Pamela Maeda’s Complete Home Buying Guide for Honolulu

Pamela Maeda’s Complete Home Buying Guide for Honolulu

Aloha and welcome to Oahu! Here you will find warmth and hospitality, salty breezes, and dramatic views. It’s truly a tropical paradise. Come and embrace a slower pace of life, the confluence of American and Asian cultures, and people who value relationships, courtesy, and community.

Is living in Hawaii a dream of yours? With a little planning and a great Honolulu real estate agent, it’s not so hard to turn this dream into a reality!

The homebuyer’s strategy

The housing market in Honolulu moves fast, at a make-your-head-spin pace, with most homes going from listed to sold in 18 days. With this in mind, it is vital that you have an assertive strategy in place from the onset of your home search.

Know your wants and needs

What sort of home suits your family’s lifestyle? Do you prefer beachfront property or a home quietly tucked into the mountainside? Do you prefer a single-family dwelling or an upscale condominium? What features are non-negotiables in your home, and which elements could you live without? Think thoroughly through exactly what it is you are seeking, and make a detailed plan before even beginning your home search, as your perfect home won’t be available for long.

Organize your finances

Sellers in Honolulu expect to receive their asking prices for the homes they sell. The most recent market reports show that 36% of single-family homes sold above the listing price and 29% of condominium sellers experienced the same. As of September 2022, the median sales price was $1.1 for single-family properties and $502,500 for condos.

Because of the high desirability of the area, it is highly probable that you will be in a bidding war with other home buyers. Your ultimate trump card in the negotiation process is a cash offer. Talk with your financial advisor early in the process and see if it is feasible (and advisable) for you to purchase your Honolulu home with cash, and carefully consider the potential impact and advantages of such a strategy.

If you are not purchasing in cash, getting pre-approved for a loan is an essential preparation step in your home search. It communicates to sellers that you are serious about your investment and that you are ready to act. To be considered a serious buyer in this market, expect to make a down payment of 25-30%.

Acquiring a new home in Hawaii is only the first of many expenses you must consider.  Transporting your family and possessions overseas is much different from a city-to-city relocation on the mainland. Also, because so many things have to be imported (and because land and resources are very finite), the cost of living for everyday items is significantly higher. Most of the homes on Oahu were built in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and as is true with any homes as they age, repairs will be needed. Permits are required for almost all home remodeling projects and upgrades. With all of these considerations, creating a new budget and organizing your finances effectively will be essential.

The good news is, property taxes are very reasonable. Most people will pay 0.31% of their property’s value each year.

Choose a specialized agent

As soon as you have your home-buying wishlist and financial considerations addressed, choosing an expert Honolulu real estate agent is essential. You want an agent who understands the unique challenges of island living, such as contending with termites and flood zones, ideal neighborhoods, and long-range community development plans. Conduct thorough research, looking at former clients’ reviews, sales volume, and market specializations. When you have narrowed down your search to a few likely candidates, thoroughly interview the agents as you would any potential employee. Select the one who has a clear, proven strategy, is ready to work hard on your behalf, and who knows the market well. Provide them with every detail of your Honolulu home requirements, and let the quest for your new home begin!

Learn the neighborhoods

Just as is common in other cities, Honolulu contains neighborhoods with distinct charms and character. Knowing what each one offers can help you choose the best fit for your family:

  • Kalama Valley- a suburb near Sandy and Makapu’u Beaches

  • Mariner’s Valley/Kamiloiki- developments on the eastern side of Oahu with a historical feel. Mariner’s Valley contains the newer homes of the two conjoined neighborhoods

  • Waikiki- popular as a tourist destination as well as a residence spot. Here you’ll find high-end shopping, beautiful views, a variety of restaurants and hotels, and lively urban living.

  • Kahala- home of fabulous private beaches, exclusive country clubs, spas, and gorgeous properties

  • Kaimuki- offers quaintness and charm, has many unique local shops and restaurants, and is considered, arguably, the most “authentic” local experience

  • Hawaii Kai- Oahu’s first planned community offering a variety of retail and dining options, ample recreational activities, and first-class schools

Before you close the deal

When you’ve found what seems to be the new perfect place for your family, it is hard to keep the emotions at bay. Remember to focus on the business side of home buying until you have completed these pragmatic tasks.

  • Choose a qualified home inspector and check every aspect of your home for soundness. Hawaii does not require home inspector certifications, so look for one who is an endorsed member of a home inspection organization, such as InterNACHI.

  • Make sure your homeowner insurance policy thoroughly covers all of your needs, even those unique to Hawaii, such as lava damage or flooding. Many homes require separate add-on insurance for flood zones.

  • Read the seller’s disclosure agreement, which sellers are required to provide, and investigate all concerns. 

Home sweet home

When you’ve found your place among homes for sale in Honolulu, HI, it’s time to don some “slippahs” and practice your “Aloha.” To fit right in, remember to smile and greet new neighbors and strangers alike, as it’s an expected courtesy. When you visit anyone’s home, leave your shoes at the door.  It’s the Hawaiian way, and part of the marvelous discovery of the new culture and lifestyle that will be yours on Oahu. When you’re ready to take the next step, reach out to experienced local agent Pamela Maeda for guidance. Pamela will represent you with integrity and help you achieve your goals. Get started today!

Work With Pam

Leveraging her more than 25 years of successful sales and marketing experience working with a diversity of customers, Pam is known for outstanding client service, creative marketing techniques, personal touches, and as a skilled negotiator with clients' best interests at heart.

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