Aloha!

Thank you for stopping by!  I hope to feature both real estate and lifestyle information regarding living on this wonderful island, and particularly on the Windward Side.  

The towns of Kailua, Kaneohe and Waimanalo all have their own personalities.  Hopefully, you get a chance immerse yourself in all they have to offer! 

There is so much to do, see and experience!  My hope to to give you a little taste here.  Please read on...

Thank you ~ Jill

Aug. 29, 2020

What is a CPR?

I have had a number of clients who are looking at properties in Hawaii and see the property listed as a CPR and ask "What is a CPR?" A CPR stands for Condominium Property Regime that is a mechanism sometimes used to subdivide a larger property into multiple separate homes. 

When a lot of people think of condominiums, they think of the classic vertical high-rises with units stacked upon each other. Those individual units are individually owned. With those condominiums there are common elements such as hallways, reception area, pools, and outdoor spaces that are shared by all of the owners. The condominiums have homeowners associations, condominium rules and bylaws, homeowners's dues, and owner's meetings. 

A CPR is just liked those vertical structures except that the idea is flipped on its side in a horizontal direction.  For example, if you owned a parcel of land that is 20,000 square feet in size and wanted to subdivide it you likely will not be able to based on zoning restrictions.  However, one way to still divide the land into separate properties is to make the overall parcel a CPR.  In this example, you could take the 20,000 square foot lot and divide it into four separate 5000 square foot lots with separate homes on each.  Each of these homes is an individual property but they share common elements such as a a driveway, a water easement, fencing, or common ground areas.  Another possible example is a duplex CPR in which the homes share a roof line or a wall but other than that are separate properties.

CPRs have many of the same elements as traditional condominiums such as bylaws, dues, and an association.  Each home is a separate property with its own Tax Map Key that the owner fully owns and is responsible for insuring and maintaining. However, there are also common elements laid out in the CPR incorporation documents.  If you purchase a property that is part of a CPR, you are also agreeing to abide by the rules determined by the other owners.

A Condominium Property Regime may be the right vehicle for you to hold ownership in land and property in a single family home.  This setup is not right for everyone but it if you are open to this arrangement you may be able to find the perfect home for you.

If you have any additional questions on CPRs, please ask and I can point you in the right direction!

 

Aug. 4, 2020

What are buyers looking for during COVID-19?

In this post I discuss some observations of how what buyers in Hawaii are looking for has changed since the onset of COVID-19 earlier this year.  There are definitely a lot of buyers interested in the market and a clear shortage of inventory.  

I attribute the increased interest in buying to two things:

1) Low interest rates 

      -  As interest rates remain low for all types of mortgages, many potential buyers have determined that this is the right time to jump into the market.

2) The pandemic has changed the needs of many buyers  

      - With more people working or learning from home their needs have changed.  In my conversations with potential buyers some of the specific items that they are looking for include:

  • More space
    • This may be more interior space or more exterior space but as potential buyers realize that they are spending more time at home many of them want more room to spread out both insides and out.
  • Closed Floor Plans               
    • There was already a trend away from open floor plans but with people spending more time at home, many potential buyers have a desire for privacy in their home.  This may be for work spaces or just someplace for family members to have some quiet time but closed floor plans are definitely becoming more popular.
  • Smart technology       
    • Many buyers are looking for smart tech in their homes.  This can range from programmed lighting to touchless faucets as potential buyers are looking for ways to reduce the need to touch everything in their home.
  • Workcenters in the home     
    • With more and more people working from home or going to school from home either full-time or part-time, potential buyers are specifically looking for innovative ways to create additional workspaces in their homes.  

The market has definitely changed in the last six months and many home features that were popular with buyers earlier in the year may no longer be.  Some of these trends may be useful to you as you either think about changing your lifestyle with a different type of home or look at what features may be attractive to buyers if you are ready to sell.

 

Posted in Market Updates
Aug. 1, 2020

Why you should use a local lender in Hawaii

 

When a client asked me why I insist on using a local lender, it made me think that person is probably not the only one who has this question. So why do I insist that you use a local lender? There are four reasons I insist on a local lenders. 

