Strong Land Sales in North Kohala and Waimea – So, Why Isn’t My Lot Selling?
Surprising trend: While sales of vacant land in North Kohala and Waimea (Kamuela) have been strong over the past 12 months, almost all of the action is outside of the gated communities, such as Puakea Bay Ranch and Waikii Ranch.
In the past twelve months, in the Hawi-Kapaau area, there have been twelve sales of vacant land acreage (excluding conservation purchases). Prices ranged from $215,000—the nominal price assigned to a 1.74 acre lot sold as part of the sale of the residence on the adjacent lot—to $1,080,000 for a 42-acre parcel with wide open ocean view, and subdivision potential.
The prior twelve months saw nine sales with prices ranging from $225,000 for a 3-acre lot to $2,675,000 for a stunning oceanfront parcel on the Ranch at Puakea. In 2008, only six parcels of vacant land sold. The trend is clearly up, and hidden within these statistics is an initially surprising shift.
Going back many years, typically two lots per year are sold in the popular Puakea Bay Ranch community. The two that sold in 2009, at prices of $435,000 and $460,000, represented bargains compared with peak prices, and so with four lots currently on the market, the sellers could reasonably have expected a 50/50 chance of theirs selling. But, none have moved. And there is nothing at all wrong with the lots; quite the contrary!
Meanwhile, at Maliu Ridge above Hawi, a subdivision with underground utilities, but light CC&RS, and no architectural review, and where no lots had sold in 2007-2009…three lots sold this year. At Puuepa Ranch below Hawi, with its 20-acre lots, a gate, very modest CC&Rs, and no architectural review, there was a similar three-year gap between the lone sale in 2007 (for $1,150,000), and this year’s sale (at only $525,000).
In other words, current buyer preference seems to be less concerned with the security, architectural, and view protections provided by gated subdivisions, and that many buyers view as protections for their quality-of-life, and the value of their homes.
The picture is similar in the pasture lands around upcountry Waimea, where buyers are gobbling up the 5-acre lots newly-subdivided from the former Hartwell Carter Private Ranch, while the 12 sellers with active listings at Waikii Ranch are wondering why their comparably priced 10-acre and 20-acre lots with great community amenities aren’t moving.
The exception to the rule seems to be at Kohala Ranch and Kohala by-the-Sea. Here, the volume of sales (13 in 12 months) may be price-driven. All but two lots changed hands for less than $400,000, and three were below $200,000.
When my clients who have their lots listed with me ask for a market update, here’s what I have to tell them; the prospective buyers I am working with are saying one of two things:
- “I am buying for future retirement, which is 5-10 years from now. I want to minimize my holding costs, and eventually my building costs. So, I am not interested in a community where I have monthly dues to pay, and where I will be faced with a minimum building size that may be more than I want, or need in my retirement years.”
- “Why should I buy a lot, and build when there are currently homes for sale in that community for less than replacement cost? I can buy a home and be using it tomorrow instead of waiting 2-3 years, and having to stay someplace else while I supervise the construction.”
I still feel confident that the lots for sale in the Big Island’s prime gated ranch/equestrian communities will find buyers. For buyers with near-term building plans the trick will be to find contractors willing to work with them to drop their construction cost from $500 or more/sq. ft. to $350/sq. ft.
In some communities, like Puakea Bay Ranch and Ranch at Puakea, there are currently no residences for sale (aside from the $13.75 million oceanfront estate), so buyers will be looking harder at lots. And Mother Nature is providing a welcome boost in the form of recent rains that returned the color green to pastures parched by this year’s drought.
A hui hou,
Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)