Who buys Oahu’s million-dollar-plus homes?
By Lisa Scontras
Based on Oahu’s median home prices — which consistently hover around the $800,000 mark — any piece of our island paradise is a high-end investment from a mainlander’s perspective. But what about that elite segment of the market? Exactly who buys those sprawling seaside estates, or the posh condo penthouses with their menu of first-class amenities?
The luxury home market makes up a large percentage of the available inventory on Oahu. In fact, of the 1,588 single-family homes listed for sale on Oahu in June, there were 601 — or 37.8 percent of the total listings — with an asking price of at least $1.1 million, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
It is noteworthy to mention that the highest recorded condo in June sold in one day for the full asking price of $7.5 million. This four-bedroom, five-bath, 3,122-square-foot unit with no parking at the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waikiki Beach beat out the highest single-family home sale on the beachfront directly fronting one of Hawaii’s classic surf spots — Chun’s Reef — which closed in June for $6.8 million.
An analysis of luxury homes on the market found that inventory is up from a year ago. Indeed, HBR data shows inventory is on the rise for the 12th consecutive month in the $1.1-million to $1.9-million price range, and for the 10th month running in the $1.9-million-and-above range.
So exactly who is buying these multi-million-dollar-plus homes?
Patti Nakagawa, Realtor and global luxury director for Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, estimates 73 percent of luxury home-buyers at $1-million-plus are from Hawaii.
“Fourteen percent are from the U.S. mainland, 10 percent are from Japan, and 1 percent from Korea,” she said.
“For $2-million-plus home sales, the mix changes: 61 percent Hawaii, 20 percent from the mainland, 15 percent from Japan and 1 percent from Korea,” stated Nakagawa. “As the price points increase, the percentage of Hawaii buyers decreases and the percentage from Japan jumps up. At $6 million and up, Hawaii buyers represent 49 percent, 20 percent are from the mainland, 20 percent from Japan, 2.6 percent from Singapore and 2 percent are from Thailand.”
Dolores Panlilio Bedi-ones, Realtor and partner with Locations, estimates 72 percent of luxury home-buyers up to $2.5 million are from Hawaii. “These local buyers are moving within their own neighborhoods, upgrading to larger homes, or moving closer to town,” Bediones said. “The remainder of this segment is composed of international and mainland buyers, with about 5 percent coming from Japan, 1 percent coming from China, and the rest from California and other U.S. states.
“Above $2.5 million, Hawaii buyers make up less than half of the luxury home purchases,” added Bedi-ones. “In this price range, there is a dramatic increase in the percentage of Asian buyers to about 30 percent. Mainland buyers comprise the remainder of buyers.”
With a healthy percentage of luxury homes being purchased with cash, both Nakagawa and Bediones agree this segment is somewhat more insulated from economic factors, including mortgage interest rates.
“The stock market, changes in tax laws, global economy, government regulations (related to China), and currency exchange may affect the luxury real estate market,” Nakagawa said.