11 Things to Investigate Before Buying Vacant Land on Maui (Part 2 of 3)
Welcome to part 2 of 11 things to investigate before buying vacant land on Maui. I hope you read part 1. If not, you can read part 1 here. Part 1 discussed Location, Zoning, Condominium Property Regimes, and Zoning. You also learned that I bought my Maui lot in 2000. It is a 3.5-acre ag lot, I am not a fan of CPRed lots for my personal ownership, my lot is part of an HOA and I have served on its board. This blog will discuss the next four topics of views, topography, weather, and utilities.
Many of the buyers I work with, regardless if they are looking for a condo, a single-family home or vacant land, really desire an ocean view. I totally get it; my house has an awesome ocean view which we love. Remember in part 1 I said we would come back to location several times, here is one area where location comes into play. Depending on where you are located on the island, your view could be very different. The folks in South and West Maui with ocean views rave about their ocean and multi-island views. The folks in Kula lucky enough to have a great view love to talk about their bi-coastal views, where they can see from the Kahului Harbor to the Maalaea Harbor with the West Maui Mountains in the background. North Shore ocean view lots typically have an unobstructed view to the horizon. Finally, if you are in Central Maui, especially if you are between Waihee and Kahakuloa, some of these lots will have a view of the entire North Shore with Haleakala in the background. You will see the barges and ships entering and exiting the Kahului Harbor. The questions are, is a view important to you and if so, which of the different types of views would you prefer?
The topography of a lot is sometimes related to your view. Most people will say they want a flat lot with a view. Sometimes you may need to trade one for the other. If your lot slopes down towards the view, it may be more likely that your view will be unobstructed in the future, where as if your lot is flat and at the same level as your neighbor, their construction may impact your view. The ideal lot to balance both may be a lot that has a flat building area and then slopes down to open up the view. People will talk about usable land versus unusable land. What some people may claim to be unusable land may actually be your insurance that your view is protected. Topography is not as simple as, I want a flat lot, unless you don’t care if you have a view or not.
This is Hawaii, so the weather is always great everywhere, right? Remember that we also say, if you don’t like the weather drive 10 minutes. As previously mentioned in part 1, within the 727.2 square miles of Maui Island, there is vast diversity. The weather is part of that diversity. Most everyone knows that Hana is wet, Lahaina and Kihei are dry. We also have windward and leeward sides of the island. Windward sides are cooler and wetter, and the leeward sides are generally warmer and drier. We have properties at sea level and properties on the slopes of Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains. Generally speaking, the higher you go, the cooler it gets. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the same could be said for weather. One of the owners of Hawaii Life commented that weather near Lahaina is like Groundhog Day. Every day is pretty much the same, dry and hot. For some folks, especially non full-time residents, that may be exactly what they want. My wife would hate living near Lahaina and being in air conditioning all day. We live on the windward side of Maui, where the temperatures are cooler and wetter. The weather is more random, we have dry days, and we have days with heavy rains. We are located at 1100 feet above sea level, so we have days where we are in the clouds. It is like the San Francisco Fog, except we are still in shorts and tee shirts because even when we are in the clouds, we are still in the tropics. This cooler, wetter weather is perfect for my wife and me. The best advice I can give you is to be honest with yourself on the type of weather you would like and then play with two great tools referenced below that were developed by the University of Hawaii to see where on Maui best matches your desired weather. They are both interactive maps, one for temperature and other for rainfall.
I will take a very broad definition of utilities in this section. When considering a lot, I suggest you ask about a wide variety of items that fall into this category.
- Electric Power – How easy/difficult is it to connect to the Maui Electric Company (MECO) power grid? Ideally, the lot that you are considering will have underground power service. (Underground for a number of reasons including not obstructing your view.) If you can’t connect to the electric grid, are you okay being off-grid and installing your own power generation equipment?
- Water – Is there water service? This could be from the county or from a private water company, or you could be required to install a catchment system. Depending on the person, none of these are show stoppers, as people are using all three of these solutions every day in Hawaii. This is a personal decision as to what are you comfortable with?
- Telephone – In today’s world, this is really two questions in one. Is it possible to install a landline? AND how is the cell coverage in this area? For many of my clients, the second questions seem much more important than the first.
- TV – Cable TV or no cable TV? Is it possible to have Satellite TV in a particular location? For many of my clients, the entire question about phone and Cable TV is a question about high-speed internet so let move on to the real question.
- High Speed Internet – Let’s be honest; the three top utility priorities are water, electricity, and high-speed internet. With a reliable high-speed internet solution, you don’t really need landline phone service nor a TV provider. Can you say Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV, Sling, YouTube, and all those other options that keep filling my Facebook feed? If Spectrum (our cable company) or HawaiianTel (our phone company) doesn’t provide high-speed internet to a particular lot, there may be other options. For example, there is MauiCliff.net, which is a wireless service. I know people that are just using their hot spot off their smartphones. There is always the option of using a satellite internet service. There are lots of options; you just need to know before you own, what the options are, and if you are comfortable with the available options.
- Garbage Collection – Okay, not what one would consider a typical utility, but I did say I was using a broad definition of utilities. The convenience of weekly or bi-weekly garbage pickup is important to most owners. Having to go to the landfill every week is probably not the end of the world, and the people that work at the Central Maui landfill are super nice, but there are nicer places to visit on a weekly basis than the landfill.
- Sewer – Can I connect to a sewer system, or do I need to install a septic tank. Septic tanks are very common on Maui, and the resources exist to get one installed. Just be sure that your lot is big enough for the entire septic system. I have worked with a great septic engineer that can evaluate the lot before you buy.
- Mail Delivery – There are areas of Maui where there is no mail delivery. Some of these same areas don’t have UPS nor FedEx delivery either. The latter is probably a bigger deal, as we need to get our Amazon deliveries. I live in a subdivision that does not have mail, UPS, or FedEx delivery. My options were to get a P.O. Box at the Post Office or a private box at a private mailbox company. I chose to go with the private box. The company I use can accept UPS and FedEx delivery, so we have no problem getting our Amazon Prime and other on-line purchases. For me, this would not fall into my decision criteria, but you don’t want to be surprised, and you would want to know before you take ownership of a property what type of deliveries are available.
Hopefully, this blog has given you even more to think about when you are considering owning vacant land. Come back next week for items 9 through 11.