1. Local lenders know the closing process in Hawaii 

The closing process in Hawaii is unique and very different from the mainland.  Here is an example, hypothetically you sign closing documents on a Monday and you sign them separately from the seller, the lender will fund the loan on a Wednesday, and two days later the City and County of Honolulu will record the deed.  So bottomline, you own your new home on Friday.  

On the mainland everybody sits down at one table, everybody signs documents, they pass along keys and anything else, and in the end everything is complete at one time. As you can see, this is very different from the process in Hawaii and local lenders know and understand this. 

2. Local lenders can be reached on closing day

This may seem simple, but due to time zone changes this can be a very big deal.  On more than one occasion, I have been at escrow on the closing day and realized that the final settlement statement had an error. with a local lender they can be easily reached and fixes made that will allow the transaction to proceed.  However, I have often seen clients have extreme difficulty reaching a mainland lender, especially if the closing in in the afternoon in Hawaii and the lender is closed for the day.  

3.  Sellers like local lenders

Local sellers like to know that everything is being conducted in Hawaii.  They will often know the lender or know someone who has worked with the lender and this will give them the piece of mind that the transaction will proceed smoothly. 

4. Local lenders have relationships with escrow

Hawaii is an escrow state and as such, the escrow company handles all of the documents and money transfer as part of the closing process.  I have seen that a lender having a well established relationship with escrow can ensure that all of the small details are taken care of and the transaction moves along smoothly.   The last thing that you want as a buyer is to have your closing and move in day be delayed because the lender misunderstood the escrow instructions or transferred money on the wrong day.  A local lender who has worked with the escrow company many times will understand all of the unique Hawaii timelines and have the relationships to ensure that everything is completed correctly and efficiently.  It also helps the escrow company to know that they have one easy to reach person to work through the details on the transaction. 

So hopefully this helped to explain why it is important to choose a local lender when you are ready to purchase in Hawaii.  I have relationships with a number of local lenders who can help you answer any of your specific questions when you are thinking about buying.

 

July 24, 2020

Hawaii Hurricane Preparedness - Douglas

Cover of HECO Guide

Even though we are dealing with the Coronavirus, Mother Nature's natural cycles continue. Regardless, we are resilient and will move forward through all of this with aloha and grace. 

I wanted to share with you the links to the HECO Emergency Preparedness Guide and the keiki version so you have them handy:

https://view.hawaiianelectric.com/handbook-for-emergency-preparedness/page/1  

And the link to the Keiki guide:

https://view.hawaiianelectric.com/handbook-for-emergency-preparedness-for-kids-maka/page/1  

And, please also remember to shop, eat and support local as often as you can. There are many businesses that are barely keeping afloat right now that will only survive with our help.  

Please be safe and well!!  As always, please let me know if you need anything or have any questions!  Thank you and have a safe weekend!!

Posted in Community Updates
June 2, 2020

What's Up with Mortgages in June 2020?

 

In this post, I discuss some the trends that I am seeing in with mortgages and how this relates to real estate sales in June 2020.

As an overview, if you are looking to buy a home, plan on the lending process taking a lot longer than it normally does. There are some lenders at lower price points that are moving much more rapidly.  However, as the loans get larger, I am noticing that they are taking a little bit longer to complete. Part of this delay is that the lenders are asking for a lot more documentation. They are specifically checking on employment due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They want to make sure that once they give you this loan you are still going to have a job and be able to pay the mortgage. In the end, lenders are being much more cautious.  Another factor is that many parts of the lending process are working from home, which is slowly down the overall process.

If you are buying or selling a home, recognize that the process may take longer than normal and may require an extension to complete.  Transactions right now are also including a COVID waiver, which usually provides the buyer with an additional 30 day window to complete the lending process based on current circumstances.  It is important to understand that the process may take longer than normal. With those expectations are set in advance, the process will complete, it just may take slightly longer than you have seen in the past.

