Moving to Kaua'i
Moving to Kaua'i? Important Information for Buyers new to the Island
Kaua'i is extremely different from the mainland in many ways. First of all, our Real Estate Market is soaring! With many Businesses now supporting Working From Home, millions of people suddenly have the freedom to move anywhere in the world, and Kaua'i is a Choice destination.
The next thing to realize is that the climate and neighborhoods of Kaua'i are exceptionally varied. Our island is less than 30 miles across, yet its unique topography and location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean cause different locations to receive 20-480" of rainfall a year. That's an extreme range and means that the West side of the island is largely desert while the North Shore is a tropical rainforest. So the location of your home is critically important and you will want expert guidance to help you determine the right place for you.
Kaua'i also has a very rich cultural history and can have an interesting attitude towards incoming "foreigners" who don't understand or respect it, so seek expert guidance and don't assume that social scenarios that you are accustomed to on the mainland exist or work well here. It is important to be Aloha in your spirit and generous in your outlook to fit in well with the local culture. It's a small island (less than 60,000 people) with massive cultural diversity, and reputations are made or broken quickly based on one's actions, integrity, and behavior.
The Real Estate laws in Hawai'i also contain structures unlike anything usually found on the Mainland. CPRs (Community Property Regimes) are tremendously common on Kaua'i. Most vacant land sold these days is part of a CPR, as are many houses and almost all Condos. The legal implications of CPRs are profound as members can and will be held accountable for their neighbor's actions by the Kaua'i County Planning Department. So seek expert guidance when buying into one. Some dysfunctional ones exist that can be real money traps for the unwary. Others are well-established with members who abide by the Community Declarations and Bylaws and function well as ordinary and often quite lovely neighborhoods.
Another profound difference between Kaua'i and the mainland is selection: At any given time there are only a few hundred properties on the market in Kaua'i, ranging from $100,000 studio condos to $40M estates. For the particular type, size, location, and price of property you are looking for, there may be only a dozen options on the Market (sometimes less). Most mainland buyers are accustomed to having many, many more options to choose from than we typically have available here. It's like if you're used to shopping at Amazon where you can highly define what you want and be able to find it to suddenly only having the local General Store to choose from with its limited selection. The luxury of being able to choose "the perfect" house has stopped many a mainland Buyer from finding anything at all until they acclimate to the reduced selection.
There are also distinct architectural styles & features that work well with the local climate whose importance you will want to understand thoroughly before setting out on your house hunt. And erosion and flooding can be unreal and massive here... never buy in a flood zone. And be aware that the State of Hawaii is predicting a 3.6' rise in sea levels by 2060, so be wary of Coastal land purchases. I've seen beachfront properties eaten away by the ocean and storms in 6' chunks year after year. Local laws and zoning ordinances are actively being changed to dis-incentivize oceanfront property purchases. State law decrees that land lost to erosion is lost. And protection of public beaches is prioritized over protection of property owners.
The final major difference between Kaua'i and the Mainland that you want to be aware of is Cost of Construction and Availability of Labor. There is a very limited pool of skilled laborers on Kaua'i and they are in high demand and paid very well. Building materials are almost entirely shipped overseas, which is expensive. Consequently, the cost of construction is typically $300-$800+/sq ft. And there are prodigious governmental impediments for optimistic prospective owner-builders to attempt to overcome (starting with the cost of land and apexing at the difficulty of dealing with the Department of Water).
This is spoken not to discourage you from your dream of moving to Kaua'i, but to set realistic expectations and strongly encourage you to engage an expert Realtor who is willing and able to capably navigate you through these challenges to secure the best home possible at the best price without falling into Honeytraps that look too good to be true because they are.
I provide free Real Estate Agency Services to Buyers. For my Mainland Buyers, I provide expert advice on the local Market conditions, the environmental characteristics of neighborhoods and their microclimates, and remote video tours of properties that you are interested in. I also provide expert advice on the best local lenders, inspectors, lawyers and other Professionals you may need during the course of your Real Estate Transaction. I have been in hundreds (possibly thousands) of local Houses and Condos, including hundreds of high-end homes, and have a deep appreciation for which architectural styles and features work best with the local climates. With a background in data architecture, analysis and mathematics, I specialize in finding the best deals for my clients, taking current market conditions, as well as local conditions into account.
- Melveen Fredeluces