I’m hours away from my flight home to Dallas and figured it was time for a Hawai’ian roundup (and share some odd pictures with no meaning beyond amusement value). This year I chronicled my real estate travails in Hawaii for SecondShelters.com. It started innocently enough with an interview with the local Berkshire Hathaway Home Services president Tracey Bradley. I wanted to understand what Berkshire brought to the table as the news was still fresh that Allie Beth Allman had recently been acquired by Berkshire.
From there I got a big boost from the state of Hawaii, which has released a report on who’s been buying Hawaiian real estate. The answer surprised with 10.5 percent of mainland US buyers being from Texas accounting for 2.3 percent of all Hawaiian transactions! First up was California, but given the shortness of flights, not shocking.
Wondering if “now” is the right time to buy, I pored over 30 years of median sales prices for condos and single family homes and came to the conclusion that it isn’t BAD. Given prices and mortgage rates, it’s certainly not going to be getting cheaper.
One thing I didn’t include is the relative ease with which Texans will blend into Hawaii. I’ve often said that if a politician says something whack-doodle, it’s more than likely the politician is from Texas or Florida. But Hawaii has its own political shoot-themselves-in-the-footed-ness. You see, in Hawaii, no decision is ever done-done.
Crazy One: Ten-plus years ago a luxury housing development was given a building permit on Big Island. It involved upzoning Agricultural land to residential and was approved. The developer began putting in the needed infrastructure (plumbing, electric, roads, etc.) and selling the lots. With a majority sold, someone sued and it wound up in the state Supreme Court … who promptly un-permitted the development and hung the developer and lot owners out to dry … even though it had been property approved. It took years of countersuits to get the approvals back and build the development. I take no sides on who was right, but at some point what’s done is done.
Crazy Two: Then we saw an independent company bring the Superferry to Hawaii. They were given approval to run a commuter service of sorts for passengers and some cargo between the islands. Folks could take their cars on board and drive off for a day or weekend exploring another island. After investing over $160 million on the two boats and the state of Hawaii retrofitting some docks for the ships, they were sued. This time it was environmentalists who worried about whale strikes by the fast-moving ships. Of course forgotten was the successful operation of the Superferry for over a year without a single incident. The state tried to intervene and the Supreme Court again killed the Superferry. Oh, and even a few years later, I recall reading a poll where over 80 percent of Hawaiians wanted the Superferry back. Why’d it get killed? Some say it was the company with the monopoly on inter-island barge traffic who wanted to kill the faster competition and was pulling unseen strings.
Crazy Three: In 2007, Molokai Ranch wanted to build 200 luxury homes on 500-acres at La’ae Point. In exchange, the Ranch, which owns 40-percent of the 7,500-person island, would have built 1,100 affordable homes on 500 acres of ranchland and renovated the Kaluakoi Hotel – adding jobs. In addition, 51,000 of the company’s 60,000 acres, or one-third of the island, would have been placed forever in a land trust for conservation or agriculture. The local population fought back and ultimately killed the deal. Sick of losing money, Molokai Ranch ceased all operations (they were the largest employer on the island). This included the Molokai Lodge, Kaupoa Beach Village, Kaluakoi Golf Course, Maunaloa gas station, Maunaloa Town Cinemas and its ranching operations. For nearly six years. They even tried to abandon their utilities that provided water to a third of the island before the state said, “No.” Ranch operations were only restarted in 2013.
Crazy Four: This year, Mauna Kea on the Big Island was to have seen the installation of a new 30-meter telescope that would have joined other scopes on the mountain top. But native Hawaiians got in a twist about the sacred mountain being desecrated and held unending protests holding up the installation. Another state approved project would up in the Supreme Court who again stopped the project. Never mind that the ancient Hawaiians were some of the best navigators using the stars as guides. A rabble of people, including actor Jason Momoa, who’d probably never or infrequently even visited the site (it’s pretty inhospitable up there with blizzards in the winter) got their way over science … over a largely unseen telescope on a largely unvisited mountain top. Victory to the Flat-Earth Society.
Crazy Five: Currently under construction is the Light Rail project, the state’s first commuter train project. After YEARS of bickering, delays and cost increases, the project was approved and is currently being built on Oahu. But to this day, opponents are still finding a way to kill it (even though Oahu traffic is horrible). They’ve even asked what it would cost (billions) to remove what’s already been built. Mark my words, if it opens, within a year or two, it will be shut and either abandoned or removed.
That’s Hawaii crazy. It’s not exactly the same as Texas crazy where fetuses will soon have open carry rights in utero, but a comforting-crazy nonetheless. But enough crazy…
Real Estate porn was next on my agenda with coverage of Oahu’s 10 priciest homes. The first group was the $20-million Club, followed by the $30+-million Club. I showed you vacant lots with a past, estates in the hills and oceanfront hotties you’d sell yourself to live in.
From there I decided to get real and features second homes/condos that readers besides Mark Cuban could afford (in Hawaii that means “under-$1-million.” I began at the “bottom” with options in the $200-400,000 range before moving to the middle with $400-700,000 before ending up in the $700-1,000,000 bracket. We saw viewless shoeboxes and some fairly large units with stories to tell.
In the midst of all this, I attended a holiday party at the bestest furniture showroom in Honolulu … C. S. Wo. It was their 16th year co-hosting the gala with Neiman’s for charity. We tippled and noshed on champagne and Asian appetizers as we wafted around the showroom chatting here and there. I even got to meet a clothing and bedding designer I like Amos Kotomori who (inexplicably) is only available at the Honolulu Neiman’s. (hint-hint NM Menswear buyer)
In some respects, I ended the series where it began earlier this year when I wrote about redevelopment in Kaka’ako area of Honolulu. It was time for an update. There’s been lots of progress and seeing it all in person made for a more impressive opinion of Howard Hughes Ward Village vision … a lot more than some other developers in the area!
But I couldn’t leave Hawaii without some local tittle-tattle about the President’s post-White House abode. It’s seemingly an open secret with locals that the Magnum PI estate purchased earlier this year by Obama friends will be at least a part-time Obama abode.
Still not convinced on Hawaii? Look at this seemingly random concrete pattern. I rest my case!
Aloha until next year!
Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! firstname.lastname@example.org