As I begin this, I would like to remind my readers that I'm referring mainly to the island of Oahu.
-Insulation/HVAC The first difference would be that homes are not made to withstand low temperatures like on the mainland. The lowest temperature I've heard about happening here was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature that I've actually felt while living here in my nearly 3 years, is about 70, and let me tell you, that's cold when you're used to 78-83 degrees everyday. With that being said, there is no reason to insulate a home here. There are also very few homes with central HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems. You would only see this in a newer home/subdivision and/or a condominium complex with limited air ventilation. I have yet to see, or hear of a furnace.... Most homeowners rely on the trade winds to cool their homes. Although, you will see window unit AC's and built in AC units in some homes' main living areas. At first they seem tacky looking, but you get used to them.
-Garage/parking Parking is a serious business here! The cost of land is high and that includes the cost of land for parking lots. Parking spaces are small and its difficult to find spaces in high traffic areas. With the weather being as beautiful as it is here in Hawaii, there is not a huge need for completely enclosed garages. You will find some middle-high end homes with carports instead of fully enclosed garages, and this is normal here. Honestly, most high end properties will (and should) have fully enclosed spaces in order to maximize full equity potential, but don't be surprised when you pull up to a $700K home that doesn't have a garage. However, this could be a great opportunity for a buyer to make some immediate equity by converting a carport into a garage!
-Laundry Laundry rooms....well, Ok, let me specify...the area that you conduct your laundry duties. Lets face it, square footage is expensive here in Hawaii, so we want to make the most of it. With the weather (again....the weather. This is a recurring theme. We're proud of our beautiful weather.) being as wonderful as it is here, it only makes sense to maximize your living space by putting your washer and dryer.....well, anywhere! I've seen W&D's outside right up next to the house, in the carport/garage area, in the kitchen (just like in Europe....Hmmmm, fancy!), and even in bathrooms. Needless to say, your lucky if you find a home with the laundry facilities shoved into a closet!
-Quality of products used and single wall construction. With our slightly humid air and bright sunshine, you will find that some products just don't hold up around here. i.e. metals, wood, darker colored carpets, etc. There is also a premium price on certain products in regards to shipping and storage, so you will find that laminate flooring and plastic replace some finishing's. Not only that, but the price to build and renovate are high, so these make affordable choices. Some homes are constructed with what is called "single wall construction". They are constructed with only a single exterior wall. The original purpose of single wall construction was to save on costs because most building material had to be shipped in from the mainland. It was also originally made from cedar and/or redwood which help deter termites.
-Year round buying season. Here we go with the weather again....But seriously, its never 'too cold to move'! You always have ready, willing and able buyers waiting for new inventory to pop up on the market. I wouldn't suggest putting your home up for sale 2 weeks before Christmas, but I also wouldn't tell you that you couldn't sell it either! You really cant go wrong when deciding to sell your home.
-International buyers.... Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures, which makes it an amazing place to raise a family, and/or retire. There are so many different restaurants, shops and grocery stores that cater to many cultures because of this. And a lot of times, tourists become buyers. People from all over the world love our sandy beaches and green mountain tops, so why not be a part of the Aloha spirit and call Hawaii home?
-Land tenure: Fee Simple and Leasehold. Maybe you've heard your mom say, "There are 7 Japanese guys who own all the land in Hawaii." Well, this is simply NOT true! It may have been that a few billionaires owned big plots of lands many years ago, but now on most real estate transactions, you will be the owner of both the real property and the improvements on it. And this is called Fee simple ownership.
However, there is an ownership opportunity called leasehold ownership. This is when you own the improvements on the land, but you LEASE the land itself from the land owner. Its a similar theory to owning an office building, but paying a lease on the land. Its not a bad thing, it can actually be a great thing for a buyer! Most times when a home or condo is for sale as leasehold, it is much less expensive than what the comparable properties would be for a fee simple ownership. This gives buyers more buying power. If you're considering using a conventional loan (or any type of loan), there are certain rules about how long the lease has to be. Your loan officer can help you with these details. But remember that you will have a mortgage AND a land lease payment and any other monthly/yearly fees on your property if you own it in leasehold. Leasehold tenure is not for everyone, but it has many benefits for some people.
-Happy city, USA. Honolulu is listed in many surveys as being one of the happiest places to live. A few of the reason's why are: The multi-cultural community feel, good healthcare rates and healthy lifestyles, and the beauty and the ability to enjoy the outdoors year round. The sense of Aloha is everywhere and the more you give, the more you will receive.
In spite of some of these differences, good and bad, I have to say its AMAZING to be able to see the ocean daily, the bright clear blue sky and spot double rainbow's out your window during a rain shower. And when I see the beautiful jagged peaks of the Ko'olau's, I still pinch myself and say, "WOO HOO, I live here!!!"
-Chelsea Pferschy, RS#76072