When Dane and I were buying our house in Hawaii, not only were we purchasing a home in one of the most expensive locations in the country, it was our very first house! Sometimes it felt extremely overwhelming and there is so much I wish I could tell my former self. If you are thinking about buying real estate in the Hawaiian Islands or in the process of buying a house in Hawaii — today’s tips are for you!
Tips For Buying A House In Hawaii
First and foremost – establish your finances. Buying a home in Hawaii is a huge financial decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Figure out what you can afford and be absolutely realistic with yourself. There are plenty of gorgeous homes and properties, but looking at places that are out of your budget is a recipe for disaster. Run the numbers…and then run them again…to find a range that you are comfortable with and know is feasible.
Next – partner with an agent you love and trust, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together. In Hawaii, most showings (unless they are private) happen on Sunday afternoons, so not only will you be darting between listings with your agent, you’ll also be spending a good chunk of your weekend together. It’s important that you like and trust this person to understand what you need/want in a property, especially since real estate in Hawaii moves very quickly.
Not sure if a real estate agent is a good fit?
Ask questions! Some things we were sure to ask included how long they’d been in the islands and in real estate, what neighborhoods they were most familiar with, general questions about school districts and safety, and familiarity with the VA Loan. That last one was important to us! If you are considering using it, here is Everything You Need To Know About Using The VA Home Loan In Hawaii.
Making An Offer On Real Estate In Hawaii
Keep in mind – an agent is just one part of your home buying team! There are so many different professionals involved throughout the process and this list is helpful in breaking down who is who and what they do.
Once you’ve found a home you love, it’s time to GO. Because real estate moves super quickly on Oahu, we put in offers almost immediately when we found homes we loved. At one point, we were one of 47 offers on the table for a single home. Insanity!
I was not prepared for such competitive spirit in the home-buying game. My biggest tip here is don’t lose hope. You WILL find a house you love, but it might take a bit of time, so just keep looking and do not settle.
In the process of making an offer, make sure you discuss with your agent what a competitive offer might be taking into account neighboring home values, history of home sales in the neighborhood (often referred to as ‘comps’ or comparable), any physical work that might be done and number of days the home as been on the market.
I cannot stress enough that Hawaii real estate is extremely competitive (often homes are sold before they are ever even publicly listed thanks to ‘back pocket listings’), so we always put in our best offer first. Need more tips on what to offer? Getting Your Offer Accepted.
Hawaii Real Estate – In Escrow
Good news – your offer got accepted! Now what? Honestly – now is when the real work begins. Once your offer is accepted you are considered “in escrow” and this process can take anywhere from 45-60 days (in our experience!). Be sure to understand the full timeline of this process (I didn’t and often found myself frustrated) and know that there can be hiccups along the way.
While our home was in escrow, we made multiple trips to the property (drive by during all hours of the day to see what really goes on at any given time), met the neighbors, asked about the neighborhood, showed up to every inspection we could and ask every question we could think of — and I would highly encourage any fellow buyers to do the same.
Buying a home in Hawaii can be stressful – I won’t sugarcoat that! But with a great agent, diligent research and equipping yourself with knowledge (and the power to ask questions!), it can be incredibly rewarding. If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that we both bought and sold our home here on Oahu and the selling process can be even more nutty – trust me 😉 Looking to sell? Check out this Seller’s Guide.
I hope this post is helpful for anyone considering home ownership in paradise. If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Our Hawaiian Home Apartment Therapy Feature!