EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a few years of buffeting during the recession, realtors and prospective home buyers showed some optimism as the Building Industry Association of Hawaii began its annual "Parade of Homes" open house.
Model homes in the Haleakea by Gentry subdivision drew a steady stream of people Saturday who wanted to take a look, including newlyweds Chris and Sunshine Tiotuico, who are expecting their first child in December. They decided to buy a home, instead of renting.
"I'd rather invest in a place where all your money can come in, and this is your home. Your home. You can do anything with it," Chris Tiotuico said. "I like to have that freedom with where I live."
Homes in the Haleakea subdivision range from $675,000 to $782,000. Gentry Homes said there were more people who are coming in to look at their homes compared to last year, and that more of them are serious about buying.
"It seems like the market is heating up," said Cyndie Smith, a Realtor at Haleakea by Gentry. "Interest rates are terrific and people are more willing to make a decision."
But even with interest rates at four percent, it's still not easier to buy, as lenders are still taking a closer look before approving a mortgage. They're looking at a record of stable employment in a prospective home buyer.
"And then of course, they need to have excellent credit," said Cecilia Villafuerte, a senior loan officer with Gentry Homeloans. "So they have to be careful with their credit because they're really looking at excellent credit nowadays."
"Over the past couple of years mortgage companies have seen a lot of changes in rules," added Smith. "That seems to have sort of have stabilized now."
Still, more people appeared to be stepping up, even in an unstable economy, to upgrade their home, or to fulfill the dream of being a homeowner. "We'd like to start our family off with a really nice house that we could start our family and our foundations on," Tiotuico said.
Villafuerte said she was experiencing an increase in mortgage applications and approvals. "Actually, compared to last year, I've doubled my production," she said.
Villafuerte added, however, that even with mortgage interest rates at low levels, a prospective home buyer will still have to have a stellar credit record to get the best rates.