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Buyer Alert: Time Is Right For The North Shore

By Lisa Scontras

The search for the quintessential beach house, a surfer’s crash pad or a peaceful retirement home has homebuyers gravitating toward the fabled North Shore of Oahu.

According to Orion Barels, North Shore resident expert and Realtor Associate at Prudential Locations, the typical demographic of homebuyers in this community known for its legendary beaches fall into two distinct categories.

“There’s the very affluent homeowner, who could buy anywhere in the world and chooses the North Shore because of the intrinsic qualities and opportunities the area offers; and the hardworking middleto upper middle-class owner, who would rather live in a 1960s shack and be able to ride their bike down the street to their favorite surf spot as opposed to living in a larger and newer home in say, Ewa Beach,” Barels says.

For avid surfers and second-homebuyers alike, the draw has to do with proximity to their favorite beach.

“Sunset Beach is still the most desirable location for this contingent,” says B a r e l s . “However, I’ve noticed that Waialua has experienced a surge of interest over the past few years from North Shore buyers who have fulltime jobs or who find themselves driving in the Honolulu direction frequently. This is also true of the buyers who are active military or work up at Schofield Army base Waialua is a short commute for them, while Sunset Beach isn’t.”

In fact, the commute into Honolulu, which takes Barels just 37 minutes, is what surprised him the most about living on the North Shore. But the travel time into town isn’t the only fallacy people have about residing here.

“The biggest misconception here is that everybody surfs. They don’t. My wife doesn’t really surf but loves the North Shore,” he says. “Many people are drawn to the area because of its diving, equestrian, kite boarding, hiking, golf, mountain biking and healing arts activities such as yoga. It’s a culture of low stress, being healthy and active and eating well.”

Sales and prices on the North Shore have been trending down since peaking in 2005 and 2006, but now seem to be approaching the bottom. Inventory levels remain high in certain price points, with more than 16 months of inventory currently remaining, indicating that it is a buyer’s market.

“This is true of the higher end, but Waialua for instance, is performing very well and is more of a balanced market,” says Barels. “Prices in Waialua haven’t fallen much from their peak levels in 2005, 2006.”

The days on market, or the time it takes from list date to contract date, has been dropping since it peaked at more than 100 days in 2009.

“So far in 2011, the days on market has dropped to a level not seen since 2006,” he says. “I attribute this to sellers finally facing the reality that prices have dropped from a median price peak of more than $900,000 in 2006 to

below $600,000 so far this year, and pricing their properties based on recent sales as opposed to what homes on their street might have sold for in 2005.

“Well-priced homes sell relatively quickly, and there are plenty of buyers looking for great deals,” Barels says.

Homes on the North Shore are appealing to those looking for tropical Hawaiian design elements, such as natural ohia posts, hardwood floors, seamless indoor/ outdoor Balinese-style living areas, and an understated beach functionality.

Additionally, homebuyers appreciate having an extra rental unit with its own entrance to help defray the cost of ownership. For example, a single-family home in Sunset Beach, currently listed for $659,500, has a separate unit downstairs with a full bath and kitchenette to accommodate a renter or house guests.

“Rentals are still in high demand on the North Shore,” says Barels. “And during the summer, kamaaina can play nine holes of golf on the Fazio course at Turtle Bay for $15 starting at 3 p.m.”

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