Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hawaii Superferry files Bankruptcy

Today the Hawaii Superferry, Inc., the high-speed ferry between Oahu and Maui, and eventually Oahu and Hawaii and Kauai, filed for bankruptcy protection today. They cited a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in March that struck down a state law permitting the company to operate before completing an environmental impact statement.

At the time of the decision, Tom Fargo, the Superferry President and CEO, said completing the EIS could take a year, and the company would dock the two ferries in Mobile, AL.

The company, which reported more than $100 million in assets and debts in its bankruptcy petition, said it will use the bankruptcy to close its business completely and liquidate the operation.

Formed in 2002 to provide ferry service between the 4 major islands, the company began carrying passengers in August, 2007 on the Alakai, an aluminum-hulled catamaran with a capacity of 866 people and 282 cars. The service was well received by most islanders who rode the ferry, and many welcomed an alternative to high inter-island air ticket prices.

In November, 2007, the legislature passed a law to permit continued ferry service despite a series of successful state court legal challenges. The March ruling stated that the law was intended specifically to benefit the company, in violation of the state constitution.

In its filing, the company also stated business was hurt by the decline in tourism, a 2008 increase in fuel prices, and the price war between the airlines GO and Hawaiian for interisland travel.

I was fortunate to take the ferry to Maui last winter and see the humpback whales (photo above), in what was a truly enjoyable experience. I am saddened the company found no way to re-enter the market in the future, and provide an additional choice for island travelers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hawaii Kai Park May Charge User Fees

The DLNR (Dept. of Land & Natural Resources) is facing budget cuts, just like all other state agencies. Director Laura Thielen asked for $240 million in bond money, but lawmakers said "no" and cut the DLNR budget by more than 20%.

Thielen is going to Plan B, which will probably include charging nonresidents a fee, $1 to $5, to enter 8 high-traffic parks throughout the state, increasing slip fees at small boat harbors, and partnering with volunteer community groups to fix problems at little or no cost. Among the parks on the list is Hawaii Kai's Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.

Other popular parks which may start user fees include the Nu'uanu Pali wayside park on Oahu; Koke'e/Waimea parks and Ha'ena Beach on Kaua'i; Makena Beach and 'Iao State Park on Maui; and Kekaha Kai and 'Akaka Falls parks on the Big Island.

There has been no significant objection from the Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board to a fee at the Ka Iwi shoreline. In this time of budget restraint and lack of funding, user fees only make sense in order to keep the parks open. Charging at Diamond Head hasn't slowed the number of visitors, and the annual fee income has actually increased from 2003 to 2008.

Hawaii Kai's Ka Iwi shoreline is one of its most beautiful assets, and if nonresident fees mean the park can be maintained and kept open, it seems a small change to make. Many nonresidents purchase property here, and eventually move to our islands, so continuing to make parks available to all only makes sense.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hawaii Kai Estates Available

Hawaii has some of the most stunning architecture and residential home locations of any place in the world. The architects have found ways to highlight the ocean, the views, and the ambience of living in our tropical paradise. Oahu, because of the density of the population, has the largest selection of beautiful oceanview homes of any of the islands.

The highest priced of the current active listings in Hawaii Kai (excepting the Kaiser Estate, in a class and price range by itself) as of May 21 are 3 homes in Koko Kai. I have always felt Koko Kai is the very best example in Hawaii Kai of our gorgeous estates. Rising on the slopes of Koko Head above Portlock Road, this magnificent subdivision with wide streets offers breathtaking views over Maunalua Bay to Diamond Head.

Most of the 187 homes were custom built in the early 1970s, and have been remodeled and highly upgraded. The lots are quite large for Hawaii, from more than 10,000 sq ft to roughly an acre and overlook rocky cliffs falling into the Pacific.

Nearly all the houses in Koko Kai have wonderful views, some 180 degrees from ocean, to the Bay, to the mountains. The area is a perfect spot to watch the migrating humpback whales in the winter.