Another area where I have seen a lot of interest from clients is refinancing.  This is a great time to take advantage of low interest rates. However if you are going to refinance, you should plan on being in your home probably for at least another two to three years unless you already have significant equity in the home.  This time frame will likely be required to recoup the closing costs required to complete the refinance.  Realize that if you try to sell your home before regaining any equity lost or prior to your home value increasing, you may have to bring additional funds to close your mortgage at the time of the sale.  In the end, every situation is slightly different and you should talk directly to  your lender about different scenarios for refinancing. 

The last item that I wanted to discuss was forbearance. Forbearance is a temporary agreement between a lender and a borrower to temporarily suspend payments on a loan. A lot of people right now need forbearance on their loans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you think that you may be in this situation you should contact your lender to fully discuss your options. Also recognize that asking for forbearance will likely impact your ability to obtain a loan on a separate property. 

In summary, the process of buying and selling homes continues throughout the current economic environment.  Just realize that it may take longer than normal.  And finally, you should contact your lender directly to discuss various options and fully understand what will be required for either a purchase, a refinance, or a forbearance situation.

 

Posted in Market Updates
May 30, 2020

ADU and Residential Zoning

 

I get questions all the time about building an ADU on a property. So you might ask what is an ADU? ADU stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit.

It is an individual home on a single-family lot. It can be attached or detached and it must have a kitchen, a bathroom, and sleeping quarters. Essentially it has to be its own individual unit. Previously if you wanted to have an additional unit on your property you had to build them for family members.  That is how Hawaii real estate developed the concept of the O'hana unit. 

In 2015 the City and County of Honolulu loosened the restrictions on who can live in these units and created the Accessory Dwelling Unit or an ADU. So you can now build an additional unit on your property for non-family members that can rent if desired. However, in order to build an ADU on your property you must live in a residential zone. Additionally, some specific communities have prohibitions in their covenants on these types of structures. 

Residential zoning is differentiated by an R in front of all of the codes. The R stands for residential. The number after the R indicates the lot size. So there are different R codes for different sized properties. You will see codes such as R5,  R10, or R20. These zone codes coupled with the size of your lot will tell you if you can have one home, two homes, or have a duplex on the property. There are also many rules having to do with the height of the structures, how much lot you can cover, and setbacks. And if you are interested in seeing the zoning for your neighborhood or anywhere else in the City and County of Honolulu use this link.  The chart can be found around page 50 and that will give you additional information about residential zones and what you can build on your property.

Some additional rules for ADU construction include:

 - You must have parking specifically designated for that ADU. 

 - You have to reside on the property.

 - Your property could not be landlocked so you must have either a driveway, an easement, or some way to get onto your property.

 - Your property must have a minimum of 3500 square feet of land

 - The size of your lot will also determine the maximum size of the ADU that you allowed to build:

        - A 3500 square foot lot can build up to a 400 square foot ADU

        - A lot of over 5000 square foot lot can build up to a 800 square foot ADU

If you are interested in constructing an ADU or just want to better understand the requirements the website hawaiiadu.org can provide you with a checklist and all of the information that you are going to need to start the process.  After you understand the basics you will want to contact an architect or general contractor to determine the costs involved and how you will construct the ADU.  You also may want to contact an accountant in order to fully understand the tax implications of renting out your ADU. 

In summary, an ADU may be an option for you if you have space on your property and are looking for the possibility of additional rental income.

April 28, 2020

Seller Seminar

 

I often get asked the question .. What am I supposed to do when I need to sell my property?

On average in the United States it is about every 7 years that people trade properties. For a lot of us it is a lot longer than that or sometimes it is shorter. But whether it is your first property or you have not sold property for a while the  the seller's transaction timeline is similar. In this post and video I discuss a little bit about what to do beforehand and then discuss the process from listing to closing.

Additionally, I have a detailed timeline available that will give you a quick look at what to expect during the transaction process.

Before Listing Your Property:

1) Declutter:  You want to remove extraneous items such as heavy furniture, personal photos, or other identifying items for your family.  This includes cleaning off your refrigerator and clearing your countertops of all of your small appliances and tchotchkes. Your bedrooms should have clear nightstands as well as a clean bed and dressers. Your goal should be to depersonalize the house.

