$1 million median forecast


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

While Oahu homeowners might not see much price gain over the next few years, the market is on its way up and the median single-family home could be worth more than $1 million by the dawn of the next decade, said renowned Honolulu economist Paul Brewbaker.

“;I think things are off and running again,”; Brewbaker said yesterday after studying the most recent housing data from the Honolulu Board of Realtors.

Last month, single-family home sales rose 21.7 percent to 157 from the year prior's 129, according to HBR statistics. More than half of those homes sold for $570,000 or more, representing a 3.6 percent climb in the median home price on Oahu. Condominium sales soared 44.4 percent to 231 from the 160 that changed hands in February 2009. The median price paid for a condominium rose 0.3 percent to $298,000 from the last year's $297,000.

“;While single-family home prices have started to recover, condominiums are bouncing along the bottom,”; said Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics. “;Oahu's market is a stable market with some modest upside ability. We are certainly at the point that the fear people had about prices falling a lot are pretty much over. There's not going to be a double dip.”;





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




February 2009157
February 2008129




February 2009$570,000
February 2008$550,000






February 2009231
February 2008160




February 2009$298,000
February 2008$297,000



Source: Honolulu Board of Realtors


Sales for Oahu's housing market bottomed out in January 2009 with prices for single-family homes leveling out around $560,000 last May and condominium prices around $300,000 last August, according to Brewbaker's seasonally adjusted data.

But some in the real estate community, such as John Riggins, owner of John Riggins Real Estate, say they are reluctant to accept that prices have bottomed out. Riggins, who has decades of real estate experience in Hawaii, said he does not think that job losses, bankruptcies or foreclosures have run their course on Oahu. Also, increased interest on adjustable loans also could end badly for some, Riggins said.

“;I'm taking a contrary view,”; Riggins said. “;There are an awful lot of loans scheduled to adjust this year and next. And I don't think we'll be on the road to recovery until we see jobs increasing.”;

While there might be some pullback related to the eventual end of the homeowner tax credits and historically low interest rates, Oahu's market overall is just going to keep seeing prices gradually firm up, Brewbaker said.

Single-family home prices have been gaining momentum for about a year, according to Brewbaker's seasonally adjusted data. Based on data, past history and the laws of supply and demand, Brewbaker anticipates that Oahu's next price acceleration will take place around 2012 or 2013 and that somewhere between 2018 and 2020 the median price will rise above $1 million.

“;Believe it,”; said Brewbaker, who 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.

“;I've had this discussion before and I'll have it again,”; Brewbaker said.

Because Oahu's housing market has severe supply constraints, it tends to run in five- to seven-year boom-and-bust cycles, he said.

“;The tragedy here is that a lot of people are waiting (to get into the housing market),”; Brewbaker said. “;If they don't act by April, they'll miss the tax credits. If they wait beyond what the Fed is calling an extended period, they'll be facing higher interest rates.”;

People who are worried about a near-term possibility of the housing market unraveling “;are exposing themselves to a more costly housing environment a couple of years down the road,”; he said.

Kalama Kim, area office leader and senior vice president for Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, said he's less confident than Brewbaker even though the economist's housing forecast has been consistent. The big unknown is what happens to home sales after the homebuyer tax credits expire on April 30 and interest rates begin to rise, he said.

Kim also is concerned about the lingering market impacts of distressed housing inventory, which accounted for 28 percent of the deals that went into escrow in February.

“;That's hefty,”; he said.

Still, Kim is willing to make a two-month prediction based on current data.

In February, accepted offers on listings were up 52 percent for single-family homes and 66 percent for condominiums, Kim said.

“;That's indicative that the next two months will be very good,”; he said.