Home sales on Oahu slowed in February

February lived up to its tradition as a slow month for home sales on Oahu, producing a slight decrease in single-family home transactions, but other parts of Hawaii’s largest housing market achieved modest gains.

The dip was just 1.8%, representing 217 sales last month compared with 221 in the same month last year, according to Honolulu Board of Realtors data released Tuesday.

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Oahu’s housing market has had overall higher annual sale volume in each of the last three years that included one, two or a few months with fewer sales more than offset by months with more sales.

February is often the month with the fewest sales of the year.

Sales of condominiums in February rose 6.4% to 385 from 362 a year earlier.

The sales represent transactions of previously owned residences completed in February that stem from purchase contracts typically signed one to three months earlier, which includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The median price is a point at which half the sales were at a higher price and half at a lower price.

Median prices have risen modestly for each of the last six years, and that was reflected in February with a 2.3% bump for single-family homes to $772,500 last month from $755,000 a year earlier, and a 6.2% gain for condos to $409,000 from $385,000.

Scott Higashi, president and CEO of local real estate brokerage firm Locations, described February as "another solid month" in a report last week and noted that anticipated increases in mortgage rates could affect the market.

So far this year, Higashi said, climbing interest rates don’t appear to have reduced demand, and instead may have prompted some prospective homebuyers to act.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has risen from 3.95% in the first week of January to 4.43% in the first week of March, according to Freddie Mac. Last year, rates were largely around 4% and were closer to 3.5 percent in 2016.

"Rising mortgage rates have not yet reached the point of impacting affordability," Higashi said. "However, we do expect rates to move up this year."

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization projects that Oahu’s median single-family home price will rise 4% this year to about $784,000 while the condo median price rises 6% to about $430,000.

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