I feel like I’ve been a little MIA over here and it’s mostly because of house hunting! True story: Sunday night I was like “ugh I don’t have time to write a post. Oh well.” And then was very confused when I woke up to ten comments on the post I scheduled 😉
We got here about three weeks ago and have seen close to 50 homes now, maybe? Just in the past three days, we saw 17 homes! So I am pretty glad that today is a non-house hunting day to rest from all the house hunting.
I know quite a few of you said you’d be interested in hearing about the process of us finding a home here. Since I feel like I’m living and breathing all-things-finding-a-house right now, I’m more than happy to share. This is our first home-buying experience, and while I never envisioned it would be in Hawaii of all places, we think it would be a great investment because of the way homes appreciate here. I’m not comfortable talking about specific areas we are looking in or talking about the price of homes or renovations for privacy reasons, but other than that, I’m really happy to be open about this process.
Also note: I haven’t been taking any pictures while we’re looking at homes, mostly because I wouldn’t want to look back on a home we didn’t get and because I don’t take my phone anyway. Between my husband and I, one of holds/watches C and the other one takes notes on the house, so there’s really no time to snap any pics.
So no, this is not a house in Hawaii, but it’s a super cute stock image, right? 😉
Anyway, there’s a lot to talk about with this so I’ll just start from the beginning. We started by getting a realtor through our friend and old realtor back in Boston. So far she is awesome and has been so helpful in understanding neighborhoods and different areas of the island.
The market here is very different from the current US market, although I know it’s very tough and competitive there too. Since Oahu has limited space being an island, there are honestly not enough homes for the amount of people looking (at least in the right price range/area/etc.). There are also next to no new homes. Most homes were built from the ’30s-’70s and then lots of condos/townhomes were built in the ’80s. Almost everything we’re looking at is 20-30 years old at the newest.
Another thing that is really shocking here is the way homes are built and the materials they use. Single paneled wood plank walls are very common, meaning no drywall or insulation. If you nail something in the wall, sometimes it’s so thin it goes through the other side of the house. You can also commonly hear through walls. Nothing here has central AC either, mostly because the age of the homes were built before AC was a thing. So no homes have ventilation systems here, which is interesting. There are lots of window AC units and fans. There are also a lot of these weird slated windows that almost look like blinds when they are opened, but because they’re slated they never fully close. Things are all just built very cheaply because it was expensive to get housing materials here and it’s always so warm and the weather is pretty much the same all the time, so cheap houses actually hold up okay.
But back to the market. Things are moving here really fast. The average time a home to be on the market here is 21 days, but tons of homes are in escrow in less than a week of the time they listed it. So far, we have put an offer on two homes. We just never heard back from one seller, which is unusual. And we were outbid on the other house. We are putting another offer this week, possibly two depending on how we feel.
Right now, it’s been discouraging because the demand is so high but inventory is so low (or so bad, honestly) that almost all homes are selling for over asking price. We had a really disappointing day on Sunday of looking at open houses. We looked at houses that were literally in need of complete repair. One home had a backyard that was complete rubble and no landscaping of any kind anywhere. But they were of course all listed as “beautiful homes” and priced as if they were move in ready. What’s crazy is that they will actually sell, but mostly to a company that redoes homes (or millionaires?!). I don’t really know who can afford to pay for a home that is priced like a nice one and then pay to redo the whole thing.
I don’t want to focus on price, but prices here are shocking. It’s not as shocking to us since we lived in Boston for quite a while. I would say that market of Boston/North East in general is similar to here, there are just different types of homes and it’s way more run down here. But coming from Texas and having super cheap rent there, it is a little shocking seeing shacks going for three times the price of a BIG house in Texas. It’s crazy how markets are so different!
After three weeks, we have definitely learned a lot about the island and different neighborhoods. We feel like we’ve decided on what town we want to live in and thankfully a lot of new townhomes just came on the market there.
We’re looking more toward the east side of the island, which has these beautiful mountain views. This was the view of a home we were at the other day. While an ocean view would be nice, that’s super hard to come by ($$$) and I’d rather look at mountains from my house since we will be able to go to the beach any old time.
However, we’re also open to really almost any area of the island, except the North Shore (which is really too bad!) because the commute time would be too long. If we found the right house in an okay neighborhood and not the one we really like, we’d be okay with that. Anywhere we buy, we will be making sacrifices though. Our budget and the inventory available just doesn’t offer the “perfect” home (but where would, really).
And on the flip side, we are open to not buying too. If we spend too long looking or our offers are never accepted or something falls through with a house, so be it. We thought it was worth the time to try to buy and keep a home here as an investment property after we leave and possibly come back later. We’ve just heard of so many people doing that and having it really pay off.
So while we’re already here we thought, why not try. And if we waste a few months trying to buy and end up renting, that’s okay too. I think we’d regret not trying to buy and always wonder “what if” if we didn’t at least give it a shot. But – I am really, really hoping we can buy! It’s all just a matter of the right place coming along at the right time and our offer getting accepted (which is SO hard to predict). We shall see!
Anywho, I am going to get my workout on, hit up a cute coffee and pineapple farm’s shop I saw the other day, and have some beach time with C today to keep my mind off house hunting for the time being! I’ll keep you guys updated, but I have a feeling I won’t say anything for a while if we get an accepted offer, just to make sure I don’t jinx it or in case something falls through. Wish us luck!
Questions for You:
- Have you ever gone through the home buying process before? Have any good advice?
- What’s on your agenda for today?