Oahu housing prices moved up slightly in May but sales continued to lag during the spring homebuying season amid concerns that rising interest rates may be starting to have a dampening effect.
The median price for single-family homes rose 4.4% to $778,000 from $745,000 in the year-earlier period while condo prices increased 5.8% to $430,000 from $406,500, according to data released Wednesday by the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
Sales fell 8.3% in both categories. Single-family home sales declined to 332 from 362 while condo sales dropped to 495 from 540. The HBR data covers previously owned homes and condos but not new properties.
"We constantly talk about a housing cycle," said economist Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics. "But home prices have been like an escalator, not a roller coaster, in the 20-teens (since 2011). So far that's continuing this spring, but sales dropping off are a sign that interest rates are maybe starting to bite."
Condos' median price matched the second-highest level ever and was just short of the record $435,000 in March. The all-time high median price for single-family homes was $795,000 in June 2017. The median price is a point at which half the sales are at a higher price and half at a lower price.
Ira Gordon, principal broker of Aloha Homes, said neither buyers nor sellers have the advantage in the current market.
"It's become more of an even market," he said. "There's been a real dichotomy in the market in that some properties in some neighborhoods are still hot and getting multiple offers and some not so much. So when you look at the overall picture, it might look good but you have to look at the individual neighborhood or building."
Gordon said rising interest rates can have two effects on potential buyers.
"If it comes up steadily for a period of time that can have a negative effect," he said. "But what also has an effect is if it starts to go up, or there's talk of it going up, and people run out to buy."
Brewbaker said single-family homes and condos are still posting the same mid-single-digit increases that they have for the past seven years but what got his attention was sales declining 8%.
"Sales dropping by 8% is something to keep an eye on," he said. "As we get into the summer months, which is typically more active for sales, if that pattern persists, it could be even more telling than one month at this point."
Darryl Macha, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors, expects sales to rebound somewhat during the summer.
"The Oahu market experienced a very deep trough with sales in January and February and we continue to slowly trend upwards," he said. "Pending sales are also experiencing a slow climb and we're anticipating sales to peak in late summer."
Pending sales of single-family homes rose in May for the third straight month to 502 while the 751 pending sales for condos were down from April after three straight months of increases. Pending sales are signed purchase contracts that have not closed escrow.
Tribune Content Agency