Friday, April 23, 2010

Hawaii Kai Remodeling Projects - Should You Take the Risk

If you want to make some changes on your home but not sell in today's market, consider some renovations which will add to the value of your property and make you more comfortable. While you should look at every expenditure with a cautious eye for recouping the cost, you can't put off everything you need or want for your lifestyle hoping that great market of a few years ago will come back soon.

According to a study from Remodeling magazine, the average return on value for an upgrade declined from 87% in 2005 to 64% in 2009. But here are some rules to help you maximize a return on your remodeling investment.

1. Do needed repairs. Don't "defer" maintenance. Repairs are almost always more expensive if you put them off. Buyers might not need a jacuzzi but they certainly will take off their price for leaky faucets or faulty wiring. If buyers discover them during inspection, it's now common practice to ask sellers not only to pick up the tab for the repair but also to pay a penalty to compensate the buyer for the inconvenience of having work done.

2. Remodeling to use space more efficiently is cheaper than adding on. Tacking on a large addition you may want might just make the house too big for the neighborhood or most buyers. The trend now is toward great rooms, so the space can be divided as the homeowner wants or needs as the years go by. Rather than adding on, you're better off repurposing existing square footage by reconfiguring the floor plan. A lot of interior walls in our Hawaii Kai homes are known as "single wall" and relatively easy to tear down for a more open feel.

3. Think Green. If you need to replace appliances, buy Energy Star. A little extra now will pay you back in energy savings and tax credits. And most buyers will want all the energy-saving features they can find.

4. Don't chase technology. You might love a home theater, but you can bet the technology will change in the next few years and your expensive set up could be obsolete. With buyers seeking any excuse to low-ball their offers, they're not going to reward you for an out-of-date system. Gadgets are different than infrastructure though. Add ethernet ports when you can, plenty of outlets, and cabling throughout.

5. Don't be the first on the block or in the neighborhood (I'm not speaking of our high-end communities) to have a fancy upgrade. You want the best house, not the most expensive one on your block when you sell. “You really have to keep your house's amenities in line with the neighborhood now” says Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. If granite countertops are in-style, and they appeal to you, then make the investment. Make sure you will enjoy them too, not just hope they will make the house worth a higher price. Also, be sure and think neutral in colors and fixtures for the widest buyer appeal.

6. The longer you plan to stay in your home, the less you need to consider the risk of spending for remodeling. But if you think you will want to move or will outgrow the property in 3-5 years, except for repairs, don't do a big renovation.

Home improvements are a bargain right now, with contractors bidding 10%, 20%, even 40% lower for the same work than just a year or two ago, says Bernie Markstein, senior economist for the National Association of Home Builders. You just need to do some thinking about your lifestyle and timing before you commit.

If you want information on Hawaii Kai real estate trends, and what has been selling in Hawaii Kai, just call or email. I've been a Realtor here for more than 20 years, and can guide you with any community or condo complex in Hawaii Kai.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Make your Hawaii Kai Home more Energy-Efficient

Hawaii is leading many states in its moves toward energy self-sufficiency and new energy solutions. Here are 5 ideas you can use to make your own home more energy efficient, and become proactive in the move to save money and the environment. President Obama's "Home Star Retrofit Rebate" program, recently introduced in Congress, could reduce energy costs for middle-class families by hundreds of dollars per year, and some of the following suggestions could help you apply for the rebates.

1. Windows and doors - patch holes, in screens too, to seal off air leaking from your cooling system (if you have one) and to utilize more of the air generated by the fans. Caulk around windows and where wiring goes to the outside of the house. This will cut off entry points for small critters too.

2. Floor and wall insulation - we think of colder climates needing insulation, but Hawaii Kai homes do also. Insulation can keep a home cooler in the summer and warmer in winter (we do have a few cold rainy days) and use less energy. Use insulation in the upper reaches - like the attic space - of your house and seal any gaps to the outside.

3. Lighting - replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescents and you will use 75% less energy on lighting alone. Don't wait until the old bulbs burn out.

4. Appliances - when you are ready to replace, always buy an Energy Star appliance. Also, change air filters often if you have air conditioning.

5. Programmable thermostats - if you have central air, these are very energy-saving devices, easy to install, and easily adjustable. For every degree that a thermostat is set back, you may realize a savings between 1-3% on your heating or cooling bills.

Let's each do our own part to help Hawaii be the model state in the country for energy usage and a green lifestyle.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Update on Hale Alii Condo Development in Hawaii Kai

The Honolulu Advertiser reported this week on the progress of Hale Alii in Hawaii Kai, a luxury condo development - planned for the last 5 years - that will be mixed, by law, with affordable housing. The developers show units in escrow in the MLS, and have said 50% of the units in Phase I are sold out. But problems still need to be solved before the complex can move forward.

On April 5, the paper published, "A development firm planning a condominium in Hawai'i Kai with roughly 300 units has apologized to the community and is asking for a chance to better address concerns over the long-delayed project called Hale Ali'i. At a presentation for the Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board last week, project representatives pledged to end what in the past were sometimes combative actions that included threatening opponents with lawsuits, in hopes of advancing the project that includes both luxury and affordable units.

"Despite earning previous neighborhood board support, the project has been beset by issues including satisfying a county affordable housing requirement and protecting archaeological features on the property near the Oahu Club on Hawai'i Kai Drive. Design plans are being reassessed, and top management of Hale Ali'i Development LLC has been reorganized, according to Mike Greco, who was named Hale Ali'i's chief operating officer March 1."

