Oahu Market Update: July 2013

Wow!  What a market we are building here on Oahu.  All housing metrics are improving, improving, improving . . . to the point that our real estate market is almost running at optimal pace!  Take a look at the latest report from our MLS, comparing July 2013 with last July:

July 2013 Oahu Housing StatsGains in closed sales and price increases have been solid over the past year. And an 8.2% rise in average prices for both condos and single family homes is great news! Let’s look at these numbers in a little more detail.

July 2013 Oahu Housing Report Details

 Once again, the stats reveal across the board improvement.  I want to pull out four of these key metrics to illustrate graphically.  I believe these will demonstrate the strength of the current market and a basis for continued optimism.  Note that in these graphs, Single Family Homes are indicated by the Blue line, Condos, by the Red.  First, numbers of closed sales:

July 2013 Oahu Closed Sales Graph

Solid improvement:  especially when you consider that back in Feb of 2012 we closed just 227 Condos and, a month earlier, just 175 Single Family Homes!  Equally impressive is the graph showing increases in Sales Price as a % of List Price.  Basically, this indicates how far down from List Price sellers had to come to make a sale:

July 2013 Oahu Price Gains Graph

 Since October we have had a steady increase in this metric, gaining about 4% in what sellers received in offers.  Why, last month, all of our closed condo listings were for full list price!  As everything has picked up, the average days on market for a listing has fallen:

July 2013 Oahu Median Days On Market Real Estate

 Last month it took just 17 days to sell a home, 20 to sell a condo.  Finally, let’s take a look at months of inventory currently for sale in the MLS:

July 2013 Oahu months of real estate inventory graph

 This number is derived by dividing the number of active listings in MLS by the current rate of sale.  What it’s telling us is, at the current rate of sales, we have enough Single Family Homes on the market to last 2.8 months.  Two years ago, the number was hovering at about 6 months.  That’s a tremendous improvement!

Interest rates have stabilized at about 4.3% – up from a low in May of about 3.4%.  As I said, they’ve ‘stabilized’ there, but we do expect them to continue a slow rise through next year, probably settling in in the 6% range.  Translation:  If you’re thinking about buying, this is not the time to hesitate!  Give us a call today and let’s get started!


The Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties Mission

We are pretty passionate about what we do at Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties.  Helping people realize their real estate goals while saving thousands of dollars . . . well, it’s more than a job;  it’s a mission.

We see ourselves as anything but ordinary.  We have a better idea, one that works better and costs less, and we are very proud of that fact.  We’re not just selling real estate, we’re changing the way real estate is sold.  This sense of participating in something bigger than the job is a driving force for everyone in this real estate company.

When you talk to any of us at Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, it doesn’t take long before the passion oozes out.  You see the fire in the eyes and notice the quickening of speech.  It’s the kind of thing that’s almost impossible to keep tucked in — as if you’d ever want to.  I think this passion for the mission is one of the reasons our crew is so successful when they get face-to-face with a potential client.  The client sees the excitement, feels the passion and it’s hard to resist.  The fact that our people believe so strongly in what they are doing is one of our greatest strengths.

Here’s the important thing about this:  you can’t manufacture it.  You could go to sales seminars for a month and still not be able to muster this kind of excitement about what you’re doing if what you’re doing is . . . no big deal.  Believable passion for the work comes from knowing that you have something really special to offer, believing you bring something of great value to your customers and seeing your biggest challenge as simply spreading the word about what you do.

Every time I walk into my office, I swell with pride for my people and the great job they do.  They are a very special bunch!  So, whether you live in Kailua or Mililani, Hawaii Kai or Pearl City, when it comes time to buy or sell real estate, do yourself a favor:  make a call to this extraordinary team!


Why Everyone Doesn’t Do It The Help-U-Sell Way

As a Help-U-Sell Broker I have the pleasure of delighting sellers when they learn about us. So often, when I lay our program out before them, they get almost as excited as I am. Often, they say:

‘Wow! This is amazing! Why doesn’t everyone do it this way?’

The answer is too complex to share with a seller on the verge of signing a listing agreement, so I usually take the question to be rhetorical, and reply, ‘I don’t know . . .’ or ‘Beats me!’

But there is a reason. It’s a stupid reason, but it is the reason:

Our industry is organized around the notion that the average agent should make a decent living.

Thirty years ago or so, Brokers (not Agents, Brokers) made a shift in their business models. They put the accent NOT on serving buyers and sellers but on recruiting, retaining and serving agents. In a sense, the Agent became the Broker’s client.

Today, Brokers go to school not to learn how to better serve buyers and sellers, but to learn how to recruit. Keller-Williams, Exit and a host of other companies have invented new wrinkles in their operating systems to reward agents who bring other agents into the company. Basically, they’ve found a way to get their agents to do the recruiting for them.