2) Clean: Next, you will want to have your home professionally cleaned. Your normal standards of clean may not be what somebody else's standards of clean are. So a professional deep clean your house at the beginning of the process so that it is as clean as it could possibly be for any showings.

3) Landscaping:  On the outside you want to have your home landscaped. You want to have your sidewalks power-washed and your lawn cut and bushes and trees trimmed. Your front yard is a key first impression right of your house. 

4) Repairs. You know better than anybody what is wrong with your house. So when your light switches do not work or outlets do not work have them that repaired. Get all of those little repairs done. It does not mean that the buyers are going to come in and pick it apart and not buy your house because of that one thing. But the less things you have that are wrong with the house the smoother the transaction seems to go. So do all those little repairs so they do not come up during the inspection.

Ready to List Your Property:

1) Sign Listing Documents:  You are going to have to fill out about four different forms that range cover a wide range of topics such as determining the correct list price, when you want to list the property, how long to list the property, and how aggressively you want to market your property. 

2) Staging. Next we will stage your property in order to make it attractive to potential buyers.  This may use your furniture with small additions or it may require bringing in a professional stager to set up the property, especially if it is vacant at the time of the sale.

3) Photos. A photographer will come in take professional photos of your home so that it can show the best way that it can, especially for buyers doing their initial shopping online. We will list the property

4) List Property. Now we are ready to list your property on the Multiple Listing Service or MLS.  In addition to the photo and property description we may add a video or walking tour of the property to the listing.  This will depend on the exact level of marketing that we determine is needed for your property.

This sounds like a lot to do just to get your property listed.  But in reality the bulk of the seller's work is getting the property ready to sell. So once the property is ready to sell then we go and we can set up showings. These showings can either be public open houses or private showings depending on the current health situation and your desires as the owner. Showings allow agents and potential buyers to walk through your home after they have seen it online.  And then we hope for the actual process of selling the house to start.

Property Sale Process:

1) Offer & Acceptance: If a buyer is interested in your property they will make an offer.  Once you agree to the offer and accept it, the transaction process really starts.

2) Open Escrow. Once your have accepted the offer, the the buyer will make an initial deposit and we will open escrow on the property.

3) Home Inspection: Usually within 10 to 14 days after opening escrow the buyers will come in and inspect your home with a professional home inspector. The inspector will go throughout the house, climb on the roof and in the attic.  The inspector will find document any problems in your home so that the buyer has a clear picture of the home's condition before they move ahead with the purchase of your home. At this point the buyer's agent will begin a negotiation with your agent as to which repairs will be conducted by the seller or if a credit will be provided at closing for the repairs. You also have the option to see your home "as is" which tells buyers that you will likely not conduct any repairs to the property.  If the buyers decided to move ahead with the purchase after negotiations on repairs are complete, the transaction will move forward with "J1" which is the paragraph in the purchase contract for the home inspection.  At this point the buyer will make an additional deposit to escrow.  For the seller this is a key point in the transaction as prior to J1 being complete, the buyer can back out of the transaction with no questions asked.

4) Appraisal. Unless the sale is a cash sale, the buyer will be moving forward with their lender on securing a mortgage for the property.  The lender will next require that a appraisal is conducted in order to determine the value of your property. The appraisal number will tell the buyer how much the lender is willing to loan them. If the appraisal comes in higher than the purchase price, the seller will never know because the lender will move forward with the lending process.  If the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, either the buyer will have to make up the difference or this is a potential point of negotiation with the seller. Honestly, if the property is priced correctly, most appraisals come in at or close to the list price.  You should discuss likely appraisals values with your Realtor as part of determining your list price.

