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  From The Garden Island, October 13, 2005

Buyers 'cuckoo' for Coco condos

Andy Gross - The Garden Island

Though it is still a gleam in its developer's eyes, the first phase of the pre-development sales of the 196 condos at the Coco Palms Resort are a hot commodity.

"We're off to a fast start," said Donna Apisa, president and principal broker of Oceanfront Realty International, the sales broker in charge of the project.

Fourteen of the initial 25 units not restricted for owner-occupants were reserved for possible purchase in less than 72 hours, or since legal notices appeared in local newspapers Friday, Oct. 7, according to Apisa.

The 25 units reserved for owner-occupants range in price from $616,000 to $2.5 million. Three units are reserved. Four of the units available are selling for more than $2 million.

Apisa said that, once the 30-day, state-law moratorium on these units expires, she expects the remaining condominiums will be spoken for quickly.

Condominium sales volume was up 46 percent for the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year, while actual sales were up 20 percent, according to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) statistics.

The median cost of a Kaua'i condominium unit in September was $405,000, while the average was $533,775.

Only three of the first 50 condos available at Coco Palms are under $1 million, according to the Coco Palms Web site.

The developers are representatives of Coco Palms Ventures, LLC, which is a joint venture between the principals of The Weiser Companies, Inc. and Petrie Ventures, or Richard Weiser and Walt Petrie, respectively.

Apisa acknowledged that an exclusive project such as Coco Palms, like other new projects in Princeville and other venues that are sold in-house, sometimes never reach the MLS before they are sold.

Real-estate professionals and industry professionals said the driving force behind Kaua'i's high-priced residential market is low supply and high demand.

If projects don't make the MLS, then what constitutes inventory?

According to Hawaii Information Service, the provider of MLS statistics, as of Tuesday there were 245 residential listings, 202 condominiums, and 219 vacant-land listings for sale on Kaua'i.

Of those 245 residential listings, 173 are $1 million or more, with the highest listing being $46 million, according to MLS information.

According to several local real-estate professionals, the amount of inventory is increasing, but what is ostensibly available are homes or condominiums that are being resold.

"A lot of inventory is sold before it ever hits the market," said Eileen Winters, owner and principal broker of Winters Realty. "They're sold before they are released for public knowledge, and we can't do anything about it," she said.

Peter Tegan, owner and principal broker of Prosser Realty, said projects withheld from MLS listings are more a fact of life than a major factor in terms of inventory.

"Inventory is just having something to sell. There's quality of inventory as well," Tegan said. "Many people have owned their homes a long time, and have realistic expectations. It's a hot market, with houses priced high, but not out of sight," he said.

Dixie Daniel, a broker for Century 21 All Islands, said, "we're feeling the frenzy of people that want something and don't want to miss out."

Daniel said she is concerned about buyers "flipping," or re-selling homes or condominiums within a very brief period, for a considerable profit.

"Speculative inventory. That's what's out there now. I think we are driving out the people that made our economy blossom," she said.

Located on 45 acres in Wailua, a location once reserved for Hawaiian royalty and considered amongst the most sacred, the Coco Palms Resort achieved early exposure and fame in the 1961 Elvis Presley movie, "Blue Hawaii."

The 396-room hotel has been closed since Sept. 11, 1992, when Hurricane 'Iniki struck Kaua'i.

Instead of offering 104 hotel rooms as once planned, the developers are planning to down-size to 48 bungalows.

Weiser could not be reached for comment on the decision to downsize, and what subsequent permit requests might need to go before county officials.

All original material © 2004 Cisan Online Ventures/Cisan.Com