homes and condominiums have continued to fall, the Honolulu Board of Realtors reported yesterday. Single-family home resales dropped 26.2 percent to 189 sales while condominium resales dropped down to 257 sales, a 33.1 percent decline from the prior year, according to HBR data. Likewise, more than half of the single-family home resales last month sold for more than $585,000, which represented an 8.5 percent drop in the median price. The median price paid for a condominium fell 5.2 percent to $310,000, HBR said.

While slowing sales in Oahu's residential housing market are indicative of weak economic conditions in Hawaii and worldwide, pockets of optimism emerged. The number of pending sales grew for the first time in many months, inventory remained low and prices remained relatively stable for affordable properties. These positives, while hardly signs of a turning market, signify that the dynamics of Oahu's market could be more characteristic of “;try wait”; rather than “;completely tanked.”;

An increase in the number of homes that went under contract in April but have yet to close could signal that momentum is returning, said Chason Ishii, president of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties.

“;Pending sales were up about 8 percent for the first time in many months,”; Ishii said. “;This gives us a positive indicator for the future. In 60 days we may see a lack of decline in comparison to the prior year.”;

Limited inventory is also working in the market's favor, said Harvey Shapiro, HBR research economist.

Between April 2008 and April 2009, single-family inventory fell 6.8 percent to 1,822, and condominium inventory fell 4.4 percent to 2,514, Shapiro said.

“;We have less inventory than we did a year ago, which signifies that there are a lot of people waiting on the sidelines,”; Shapiro said.

Some buyers are unwilling to buy or cannot get financing, and some sellers are unwilling to sell at these prices, he said.

“;To me the market is more indicative of 'wait and see' rather than desperation,”; Shapiro said.

Despite the slowdown, well-staged properties that are priced right are selling, said John Riggins, owner of John Riggins Real Estate.

“;I had one of my best months last month,”; said Riggins, who is experiencing his third recession as a Hawaii Realtor and became one of the state's only certified distressed-property specialists in February.

Staying ahead of the curve is the key to selling properties in a down market, Riggins said.

“;Properties have to be priced below previous solds,”; he said. “;Buyers who don't need to sell their properties ought to take them off the market to ease the way for buyers who need to sell their homes due to financial distress, death, divorce or separation.”;

While prices have dropped dramatically in certain segments of the market, particularly the high end, prices for homes in the $400,000-to-$799,000 range, otherwise known as the sweet spot, are fairly stable, Ishii said.

“;If you have a well-priced property in the sweet spot, it goes,”; he said. “;There's still local interest and demand at this price point.”;