Friday, January 28, 2011

Update on Honolulu Rail Project

The City Council has cleared the final environmental requirement to begin construction of Honolulu's rail system, by approving a Special Management permit.  The perit allows the $5.5 billion project to be built near coastal management zones.  "It allows us to technically break ground, and clears the way for all the other permits we need to get," said Wayne Yoshioka, interim Department of Transportation Services director.  The project will extend 20 miles, and 1.6 of those are in coastal management areas.  The city hopes to break ground in March.

The permit is likely to be the last requiring Council approval. The project still needs several others that will be handled directly through the city Department of Permitting and Planning.  Last week, the Federal Transit Administration issued a record of decision, clearing the project to begin relocating utilities and negotiating property acquisition.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

New Restaurant in Hawaii Kai - Koa Pancake House

After reading the review by, I had to give Koa Pancake House in the Hawaii Kai Towne Center a try.  The restaurant opened in December, and is doing a great business.  This is their 7th location on Oahu, offering an affordable with plenty to eat.

The K5HomeTeam wrote, "The griddle is loaded with pancakes for this new edition of the Koa Pancake House in the Hawaii Kai Towne Center. That's the one with Costco and Ross. Their kitchen never stops moving. They serve eggs, omelets, crepes, waffles – just about anything you want from 6:30 in the morning until two in the afternoon...Prices start at $3.50 for a short stack of pancakes or some waffles. But they also serve up burgers, sandwiches and plate lunches. They also have eggs benedict and strawberry pancakes."

So today I went for lunch with a friend from East Oahu Realty at noon.  It was already almost full.  10 minutes later it was completely full, and there were people standing waiting for tables. The menu is huge and we both ordered special of the day #1, which was omelette with portugese sausage, mushroom, spinach and cheese.  There was a choice of pancakes, rice, toast or home fried potatoes and we both had the potatoes.  It was very good, too much for me but I did make it almost through, just a few potatoes left. We left at 1:20 and by then there were a few empty tables.

Koa Pancake House
333 Keahole St
Web site

Judging by my Google search, the new location has been reviewed by about every local restaurant site and then some.  Give it a try - average ticket is well below $10 and you'll be Eating Local.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trends in Housing for the 55+ Generation

A joint study by the 50+ Housing Council of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the MetLife Mature Market Institute shows the recession has made 55+ buyers more practical when selecting a new home. Design considerations have become less important, and financial concerns have become more prominent.  “By the year 2020, as Baby Boomers move into this age bracket, almost 45% of all U.S. households will include someone at least 55 years old,” said David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist. “The number of those households seeking housing better suited to their changing needs will therefore rise dramatically.”

The study, “Housing Trends Update for the 55+ Market,” explores recently released housing data from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS) on the 55+ demographic. The report focuses especially on households living in active adult communities.

Previous studies from these two organizations found that most 55+ buyers depended on home sale proceeds to finance a new purchase. The most recent data shows that option diminished during the economic downturn.  In 2009, only 55% of new age-qualified active adult home buyers reported that their down payment came from a previous home sale, significantly down from 100% of respondents in 2005 and 92% in 2007. In 2005 and 2007, no active adult community buyers reported having to tap cash or savings for a down payment. In 2009, 45% of the average buyer’s down payment came from cash or savings.

The desire to be near family and friends is the mature mover’s overwhelming motivation, the report noted. The design, amenities and appearance of the residence and the community remain important, but less so than before the recession. Buyers who fall into the 55+ age range that are moving into rental homes, both multi-family and single-family, cited a desire for less expensive housing as second in importance to living near friends and family.  Proximity to work also increased in importance, as more Boomers work well into traditional retirement years.

Hawaii Kai has both retirement communities and many homes where you can age in place.  Call or email me to discuss your plans and options.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Top 5 Home Improvement Projects for Return on Equity in your Hawaii Kai Home has released a recent survey of returns you can expect from home improvement projects under $5,000, as recommended by Realtors across the country.  They are:

•Cleaning and de-cluttering ($290 cost / $1,990 price increase / 586% ROI)
•Lightening and brightening ($375 cost / $1,550 price increase / 313% ROI)
•Home staging ($550 cost / $2,194 price increase / 299% ROI)
•Landscaping ($540 cost / $1,932 price increase / 258% ROI)
•Repairing electrical or plumbing ($535 cost / $1,505 price increase / 181% ROI)

Cleaning and de-cluttering continues has ranked as the top suggested home improvement since the survey was originally conducted in 2000.  It was recommended by 99% of real estate professionals, costs less than $300, and returns a value of nearly $2,000 to the home's sale price.  This is a 586% return on investment.  Cleaning and tidying up improve a home's first impression, its curb appeal, and get the seller in the mood for all the cleaning required to move.

