Buying Hawaii Real Estate – Common Concerns for the Typical Worry Wart

Buying property in paradise would seem to be a no brainer, right? After all, what’s to worry about? All things being equal, there are probably fewer issues of serious concern than on the mainland, but the list can be overwhelming nonetheless.


Photo courtesy Stuart Miles/

Common Concerns with Hawaii Homes

1. Nature. Let’s see, there are lava tubes that often don’t present themselves until a bulldozer exposes them; lava zones that can affect insurance rates and loan programs; flood zones that could require an elevation certificate to avoid potentially unaffordable flood insurance; coqui frogs that sometimes make TV watching a challenge; and catchment concerns that prompt a quick “Catchment 101” lesson. This is just the beginning of a long list that “visits” each property with you and your Hawaii REALTOR®.

2. Insurance Choices. Oceanfront and homes within 1,000 ft. of the ocean have fewer insurance choices, and backyard gardeners who wish to grow their own food need a quick but important lesson from our local cooperative extension agents (there’s a great read about rat lungworm).

3. Lead Paint. Homes built prior to 1978 are potentially impacted by lead paint. The age of the home prompts a federal requirement to provide buyers with specific information about how lead paint could impact families.

4. Mold. While “black” and dangerous molds are often related to recirculated air, leaky drains and poor caulking that allows water to collect between walls can quickly create a serious problem. REALTORS® go in and out of so many homes that they often detect the musty smell of mold where a buyer may not. Dangerous mold might look “hairy” or even slimy. Mold testing is not part of the normal home inspection, but should be done.

5. Pests. Then there’s ye ol’ LFAs…those little fire ants that are so small that they aren’t always visible to the naked eye. Before coqui frogs were common, I used to tell concerned buyers that “if you don’t have them already, you will.” Ditto LFAs. These nasty critters can cause painful stings and have been known to get in the eyes of pets causing blindness…or worse. There’s no way to know if a property is infested with LFAs unless a seller makes the disclosure. Sometimes just walking the property makes the problem apparent. They are controllable, but require on-going treatment.

Termites love it here just like we do! There are basically 2 types; hungry Formosan (ground) and dry wood termites. We normally associate ground termites with damp soil and low elevations, but even up-slope properties with rocky soil can host both. It’s termite season. I’ve always learned that swarming does not necessarily indicate that a home has active termites. Treatment for each type is different. Your agent will normally ask for a termite inspection prior to closing.

Other Non-Contractual Concerns

Septic pumping, soils issues, power pole payments, flight paths, community associations, CCRs, title issues, proper access, asbestos, pesticides, geothermal, and even sex offender information are non-contractual issues your REALTOR® may need to focus on while walking through your future dream home. 

While not experts in all these areas, an experienced, geographically qualified agent can provide important guidance specific to the property and a buyer’s property requirements. It’s just all in a day’s work for your personal worry wart!

Additional Information

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to speak to a knowledgeable Hawaii Realtor that cares about the aforementioned as much as you do, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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Stacy Hasegawa

June 24, 2014

Great blog Denise!

Stacy Hasegawa

June 24, 2014

Great blog Denise!

Joe Deemer

April 12, 2017

Reports in the news now show rat lung disease infected a honeymoon couple visiting Maui and hospitalized for a prolong period and other reports of the same disease on the Big Island. Rat infestation on the island is often overlooked and rat lung disease is now infecting tourists.

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