Oahu is known for its captivating blend of city living conveniences and laid-back island lifestyle. The pristine beaches, majestic mountains, and year-round warmth and sunshine can entice just about anyone to call the Aloha State home. Beyond the natural beauty, Oahu offers something even more special—the Aloha spirit, promoting a culture of kindness, respect, and connection, creating a sense of community that sets Oahu apart.
If you’re thinking about moving to Oahu, HI, or investing in property on the island, it probably comes as no surprise that the housing market is considered to be extremely competitive. With high demand and limited inventory, Honolulu’s luxury neighborhoods like Kahala and Hawaii Loa Ridge especially command premium prices. It’s essential to stay informed about current market conditions, including inventory levels, pricing trends, and buyer demand.
This Redfin article will delve into the 7 essential things to know about moving to Hawaii and buying a luxury home for those looking to relocate to the island.
1. Work with a local real estate agent
If you’re considering moving to Hawaii, it’s essential to develop a relationship with an experienced and local real estate agent. Buying a property in Hawaii presents unique challenges and considerations that may be unfamiliar to those outside the state. An experienced agent who is well-versed in the nuances of the local market can not only provide invaluable guidance and insights, but they’ll likely have an established network of contacts and resources to help expedite the process and ensure a smooth transaction.
If you’re seeking a luxury property, a Redfin Premier Agent will have in-depth knowledge of the luxury segment, including specific neighborhoods, market trends, and property values. There’s so much to know before buying a home in Hawaii, and partnering with a trusted local agent is a crucial step in successfully navigating the market and one of the most unique locations in the world.
2. Explore Oahu’s neighborhoods
Oahu is home to a diverse range of neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm and amenities. From the tranquility of Manoa‘s lush surroundings and the relaxed suburban vibes in Kaimuki, to the laid-back surf culture of North Shore, there’s something for everyone.
Oahu’s luxury real estate market epitomizes upscale coastal living in a coveted island paradise, offering exclusive properties in prestigious neighborhoods, featuring waterfront estates, high-end amenities, and privacy. In areas like Kailua, a budget of $1.5 million may provide opportunities for projects on smaller lots. However, in neighborhoods further from the city, such as Makaha, the same budget could potentially secure a home with ocean views.
The most expensive neighborhoods on Oahu include Diamond Head, Kahala, Hawaii Loa Ridge, and Kailua for single-family homes, while condos in Kaka’ako go for premium prices. These sought-after areas command high prices, often reaching the multimillion-dollar range, due to their proximity to the ocean or stunning views. Properties in these neighborhoods offer luxurious amenities and exceptional quality often featuring high-end appliances and finishes. You’ll also see outdoor living spaces, such as expansive lanais, swimming pools, and beautifully landscaped gardens, allowing residents to fully embrace the island’s tropical climate.
3. Be prepared to pay even more to live in paradise
Oahu’s home prices surpass those in other major U.S. cities due to limited supply of land, desirable location, strong demand from residents and investors, construction costs, and market dynamics. This is especially true for the luxury homes close to the coastline or with scenic views. The state’s strict housing regulations and zoning restrictions further limit the availability of affordable housing options.
In addition, Oahu’s popularity as a tourist destination and its vibrant economy contribute to the high cost of living, including housing. For example, in April 2023, the median sale price in Kailua was about $1,438,000. This amount is over a million dollars more than the median sale price across the U.S.
With all things considered, Oahu still offers an unmatched lifestyle that makes it worth the investment. Living on Oahu means embracing the Aloha spirit, immersing oneself in a vibrant island culture, and enjoying the countless benefits of paradise. It’s important, however, for prospective buyers to be prepared for higher price points and adjust their expectations accordingly.