Others on the 10 low cost, do-it-yourself home improvements list were updating electrical systems and/or plumbing, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing or shampooing carpets, painting interior walls, repairing damaged floors, and painting the outside of the home.

The home improvement projects with the highest price increases to a home's resale value are updating the kitchen, followed by painting the outside of the home, and home staging.

If you have questions on what repairs or projects to undertake in order to get your Hawaii Kai home ready to sell in 2011, just call or email me.  I've been helping buyers and sellers in Hawaii Kai for more than 20 years, so have a good feel of what projects would be most beneficial.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Superintendent of Whale Sanctuary will be Headquartered in Hawaii Kai

Malia Chow has been named the new superintendent of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.  Chow was raised on Oahu and received her bachelor's of science degree from the University of Washington and her doctorate in cellular biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She will be located in the sanctuary's Oahu office in Hawaii Kai.

Encompassing 1,370 square miles of federal and state waters, the sanctuary was created by Congress in 1992 to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaii. It is administered by the NOAA in partnership with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.  With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency for the last decade, Chow was the sanctuary's Management Plan Review coordinator.

We welcome Ms. Chow to our community.

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Home Buying in Hawaii Kai in 2011 - New Regulations that will Affect You

Thanks to a combination of rising mortgage rates, tighter underwriting guidelines, and sweeping government regulation, home buying is unlikely to get any easier and may, in fact, get much more difficult in 2011.  Looming over the mortgage market are provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that have yet to be finalized. Among them is a requirement that mortgage lenders maintain some “equity" in the mortgages they originate, by holding at least 5% of the credit risk, rather than bundling the loans and selling them off entirely.

The goal is to discourage a repeat of risky past practices, but the legislation makes an exception to the risk-retention standard for what is labeled a “qualified residential mortgage.” (QRM) It is the still-unspecified definition of this type of loan that has lenders scrambling.  “People have some very different ideas of how to define this,” said Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research and economics at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “Some would say if it doesn’t have a 30% down payment, it’s not a QRM. For a first-time home buyer, that would really be eye-opening. It definitely has the potential to turn the market upside down. This could dramatically tighten underwriting much more than what the lenders have already done. It’s going to make it even tougher to work through the housing overhang.”

“If you have to have 30% down, the American dream would become the American fantasy,” said one lender in Illinois.  Additional regulation on mortgage bankers will mean a thinning of their ranks, weeding out the unscrupulous players. But it also will lessen consumers’ ability to comparison-shop widely for the best home mortgage product.

Another wrinkle to the mortgage market is that beginning in March, Freddie Mac will raise fees for mortgages sold to Freddie that carry higher loan-to-value ratios. The additional fees will vary depending on the borrower’s credit score and the loan-to-value ratio, but in some cases the upfront fees will increase by as much as 0.75% of a loan’s balance. If a lender passes along a 0.25% fee to the borrower, it could add about $10 to the monthly payment on a $200,000 mortgage, according to Freddie Mac.  In late December, Fannie Mae announced its own series of considerable loan-level price adjustments, effective April 1, for mortgages with greater than a 60% loan-to-value that will apply even to consumers with credit scores above 700.

Rates also are rising.  The forecast for 2011 for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is slightly under 6%. That could definitely change the affordability ratios of buyers who were approved when the rates were 4.25% this past year.

If you want to buy in Hawaii Kai this coming year - and see the market numbers for why you shouldn't wait - then find a reputable lender and get pre-approved, not just pre-qualified.  Know your buying power and then start looking.  I can recommend experienced Hawaii lenders and email you information on any Hawaii Kai condo or neighborhood.  Let's get started!

Barbara Abe, Realtor

Hawaii Kai December & Year-End Real Estate Sales Numbers Encouraging

Read my Active Rain Blog for the actual numbers, but they tell a very good story.  Prices are rising, numbers of sales are up, days on market and inventory are down.  This means for you - if you are a Buyer - you should start looking, now.  Rates have also started up, so your affordability was or is at its most advantageous for you to purchase a home or condo in Hawaii Kai.
Highest 2010 sale, Koko Kai

Highest December Sale, Portlock
Here are photos of the highs and lows for Hawaii Kai (always at least as interesting as the numbers):

Highest 2010 condo sale, Kalele Kai
Highest December condo sale, Mawaena Kai

Request reports on any condo complex or Hawaii Kai neighborhood on my Hawaii Kai web site.  Then call or email me with questions and let's start looking for a home that fits your needs.

Barbara Abe, Realtor