5) Termite Inspection. In Hawaii and many other areas, the next step will be a termite inspection.  The termite inspector normally is chosen by the buyer and paid for by the seller.  The goal is to find that there are no termites to be found; ground or dry wood (You can learn more about termite inspections in this post).  If the inspector does find termites then this will require treatment.  This can be done as a spot treatment (usually for condos) or a whole home fumigation. At the completion of the process, the termite company will provide a warranty to the buyer and lender to certify that the home is now clear of termites.  Note that unless it is negotiated differently, the seller usually has to pay for any required termite treatment.

6) Final Moveout & Closing: As part of the purchase contract, the buyer and seller will agree on the closing timeline.  Usually this is a 45 day process but it can be more or less depending on the specific situation.  With about 10 days to go prior to closing, it is now time for the seller to kick back into gear.  At this point your will have to remove all of your items from the property and have the home professionally cleaned again.  Even though you did this earlier, you have had people potentially living in the home and walking through the home.  Also, there are now areas that we not accessible before as the home is clear of your personal property.  If you have pets, you may need to also have your carpets cleaned and sprayed for fleas or other bugs.  Now you are ready to sign closing documents and complete the sale! You will also want to call any utility and set up a transfer to the new owner. At this point your are signing over the deed to your property and handing over keys to the new owner.  Approximately two days after the buyer funds the loan for the property the City & County of Honolulu (or your local municipality) will record the property.  Once this occurs you will receive any proceeds from the sale!

In the best case situation, this entire process can take about seventy-five days. It can be a very stressful process and if you have questions, please ask your Realtor so that you understand what is coming next.

 

April 13, 2020

City & County of Honolulu Permit Process

 

On this post, I will be reviewing permitting process for the City & County of Honolulu. 

Are you planning on renovating your home or buying and selling? If so you may want to know a little bit more about the permitting process with the City & County of Honolulu Department of Plans and Permitting. You are going to need a permit when you do anything to your home that is considered major. Some examples of when you would need a permit include:

    - Demolishing a property

    - Construction of a new property 

    - Building an addition to your property

    - Adding a new fence to a property

    - Major electrical upgrades to a property to include solar installation

    - Major plumbing, gas or water heater installations or modifications

It is important to research when a permit is required before you start a major upgrade or installation.  I have friends who built a lava rock wall around their property and it turns out the wall was not to code so they has to take down part of their wall and rebuild it.  You want to ensure that you have the correct permits prior to commencing work so that you are not in the position of having to pay for additional work in order to ensure that an upgrade is built according to code.

The Department of Plans and Permitting requires physical blueprints or plans that show what work will be done to the property.  You may be able to do this as an owner but many people hire draftsman, architects or general contractors to help with the process. The other thing you can do is hire an expediter. The process can take anywhere from six weeks to six months depending on the type and size of your project. An expediter may be able to get your project through the system a little more quickly.

What if you want to find out if parts of your home or a home that you are considering buying are permitted or not? You can always go to the Department of Plans and Permitting website at www.honoluludpp.org and find out which permits are attached to your property. You want to make sure that any permits that were opened on your home have been closed. If you are looking to sell your home buyers want to be able to come in and be assured that the different areas of the home are correctly permitted. They will ask that question and during the contract process a buyer can ask for a building permit package to be provided to make sure again which permits have been opened or closed. The same ideas apply if you are looking to purchase a home.  You want to ensure that you fully understand the status of all permits prior to closing on a home.

If you have any additional questions please feel free to let me know or contact a draftsman, architect or your general contractor for more information.

 

March 25, 2020

Can I still list or see a property during the COVID-19 "Stay at Home" order?

 

In the last week or so, I have been getting the question:  Can I still buy or sell a home during the COVID-19 pandemic and especially now that the State of Hawaii has issue a Stay At Home order? And the answer is yes.

Even during the current crisis, the City and County of Honolulu has determined that real estate is an essential service because they understand the predicament that people are in when comes to having to move. So while real estate transactions have been deemed essential we want to ensure that everyone is comfortable as either the buyer or the seller.

Some listings are owner occupied and that presents specific challenges.  These listings require more communication and organization to make everyone safe.  However, other homes are vacant and as a result are much easier to view. Regardless of status of the property, your primary focus should be on remaining safe throughout the process.  To accomplish this we will practice social distancing and keep everything clean with wipes and hand sanitizer.

