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Real Estate skid ends

Prices rise 3.1% after a two-year downturn in one of the nation’s hottest markets


Shallow and relatively short.

That was the extent of Oahu’s most recent housing market downturn, which was reversed last year by a 3.1 percent rise in the median sale price of previously owned single-family homes to $592,750.

The downturn, based on Honolulu Board of Realtors data released yesterday, lasted two years, as the median price slipped 3 percent from its 2007 peak of $640,000 to $620,500 in 2008 followed by a 7.3 percent drop to $575,000 in 2009.

Rebounds occurred in other metropolitan markets on the mainland last year, though many of the recoveries followed more intense declines.

Michael Sklarz, president of Honolulu-based real estate consulting firm Collateral Analytics, said Oahu’s rebound is noteworthy because the market was one of the hottest nationally during price run-ups earlier in the last decade.

“It’s a great performance,” he said. “Our market had such a big move (up), and then it didn’t give much back.”

Other markets were not as fortunate.

For instance, the median home price in San Diego rose 8.5 percent last year, but that followed declines of 11 percent in 2009 and 29 percent in 2008, according to the San Diego Association of Realtors

Still other markets have yet to recover, including Las Vegas and the hardest-hit parts of Florida. In the area that includes Jacksonville, Fla., the median single-family home price for the first 11 months of last year was down 11 percent from the comparable period in 2009, which followed a roughly 15 percent drop the year before, according to the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors.

Click to enlarge map.

Full-year data for many markets are not complete, but a look at data through the third quarter of last year from the National Association of Realtors suggests that at least half of the largest 150 major metropolitan areas were on pace for median-price gains.

For Oahu the median-price rise was driven in part by a turnaround in demand. Single-family home sales rose 13.4 percent to 3,051 last year compared with 2,690 the year before. The gain broke a five-year string of declines.

In Oahu’s condominium market the number of sales rose 10.3 percent to 3,934 last year compared with 3,566 the year before. This gain reversed four consecutive years of declines.

The median condo sale price was unchanged last year at $305,000, which represented an improvement considering that the median price fell 6.2 percent in 2009 from a peak of $325,000 set in 2007 and repeated in 2008.

Joyce Nakamura, newly elected president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors, said the market faces some challenges this year with interest rates moving higher, the absence of federal tax credits and the possibility of Congress eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction. But she still expects sales activity will build this year off last year’s gains.

“I have a positive view of 2011,” said Nakamura, an agent with Properties Unlimited.

Click to enlarge chart.

Sklarz expects median Oahu home prices will rise this year by a margin that is close to last year’s increase.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization forecast last month that Oahu’s median single-family home price will rise 4.3 percent this year to $629,000, then rise 5.7 percent next year to $665,000 and 8 percent to $718,000 in 2013.

For condos, UHERO projects the median price will rise 3.6 percent this year to $320,000, then rise 3.7 percent to $331,000 next year and 5.9 percent to $351,000 in 2013.

Real estate data provider Clear Capital has a different take on Oahu home prices this year, expecting the rate of increase to slow somewhat. The Truckee, Calif.-based firm projects that residential real estate prices on Oahu — single-family homes and condos — will rise 3.4 percent this year compared with what it calculated was a 7.2 percent gain last year.

Clear Capital’s calculations are based on an analysis of prices for repeated sales of the same home over time, with the price change weighted depending on the time between sales.

For instance, a 1,519-square-foot home in Hawaii Kai sold last month for $790,000, or 2.6 percent more than the $770,000 it sold for in May 2008, according to property records. Another Hawaii Kai home, a 1,500-square-foot marina-front house, sold last month for $1,075,000, or 2.4 percent more than the $1,050,000 it sold for in March 2007 before the market began heading lower.

Clear Capital’s same-home sale method is typically considered more accurate than the median price of all sales, though the sample size is considerably smaller.

The median price, a point at which half the sales are for more and half for less, is affected by the quality, size, location, age and other conditions of homes sold. By Clear Capital’s measure, Oahu’s same-home sale price gain last year was the third-biggest among 50 of the nation’s largest major metropolitan areas tracked by the company.

Besides stronger demand, relatively low inventory helped put upward pressure on Oahu prices. The Honolulu Board of Realtors said there were 1,308 single-family homes for sale at the end of last year. That compared with 1,445 at the end of 2009 and about 2,000 in each of the prior three years.

The market showed some softness in median prices in October and November, but December posted a gain of 5.8 percent to $587,000 compared with the same month a year earlier.

The median condo price inched up 0.2 percent in December to $303,000 from $302,500.

Sales volume in December was mixed for single-family homes and condos. The number of single-family home sales was up 12.5 percent to 306 from 272 a year earlier. The number of condo sales was down 2.6 percent to 341 from 350 in the same period.

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