Relocating To Hawaii Insights

coconutsThis brief description of Oahu homes is designed for individuals that are relocating to Oahu and not familiar with the Oahu housing market. The residential areas on Oahu vary considerably in different areas of the Island; e.g., Leeward Oahu is very different from Central Oahu with both of these areas being considerably different from either Windward Oahu or East Oahu. We recommend that new arrivals familiarize themselves with the various areas of Oahu as the first step in purchasing a home. For example, the Windward Side of Oahu is exposed to the prevailing trade winds hence its name. It tends to be much cooler on the Windward Side of the island compared to the Leeward Side where air conditioning is almost a must. However, it rains more on the Windward Side. But, with the rain comes more greenery. Offsetting the need for air conditioning on the Leeward Side is the fact that houses in many residential areas are newer, more modern and less expensive than houses in Windward Oahu. However, commuting traffic is far worse on the Leeward Side than on the Windward Side. So, comparing these two areas, you get a newer, more modern home at a lower cost on the Leeward Side but traffic is worse, you need air conditioning, and there is not as much greenery. And, I’ve omitted things like shopping areas, schools, nearby beaches, etc.

Residential Property Types

db-backsideMost residential properties on Oahu fall into one of three home types: single-family houses, high-rise units, and townhouses. Most residential areas on Oahu contain a mixture of the three types. The key factors in determining value are location, size, view, condition, and available amenities. Townhouse units on Oahu are similar to small houses with most having 2-3 bedrooms and 1-2 baths. Many have a very small, private yard. Most townhouses on Oahu have 6-8 units per building with two story units being common. Many have two parking spaces, one covered in front of the unit and another uncovered in an open parking area. Some complexes have enclosed garages, but these are not common. Many complexes have a centrally located swimming pool. What Oahu does not tend to have are the very large, 3-4 floor, deluxe townhouses found in some upper-scale residential areas on the Mainland.

High-Rise Units & Condos

highriseHigh-rise units, often referred to as condos, come in all sizes and price ranges from small studio units to very large, multi-million dollar penthouse units with spectacular ocean views. Many condos have porches or lanais that add to value. As a very general rule, value in a high-rise building increases by about 1% per floor. If you are considering a condo unit, some of the many questions to consider are: (1) How much is the monthly maintenance fee and what does it cover; e.g., is electricity billed separately or part of the maintenance fee? (2) How many parking stalls come with the unit and where are they located? (3) Does the unit have a washing machine & dryer? (4) Can you get into a bathroom without going through a bedroom? (5) Is the unit exposed to morning sun or to the much hotter afternoon sun? (6) What amenities come with the building? (7) What type of security does the building have? etc. In general, most condo units on Oahu are reasonably similar to condo units in various metropolitan areas of the Mainland.

Home Sizes

sunsetWith its island environment, there is a shortage of available land on Oahu. Therefore most houses and house lots are considerably smaller than what exists on the Mainland; e.g., a 10,000 sq. ft. lot is considered large, as many house lots on Oahu are 7,500 sq. ft. or smaller. Omitting very expensive properties, there are three basic types of houses on Oahu; (1) Houses built prior to WWII. These tend to be small 1-2 bedroom cottages built above ground using a post & pier construction with often only one bathroom. (2) Houses built after WWII in the 1950’s and 1960’s when there was a major housing boom on Oahu with thousands of tract homes being constructed. Many of these houses were built using tongue & groove redwood; i.e., they are single-wall construction. The majority of these houses, as constructed, were 3-4 bedrooms with two bathrooms. (3) The last group of houses are relatively new homes built since about 1990 when areas like Leeward Oahu were converted from sugar cane and pineapple fields into housing developments and shopping centers. These newer homes consist of houses and townhouses that tend to be very similar to many Mainland housing developments except the house lots tend to be much smaller.