Big Island home prices rising, sales dropping

  • A home at 1513 Wailuku Drive is for sale through Aiona Island Realty Friday in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — Home sales on the Big Island are down while home prices are up after the first quarter of 2019.

Multiple listing service data for the island indicates that the number of residential sales across the island from January through March was 13 percent lower than during the same time period last year. Meanwhile, the median residential sales price for the first quarter increased by 11 percent.

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In South Hilo, the median sales price for the first quarter was $366,500, an increase of 9 percent. Conversely, the number of sales dropped by 3 percent to 61.

The same trend was not reflected in all of the Big Island’s districts: while sales in Puna dropped by 18 percent, the median sales price also dropped by 4 percent to $211,000.

In North Kona, three more home sales were made in the first quarter than in Q1 2018, while median prices also increased by 2 percent.

Harry Pritikin, chief broker at Koa Realty, said the comparatively weak beginning of the year might be a combination of lingering post-eruption weakness in the market as well as the usual slowdown that typically occurs during tax season.

Pritikin said that he noticed an upswing in activity in the market just within the last week, coinciding with the end of tax season, suggesting that sales might increase again.

Chantel Smith, broker-in-charge at Century 21 Homefinders of Hawaii, agreed, saying that the market was especially soft at the beginning of the year but has picked up again within recent days.

“Believe it or not, people are still interested in buying in Puna,” Smith said. “It’s like people have forgotten already … or the prices in Puna are just what they can afford.”

However, the real estate market is in “very weird circumstances,” Pritikin said. Vacant land sales in South Hilo dropped by 70 percent, while their median price increased by 55 percent, to which Pritikin said the only explanation is that cheap land is not selling and more and more buyers are being priced out of the market.

Home prices, Pritikin said, are dropping in west coast locations such as San Francisco, where real estate trends eventually reach Hawaii after about six months.

Smith said if the west coast’s dropping prices come to Hawaii, they will strike Oahu first before traveling to the Big Island.

While Smith said she is confident that her business, at least, can endure whatever market fluctuation reaches the state, she said all she can hope for this year is a stable market without the peaks and valleys that characterized last year.

Pritikin agreed, saying he can’t predict what the market will look like for the rest of the year, but can hope for the best.

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“I’m just hoping the market levels off and avoids a crash,” Pritikin said. “But that’s probably wishful thinking.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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