As you plan your future in Hawaii, one of the biggest concerns you will face is housing. If you are deciding whether to buy or build a home in Hawaii, it’s important to learn more about things that make this place unique, as well as ask yourself some difficult questions. Hopefully the following observations and questions help give you some perspective when making a decision.
Ask yourself a few questions first
If you are already asking yourself “Should I buy or build” a house in Hawaii, it’s clear you want to set yourself up for success. Some initial questions will help get you started on the right track. What are your options? Is a home available for sale that meets your needs? Is an undeveloped plot of land available? Can you remodel an existing home? Would adding an addition or ADU accommodate your needs? Or would demolishing an existing home and building a new home in its place accomplish your goals?
If you are looking at buying a new property, where do you want to live? How would your commute to work and the schools be different in a new location? Where is your ideal location? Is it in Kahala, Kailua, Hawaii Kai or elsewhere? How much are you willing to pay for the investment and how long are you able to wait for it to yield a positive return?
These are but a few of the questions to ask. Certainly, you have a lot more that need to be answered before you finally say yes to either buying or building a house in Hawaii.
Will buying address your needs?
The housing boom in the 1950s and 1960s, expensive land and materials, consistent heat, moisture, and salty ocean air all intertwine to make Hawaii a difficult housing market. Though the average age of houses in Hawaii is not very old compared to many states in the US, the size and condition of these houses does not compare favorably. Perhaps due to moderate temperatures and expensive materials, the majority of homes built in the 1950s and 1960s were not built as robustly as homes in colder climates. Also, limited, expensive land often means these homes are smaller in size than the national average. In addition, years of damp weather and salt air has worn many of these houses down to the point where they are in tear down or complete remodel condition. It’s important to keep in mind that even houses that are 10 to 15 years old can require significant renovation or remodeling due to climate. With that in mind, buying can satisfy short term needs, but the price you are willing to pay should take into account the future costs of extensive renovation or remodeling.
Be aware of issues you can face when looking for land
Some of the best land in Hawaii has already been built on. With this in mind, vacant land that becomes available may involve a deposit up front and long waits in development before you are actually able to build. An important question here is how long are you able to wait in your current housing situation? Another consideration is that the location of the newly available land may not be easy to build on, or as central as you would like.
Explore possibilities for remodeling or demolishing an existing home.
If you already own or are looking at an existing home in Hawaii and you feel your goals can be accomplished with some remodeling or renovating, then go for it! With this route, it’s important to consider how much you want to change about the house, what your budget is, and what unknown variables you are likely to encounter. For example, if you’re counting on only modifying part of the plumbing or electrical for your house and leaving the rest untouched, keep in mind that if a licensed electrician or plumber sees existing conditions that do not meet building codes you could face additional costs to remedy the situation.
How to design for the house you want and can afford
Having a budget in mind from the beginning will make the whole process easier. If you are not upfront or completely honest with your designer or architect from the beginning, the final plans may have everything you want in a house but you may not be able to afford to build it! Know your budget, and ask about what other similar projects cost to build to get a perspective on whether your expectations are reasonable for what you want. This is the single best way to save you headaches and lots of time on your way to accomplishing your goals.
Ask about cost standards
While Hawaii’s beauty and remoteness make it an attractive destination, its isolation makes it among the most expensive place to build in the country. Watching remodeling and house flipping TV shows from the mainland make construction seem quick, easy and inexpensive. Unfortunately, the prices discussed in those shows do not translate in Hawaii. About 10 years ago the typical going rate for a new home was around $250 per square foot. A more up to date figure would be in the neighborhood of $300 to $400 per square foot.
So does this mean building is better than buying a house in Hawaii?
It really depends on your objective and budget. Our aim is to work with you to reach your goals in whatever way we can. Building new may be the perfect way to start fresh and get exactly what you want, then again buying an existing home and repairing or remodeling it may make the most sense for you. Whatever the case, please feel free to reach out to us to talk about your goals and situation and let us be a part of creating the right solution for you. We’re very proud that we’ve been consistently recognized over the years as one of Hawaii’s best home builders, and we hope you’ll contact us at your convenience and let us know how we can help.