So how did we choose our Hawaii home, is the question of the day from Carol & Ron Clark.
"We are seriously thinking of purchasing a home in Hawaii. We would love to hear your thoughts on the different islands and why you chose the one you live on. Did you purchase a single family residence or a condo? After moving to the Pacific Northwest we have decided that we need a warm climate getaway in the winter."
Collectively, we have spent allot of time on the islands. We love Maui, and have vacationed there more than anywhere else. I know that island inside and out, all it's special little nooks and crannies, and I love it dearly.
However, property values (both current and future) was by far the biggest factor when it came to purchasing. You simply get more bang for the buck on the Big Island or Oahu. And there is very little on Maui that is not 30 some years old by now. (Same with Waikiki). So by the time we own it for the next 50 years, that's pretty ancient! HA!
Mr. C was leaning toward the Big Island, originally, but then VOG slammed property values pretty hard there. When the volcano is active, there is so much ash in the air that it blankets much of the island, looking just like LA smog. They actually include the VOG readings on the evening news! Let's face it, when you are thinking about vacationing in Hawaii, nobody envisions non-blue air or water.
We ended up purchasing a condo at the Beach Villas in Ko Olina, on the west shore of Oahu, for several reasons.
First of all, we have spent enough time here to know that it was a good fit for us. Mr. C, who is a builder, spent many months here on projects, and he rented a unit at the Beach Villas during that time.
Secondly, he knew that he wanted resort style accommodations for his vacation home. As anyone who has dealt with multiple homes can tell you, it's double the work, the maintenance, the headaches, the inconveniences, the repairs, the upkeep, the stress ...... and none of that spelled "v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n" to him. He knew that he wanted to just show up and have it all in working order. Somebody else cleans the pool, waters the grass, trims the hedges (which, if you think about it, is a constant job in this climate which never has a non-growing season!), scrubs the grill and fixes the umbrella's. We pay our monthly fees so that when we land on the island, we know that we can just grab a beach towel and head to the pool.
We like the amenities of the condo. We have, and use daily, a beautiful well-equipped gym at our disposal. There are 3 pools ~ this large Olympic sized lap pool;
This lagoon pool for the kids (the little people in our lives just love it!); and there's also a wading pool for the babies; as well as 3 hot tubs, at varying degrees.
There are lush gardens and Koi ponds and waterfalls.
It's never too difficult to find a quiet spot to sit and reflect.
We enjoy the social aspect of belonging to a condo community. We like meeting others who, like us, have worked and saved and strived for this in retirement, those who appreciate and savor it and count themselves to be blessed like we do. We like the friendly conversations around the pool and the barbecue and the sunset spot. Sure there's always the handful that you wouldn't choose to be your best friends, but it is far out-weighed by the majority who are completely wonderful people, who have arrived here from places all over the map.
We liked that Ko Olina is a fairly new property; we bought a brand new unit that had never been lived in. It's a private gated community not so far from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, but worlds apart. Property values can only go up, we figure.
We like the live Hawaiian music that drifts up to our apartment from the beach bar. It was so great to see our buddy Jan Luna playing tonight ~ Jan, you are an amazing musician, and it truly feels like coming "home" to hear your guitar again!
Honolulu airport has far more options than the other islands, an important factor when you and your guests are going to be looking for frequent affordable air-fare during the years to come.
We have also met folks who have, as their years are climbing upwards, sold their properties on other islands to be closer to a major hospital here, with better medical care. And again, that Honolulu airport to get your fanny back to the states in a hurry if it's something urgent. 'Cause you never heard me say it was great medical care ~ just better than the smaller islands.
We like the security of a condo, knowing that, even in our absence, our home and belongings are watched over and are secure.
And then there's the proximity to Costco. I'm really not kidding. Everything is expensive on the islands. There is no real industry here, absolutely everything has to be shipped in. Groceries are no exception. The same bottle of mayo I bought last week at Albertsons for $3.59 was $5.79 here at Safeway. That's a difference of 62% on just one item. Costco prices here are pretty similar to the mainland, and our local Costco is just a short jaunt down the highway. Costco is great for all the household basics, plus they feature fresh locally-caught fish daily, which is what we mostly live on when we're here. Beautiful Ahi and Opah and Ono and Black Cod and Blue Marlin ~ straight off the boat! The point is, the high prices you might be willing to endure or overlook for a week or two of vacation are not what you might be willing to pay to live there over time and distance ~ it's a cumulative thing.
As I write this, I am on our lanai on the 8th floor of the building that is next to the ocean. I have a full view of the ocean (not just a patch of blue that qualifies here, by the way, as an ocean view). I am watching the humpback whales spout and breach, listening to the sound of happy children laughing and playing in the lagoon pool below, and the Hawaiian musicians warming up for tonight's luau at the Marriott Time Share down the way.
I could throw a stick from here and have it land on the beach. Our own beach. 4 beautiful lagoons here, all maintained by somebody else! I love the two-mile stretch of walkway that connects them. This is where my morning run takes place, and our evening sunset stroll. Well-tended and well-lit and well-cared for. By somebody else.
I say all this to make the point, in a word, that definition is very important. I think it's critical to be well-defined in what you really want. How much time do you plan to spend on the island? Will it be a primary residence or a second home or a vacation home ('cause those are 3 different things). Are you renting it out in-between (which is a perfect way to make the payments and/or pay the resort fees!). Do you want it big enough to accommodate the kids & grandkids coming to visit? Our 3 bedroom, 3 bath unit works just wonderfully for this. Family heritage is a big part of why we did this.
Not just which island, but also which part of the island? There is a rainy side and a dry side on each island, and the difference in rainfall can be astounding. The islands all have what are called micro-climates, so the weather varies (strange as that may sound) across the entire island. We are on the dry side (the leeward side) of Oahu, on the west shore ~ our annual rainfall is 8-9 inches, while at WaimeaValley on the north shore it's 230 inches a year; and at the high point of that valley, Mr. C is telling me, it's an astounding 466 inches per year, which makes it one of the wettest places on earth. All this diversity on just one little island ~ it's just fascinating!
How far from the beach? An ocean view? It will double the price.
Have you considered making the purchase with another couple? Many of our owners here have done that, sometimes as many as 5 couples going in together, working out a calendar for use among them.
Have you seen that show called "Get Your Vacation Home For Free"? They basically figure out how many weeks at peak season they need to rent it out for X dollars to cover the mortgage and taxes and maintenance fees; then, in effect, they get their dream vacation cottage or home for "free". It's smart.
We have not done this so far, because we spend about half the year here. It's a true second residence for us, not just a couple of weeks of vacation here and there. Although we are noticing that, as our international travels take us elsewhere, it's taking a few weeks away from our Hawaiian home. I'll be the first to admit, that's a tough choice to prioritize!
Hopefully that answers some of your questions, and lends a little clarity to your decision-making. We have not one single moment of regret, and we love and treasure our island home and time even more as time goes by. Good luck to you on making your Hawaii dreams come true!!!