Hawai‘i Residential Real Estate: Challenges and Opportunities

Apr 27, 2018

Construction in Kakaʻako
Credit Daniel Ramirez / Flickr

The last few years have been dramatic ones in the local real estate market. And in some ways, it’s a great time to be in residential real estate when nearly every sale is big sale. But still challenges remain. PBN editor-in-chief A. Kam Napier has more.


Pacific Business News recently sat down with industry leaders from the top five residential real estate firms in Hawaiʻi. Combined, they sold $6.29 billion worth of property in in 2016, the most recent year available, in nearly 9,000 transactions.

The single most expensive home sold so far in 2018? A five-bedroom home in Kukio Golf and Beach Club, on the Big Island, which went for $27.5 million.

If you’re working on commission, numbers like those can be great news. But one of the biggest problems for realtors, as for home buyers, is the lack of inventory. In March, inventory on Oʻahu dropped from 2.7 months to 2.1 months, meaning that if no new listings came on the market, all the homes currently listed would sell out in just eight weeks.

Credit Catherine Cruz

With little to sell, the firms have become competitive and creative to attract both clients and talent. Each has turned its attention to developing unique company cultures that would set them apart, in hopes of attracting and retaining realtors. And growing their firms has become a challenge, too.

One way to achieve that, when inventory is low and static, is to buy up competitors, the route taken by Hawaiʻi Life. That firm’s business is up 300 percent on Oahu, year over year, and 200 percent statewide, much of this through its acquisition of the Honolulu luxury realty Choi International.