Having patiently waited since filming in May, I finally watched my two recently aired episodes of HGTV’s Hawaii Life,“Embracing Nature on Kauai” and “Finding Inspiration on Kauai.” Interesting fact: Jackie and Joe from “Finding Inspiration” chose me to be their agent after watching my first-ever episode, “Moving from Montana to Kauai.” Talk about coming full circle!
After the episodes air, people from all over the country reach out to me saying, “We LOVE Kauai! We would love to own there… someday.” Understandably, there are a lot of variables that go into a Kauai real estate purchase (timing, finances, etc.). Yet, as the show’s prevailing tagline states (and Jackie and Joe can attest), “You don’t have to be rich to live in Hawaii — you just have to want it.” Like anything else, it’s a matter of dreaming, planning, and doing. That’s why I’ve created 3 First Steps When Buying in Hawaii as a beginning action plan for you plumeria-loving/surf-craving/Hawaii dreamers to help turn the dream of “someday” into a reality. Enjoy!
3 First Steps When Buying in Hawaii
1. Call a Full-Time REALTOR
Self-promotion aside, speaking with a dedicated REALTOR right off the bat is helpful in many ways. Need financing? We can connect you with a few tried and true lending sources. Curious about what a certain dollar amount buys? We can tell you what kinds of properties are selling for in your desired area. I can’t stress enough about working with a full-timer, who’s dedicated to the job day-in, day-out. We’ll know about off-market gems or be the first to call when something new (and perfect for you) hits the market. We’re your “person on the ground” while you’re 3,000 miles away on the Mainland. Having an established, trusted relationship with your real estate agent makes the buying process much smoother (and more fun).
2. Create a FREE Auto-Search
Forget the time consuming “browse properties on the weekend” search strategy. An auto-search does all the heavy lifting for you, delivering custom property matches immediately to your inbox. Reach out to your real estate agent for a quick 5-minutes-or-less conversation to discuss your search criteria. After that, you’re set! You’ll receive a consolidated email with all matching properties for sale within 24-hours. Then going forward, you’ll only periodically receive new search result properties as they come onto market. Your agent will ask you a few questions so the search is perfectly tailored to fit your individual needs:
- Location – What side of the island or town(s) are of interest to you?
- Price range – What’s your minimum to maximum range?
- Bedroom/bathroom count
- Square footage – Keep in mind that generally speaking, Hawaii homes are typically smaller than houses on the Mainland (i.e. building costs, land scarcity, etc). Not always a bad thing as less square footage = less space to clean.
- Lot size
- Vacation rental – When considering a vacation property, owning a legal vacation rental is a great way to offset some of the associated ownership costs. Vacation rental condos typically require 20-30% down. A vacation rental house typically requires 25% down.
3. “Talk story” with a Hawaii-based Lender
Knowing your budget when you’re just starting your Hawaii real estate search is empowering and provides a great framework. A quick conversation with a lender can give you an estimate of your buying power without pulling your credit. Though, the best way to accurately find out your buying power is to go through the formal prequalification process. Same story as #1 above, talking with someone that manages Hawaii-based loans daily is crucial. While a Hawaii-based lender will be familiar with the nuances of lending in Hawaii, a Mainland lender may not. I’ve witnessed Hawaii real estate common-practices completely derail a Mainland lender’s ability to loan on a property. Bottom line: going with a Mainland lender can be a risk. I’ve seen it work, and I’ve seen it create chaos. Either way, it’s entirely up to the Buyer from which lending entity they choose to obtain their mortgage loan. I’m simply making a recommendation past upon experience because I like to minimize risk and maximize client happiness.
Once you’ve gone through the above suggestions (which take less time doing than it does to enjoy your morning coffee), you’re off to a GREAT start towards making your Hawaii property ownership goals a reality.
I hope 3 First Steps When Buying in Hawaii is helpful to you. If you have question, comment, or suggestion of a beginning strategy that has worked for you in the past as a Hawaii Buyer, I’d love to hear it! You can reach me on my cell at (808) 212.8058 or via email at LaurenPingree@HawaiiLife.com. A Hui Hou!
A special thanks to our awesome film crew!