Slow economy impacting Hawaii real estate sales

Karen Matsuda
Karen Matsuda
Scott Higashi
Scott Higashi

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KAIMUKI (KHNL) - Thousands of Oahu real estate agents feel the impact of our slowing economy as deeply or more deeply than anyone.

The good news is Hawaii's real estate, depending on your neighborhood is not in the kind of trouble seen in many mainland markets.

The bad news, more than 70% of Oahu real estate agents have sold two homes or fewer this year. That's a direct and big impact on them and their families.

Oahu home and condo prices are down only 3% from last year, which means Hawaii is doing a whole lot better than other parts of the country.

But sales dropped almost a third, which means you have a whole lot of real estate agents who can't generate enough income to get by.

The people who live in this Kaimuki house are ready for Halloween.

They're also ready to move.

The Matsudas who live next door say, they've seen a real slowdown in the housing market.

"It's been going downhill gradually," said Karen Matsuda.  "And from last year, it's definitely been down."

Along a stretch of Pahoa Avenue, only two other homes for sale.

Quite a difference from a few years ago, when properties were bought and sold on a regular basis.

"In the real estate market, that has a definite effect on real estate agents because they're looking at the number of transactions they're putting into escrow," said Real Estate Executive Scott Higashi.

In the past year, 40% of Oahu real estate agents made zero transactions, which means no home sales.

That's about 2,000 agents.

The reason is because homeowners like the Matsudas are staying put, and not taking on additional risk.

"I wouldn't take a chance on picking up another house, taking a mortgage out on anything at this point right now," said Matsuda.

But Higashi says, as the market slows down, it's time to act fast.

"People do think twice about, maybe should I wait, should I not move forward at this time. The reality is, owning a home is still a good idea and interest rates are really cooperating," said Higashi.

Trying to make sense out of an industry that depends on dollars and homes.

Just in the Kaimuki area, the average home price is just under $900,000, so home prices are holding steady.

But the board of realtors thinks the slowdown will continue for at least a couple of years.