Buying Advice

What You Should Know Before Buying A Hawaii Home

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. But the list can be overwhelming none-the-less.

Why Worry?

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®. Oceanfront properties 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 (ask about rat lungworm for starters). Homes built before 1978 are potentially impacted by lead paint. The home’s age prompts a Federal requirement to provide buyers with specific information about how lead paint could impact families. And while “black” and dangerous molds are often related to recirculated air, leaky drains and poor caulking that allow water to collect between walls can quickly create a serious problem.

Pest Control

REALTORS® go into 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 normally not necessary, but it’s also not part of the normal home inspection.

Then there are LFAs. Those Little Fire Ants that are so small that they are barely visible to the naked eye. Before coqui frogs were so common, I used to tell concerned buyers that if you don’t have them already, you will. Same for LFAs. These nasty critters have 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 two 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 always termite season but when they swarm, I’ve always been told 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 Potential Home Issues

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 thru 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!

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.

Comments (1) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

Linda Hussey

November 13, 2019

Great blog Denise. Full of such valuable information. Mahalo !

More Articles from Hawaii Life