The median price of single-family homes in Maui County dropped last month to its lowest level in at least five years, according to the latest data from the Realtors Association of Maui that goes back to 2007.
Coupled with record-low interest rates, real estate professionals say the Maui home market is at one of its most affordable levels in nearly a decade.
"It sounds cliche, but Maui's on sale right now," said Bob Lightbourn, president of the Realtors Association of Maui. "There are a lot of affordable homes on the market."
Maui County saw median prices for single-family homes drop 18.5 percent to $382,250 in May, compared to April, according to data from the Realtors Association of Maui. Over the last five years, median prices for single-family homes previously hit a low of $394,500 in July 2011.
Maui's May numbers are the reverse of what the Honolulu market experienced last month. Oahu's median price for single-family homes soared to a five-year high of $664,000 in May, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
Those in the industry say because Maui has a much smaller inventory of properties than Oahu, a handful of low-priced homes can skew Maui's averages downward and vice versa.
SINGLE-FAMILY HOME SALES IN MAY
Source: Realtors Association of Maui
"The drop in median prices is indicative, I think, of the fact that there are some properties that are really cheap on the market right now, especially bank-owned properties," said Lightbourn, broker in charge of Coldwell Banker's Paia office. "We're talking about some pretty unusual lows in the $200,000s for single-family homes."
A recent online search turned up a three-bedroom Makawao home on the market for $198,000, and a four-bedroom Wailuku home going for $200,000. Both homes are listed as bank-owned properties.
Maui's median prices for condominiums fell nearly 16 percent to $336,000 in May, compared to the previous month. Condo median prices hit a five-year low of $265,000 last November.
Marina Batham, broker in charge for the Kahului office of Century 21 All Islands, said year-over-year data is a better gauge of the market versus any month to month changes, which she called "blips in the radar."
Year-to-date averages for 2012 are fairly stable when compared to the same time frame last year.
Between January and May of this year, the median price for single-family homes works out to $435,000, which is down 3 percent from the median price of $450,000 during those same five months in 2011.
A total of 353 single-family homes have been sold year to date, compared to 362 sold during the same time frame last year.
The number of condominiums sold year to date is unchanged from the same time period in 2011: 544 units between January and May. The median price year to date is up 6 percent to $347,333.
Terry Tolman, chief staff executive for the Realtors Association of Maui, said inventories have declined 13 to 20 percent over the past 12 months across both residential and condo classes.
Batham attributes that to Hawaii's mortgage foreclosure law that went into effect in 2011.
The foreclosure law, Act 48, is intended to protect owner-occupants by requiring lenders to meet face-to-face with homeowners before foreclosing on a property. It also placed a temporary ban on new nonjudicial foreclosure actions, forcing any new foreclosures to go through the court system. That ban will be lifted July 1.
"Act 48 has impacted the market as we're seeing a decided drop in the number of listings," Batham said. "Inventory is low at the moment."
Lightbourn said that there are 53 bank-owned properties on the market now, compared with more than 100 this time last year.
"Partially it's the foreclosure law, where we're not seeing huge backlogs of foreclosures in the pipeline, according to banks," he said. "Here, there's been an increase in the willingness of banks to work with short sales, which used to be a very trying process."
Batham said her agents are seeing the same thing.
"I'm seeing a lot of short sale deals going through," she said. "Most (bank-owned) properties are getting multiple offers on them. Banks are much more likely to, one, do them quicker, and two, be reasonable about the prices they're accepting."
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.