Kohala, Hawaii – Over the last decade, one of the most exclusive gated communities in the country emerged here, carved out of the bleak, lava landscape that dominates the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island.But Hualalai and its gated neighbor Kukio, emerging meccas for the very rich, haven’t proved immune from the recession. The hotel, which is undergoing renovations, offered fourth-night-free discounts in the fall amid an island-wide tourism slump. Buying in the community, where prices start at $1.8 million for an attached condominium, used to mean joining a two-year waiting list, says Gabe Winkler, a local real estate appraiser. Now there are 50 homes and lots on the market, double the number last year. Sales volume this year is expected to total about $115 million, half of 2007’s record sales volume.”Buyers even in high-end exclusive club or resort communities are saying ‘I want a deal,’ ” says Sam Ainslie, Kukio’s president.While wealthier communities were initially faring better in the housing downturn, the recent financial crisis is taking its toll on expensive resort areas. In Aspen, Colo., brokers say prices have softened anywhere from 10% to 15%. Mary Taaffee, a real-estate broker in Nantucket, Mass., estimates prices are down about 10% to 12%.
By Candace Jackson, Dec. 19, 2008 WSJ
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