Oahu buyers paying more for larger houses during pandemic

HONOLULU — Demand for bigger homes, reduced inventory and near historic low interest rates have helped Oahu’s housing market set a price record for a second straight month.

The median sale price for previously owned single-family homes rose to $880,000 in September, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

A Honolulu Board of Realtors report said the increased price point Tuesday was 13% above the high figure of $777,000 a year ago.

The previous record mark set in August was $839,000, which was $4,000 above the high point of $835,000 in July 2019.

September sales volume for single-family homes of more than 2,000 square feet (186 square meters) of living space increased 38% over the same month last year, the realtor report said.

There were 39% more sales of homes priced between $700,000 and $1.49 million, and 43% additional sales of homes of over $1.5 million. Sales volume dropped 36% for homes under $700,000.

The number of single-family home sales on Oahu rose 13% to 391 last month from 347 a year earlier.

Some real estate agents said extended government emergency orders aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus have caused many people to spend more time living and working at home, prompting purchases of larger accommodations.

“Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how buyers think about purchasing a home, causing them to reevaluate their housing goals and priorities,” Tricia Nekota, president of the real estate agent trade association, said in a statement.

Philip Garboden, a University of Hawaii professor of affordable housing economics, policy and planning, said he suspects low interest rates enable higher-income households to buy bigger and more expensive homes.

People in the bottom half of the market have been hardest hit by the recession and are not buying as many moderately priced homes, Garboden said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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