Last PCS? Tips For Planning For Your Retirement Housing in Hawaii
You gave a tremendous amount to your country…put in your 20, 25, or 30 years, and it’s finally time to plan for your retirement. The question is: are you financially prepared? Let’s hope that you’re not reading this blog in the final months leading up to your retirement. Let’s, in fact, hope that you have a few more years left, and are simply a great planner.
If you’re PCS’ing to what may be your last duty station, is it to your dream retirement destination? I am hoping again that the answer is a resounding “yes!” If that location happens to be Hawaii, then welcome home.
The Importance of a Loan Pre-Approval
So you are about to PCS to Hawaii, or you recently did. You may decide to purchase right away if you know you will love it here, vacationed, or were previously stationed here, and never want to leave (except to Las Vegas, the 6th Hawaiian Island as it’s nicknamed, or other vacation destinations).
This of course is the perfect scenario, because you can start doing your home buying research months before your PCS. It would be ideal if you can do a house-hunting trip about 2 months prior to your move date. Either way, work on your loan pre-approval with a VA loan specialist at least 2 months prior to that trip or your PCS.
During the pre-approval process, shop around for a lender who is experienced, responsive, and has competitive rates. You should contact lenders within the same day, or at most the same week. The reason is so your credit doesn’t get “dinged” for each inquiry, and so you can compare them apples to apples. Interest rates can fluctuate several times a day, so the best way to make sure a lender truly has good rates is for them to give you a quote on the same day if at all possible.
Another reason to do your pre-approval early is to ensure you are financially sound and ready to put in an offer on a home if you find one you like. There are countless buyers that procrastinate (surely not you though) and find out too late that their debt to income ratios are too high, or there’s an error on their credit report that they need to correct, or they can’t qualify for as high a loan as they thought they could.
To be efficient in your search, know your budget up front. While you can choose to shop under your pre-approved amount, focus on what you can buy vs going to open houses for the sake of it. Also make sure that the lender you choose will reply to an email on a Saturday morning or Sunday evening (Hawaii Standard time), because that is often when your realtor needs to have their pre-approval letter in order to submit your offer.
House Hunting Goals
When you come for your house-hunting trip, the goal is to see enough homes and neighborhoods/communities that you can start submitting offers if you choose to. Please give your agent enough notice (at least 2 weeks) so he or she can make time in their schedule to accommodate your needs and prepare for the showing appointments. I’ve had numerous calls from buyers that look me up once they are already in midst trip, and it becomes a rush for everyone involved, typically ending in less productive showings.
Since it is still currently a seller’s market on Oahu, be prepared to submit several offers before one gets accepted. You should obviously like the home enough to buy it, while not becoming emotionally attached yet. If you don’t end up finding the right home on your trip, the secondary goal is to get comfortable enough with the type of homes in the areas you desire to live in.
It’s also recommended that you drive the route that you would be commuting to and from the workplace, at the hours you would be typically be driving. You may find the commute is not what you expected, in which case you may want to alter your search areas. Looking at the schools in the district you like is important as well.
If you do get into escrow right away, congratulations! Just know you got extremely lucky and have a great agent representing you. If you do not, your agent can work on your behalf to find homes similar to the ones you’ve identified in your house-hunting search. Your agent can take additional photos (especially of the problematic areas that are not going to be shown in the MLS pictures) and videos, giving you a good idea of the layout and flow of the property. Nowadays face time is a common way to view homes if you can’t be physically present. Many buyers feel comfortable buying “sight unseen” as long as they are familiar with the neighborhood. The videos, along with an experienced and thorough home inspection, will provide you with a clear understanding of the home that you are buying.
If you are not familiar with Hawaii and can’t do a house-hunting trip, it may be in your best interest to rent for a little while, giving you time to learn more about the island. Try to negotiate with your landlord for a 6 month lease or shorter if possible, letting them know your plans to purchase a home soon. Many understand, and as long as you provide ample notice and they can find a replacement tenant (with your help or cooperation), they will usually be agreeable. If you tie yourself up in a one-year, non-negotiable lease, you will simply be paying your landlord’s mortgage and the price of homes will likely continue to rise.