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Real Estate Roulette

March 18, 2010

Filed under: Hawaii,observations — admin @ 1:17 pm

A huge percentage of Hawaii real estate owners were investors just flipping property. Like other vacation destinations such as Florida, Arizona or Las Vegas, Hawaii property values got clobbered over the last three years.

What sold for well over $1million in 2007 is now priced at $600,000 thanks to the large number of foreclosures and short sales. According to my friend in the business, the problem is that current buyers – and there are many people on the Big Island shopping for property – are trying to time the market.

Countless books on economic psychology explain why everyone hates to pay too much, but it’s starting to get a bit irrational. According to one agent people are coming with their minds made up. ‘They think that if they wait longer they can get a better deal, or that they can purchase via a short sale and really make a killing, but they don’t realize what it’s going to cost them.

As federal reserve programs holding down interest rates expire in a few months the cost of borrowing will increase, she pointed out. Plus a short sale often takes 9 months to complete and right up until the end the bank can change its mind. It may cost more to buy from an owner but loans are available and you’re getting a normal closing for a property at half price.

There is still a large number of foreclosed units, especially in the condo market she says, but the pressure to sell isn’t the same as a single family home, so many of the banks just hold on to the property and will wait for prices to increase.

Plus the homeowner trying to arrange a short sale does not have an easy time proving to the bank that the sale should be allowed and often the difference has to be made up by the seller. That doesn’t even include the tax folks who tend to count your ‘loss’ as a tax gain – especially since most of the properties are vacation homes, not primary residences.

So the good news is that there seems to be lots of potential buyers, the bad news is that they may be waiting for conditions that will never come. If I had any money, I’d invest and plan to sell in about three years when the bust cycle returns to boom.

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