LIHUE — Last year was a relatively good one for real estate on Kauai, but momentum slowed toward the end of the year, and Realtors on the island expressed differing opinions on how the housing market will fare this year.
“It was a pretty robust year,” Kauai Board of Realtors President Kelly Liberatore said when asked to sum up the real estate market in 2018.
According to statistics compiled by Hawaii Information Service, which maintains a database commonly used by Realtors statewide, both the volume and the median price of home sales on Kauai increased from 2017 to 2018.
Last year, 596 single-family homes sold for a median price of $699,500, up 6 percent from 2017, when 550 total units sold for a median price of $660,000. Condo sales figures followed a similar pattern. There were 481 condos sold in 2018 — up from 451 the year prior — at a median value of $465,000, compared with $435,000 in 2017.
But that upward trend appeared to reach its peak toward the end of last year, echoing a slowdown seen in housing markets across the U.S., and potentially marking the beginning of a leveling-out period.
“We’re all kind of sensing things are going to get harder in 2019,” Liberatore said. She and her husband Mike Liberatore — both Realtors on Kauai with Coldwell Banker Makai Properties — gave their assessment of the local real estate market in an interview last week.
The Liberatores said that as the year came to a close, they started to notice some “buyer resistance,” meaning prospective home buyers were more hesitant to pay the listed asking price. Homes began to spend more time on the market and negotiations grew tougher.
According to the Liberatores, part of that can be explained by the spread of information.
“We’re seeing way more informed buyers,” Mike Liberatore said.
He and his wife agree that there isn’t much room for prices to continue upward, and predicted a continued stall in the housing market at least through the first part of 2019.
Ron Margolis, a broker with eXp Realty in Kapaa, said he noticed the slow down late last year as well, and expects it to continue possibly even beyond 2019.
“I don’t think there’s much more upside,” Margolis said Wednesday.
According to Margolis, it was a seller’s market through most of 2018, with limited inventory on the island being sought after by people who were willing to pay prices very near asking price. Single-family homes and condos went for about 97 percent of the asking prices last year.
Margolis explained that as homes sit unsold for longer periods of time and a relatively greater number become available — as is becoming the case on Kauai — the market starts shifting in favor of the buyer, who now has more leverage and options to choose from when selecting a new house.
Looking ahead, Margolis cautioned prospective buyers to be aware that it could be some time before their newly acquired property gains significant appreciation. His advice for people thinking about selling their home is not to hold their breath in anticipation of more favorable conditions.
“You need to ask yourself, ‘How long am I willing to wait?’” he said.
But not everyone is so pessimistic. Kapaa Realtor Kimberly Estrella said she too noticed a decline in market activity toward the end of the year, but she sees no reason to expect that prices won’t rise again in 2019.
Estrella pointed out that median home sales in the mid-range market she deals with have consistently gone up by around 5-7 percent for the last few years, and said she believes that upward trend will continue.
“Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m not seeing anything that would indicate a major slowdown,” Estrella said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a major change between this year and last year.”
The greater concern for Estrella is not whether buyers transplanted from the mainland will continue to pay increasing home prices, but how those prices are affecting the ability of local residents to pay for homes.
“As a Realtor, I find it sad that there is not enough affordable housing on island for our local residents,” she said.
And according to Estrella, affordable housing rates, which are based on median home sales figures, have climbed beyond the reach of the average family on Kauai.
“‘Affordable’ does not reflect the median price range of $699,000,” Estrella said. “I don’t know many locals who can afford that.”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.