Greco said changes are being made at the direction of Hanwha Corp., a South Korea-based company that is the majority investor in the project. The Advertiser stated, "Hale Ali'i's most recent design included an 11-story first phase with 133 luxury units ranging from about 1,500 square feet to 4,400 square feet with shared amenities including a wine tasting room, movie theater and resort-style spa. Unit prices ranged from about $1.3 million to $3.7 million when an initial batch of 68 units were placed on the market last year. The developer had anticipated starting construction last month, but has not.

"A second building expected to satisfy a county requirement to provide affordable units was to be developed adjacent to the luxury building and a private landscaped park with features including lagoon-style waterways, floating cabanas and a sand-edged pool with ozone-purified water." Greco told the neighborhood board that all the plans are now being reviewed and are subject to change.

Hale Ali'i Development recently hired Dawn Chang of local consulting firm Ku'iwalu as a cultural consultant, and public relations firm Communications Pacific to help with community outreach. Some residents have suggested the project site was once home to a heiau, or place of worship. Chang encouraged community members to share any information that would help confirm the location of Hawea Heiau or ensure better stewardship of the property.

If you have an opinion on this development, contact your local Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member. Hale Alii is planned on the last large parcel of undeveloped land zoned for homes in Hawaii Kai.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Plan Now for Hawaii Kai July 4th Celebration

The third annual Independence Day at Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai will be here before we know it, and volunteers are busy raising money for the event from local businesses.

Panda Express Hawaii Kai Towne Center is donating 20% of sales to the Independence Day at Maunalua Bay Foundation during one week in April, May and June. The promotion is good April 4-10, May 2-8 and June 6-12.

76 gas station in Koko Marina is donating a percentage of all gas sales in the month of April to IDMBF. Last year, this promotion netted more than $3,000 for the fireworks celebration.

Koko Marina Center is sponsoring a chili cook-off April 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Center Courtyard. Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit IDMBF. More information is available from

For the second year, Outback Steakhouse Hawaii Kai is sponsoring a fund-raising dinner for IDMBF. Tickets are now available for $15, redeemable any time during May. The cost covers a sit-down meal with choice of three pre-fixe entrees, a side and salad.

For information on any of these, call Melanie Long, IDMBF president, 375-9223, or Laura Buck, 2010 event chair, 256-3553. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks from logistics to hospitality. Interested persons may call Mike Nitta, 551-8516.

Independence Day at Maunalua Bay is an all-volunteer effort celebrating freedom, family and friends. The event takes place from 2 to 9 p.m. in Maunalua Bay Beach Park with the spectacular fireworks show at 8 p.m.

Plan to attend this community event which is so well supported by Hawaii Kai residents. There will be free entertainment, games, food vendors, and information booths.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Hawaii Kai Real Estate Market Report for March, 2010

The new Monthly Indicators Report from our Honolulu Board of Realtors shows a promising trend. While we aren't back yet to 2008 numbers, sales are well ahead of those in 2009.

In March, 251 single family homes sold, vs 190 in 2009 and 272 in 2008. For condos, 352 units sold, vs 258 for 2009, and 378 in 2008. Year-to-date sales are up 36.6% over last year (single family).

Median sales price shows the same good news. In March, for single family it was $599,000, vs $575,000 in 2009, and $630,500 in 2008. For condos, the median price ws $310,000 vs $300,000 last year, and $325,000 in 2008. Year to date, the price is up 4.4% (single family).

For Days on Market, we'd want to see a lowering of numbers, meaning properties are selling faster, and that is what is happening. For single family, DOM was 72 in March, 80 last year, and 74 in 2008. For condos, DOM was 67 in March, 79 last year, and 66 in 2008. Year to date numbers are down 14.3% (single family).

Inventory also is falling. For single family in March, 1,888 units were available, compared to 2,168 in 2009, and 2,228 in 2008. For condos, 2,425 units were on the market in March, vs 2,834 last year, and 2,819 in 2009. This equates to 7.2 months in March of this year, vs 10.3 months last year, and 7.9 months in 2008 for single family. For condos, the numbers are 6.8 months this March, vs 9.3 months last year, and 6.0 months in 2008.

Here are the March numbers for Hawaii Kai real estate.
Single Family 2010 vs 2009
New Listings 33 vs 29
Closed Sales 19 vs 16
Median Sales Price $770,500 vs $750,000
Average Sales Price $861,750 vs $1,320,200
% of Original List 99.0 vs 90.8%
Average DOM 23 vs 86
Inventory 108 vs 134

Condos 2010 vs 2009
New Listings 36 vs 21
Closed Sales 13 vs 16
Median Sales Price $545,000 vs $517,000
Average Sales Price $548,962 vs $480,713
% of Original List 96.8 vs 91.1%
Average DOM 28 vs 93
Inventory 78 vs 111

As explained in the Honolulu Advertiser, "This year so far, the housing market has exceeded expectations of many who believed a recovery would be long and slow...It was the seventh straight month that there were more sales than a year earlier. Since September, the sales volume increases ranged from 13.5 percent to 46.5 percent."

Contact me for details on any neighborhood or community or condo complex in Hawaii Kai, the real estate sales, prices, and amenities. Don't miss the bargains!

Barbara Abe, Realtor