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Buying Property in Hawaii

Beachfront property can be expensive -- but the joy of island living within sight of the ocean is one of the great attractions of Hawaii, and the North Shore in particular.  

Types of properties available in Hawaii:
*Single Family Homes* *Co-ops* *Condominiums* *Rentals*

Most single family homes are single story, wood frames with concrete foundation and wood or composition exterior siding.  With a single family home, an average lot size is 5,000 to 7,500 sq ft; most are attractively landscaped with tropical flowers and fruit trees.

Different houses Houses tend to be smaller than most areas on the mainland because of high construction costs and because of our outdoor lifestyle in the islands.  Three or four bedroom houses are readily available; two bedroom houses are less plentiful; more than four bedrooms can be found on occasion.

Co-ops tend to be medium-rise and generally were constructed prior to 1964.  Board of Directors approval usually is required for a prospective purchaser.  Bank financing can be difficult because the purchaser does not own a unit, but instead owns stock in a corporation and is allowed to live in a unit owned by the corporation.  One advantage to co-ops is that rooms tend to be larger than in other types of homes.

Condominiums include high, medium and low rise communities with a variety of unit sizes.  Owners have an individual interest in their own units and a proportional interest in the common areas and expenses.  Maintenance fees usually include physical maintenance of common areas and a master insurance policy for the structure.  Water and sewage frequently are included; electricity may be included.  Usual amenities include swimming pools, playgrounds, fitness facilities, tennis courts, and party areas.  The average maintenance fee will run about $400.00 per month.

Hawaii home Rentals are available on both long-term and short-term rates.  Vacation rates vary considerably depending on tourist season and island location.

Items, fixtures and appliances usually transfer with the sale of a property

The major appliances that transfer with the sale of most homes include range, disposal and installed dishwasher (if so equipped).  Frequently the refrigerator, washer and dryer also transfer.  Condominiums, particularly high rises, may have a laundry room on each floor.  Be sure that you specify that appliances that transfer must be fully operational; appearance of the appliances is not usually mentioned in the contract.

Typical living room Most homes are sold with drapes and wall-to-wall carpeting.  Jalousie windows are common in Hawaii and usually are not the "standard" sizes you may have known in other areas.

Ceiling fans suffice for most days in Hawaii.  Air conditioning is seldom seen in most single family homes, although you may find air conditioning in high rises.  You don't need central heating in Hawaii.

Why property in Hawaii is expensive

Construction materials usually are brought to Hawaii from the mainland, which is one reason homes may seem expensive, depending on your previous experience.  In addition, land zoned for residential use is limited.  Waterfront properties command the highest prices on the market.  Properties with views tend to be higher-priced as well.

Finding storage space can be difficult and expensive.  In most homes, storage space is severely limited.  Basements are rare and most homes have carports rather than garages.  Attic crawl spaces tend to be small.

Creative Hawaiian carport

Difference between "Fee Simple" and "Leasehold" properties

In Hawaii, much of the land is owned by trusts, dating from the time when Hawaii was a monarchy, and a few large estates owned the land.  These trusts still retain ownership of the land.  The trusts then lease the land to a buyer through a leasehold interest.  The buyer makes regular lease payments and pays property taxes.

Private ownership of land zoned for residential use is more limited than leasehold property.  Fee simple land tends to be more expensive, since the owner holds title to the property and can pass it along to heirs.

Typical leasehold provisions run for 55 years with the rent fixed for approximately 30 years.  New rates may be based on the current market value of the land.  The State limits the lease rent.  Financing is available, although many lenders look at the number of years left in the lease at the time of the sale.

The question of whether or not to buy leasehold land is something that you must consider separately for each property; there is no one "best answer."

Expenses for settling into a new home

Simply put: "Bring money."  Many banks hold mainland checks for ten days before allowing you to withdraw funds.  Consider setting up a local bank account in Hawaii before you arrive.  You can expect to pay deposits and installation fees for telephone, electric, water and other utility services.  If you buy a property other than a single family home, some utilities may be included.  Some homes in Hawaii have gas appliances, meaning another utility must be turned on.  Cable television is available in Hawaii.

Shipping a car to Hawaii can be expensive.  Payment of excess freight charges or wharfage can become complicated; cash or traveler's checks are accepted only by prior arrangement.  You have ten days to register a vehicle on arrival in Hawaii, for which you must have a certificate of Hawaii insurance and a safety inspection.  You also will need a Hawaii driver's license.

Tranquil garden
Many condos offer you a beautiful view of the ocean from one window and look out into a tranquil garden from another -- a special treat courtesy of our beautiful tropical climate!
D'Arcy's Smart Tip:

Before looking at properties, I provide Buyers a copy of "Residential Resale Real Estate Purchase Contract and Receipt for Deposit."  I also provide a copy to Sellers so that they can study formal contract provisions before they receive an offer to buy their property.


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D'Arcy serves Oahu's North Shore including Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Pupukea.  D'Arcy serves other areas on the island as well: East Honolulu, Hawaii Kai, Central Honolulu and valley communities, including Pacific Heights, Nuuanu, Kailua Town, Manoa, Diamond Head, Kahala, Hawaii Kai and Kapolei on the Leeward Coast.

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