Here are photos of the 3 top listings currently available:

Pretty spectacular aren't they? I love living here and helping buyers enjoy these beautiful homes and the lifestyle of Hawaii Kai. Contact me for a preview or more details.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hawaii Kai's Maunalua Bay gets Much-Needed Attention

Students from Kamilo Iki Elementary spent this last school year, one afternoon a week, pulling out invasive seaweed and studying the fragile ecosystem of Maunalua Bay.

The bay is an important resource for Hawaii Kai, and a large part of the lifestyle there, providing waters for boaters, swimmers, surfers, commercial interests such as parasailers, and more. It is also a living classroom which the group Navigating Change has chosen for study through local schools.

"After 50 years of urbanization this bay is badly degraded. There is pollution, we have invasive species, and our fisheries are badly degraded," said Alyssa Miller, with Malama Maunalua. The Kamilo Iki students collected 3000 pounds of unwanted plants. "Right now the bay right here is basically dead, there is no coral living in Maunalua Bay," said 5th Grader, Alisha Tokumaru.

Students hope others in Hawaii Kai will be inspired by their efforts to help protect our resource. For information and volunteer opportunities, contact Malama Maunalua, a community-based organization aimed at preserving and restoring the health of the Maunalua region.

Hawaii Kai is such a unique and beautiful place on our island of Oahu, but needs our help and commitment to keep it this way for future generations. Contact me for information on relocation to Hawaii Kai and the lifestyle we enjoy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hawaii Kai Pending Home Sales Rise with Affordability

In my April market report, I noted that inventory was down and pending sales increased last month. The National Assn. of Realtors reported this week that the trend is nationwide.

The Real Estate Channel states that "pending home sales rose with many first-time buyers taking advantage of historically good housing affordability conditions." Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said it should take a few months for the market to gain momentum. "This increase could be the leading edge of first-time buyers responding to very favorable affordability conditions and an $8,000 tax credit, which increases buying power even more in areas where special programs allow buyers to use it as a downpayment," he said.

NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said the increase in buying power is quite remarkable. "Compared to a year ago, the typical family can pay much less in mortgage costs for the same home, or buy a better home without necessarily increasing their monthly payment," he said. "For buyers who've been on the sidelines and have good jobs, the market has never looked more favorable. Homeownership has always offered immediate benefits and long-term value, but the advantages in today's market are unique."

Certainly our Hawaii Kai market has benefited from the first time buyer programs and low interest rates offered now for mortgage loans. It's still a buyers market and there are wonderful real estate opportunities in our part of East Oahu. Contact me for ideas.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hawaii Kai April Real Estate Market Activity

Single Family

April home sales increased in Hawaii Kai, though prices declined. 12 single family homes sold, vs. 8 in April last year, with a median price of $707,500 vs. $994,500 last year. With so few sales, however, the statistics of median price can be easily skewed by one higher-priced home.

Year-to-date, 42 homes sold vs. 54 last year, with a median price of $740,000 vs. $917,500 in 2008.


In April, 14 condos closed vs. 19 last year. Median sales price was $450,000 vs. $523,000 last year.

Year-to-date, 49 condos have sold, vs. 71 last year. Median sales price has been $456,000 vs. $538,000 in 2008.

So far, numbers and prices in 2009 are dramatically lower than last year for both single family and condo sales.

Island-wide, single family sales are widely down, from 628 year-to-date 2009 vs. 929 sales last year, a decrease of 32.4%. The median sales price has also decreased, to $575,000 from $625,000. Condo sales on Oahu dropped to 824 through April, vs. 1,421 last year. Median sales prices decreased to $305,000 from $329,000 last year.

The island has so many distinct areas that comparing sales in Ewa Plain or North Shore to Hawaii Kai isn't very productive. We are fortunate our Honolulu Board of Realtors gives us such good statistics for each geographic neighborhood group on the island.

An example of the diversity are the numbers for new listings in April. There were 29 in Hawaii Kai, with a median list price of $879,000. This compares to 39 in Kailua-Waimanalo, at $849,000, and to 74 in Ewa Plain at $465,000.

So if you want Hawaii Kai real estate information, contact a Realtor who has lived and worked there for many years and understands our unique market.

Barbara Abe, Realtor
Hawaii Kai Real Estate Relocation Specialist