In ordinary residential real estate today, it’s all about the agent: how to find more, get more, keep more agents. The Broker believes his income stream is dependent on agents, not on buyers and sellers, and that belief colors the entire operation.

So who are these average agents (the ones everyone is working so hard to recruit)? Nationally they do seven or fewer deals a year. Really. Think about that. What kind of service do you think an agent doing only seven deals a year brings to the table for a buyer or seller? Compared, say, to one doing 25 deals? Who’s going to be sharper, more up-to-date, better able to negotiate and solve problems as they arrise?

But, because the ordinary Broker’s business is dependent on his getting and keeping as many seven-deal-a-year agents as possible, he has to find a way to make doing seven deals a year appealing. He has to find a way for the average agent to make a reasonable living.

There’s a two-step formula for this.

First, charge outrageous sums of money for your services and do it with a percentage based commission so that your fee is tied to the sale price of the house. That way, when your agents sell more expensive property, they bring in more cash. Never mind that in most cases, it takes no more time, effort or money to sell a more expensive house. Just be glad you get paid more when you do.

Second, give the lion’s share of that bloated commission to the agent. You’re going to have to pay them really well so that they can appear successful even though they’re only doing seven deals a year. If they appear successful, you’ll be better able to attract more seven-deal-a-year agents who also want to appear successful.

Ok. I’m overstating the case. But I think you see the lunacy in this system. And it is lunacy, madness. The ordinary real estate business is so off track, it may never be able to right itself. It is so lost that the moment Google or Microsoft decides to jump into the business with both feet, automate it like Schwab did the brokerage business 25 years ago . . . well, your friendly local real estate agent could become extinct. . . like the dinosaur.

Thankfully, there is an alternative.

  • It is a system where the Broker is IN the real estate business, where his or her client IS the buyer or seller, where the agent is part of the Broker’s operational system to provide excellent service to clients.
  • It is a system where the Broker’s income stream is dependent on how many buyers and sellers he or she serves, where growth is driven by careful marketing, not by recruiting.
  • It is a system orchestrated by the Broker to drive ever increasing numbers of leads into the office, leads that are handed to the agents who are charged with the important task of turning them into happy clients.
  • It is a system that nurtures truly successful agents, who outperform their ordinary competitors in spades.
  • It is a system that charges a reasonable Set Fee for the service it provides, a fee that is much lower than the percentage based commission charged by ordinary brokers
  • It is a system that offers sellers a menu approach to services and pricing, where one size does not fit all, and where the fee paid has a direct relation to the tools it took to affect the sale.
  • It is a system that delights customers because: it works, and they save money.

It is Help-U-Sell.

*By the way, in case you missed it, in 2012, the median gross income for an agent was $34,900, according to NAR. That’s gross, before expenses.

2013 Oahu Price Gains

We’ve been watching prices for single family homes and condos climb in Hawaii and on Oahu in particular this year. Now, with half a year behind us, the numbers are impressive. Specifically, here are the gains in year-to-date median prices for single family homes (January-June), 2013 vs 2012:


With the exception of a couple of anomalies, we have nice gains in most of the Island.  Here is a detailed breakdown of the same information:


The picture is also good for condominium owners who have seen similar increases:



Again, the details for condominiums:


A one percent increase in interest rates over the last month has had a slight impact on local market activity, slowing things just a bit, but in the last week rates have begun to ease back a bit and I don’t anticipate any major pull-back in the market.  It remains an excellent time to sell and to buy.


What Change In The Stock Brokerage, Music And Travel Industries Mean For Real Estate

We often look at the history of the securities business in the last 15 years and draw parallels to real estate.  Remember?  We used to have to contact a broker to trade a stock and we paid a percentage based commission for the privilege.  Stock trading was mysterious, complicated, beyond the grasp of most people and the commissions were, well, just the cost of entry.

Then along came Charles Schwab with $15 flat fee trades.  Consumers loved it and the industry took note.  The forward thinkers not only shifted to the new model, they enhanced it by putting powerful analytic information into consumers’ hands on the Internet.

Sound like the real estate business?  You bet.

The same kind of change happened in the Music business.  Remember when we used to go to the music store to buy vinyl LP records, and then CDs?  That’s how music was distributed.  The whole industry was built around the idea of making and marketing these plastic objects called ‘records.’

But then, technology made it possible for people to take the records, digitize them and then share them (often illegally) over the Internet.  The industry reacted not by looking forward at how they might capitalize on this,  but by looking to the courts, suing the most prolific pirates.  Meanwhile, Steve Jobs – a music industry outsider – quietly invented the Ipod – nothing more than a solid state drive with a simple user interface – and the ITunes store for making digital music accessible to consumers.  For 99 cents you could buy a song . . . and, today, that’s what we do.

