Housing inventory is low; what do you do?

The inventory in Hawaii’s housing market is at an all-time low. Aside from the dogs and overpriced listings, many properties that are put up for sale are sold in no time, often after multiple offers.

So how are you supposed to buy, especially while interest rates are so good? Several realtors around Oahu have some tips.

Rick Nakama of East Oahu Realty starts with the basics: “Interview realtors and choose one that you want to help you with the buying process. Then check with those realtors and friends/family for lenders that they have had good experiences with and can recommend to help figure out your purchasing strength.”

“Don't try to work directly with the listing agent; it doesn't usually save the buyer money (or the seller),” explains Margaret Murchie of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, adding, “Realtors network with other agents and they can usually get you in the door with more of a chance for success in multiple bid situation.”

She also recommends you have your agent write a good cover letter describing your family to make you “human,” not just a number.

“Buyers should also make sure they are pre-approved by a lender so they’re absolutely ready to jump when the property of their dreams pops up,” adds Jeff Fox of Kahala Associates. “Otherwise they may lose out to someone who has done their homework and is ready to roll!” (I can vouch from personal experience that this is one of the best ways to get you to the front of the line in a hot market.)

“Work with your agent to be up to speed on the values in the areas in which you are looking. This way, when something comes on the market that you like, there is no hemming and hawing, no need for further research,” recommends Cliff Colvin of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties.

It’s also important to realize that no property will be 100 percent perfect (this is something to consider when shopping in a slow market, too, sometimes). If you’re nitpicky about little details that can be fixed, you may lose out on an otherwise good home.

And most of all, be sure to respond promptly when your realtor tells you of a potential property or new listing. “In this market, you can’t afford to not jump at every first opportunity—if a home is good, it won’t last until a second showing. Know what you want, and take the shopping seriously,” Nakama says.

“Go after the property with the strongest offer that makes sense. Try to minimize requests and costs for the seller. A clean, well put together offer from a buyer who saw the house immediately and wants it, will let the seller know that you are serious, know what you want, and will be straightforward and easy to work with,” says Colvin.

Now, just because it’s a seller’s market, doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want (or nothing at all). Nakama says sellers should prepare their homes with their agents’ input to get it sold quickly, like cleaning it and making necessary repairs. It should also be accessible to interested buyers. “Do a pre-listing home inspection, order a permit package and check to see if there are any permits that haven't been closed or don't match the home,” he says.

A final note to sellers from Fox: “Don’t be greedy!  We’re in a great market; however, even billionaires are value-conscious these days and our market continues to be very price sensitive.”