Can a Retired Person Buy a Home in Hawaii?

Can a Retired Person Buy a Home in Hawaii?

I recently received a question from a person who was about to retire.  She wanted to know if she could buy a house if she was retired, or would she need to get a job and work for six months. Following is my answer:

It doesn’t matter if you are retired, in only matters what loan amount you are qualified for based on your retirement income.  I presume you have Social Security.  How about interest and dividend income??  A pension?

Email me at and I’ll send you a list of lenders on the Big Island.  Over the phone, or in an email, they can give you a rough idea what loan amount you qualify for based on your retirement income.  If you were in business for yourself, to get a loan based on your self-employment income, you need two years’ worth of tax returns; just don’t close down the business. If you plan on getting a job once you get to the Big Island, you only need two pay stubs from your new job to use that income toward your qualifying income.  All of your income will be taken into consideration when purchasing a home on the Big Island.

Custom List

In addition to the Daily UPdate broadcast email, I can also generate a one time Custom List of properties specific to your own personal set of parameters (criteria).

The Daily UPdate just goes back 24 hours to catalog the most recent real estate activity in East and West Hawaii.  In a nutshell, as new listings become available and listed properties sell, real estate agents responsible for those listings enter the data into a data base system provided by our Multiple Listing Service (MLS) provider, Hawaii Information Service.  At midnight, every day, the previous 24 hours is one UPdate.  The next UPdate begins at midnight that day and ends at midnight 24 hours later.  Every morning I compile the activity for the previous 24 hour period and send it out in an email to you.  That 24 hours of data only appears once, and does not appear on subsequent UPdates unless the status changes (like from Active to Contingent or Under Contract to Sold) during a different 24 hour period.

For the Custom List, however, I take parameters (“criterion” or the set of factors that describes your property preferences) that you provide me, and I use your parameters to compile a list of properties specific to your needs as you have defined them.  The properties on this list could have been listed yesterday or a year or more ago, but if they match the parameters you give me, and are still active (available for sale), they will appear on your Custom List.  The Custom List is a one-shot-deal; I don’t do one every day.  The best time for a Custom List is a week prior to your arrival on the island to view property.  In order for the Custom List to work you need to know if it’s land, homes or condos you are interested in.  For homes & Condos you need to know the smallest number of bedrooms and baths you could live with.  For land and homes you would have to know how much land would be the minimum you desire.   Most importantly, for all categories, you would need to know the maximum you would pay if you found the perfect property (you don’t have to spend the maximum, but if you tell me a number that is less than you can afford, you may miss the perfect match by just a few dollars and never know it).  Another important parameter is the location; where on the island do you desire to be (town or even neighborhood, condo project name, is best).  The Custom List doesn’t work if you can’t be specific about your needs and wants.  For instance, if you can’t decide between a house or a condo, the east side or the west side of the island, then it’s best just to continue to receive the Daily UPdate until you know exactly what you want; then ask for the Custom List. 

Once you are sure what you are looking for, then please send me your list of parameters in as much detail as possible and I will send your Custom Cist as time permits.  If you have any pressing questions that can’t wait, please call me on my cell, 808-989-3491.

Mahalo, Harry

The Origin of the Shaka

This is the traditional “Hang Loose” sign you flash on appropriate occasions; generally with a flip of the wrist or shaking back & forth motion. I can mean “right on brah!”, “no worries”, “that’s cool”, “be cool”, “relax, brah” and any other number of things depending on the situation. Like if someone stops to allow you to enter the highway from a driveway you might flash them the shaka and a way of saying “thank you”.  BTW, “brah” is a more modern contraction of the Hawaiian “Bruddah” which is pidgin for “brother”. What’s “pidgin”?

Back in the old sugar mill days a worker at the Kahuku mill named Hamana Kalili got the three middle fingers of his right hand cut off in a mill accident.  No longer able to work his job, the boss at the mill gave him the job of guarding the mill and facilities including the sugar mill train.  The mill and train cars were a popular place for kids to play, and the mill owners feared someone would get hurt; so there was an effort to keep the kids out.  Before there was a guard, the kids would sneak in through the cane fields and play around the mill half the night. After Mr. Kalili was put on as guard, it became a game for the kids to antagonize him and not get caught. So they wouldn’t have to yell a warning to each other (and reveal their location) when Mr. Kalili was approaching, they would mimic what his hand looked like, shaking their fist in the air with their thumb and pinky finger extended for the other kids to see.  The shaking motion is what gave the name “shaka” to the gesture.  True story.

Cost of Home Construction in Hawaii

I am frequently asked how much is cost to build a home in Hawaii. That is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many variables involved. The most basic variables would be square footage (house size) and quality of construction. Quality is the main issue. You might be able to build a kit home from one of the larger lumber yards like HPM or Honsador for between $150 to $185/square foot. This would be the most basic home with linoleum and carpet flooring, formica-type countertops, particle board cabinets, hollow Masonite doors, 20 year asphalt shingles, T1-11 siding and low cost fittings and fix rues.  From there the sky’s the limit. A low cost toilet might be $150.  But you can spend over $1,000 for some high end toilets. Solid wood cabinetry of all different types of woods are available at varying cost. Same with solid wood doors. There are even specialty brand-name door hinges available. Flooring can be laminate, real wood, ceramic tile or marble, etc. Countertops can be man-made solid surface, granite of all different colors and costs. There are dozens of types of roofing material all the way up to custom glazed ceramic tiles.  At this point you are well over $1,000/sq.ft. The only way to know for sure what your new home is going to cost is to get your plans drawn with a materials list and give them out to three contractors for bids.