Just as in real estate, we had a music industry fighting to preserve the status quo . . . and losing; because you can never preserve the status quo.  It is impossible. In both cases we have industries struggling to keep information out of the consumer’s hands . . . and losing, because you can’t stop the consumer.

Want another example?  How about the Travel industry.  Not too many years  ago we used to call a travel agent to book a plane trip or a vacation.  They had all the information:  schedules and fares and so on; and they earned a nice commission for helping us navigate this mysterious process.

How many travel agents do you know today?  Really:  they have become largely extinct!  And how do we book travel today?  We go to the Internet where all the information is housed and make our decisions for ourselves.  Unfortunately, the pricing model for travel has not changed significantly . . . which makes me wonder:  who is getting that commission today?

And here we have real estate:  an industry that justified its percentage based commissions for decades largely by hoarding information.  Then along came the founder of Help-U-Sell, Don Taylor (and by the way, he came along a good ten years before Charles Schwab had his epiphany).  He saw a way to do the real estate business not for a nonsensical percentage based commission, but for a Low Set Fee.  He saw all of this hoarding going on and decided that Information Without Obligation would be one of his new company’s core values.  The maturation of the Internet twenty years later put that value on steroids . . .

And how did the Industry react?  It ran in terror for the hills, dug foxholes, locked up the valuables (the information), put its fingers in its ears and refused to hear what consumers were saying.

Even today, with a real estate market undergoing upheaval, with change swooping down around us like a Tsunami, how many of the big national brands are talking about their pricing model?  Um . . . none.

Even today, when consumers can (with the click of a mouse) get all the information REALTORS used to hoard, how many are talking about how we can use that fact to streamline the process and make the experience better for the home buyers and sellers?  Um . . . none.

At Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, we embrace the new way to buy and sell real estate.  We want our buyers and sellers to be as involved in the process as they want to be and give them all the tools and information they could possibly need to have a stellar experience.  Our approach to the business is not mysterious and it makes sense . . . just as our Set Fee does.  Think of us as the Charles Schwab/ITunes/Orbitz of real estate, and then call us when it’s time to buy or sell.


Buying After A Short Sale? Why Wait!

Hawaii homeowners are breathing a little easier today. Point your ear out your front door and listen: you may hear a sigh of relief! Prices are rising – like crazy in some areas- and fewer homeowners are upside down on their mortgages. The median sale price on Oahu has risen $88,500 since January!  So, today’s local real estate market is no longer about ‘how much am I losing?’ but rather about ‘how much equity am I building?‘ Almost anyone who bought a home in the past year is probably grinning from ear to ear!

But what about those who didn’t make it through the downturn? What about those who lost their equity, found themselves upside down and, suddenly, needing to sell? They pretty much had four options:

  • Move and let the home go to Foreclosure
  • Negotiate a Short Sale with the lender
  • Forget about selling and rent the house
  • Sell and write a check at closing to the lender for the shortfall

Thankfully, not too many people opted for that last option – though it did happen in situations where the shortfall was small and the need to sell great. And those who successfully rented their property are probably enjoying a nice increase in value now. People who chose Short Sale or went to Foreclosure, however, have the same question: how long before I can buy again?

First, understand that the answer is a moving target: it has shifted over time and probably will continue to shift. There are also no hard and fast answers as different lenders have different policies and some lenders will bend a bit if interest rates and discount points are high enough. However, today, the following is typical:

To get a Conventional Loan after a Short Sale:

  • Two-year wait with a 20 percent down payment
  • Four-year wait with a 10 percent down payment
  • Seven-year wait with less than 10 percent down payment
  • Conventional lenders usually look for a FICO score in the 680 range after a Short Sale

To get an FHA Loan after a Short Sale:

  • Three-year waiting period from the Short Sale closing date
  • Home buyers can get a mortgage with as little as 3.5 percent down

Eligible Veterans can get a VA Loan after a Short Sale:

  • Two -year wait from the Short Sale closing date
  • Can still get in with no money down

There is one snafu that seems to be occurring regularly as former Short Sale-rs apply for new mortgages. Sometimes the Short Sale lender reports the sale incorrectly to the credit bureaus as a Foreclosure. This can be a big problem as most borrowers with a Foreclosure on their credit reports must wait seven years before becoming eligible for Conventional Mortgages.

If your last sale was a Short Sale, it is important to keep all of your paperwork from that transaction handy in case you have to prove that it wasn’t a Foreclosure. It’s also not a bad idea to access your credit report before you begin the buying process to see how the Short Sale was reported.

At Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, we are expert at helping buyers with battle-scars get into housing. And this is not the time to hesitate! Waiting now may leave you priced out of the market. Even if you don’t fit the profiles presented above, contact us to learn what it will take to get you back into a house today.

