It’s that time of year again, time for the annual Hawaii roundup.  For those planning for a permanent or part-time Hawaiian getaway, the past year hasn’t been too bad in the 50th state.  Before you read further, pack up your tablet and head to Agu Ramen in Mockingbird Station for the full Hawaiian effect.  Just opened the day before Thanksgiving, Agu’s based in Hawaii and was slathered in foodie awards before branching out to Houston and now Dallas (I have no idea why Texas was their first stop).  Having checked it out before heading back to Hawaii, I can say the Dallas branch is as good as the original.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting year in Oahu real estate.  The big news is in the condo market (the landing place for many second home owners). Several new high-rises have come online and their listings have flooded the market with high-priced units.  As of this writing, there are 28 condos listed above $5 million. All but three of them are in new buildings.  Like Dallas, all the new high-rises are high-priced. But when any ocean front/view condo hits above $1,000 per square foot, some of the new crop are hitting $3,000 per foot.


4141 Kilauea Rd Kauai in Kilauea, HI is currently listed for $2.350 million by Ben Welborn of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers. Photo Credit:

Does the Garden Isle have you dreaming of retirement? Whether you’re in the market for a family getaway, vacation home, or an impressive place to hold up after decades of the nine-to-five grind, Kauai’s North Shore is one of the most picturesque places you can find.


Hawaii is where "Million-Dollar Views" Really Are Millions of Dollars

Hawaii is where “Million-Dollar Views” really do cost millions of dollars

Last week we saw the sexy, unattainable house porn of Oahu. Now let’s be realistic. You don’t need millions to realize a dream of a second home in Hawaii. When looking for a home in Hawaii, it comes down to location, location, and size. Let me explain.

Location: The further a home is away from the ocean, the less expensive it will be until you start looking uphill. The further uphill you get, prices increases will follow. Sure, there are certain areas and neighborhoods that are generally less expensive. These areas target more local buyers who want typical homes without the ocean views second home-buyers generally clamor for.

Location: In this case, location equals view. When looking at a high-rise condo, what can you see? Will that view change (likely), and how detrimental would a view change be? Is an oceanfront building with a unit facing the garage better than a unit several blocks away from the ocean with good ocean views better? Often the price (factoring in size) can be similar. Many are in Waikiki, but I chose units on the fringe so you get the convenience without the tourist throng at your doorstep.

Size: How large of a space do you want? Size and price often will dictate both location variables. If you’re a single person, a few hundred feet of paradise may suit, but if you’re looking to house a family, probably not.

A single-family home on the water will be millions, but there are other alternatives. I’ve not discussed them in this column, because the easiest ownership will be a lock-and-go condo that has rental potential (if you need help with fees and perhaps a mortgage). Here’s smattering of what’s available in the Honolulu area from the $200,000 to $1m. I chose Honolulu to focus on first because I know it best, has the most selection and is the easiest to area rent.



For the third month in a row, median home prices in Honolulu dipped a bit to $715,500 down from $720,000 in October and September’s record high of $730,000.  The result is flat year-over-year prices and has resulted in a bit of a buying spree with unit sales up 9-percent from last year. Condos prices were up 1.3-percent over the year to $347,500 with unit sales essentially flat.  Days on market?  Just 21 days for homes and 22 days for condos.

At the peak of the housing bubble, homes and condo medians were $643,500 and $325,000, respectively. The trough saw median homes and condos fall to $575,000 and $300,000 respectively.

HNL Median Prices

This is why it’s difficult to lose money in Hawaiian real estate if you have the luxury of time. You may be thinking this is true for all real estate. Not really. First of all, the most recent bust in places like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Florida have still not completely recovered. Sure, the best real estate in these areas has, but for example, it’s estimated that 25 percent of Las Vegas mortgages remain underwater – and 10 percent of all mortgages are estimated to be still underwater. Also, outside perennially hot markets like New York City and San Francisco, it’s hard to find locations with the odd consistency enjoyed by Hawaii.

For similar, but unrelated reasons, Hawaii real estate has seen 10-ish year boom-to-bust-to-higher-boom cycles. The Canadians invested and pulled back. The Japanese did the same. The tech-bubble popped. The global economy popped. Today’s Hawaii buyers are newly-wealthy Americans from the tech and banking sectors coupled with an influx of Chinese who are investing heavily in overseas real estate.