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Lava overshadowing Big Island real estate market

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Hawaii island’s housing prices soared in May, but the real estate market has taken a back seat to the daily drama affecting the livelihood of its residents.

“The impact to our real estate market is not our priority,” Hawaii Island Realtors Executive Officer Kehaulani Costa said Tuesday after numbers came out showing that the median price for single-family homes and condominiums jumped 26.3 percent and 45.5 percent, respectively, last month.

“That’s not top of mind for a lot of our Realtors,” she said. “What is top of mind is to provide for the families and individuals who have lost their homes. Realtors are not just looking at their commissions and their sales. Many of our Realtors have had to evacuate or lost their homes. The picture now is not on the real estate industry, but finding housing for people who have been displaced. That’s more important because we’re lacking rental units and we’re lacking housing in Hilo and areas where people need to move to. That’s really the story: the community coming together to house our displaced community.”

The median price for single-family homes on Hawaii island rose to $404,000 in May from $320,000 in the year-earlier period, while condo prices spiked to $400,000 from $275,000, according to data released by Hawaii Information Service. But those prices don’t reflect the impact of the lava eruptions that began May 3 on the eastern side of the island, because most, if not all, of those sales occurred in April or earlier. It typically takes four to six weeks to close escrow.

While the prices were up, single-family home sales fell 17.2 percent to 198 from 239, and condo sales declined 19 percent to 77 from 95.

In Puna, where most of the volcanic activity is taking place, the median price for single-family homes rose 9.9 percent to $340,625 from $310,000 in the year-earlier period while sales fell 15.2 percent to 28 from 33. There were no condo sales during the month.

”Puna is a big district, and there are many subdivisions and areas in Puna that are unaffected,” Costa said. “But for the areas that are currently in the evacuation zone, it’s been a moving picture.”

On Kauai, single-family home prices held steady at $750,000 to match the year-earlier level, while condo prices plunged 39.1 percent to $284,500 from $467,500, according to Hawaii Information Service. Single-family home sales fell 11.3 percent to 47 from 53, while condo sales increased 9.5 percent to 46 from 42.

The median price is a point at which half the sales were at a higher price and half at a lower price. This measure can be swayed by the size, quality, age and location of homes sold, especially with relatively few sales. Furthermore, the data include sales of new homes, unlike Oahu, where only resales are counted.

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