Most of my blog posts are prompted by questions that people ask me by email or phone. This week someone emailed me and said they are planning to move in about 8 months, wondering if they are looking at houses too soon.
You should be looking online as soon as possible, and in person about 2-4 months before you move.
As soon as you even the thought of moving to Hawaii, even if your plans are not definite, you should start looking at homes online on a regular basis, keeping track of what the market is doing in the area you like. The more time you have to look at homes, the more you'll understand our little micro markets. You'll see that homes in nice condition tend to sell quickly in most areas, and you'll be able to see the sales prices very close the list price in certain areas. Each little neighborhood can have its own market in Hawaii, so knowledge is key to making a good purchase.
The longer you have to look at the market, the more you'll be able to get a feel for what type of homes come up for sale in certain areas. For instance, in Hawaii Kai there are only a few homes on the marina for sale at any given time. If something comes up that you really like, you might have to move on it before your time to move comes, because only a few are listed each year. Maybe 20 homes a year, which is not a lot.
In Mililani, you'll find that some homes have an ocean view, but not many, because it's about 15 miles inland. In Kailua, only a few homes a year are listed for sale that are lake front, on Enchanted lake. Or if you want Lanikai, you better start looking really early, like a year, because half the listings in Lanikai are completely junk, and the other half tend to be about $5million.
If you study the market in Oahu for a while, you'll find that in many areas, homes are each unique, because a) there were not big home developers planning this island and b) depending on type of person lived in the house, there could be a lot of strange improvements made over the years.
You just can't be overprepared when looking for a house in Oahu. The more you know, and the longer you have to learn, the better your buying experience will be. Then if you come to Oahu and spot something that you know hasn't been on the market for a long time, you'll be aware that you should act on it fast. I've had several clients who didn't act fast enough or write an offer high enough, who ended up really disappointed later.
I had one client who kept wanting to offer about $20k under the asking price, even though I kept telling him he would never get the offer accepted. Each of 3 times, his offer was flat out rejected and sold to someone else within days. Why? Because he didn't understand that the market in Oahu is not like the mainland. Our supply is limited and the sellers are very confident (in most areas, not Ewa Beach.)
So if you even have an inkling that you may be coming to Oahu in the next year or two, it's time to start watching the market. Email me all your parameters and I'll setup an automatic Hawaii MLS search for homes for you so you can keep track of what's going on.