It has been a while since I have done an island wide stats post. After over ten years, I was struggling with rehashing the same format on a monthly basis. I decided to take a different approach this month. Rather than barraging you with lots of numbers, I wanted to try to distill the numbers into a few key takeaways. I also am gong to try to do this on a quarterly basis. With our smaller market, I think there is some merit to looking at slightly longer time horizons to overcome some of the variability we get on a month to month basis. Hopefully, those two changes will make for a better and more informative read. Without further ado, Here are my three key takeaways from the first quarter of 2017 followed by a some thoughts on what we may expect over the next few months.
1. Scarcity was the biggest driver of the Maui Real Estate market for the first three months of 2017. This was particularly true in the home market under $1,000,000. The lack of inventory in this price range has resulted in a lot of bidding wars and upward pressure on pricing. It also meant a decrease in sales volume as there just aren’t as many homes to sell. Buyers are out looking, but they are having a tough time getting into places. This is reflected in the stats with median prices up 15% compared to the first three months of 2016 and sales volume down 5%. The March median home price of $769,000 was the highest that we have since 2006. Again, this really hammers home the scarcity of listings at lower price points.
Scarcity is not a Maui specific phenomenon. It is happening throughout the United States. I was listening to Jill Schlesinger of CBS on Here and Now. She talked about the factors constraining the housing stock nationally. She cited a Baby Boomer generation that has not been quick to sell their homes at retirement. There are quite a few members of that generation who are choosing to modify their homes so they can age in place. Schlesinger also said that a lot of homes were acquired by private equity companies during the last downturn. They have kept those properties as rentals rather than putting them back on the market. I am not sure that the same factors are in play on Maui. For one, private equity firms were not buying property in big numbers on island. I think the biggest constraint we are seeing on Maui is a lack of new construction. New construction is not even coming close to keeping pace with population growth. It takes a longer period of time for new developments to get off the ground on Maui and many times they will fizzle out in between market cycles. We are also seeing a lot of new development occurring at higher price points in the market and less development occurring at the entry points of the market where demand is highest.
2. Luxury Real Estate Sales Trend up and Shift South. Luxury home sales were up in the first quarter of the year. There were 16 sales over the first 3 months of 2017 compared to 11 over the first 3 months of 2016.
Over the last couple of years, luxury home sales have been stronger in West Maui compared to South Maui. Launiupoko has led the charge with Kapalua and Kaanapali following close behind. There were eight sales in West Maui over $2,000,000 during the first 3 months of 2016. There was a a solitary sale in South Maui during that period. This year, there were four sales in West Maui over $2,000,000, and there were eight sales in South Maui over $2,000,000. Makena market activity was particularly notable with four sales over $9,000,000. It is hard to account for the shift in sales volumes between the different part of the island. Sometimes it just depends on the comparative quality of the inventory. Makena may also be seeing a bump due to the development of the Makena Golf and Beach Club. While none of the four sales in Makena were part of this development, this ultra high end development from Discovery Land Company may be drawing some affluent buyers to explore more immediate options for purchase outside of the new development.
There was also an uptick in luxury home sales outside the resort areas. There was a single sale in each of the communities of Hana, Haiku, Kula and Paia.. That compares to a single sale outside the resorts during the first three months of 2016.
The luxury condo market saw some similar trends. Sales were up overall. There were twenty-three sales over $1,500,000 during the first few months of this year compared to seventeen during the first three months of 2016. Twenty of the sales were in South Maui during 2017 compared to nine last year. Conversely, West Maui has seen a dip in activity with three closes compared to eight in 2016. Some of that can be attributed to a decrease in inventory in Honua Kai. All of the developer units have sold there which means we are now depending exclusively on resales.
3. Overall, the condo market had strong start during the first quarter of 2017. Condo sales do not seem quite as constrained by inventory when you look at the sales volume. Sales volume is up 17% compared to last year***. Almost all of that growth in activity can be traced back to the vacation rental condo market.
The vacation rental market had been in the doldrums for the previous couple of years. Much of that can be attributed to a decrease in demand from our neighbors North of the border. The Canadian Dollar has slumped after a number of years of parity. As a result, we saw relatively limited activity and a glut of inventory in some of the more popular vacation rental condos in the Kihei area. That appears to have shifted during this buyer’s season. Overall, sales of vacation rental condos were up 48% county wide. In Kihei, sales of vacation rental friendly condos were up 73%.
It is hard to attribute an exact reason for the sudden boom in the Kihei condo vacation rental condo market. While we may be seeing a few more Canadian buyers, the Canadian dollar remains far below the peak that prompted the last wave of Canadians. I surmise that there may be a number of factors at play. The concept of vacation rental ownership is being more ingrained into people’s psyche as companies like Airbnb become more prominent. A number of our domestic feeder markets are feeling their own real estate booms. West coast markets like Seattle, Portland and much of California continue to see strong activity. We also have seen a sustained bull run in the stock market that may provide people with the discretionary capital to make a second home purchase.
As with the luxury condo market, West Maui hasn’t seen quite the same level of activity for the general vacation rental condos. Numbers are down slightly in West Maui for condo sales. Again, Honua Kai plays a part in the lack of activity. This condo complex has been the driving force in West Maui condo sales in all price ranges since 2010. With the remaining inventory higher priced resale units, sales have slowed substantially at Honua Kai.
What can we expect over the next few months?
There is no immediate relief coming with the housing supply issues on Maui. On the demand side, island rents remain high and interest rates are still comparatively low. Barring a cataclysmic shift in the economy or a major upheaval in global politics, market conditions should remain similar to what we saw in the first quarter of the year. That means that competitive bidding will likely remain the norm for well priced homes in the $1,000,000 and under price range. You may even see a few bidding wars at well priced homes over $1,000,000. This can be a frustrating time for buyers as strong offers can still be trumped by irrational exuberance. That said, buyers should remain patient, make sure they have their ducks in a row when it comes to financing, be realistic about their financial picture and act decisively when properties that meet their needs come to market. While this is a seller’s market, there is some variability in demand by town and even neighborhoods on the island. Not everywhere is booming so sellers should consult closely with their Realtor and study recent sales to develop a realistic market price. Contact the Maui Real Estate Team if you are considering buying or selling property on Maui. We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you face to face or to talk on the phone to discuss your real estate needs.
***Note the numbers reported for vacation rental condo sales are not 100% accurate. It is not a mandatory field in the Maui Multiple Listing Service to report whether or not a condo may be vacation rented. As a result, vacation rental condo sales can be under reported.