Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Moving to Hawaii, the East Side of the Big Island, Part 1

Moving to Hawaii

The East Side of the Big Island

Pride of America can be seen in Hilo Bay on Tuesdays year-round

Part 1

While everyone is different, it took us many years to plan and execute our move to Hawaii.  I think we seriously looked at moving four times over a ten year period before we actually made the move.  

We learned a great deal over that period of time.  Looking back, I realize I was just as green as could be about making such a big move -- I was just every other person who yearns to move to Hawaii.  It's a little embarrassing to admit that fact, but it's true.  I'd like to share my experience in an effort to assist anyone looking to relocate to Hawaii, particularly the east side of the Big Island.

Here were our main considerations:

Housing - Location
Education (K through 12)

Here is what we also needed to consider:

Cost of living in town vs. in a remote location
Access issues (to your home and to healthcare as you age)
Internet access
Cable or other tv access
Catchment or piped water
Cesspool, septic, or sewer
Neighbors or lack thereof
Ambient noise (helicopters, road noise, coqui frogs, barking dogs, water)
Lava Zone
Weather (hint, how much do you REALLY like rain?)

I will discuss all of these considerations in future blogs.  First, I'd like to describe our early attempts at moving to Hawaii and what we learned.  

Attempt #1 (about 10 years ago)

The first time we seriously looked at moving to Hawaii was to the north shore of the Big Island near Hawi.  A friend was looking at a property that had a main house and a rental unit on some acreage on the road to the Pololu Valley lookout.  

We had seen some pictures and the area looked great. Our plan was to sell everything and just move with suitcases. Our friend had flown over to view the property and loved the house. However, there was one major downside:  all three of us worked in healthcare and the nearest hospital was about 60 minutes away in Waimea.  The next nearest hospital was over two hours away -- all far too far for three daily commutes (ride sharing would be limited due to the 24/7/365 nature of working in hospitals).  Based on the difficult commute, our friend decided not to purchase the property. So there went the plan.  

What I learned and why I am grateful it did not work out: 

The property was too far away to reasonably commute to work, particularly in stormy conditions, which is frequent in Hawaii.  I am not a fan of big commutes and recognize this about myself.  Also, at the time, I think we only owned one car (we never got to the point of consideration as to whether we would ship it).  Obviously this would not be a problem for some folks, but we all have to recognize what does and does not work for our individual case.  

Honestly, I don't think we gave any detailed thought to much other than sell everything, buy tickets, and move with the hope of getting jobs.  I am so grateful this plan did not work out.  Some people could make this work, but it would be difficult and I think the odds of success would be very small.  Many people try to move to Hawaii with this plan and fail.


Attempt #2 (about 8 years ago)

The second plan also involved a friend purchasing property.  This time we were focused on the Puna and Hilo areas of the Big Island.  This was in 2007 about a year before the market tanked and home prices on the Big Island dropped like a bag of rocks.  

After a visit to the Big Island by Larry and his business partner to do a property search with a realtor, two properties were identified:  one in Hilo and one in Puna.  I think they were in the $350K - $500K range and were 4+ bedroom homes.  The thought would be that we would have plenty of room to have visitors and hold retreats.  

I loved the house in Hilo, the location just off Haili street near downtown was perfect to walk anywhere.  The house was a charming older home with a lovely landscaped back yard.  "Older home" in Hawaii typically is a single walled house. That means you can hear everything going on in the house from anywhere else in the house.  This was a deal breaker for some folks involved and truly an important consideration if you are a light sleeper and someone in the house is a chronic snorer.  Just saying'.  I'm not pointing fingers, really. 

The second home was in HPP (Hawaiian Paradise Park), a large subdivision in Puna, also one of the closest subdivisions to Hilo.  This was a large, newer home that ticked all of the boxes for size, location, etc.  After looking at the house, there was much excitement and emailing of photos back to the mainland.  This was the place! Or so we thought.  

Our real estate agent encouraged us to drive by the property at different times of day just to be sure.  I got a phone call the next morning the deal was off: the coqui frog noise at night was deafening.  Here's a link to a youtube recording of Coqui Frogs.  So there went attempt #2.  

What I learned and why I am grateful it did not work out: 

The real estate market has changed substantially in the last seven years.  Had we purchased a home at that time (not just in Hawaii) we would have likely done it with zero down and an interest only loan.  What a nightmare that would have been when the market tanked and we were holding onto an underwater property like so many other people experienced.  We were very lucky.  

We also learned there was more to location than just location.  Location relative to work and ambient noise were also considerations.  Again, I was very grateful this move also did not work out.  Additionally, I would have missed out on meeting many amazing people at my next job on the mainland, and I would not trade that for anything, even moving to Hawaii.

Next up:

Move attempts #3 and #4.

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