Friday, February 5, 2016

Moving to Hawaii, the East Side of the Big Island, Part 4

Moving to Hawaii

The East Side of the Big Island

Part 4

Here are links to parts 1 through 3:
Moving to Hawaii, the East Side fo the Big Island, part 2 
Liliuokalani Park and Gardens

Final Attempt and Success!

I spent many months doing online research, discussing options with our realtor, and even considering (gasp!) not purchasing property in Hawaii.  

We experienced some life changing events (death, accidents, illness, etc.) in that time that furthered our resolve to move while we were still young enough to enjoy life fully. 

During the last few years, we had been saving as much money as we could.  I also reached out to a mortgage broker and discovered the lenders had eased up recently and down payments of less than 20% were now possible, freeing up some of our ready cash for the move.  This meant we had sufficient funds to consider purchasing a home, if we could find one we could afford.

About eight months ago, I contacted USAA for a referral to a real estate agent in the Hilo area.  If you have access to USAA, I do recommend this service.  We were hooked up with a great agent to has lived and worked in the area for many years.  If you use a referred realtor (you do not have to use their mortgage services, although you can), you will be eligible for a rebate after the close of your home.  We received $950, not a bad deal at all, and were pleased with the service we received.

I started working with our agent about six weeks before our next trip to the Big Island, which was for a long Memorial Day weekend.  If you are planning to look at homes while on vacation, it is a very good idea to make sure your agent will be available during your stay, particularly if you are visiting during a holiday. 

Our initial discussion focused on what our interests were regarding size and location.  Over the years, we had narrowed it down to Upper Puna, Volcano, and South Hilo.  We also were looking for a smaller (hopefully more affordable) home with one to three bedrooms.  We were also looking for long term accessibility (little to no dirt roads) and as I am risk adverse, I wanted lava zone 3 or higher.  I wanted to keep my options open, however, in case there was a property that wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted that turned out to be perfect for us so I also told our realtor to send us any other properties that caught her eye but didn't fall in within our guidelines.

 Over the next few weeks, our agent sent us listings to review online.  We looked at well over 100 properties and narrowed our search to about 20 that we wanted to look at over a two day period.  That list narrowed a bit further due to properties that went into escrow and our agent's recommendations regarding neighborhoods.  I would say I probably spent no less than 32 hours looking at properties during a one month time.

Meanwhile, I began working with a local mortgage broker to pre-qualify and begin the loan process.  I found it much easier this time around.  We were pre-qualified and ready to look at properties, and hopefully, make an offer.

About a week prior to our trip to the Big Island, we gave our final list of properties to our realtor so she could make preparations for us to visit the places that interested us.  I did not limit the list based on missing or bad photos.  I wanted to keep all of our options open.  I did notice a disturbing trend toward highly stylized or photoshopped images that were very pretty to view but were completely useless when trying to critically view properties online.

We met with our realtor the day after we arrived in Hilo ready to spend the tow days looking at properties.  The day prior, she had contacted all of the listing agents to be sure the properties were still available and viewable.  

A few of the properties were rented so she needed to work with the agents and the sellers to give the proper 72 hour notice to the tenants.  I read somewhere that it takes significantly longer to sell a home if it is rented.  In Hawaii, 72 hours' notice must be given to the tenants so I certainly believe this could be true.  

Additionally, if we wanted to view a rented property a second time, we would again have to be sure 72 hours' notice is provided, meaning we would have to wait three days to look at any rented properties we were interested in again.  Challenging if you are on island for just a short period of time.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

We looked at a lot of properties in two days.  Some should have been red-tagged (if there is such a thing in Hawaii).  Our realtor stepped through the floor in one of the kitchens.  A couple we just opened the door and peered in.  Traditionally, one takes their shoes off before entering a home in Hawaii. There were several times our realtor looked at us and said, "shoes on".  We listened.

I learned a lot in two days.  

I learned how to tell the difference between piles of dead fire ants and the piles of termite poops that resemble coffee grounds (just about every home had one or the other or both).  We learned about single wall vs. double walled homes, types of windows (or in one case, lack thereof), foundations (post and pier vs. poured cement), which neighborhoods had piped water, and which had sewer (hint: very few).  

We looked at homes ranging in price from less than $100,000 to nearly $300,000.  At the end of two days, I could tell you which ones were under $100,000, but I couldn't tell you which ones were over $200,000.  Aesthetically, I could no longer tell the difference.

In the end, we purchased the second house we looked at.  It hit nearly all the marks:  location, covered parking, size, price, condition.

In the next installment, I will discuss in detail the aspects of moving to Hawaii should be considered.  After that, I will delve into the particulars of moving to the Big Island.

I hope you will stay tuned.

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