Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Moving to Hawaii, the East Side of the Big Island, Part 3

Moving to Hawaii

The East Side of the Big Island

Part 3


Here are links to part 1 and part 2:
Moving to Hawaii, the East Side fo the Big Island, part 2 

Attempt #5 

As you can imagine, there was a certain level of frustration mounting as we really did want to move to Hawaii, but I wanted to make sure the move was going to be a successful one.  I knew we needed enough resources to be able to get off to a good start, but saving sufficient funds was taking years and I was getting inpatient.  In the meantime, our daughter had graduated high school, eliminating one of the concerns we had with the move.

Finally, I considered the possibility of moving to Hawaii and renting a place until we could get established.  I found an apartment complex that did leases as short as six months and started to plan our move.  We set a date seven months out and created my countdown calendar.  I began to make lists of what we would take with us and started researching online shipping companies and movers.  I was in full planning mode when one day my husband said he really wanted to own a place rather than rent.  This put me into a tailspin.   After weeks of planning, I was initially having difficulty listening to his desires, but eventually realized he was right.  We would always be in a better position financially with our incomes on the mainland. 

How were we going to make this happen?

I started by reviewing all of the different options for owning a place in Hawaii:

  • Condominium
  • House
  • Purchase property and build a house
  • Purchase property and build a non-traditional house (Yurt, tiny house, etc.)
This initially was very attractive, but I still could not find a place that we could afford over the long haul that would meet not just our needs but our desires.  The ongoing cost of monthly fees plus the restrictions placed on owners (no pets), would be issues for us that would never go away.

Affordability and location were the top concerns, but upkeep was another.

Purchase property and build a house
This can be a cheaper option to get the house you want, and while my husband used to work in construction (15+ years ago), I had zero experience in this area and didn't think I had the moxie to see a this type of project through without losing my mind.  If you are up for it, however, this could be a viable option.

Purchase property and build a non-traditional dwelling
One idea that held my attention for more than a year was to purchase an affordable piece of property in upper Puna or Volcano and put up a yurt.  

I did a lot of investigation online and even went so far as to meet with Melissa Fletcher, owner of Yurts of Hawaii during one of our trips to the Big Island. She and her husband very generously spent a couple of hours with us in her yurt office up near Volcano.  We got to tour the yurt (inside and out) and viewed a number of her installations around the island via photos on her computer.  

We even drew up some rough sketches of interiors for a two bedroom plus loft yurt.  Total cost, at the time, was around $100K, including land.  While we did not have that amount saved up, we did have enough to start the process (purchasing and prepping land) and would be able to come up with the money over a few years' time.  

Melissa is a licensed contractor and offers a 'one stop shop'.  You purchase your desired property and Melissa can take it from there.  She told me she would work on any island, as well.

Yurts have some tremendous advantages over traditional buildings:

  • Maintenance is dead easy.  The exterior needs to be power washed about every year or so. That's it. 
  • The roof and walls are easy and affordable to replace (a fraction of the cost of a traditional house).
  • Want to move?  You can pack it up and ship it wherever you want.
There are also some disadvantages:
  • The walls typically have zero insulation.  While temperature is rarely an issue in Hawaii, lack of insulation means you hear absolutely everything  going on outside from inside the yurt.  Road noise, your neighbors, the rain: you will hear all of it all the time.
  • You have to consider location very carefully when you put up a yurt.  Certainly ambient noise is an issue, but air flow is also very important.  You can have mildew issues if you are not careful, though I am told this has improved over the years with use of different materials that make up the yurt.
  • There is no interior structure.  If you want walls, you need to build them and they need to be self supporting.
  • Salability - non-traditional properties can take much longer to sell.  Think about what may happen in your life down the road and decide if this is or is not an issue.
After you investigate whether this is a viable option for you, you need to gauge where your partner lies on the spectrum of interest in living in a yurt.  I really loved the concept, but my husband was reticent.  He is very flexible and, ultimately, I think it would have been okay for us, but if both parties are not fully on board then it could be a recipe for relationship disaster.

I also had concerns about the salability of the property.  While we were looking for a long term home, you never can tell what the future will bring.  One desire was to purchase a property that could sell in a reasonable amount of time, should the need ever arise.

A note about unpermitted structures: 
In my home search, I came across many properties for sale that were partially or fully unpermitted.  The value of these homes are greatly decreased because no mortgage lender will approve an unpermitted home so the only payment method available is cash.  If a property is partially unpermitted, that portion of the building will not be considered when appraising the home and therefore a larger down payment may be required when purchasing an unpermitted house.

This may be fine with you, but again, it will likely affect the resale (both length of time on the market and price) of a property and must be considered.

I really love the concept of a yurt and would still consider buying property and installing a small yurt as a weekend getaway spot near Volcano (what a great way to get away from the hot September temps in Hilo).  If you could find a cheap enough piece of land and were willing to forego all utilities (solar and catchment water), you could have a really cool place on the cheap.I also looked at either building a tiny house or purchasing one.  The tiny house movement is pretty big in Northern California and I had been watching youtube video tours of them for months.  Tiny houses on the Big Island is a much more informal thing.  Most people live in them as a point of necessity not desire.  To say there is a formal movement here would be a gross misstatement and because of that, county building codes are not written to be friendly toward the building of tiny houses, so one really needs to either build an unpermitted structure or build one on wheels. 
 I briefly investigated having a prebuilt tiny house shipped to the Big Island but found the overall cost to be prohibitive.  If I was going to spend that sort of money, I was going to go with a Yurt and have a much larger (still small by most standards) space.

A consideration when thinking of having a tiny home on the Big Island is the environment.  If you build a home in the rain forest, consider how much time you will be spending indoors due to the rain.  This may or may not be an issue for you, but you need to consider it.

Next installment....Success!

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