Sales slow but prices rise as pandemic shutdown changes real estate agents’ operations

Bill 3 looks to increase property tax exemptions for most families.
Bill 3 looks to increase property tax exemptions for most families.(HNN File (custom credit))
Published: May. 21, 2020 at 9:30 PM HST|Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 9:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s real estate market is still showing strength despite a fall in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic also has real estate agents rethinking how they sell homes.

Realtor Associate Stacy Loe Paris of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate has been going online to show properties for sale. That’s because the stay-at-home orders put a stop to traditional open house events on Sunday afternoons. Agents are now going on Facebook Live and Zoom to give live virtual tours.

“Before, some people did,” said Paris. “Now it’s an absolute necessity to get more eyes on the property and get more buyers interested in maybe setting up a showing after that.”

Showings are still allowed, but only by appointment. And potential buyers have to wear masks and gloves and cannot touch anything in the house, including doorknobs, according to Paris.

The Honolulu Board of Realtors said sales of existing single-family homes on Oahu fell 22 percent last month when compared to April of last year. Condominium sales dropped nearly 30 percent.

“Certain in mid-March through April, that was more pronounced,” said Suzanne Young, CEO of the Board. “I think also for sellers, they wanted to hunker down at home so they took their properties off the market.”

That resulted in a lower inventory that pushed median sales prices higher -- up 5.5 percent to $809,000 for homes, and 7.4 percent to $450,000 for condos.

Even so, there’s still a demand, and mortgage rates are very low. However, “Credit standards are going to be tightening, particularly for first-time homebuyers. So that down payment that they need -- it may be a little trickier,” said Young.

That will make it difficult when there are fewer people who may be able to afford a home due to unemployment caused by the pandemic.

For agents, however, being forced to go online to show off properties may have changed the sales model for good.

“Whereas ten to 20 people would come to an open house, we can reach hundreds, if not thousands of people online, doing these virtual open houses,” said Paris.

Experts believe that will benefit the industry as a driver of economic recovery in the long run.

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