4. Location, price, condition
On Oahu, location, price, and condition are key factors that significantly influence the real estate market. Location holds immense importance as certain areas, such as those close to beaches, popular neighborhoods, or convenient amenities, are highly sought after. Additionally, the condition of the property plays a crucial role in its value and appeal as well-maintained homes with modern amenities and luxurious upgrades tend to command higher prices. In the competitive Oahu real estate market, finding the right balance between location, price, and condition is key to making a sound investment.
Proximity to the beach impacts price and maintenance costs
In the Oahu real estate market, proximity to the beach has a significant impact on property prices. The closer a property is to the beach, the higher its value tends to be. Luxury beachfront properties are highly sought after due to their prime location and the lifestyle they offer.
However, it’s important to be aware of the maintenance challenges associated with beachfront living. Properties near the beach are exposed to salt air and moisture, which can lead to increased maintenance needs and potential issues like mold. Buyers should consider the additional costs and efforts required to maintain these properties.
5. HARPTA and FIRPTA tax requirements
HARPTA (Hawaii Real Property Tax Act) and FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act) are both withholding tax requirements in Hawaii that affect real estate transactions involving non-resident sellers.
HARPTA applies specifically to Hawaii and requires buyers to withhold 7.25% of the gross sales price as a prepayment of the seller’s potential tax obligations to the state. FIRPTA is a federal law that applies to non-U.S. resident sellers and requires buyers to withhold 15% of the sales price as a prepayment of the seller’s potential tax obligations to the IRS. Both aim to collect taxes owed by non-resident sellers upfront during the transaction process.
The withheld funds are then applied towards the seller’s potential tax obligations. It’s important for buyers and sellers to understand these withholding requirements and consult with tax professionals to ensure compliance and proper handling of these taxes during the transaction.
6. Learn about short term rental regulations and policies
Oahu’s consistent increase in home prices, robust economy, and high housing demand make it an attractive investment option. The demand for short-term rentals, common in areas like Waikiki, Ko’olina, and Turtle Bay on North Shore, contribute to the growth of the luxury real estate market and offer opportunities for income generation.
However, the City and County of Honolulu are implementing regulations to restrict short-term rentals to a minimum duration of 90 days, addressing concerns about housing availability and affordability for local residents. Hawaii’s local statutes also prioritize owner occupancy, offering property tax exemptions to homeowners who live in their primary residences. These exemptions financially benefit homeowners and promote stable communities.
Airbnb and VRBO properties are subject to certain regulations and restrictions
In most residential neighborhoods on the island, these short-term vacation rentals are not permitted or allowed without proper certification. The City and County of Honolulu has implemented laws and regulations to control and manage the operation of these rental properties in an effort to balance the needs of residents and maintain the character of residential neighborhoods.
Hosts must obtain the appropriate permits and certifications, such as a Transient Vacation Rental (TVR) or Bed and Breakfast (B&B) license. These licenses require meeting specific criteria, including compliance with zoning regulations, safety standards, and tax obligations. It is important for hosts to research and understand the requirements and limitations in their specific area before offering their property as a short-term rental.
7. Moving to Hawaii with pets? Expect to quarantine them
When bringing pets to Hawaii, strict regulations aim to prevent the introduction of non-native diseases. All pets must undergo a mandatory quarantine period when moving to Hawaii to help prevent the introduction and spread of rabies. Hawaii is a rabies-free state, and the strict regulations are in place to maintain this status.
There are a few pet quarantine options you can choose from, including a 120-day quarantine in a designated facility, and a “5-Day-or-Less” program for a shorter quarantine. It’s essential to thoroughly research these options in advance and ensure that your pet meets the specific conditions, such as health requirements and permits, associated with your chosen option. It’s important to begin the quarantine process early, seek guidance from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture or a pet relocation service, and ensure compliance with all regulations for a smooth transition.
Navigating Oahu’s luxury real estate market successfully requires an understanding of these nuances and working with experienced local real estate professionals who can provide insights and guidance. They can help buyers navigate the complexities, identify suitable properties, and negotiate competitive offers. Aloha!