Oahu Real Estate Market Update: June 2013

2013 continues to be an improving year for Hawaii real estate, with numbers of sales and prices on the rise.  This is good news for Oahu homeowners who suffered through the doldrums of the last several years.

Hawaii closed residential home sales through June 2013


After a dip in February to 207 closed sales, we have rebounded to our June high of 307.  Houses are selling!


Hawaii Median Sale Price for homes through June 2013


Probably of more interest to Hawaii homeowners is the rise in prices over the first six months of the year.  Since January, the median price of sold listings has risen $88,500 to the June high of $678,500!

Hawaii homes for sale inventory through June 2013


At the same time, the number of available homes for sale has risen steadily.  It appears that homeowners, after years of waiting in the wings, have decided that this is a good year to sell.  In June there were more than 300 homes on the market than there were in January.

Hawaii, average days on market for homes through June 2013


The only area of concern right now is a sudden rise in Days-on-Market – the number of days it takes to sell a home on Oahu.  We’ve bumped along all year between 50 and 60 days, but in June the number rose to 81.  This may be an anomaly – something that will correct itself in the months to come – or it may be an indication that inventories have finally reached a point where buyers have a large enough selection from which to choose to allow them to take their time.

While not quite as dramatic, the news for the Hawaii Condominium market is also good.

Hawaii Condo Sales through June 3013


After a spike in March, the number of closed condo sales has fallen back but continues to improve compared to the first of they year.  Last month about 100 more condos were sold than in January.

Hawaii Condo Median Price through June 2013


After a dip in the first quarter, the median price for condos has risen dramatically and now stands at  $355,000, about $6,000 higher than in January.

Hawaii Condo Inventory through June 2013


And, as with single family homes, condo inventories have continued to increase.  There is a good selection of condos on the market now and with an uptick in construction, more are on the horizon.

For home seller:  this is a good time to be on the market.  Prices are rising and houses are selling.  For buyers:  this is not a time to hesitate.  Not only are prices rising, interest rates are also on the way up.  Every month that passes means less house that you can afford.  Start that dream-home hunting project today by calling Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties at (808) 377-1200.

Who We Are

We are Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, and we serve all of Oahu, including Hawaii Kai, Kailua, Kane’ohe, Ka’a’awa, Mililani, and the North Shore.  We are the alternative to the 6% (or 5%, or even 4%) real estate sales commission.  When you sell through us, you’ll be charged a logical low set fee that will save you thousands over what you’d pay an ordinary real estate broker.

The Help-U-Sell® Brand stands for something.  It represents the ability of the average consumer to receive expert assistance in a real estate transaction while saving significantly over what they’d spend with an ordinary REALTOR®.  It proudly represents a new approach to the real estate business, a better model, a new deal.  This reputation for exceptional customer service, coupled with savings has enabled us to build Brand awareness not just in the Conejo Valley, but nationwide.

The Help-U-Sell Vision Statement expresses how we see ourselves in the competitive environment in which we operate:

We are the premier provider of professional licensed real estate services, empowering consumers with access to information and choice, while offering a set-fee for service.

Great care was taken in crafting the Vision Statement to truly express who we are.  The language is very precise:

Premier Provider – We are an elite corps, the cream of the crop. We are neither discounters nor a limited service option.

Professional, Licensed Real Estate Services – We are fully licensed in Hawaii, are members of the local, State and National Associaions of REALTORS, and aspire to the highest levels of professionalism in the industry.

Empowering Consumers – We give our Buyers and Sellers the information and tools they need to effectively navigate the complex world of real estate sales.

Access to Information – We don’t ‘hoard’ information or hold it hostage.  We freely give our buyers and sellers as much information as they need to make an informed decision.

Choice – We present our clients options, help them evaluate them and then tailor a solution to fit their particular needs.  We do not embrace one-size-fits- all solutions.

Set Fee for Service – We price our services logically and fairly.  Our pricing makes sense to the consumer and we tailor our pricing to fit the services they use.

The five Help-U-Sell® Core Beliefs are the backbone of our identity.  They guide the way we relate to our customers and clients, our fellow brokers and each other.

We Believe In

  • Integrity:  We conduct our business with honesty and transparency, and share information without condition. 
  • Consumer Choices and Empowerment:  We present options and help our clients evaluate them, enabling them to make informed decisions.
  • Consumer Savings:  We strive to ensure that every consumer choice results in savings.
  • Broker Control and Profit: In our office, the broker is the business. The broker generates the leads, develops client relationships, and ensures successful transactions.
  • Systems Orientation: We create and implement systems for accomplishing recurring tasks.

We are different.  We bold.  And we are ready, willing and able to save you serious money on your real estate transaction!