Bag a Bargain On Honolulu’s Gold Coast: Elbow Grease Required

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Honolulu’s Gold Coast is a scant half-mile stretch of oceanfront high-rises at the foot of Diamond Head. You may think that Hawaii has the same unending tonnage of oceanfront high-rises seen around Florida, not true. Within Honolulu, there are just 18 oceanfront residential high-rises. Seventeen are on the Gold Coast, and one in Waikiki. None are newer than 1970, with most dating to the 1950s and 1960s. Typical condos sell between $1,500-to-$2,200-plus per square foot.

Built in 1958, the 12-story Tropic Seas isn’t the toniest building on the street, but that’s where bargains reside. Unit 203 is just such a bargain. The one-bedroom unit has 618 square feet with an additional 121-square-foot lanai. You know there’s a renovation needed when the first listing photo showing the interior is the 13th of 19 photos. But at $499,000, that’s $675 a square foot.

Tropic Seas, 2943 Kalakaua Ave. #203

In addition to the clutter that diminishes value, astute lurkers will note the cat paraphernalia strewn about – even more saving. But what you can see through the disarray is a long section of floor-to-ceiling windows (in desperate need of plantation shutters). The floors look in surprisingly good condition, but I’m guessing cheap laminate and lord knows what the cat has done.

Having seen the living room, the kitchen will not shock. It’s not a bad size for a condo of this scale, but when the condo is scraped clean and renovated, don’t be surprised to pick up a more workable layout that squeezes out a few more feet.

Again, you’re gutting here so be impressed with the size of the vanity that could easily accommodate dual sinks or one large sink with two faucets. Also not that there’s more height available in the ceiling than the shell-fronted header is using.

Scrape it clean and toss another $35,000 at it and you’d be laughing all the way to the bank. And the bank would be your second stop. The first stop would be to the tax assessor’s office who value the property at $809,394. While Hawaii taxes are no where near as high as Dallas’, every penny helps.

Is this unit oceanfront? No. It faces the building next door. Oceanfront at Tropic Seas is double the square foot price of this unit. But you are in the Gold Coast, the most enviable place to live in a high-rise in Hawaii. Location, location, location coupled with buying the worst house on the best block.

Tropic Seas, 2943 Kalakaua Ave. #401

I hear you. You want a retreat, not a project. Well, unit 401 is another one-bedroom, this time with 702 square feet indoors and 171 square feet of lanai. It’s been listed since April with Jim Hogarty of Locations LLC for $579,000, or $663 per square foot (in Hawaii, indoor and outdoor space are figured into condo costs per square foot – the opposite to Dallas). Yes, on a per-square-foot basis, this unit is cheaper. Someone is either going to get a bargain here or drive a very hard bargain with the first property.

As you can see above, the cleaners have been in. The living room is on a corner with two faces of windows – one with a great big tree outside. In the distance you can see a flat screen that swivels from the living area to the bedroom alcove (feel free to put in a wall and door). The only thing to do here is get rid of that tile on the ceiling – even the parquet floors work for me.

The bedroom is plenty big for a King and has good storage along with a generous window. The floors continue throughout which make things feel larger (of course, so do those ceiling tiles).

The kitchen is tidy, though pretty original with stainless steel counters and a mini-fridge. I’d get rid of the woven diner wall covering and do a quick remodel (it’s small and easily reworked). Of course if you’re not the cook and only looking for beach drinks and snacks, it may be perfect.

The bathroom has been updated, but I’m sure a quick toilet swap would be in order. I shudder to think who was president when that went in.  The right edge of the photo is the beginning of the walk-in shower.

Remember when I said there was no view? This is what you get. In one direction you can see a sliver of Kapiolani Park and in the other perhaps a pinch of blue water. But right in front of you are the neighbors, who are wishing they could be oceanfront, too.

Topic Seas, 2943 Kalakaua Ave. Penthouse #1207

For those believing that living on the ocean requires a cash splash and a direct ocean view, we have Penthouse #1207. It, too, is a one-bedroom unit comprising 602 interior square feet and 163 of outdoor lanai. It’s currently listed with Krisztina Kollo with BHGRE Advantage Realty for $944,000 or $1,235 per square foot. While this isn’t a Dallas-sized penthouse, it does face both the ocean and Diamond Head for complete sunrise and sunset views. Not bad. Not bad at all.

This is also a renovated home with everything pretty spanking new. The living room is brightly colored and bright with sunlight from the corner window and another one behind the photographer. You can see the kitchen to the right – and what a kitchen.

But before we look at the kitchen, have a gander at the double-wide Sub Zero wine fridges. No party will be dry in this house! Between the two of them, that’s 192 bottles of wine! Sign me up!

If the wine fridges didn’t tip you off, the size and quality of this kitchen tells you it was meant for foodies. More SubZero refrigeration and a Wolf cooktop anchor what is a very large kitchen for a 602-square-foot condo. But it does show what with a little more restraint the other two units’ kitchens could become.

Money was also spent in the bathroom. While not huge, as an oceanfront crash pad you spend a few months a year in escaping the mainland’s cold, you could do worse (and you have, I’ve seen you).

The bedroom is where you pick up sunrises. The diagonal line you see in the window is Diamond Head and the sun rises over it year round. All in all, a pretty swish piece of Hawaii.

That’s it. Three units in the same Gold Coast building for three different types of buyer. But all wanting to enjoy the high-life in Hawaii’s most exclusive neighborhood of oceanfront high-rises.


Remember: When I’m not stirring up trouble in Dallas, Texas or Honolulu, Hawaii for and, I’m off scouting interesting locations for a second home.  In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. If you’re a Realtor with second home clients who’d like me to feature their journey, shoot me an email Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.