Some things that have changed are that there are no more open houses.  Realtors will not be placing multiple people in a small space time.  However, with some ingenuity and imagination; you can still have almost the same experience.

Virtual Tours.  For years I have used virtual tours using my cell phone to take videos of homes for clients or walk them through a property with a live feed on an app such as Facebook Live or Facetime. During this tour I will walk through the house and show the client every aspect of the home. This process is just like being there and as a buyer you can direct me to go back and look at a specific room or feature until you are comfortable that you understand the home. These tours are very effective and I have had multiple clients buy homes simply using a virtual tour.

Private Showing. A private showing can be done safely but it does require some additional setup and a focus on safety throughout the tour.  First, as a agent, I will go to the home and using wipes open all the doors, turn on lights and prepare the home so that you do not need to touch anything.  If you do need to open something additional, we can use wipes to touch other surfaces.  Additionally, throughout the tour we will be practicing social distancing at remain at least six feet apart.

Home inspectors are still inspecting homes.  They are conducting the inspections by themselves and then conducting a video walkthrough with the prospective buyer at the conclusion of the inspection.  And just like they have always done they will prepare a written report and send this to the client once they are complete with the inspection.

So if you need to buy or sell a home right now, remember that with planning it can be done safely even during the current COVID-19 crisis.

If you have any questions on the current process or any other real estate questions, please let me know.

March 25, 2020

Buyer's Closing Costs in Hawaii

 

Today we are going to learn about the buyer costs incurred during of the course of a real estate transaction in Hawaii.

Prior to closing the buyer is going to have to come up with money three separate times.  

Up Front Payments:

1. Initial Deposit. The buyer is  responsible for an initial deposit that is paid to escrow when the contract is accepted and the buyer and the seller have decided to move forward together with the transaction.

2. Home Inspection.  The buyer will pay for a home inspector to inspect the home on behalf of the buyer and let you know anything that they think could be improved or is wrong with the property.

3. Additional Deposit. Once you as the buyer complete the inspection and decide you want to move forward with the transaction, an additional deposit is often required. Just like the initial deposit, this is paid upfront to escrow.

The rest of the fees will all be charged on what is called a final settlement statement that is provided by escrow at closing.

Escrow is the company that collects all the documents and fees, handles the disbursement of funds, and records the title with the City and County. All of these fees that will happen at closing on this final settlement statement. The remainder of the deposit that you will need for your loan will be brought to the closing table, or within two to three days of closing.  You will pay that remainder that you need for your loan as well as any loan fees or additional payments that are required by your lender.

Additional Fees:

1. Points. If required by your lender on your specific loan points are a certain percentage or amount of the overall loan.  This will be determined with your lender.

2. Insurance. Usually one year's worth of insurance for the property is required to be paid at closing.  In Hawaii all properties have hurricane insurance and basic property insurance.  Additionally, depending on the specific area where you buy, you may also be required to have flood insurance.

3. Association Fees. If you buy a home in a housing association or a condo, you will be required to pay some association fees upfront.  You usually pay about a month or month and a half in advance on your condo fees or HOA fees.

4. Property Tax. In Hawaii, we pay property taxes six months in advance. So, the seller has already paid property taxes for a certain amount of time. Whatever the remainder of that six months is, the buyer will pay the pro-rated taxes at closing. 

5. Escrow Fees. The last three kind of smaller charges are the escrow fees. The escrow company collects all the documents and the fees, and they charge a fee for that.  Title is the property deed that you will need for the property that will be transferred to you as well as the insurance policy on the title.  This policy ensures that the title is free and clear of liens and other problems in order to protect you against any title claims. Finally, there is a recording fee. This fee is paid to the City and County to record the property in your name.

In summary buyer costs during escrow happen in two phases. There are three fees upfront. The rest of the fees are handled at the very end in the final settlement statement when you close on the property. 

If you have any questions about the buying process, please feel free to either call, text or email me.