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Fixer-Upper: What To Know

What to Fix When Buying a Fixer-Upper

It’s the investor’s dream –find a house in poor condition in a good location, make some repairs and give it a fresh coat of paint inside and out, and sell it for substantially more money than was put in. While that dream comes true for many investors, there’s a lot of hard work involved. It’s also crucial to know what you can and can’t fix, at least as far as making a profit is concerned.

Structural Soundness

Before considering any fixer-upper, hire a professional to inspect it and determine whether the dwelling is structurally sound. If there are large cracks in the foundation, you don’t need an engineer to tell you the house isn’t worth the restoration cost. Stay away from any property with structural soundness issues, and that includes wooden homes with extensive termite damage.


Your best bet is a house requiring only cosmetic repairs. Money spent on painting, wallpapering, refinishing or replacing flooring, installing new cabinetry, repairing or replacing broken windows and installing new doors and light fixtures is well-spent, since these relatively easy and inexpensive fixes should allow you to sell the house fairly quickly. Curb appeal is critical, so invest in decent landscaping, pavers and the like to make the house as attractive as possible at first sight.

The Roof

The roof’s condition is obvious even to the casual observer, and a leaky roof not only threatens the home’s soundness, but can cause mold and mildew issues. If you’re lucky, a roof might need just a few simple repairs. Perhaps a roofer can install a new roof on top of the current roof, which is costly but not astronomical. The most expensive proposition is tearing off the old roof and replacing it, and that may not make economic sense if your goal is selling for a quick profit.


If the HVAC system isn’t working properly or needs serious upgrades, you’ll need to fix or replace it before putting the home on the market. If you’re installing a new HVAC system, look for the most energy efficient units possible. Not only are you helping the environment, it’s a good selling point for the house.

Kitchen and Baths

The kitchen and baths can really sell a home. A kitchen renovation, however, is expensive. Rather than a complete overhaul, paint the kitchen, let in as much light as possible, put in new cabinets and replace old appliances.

Bathroom renovations aren’t usually as involved as kitchen renovations and putting in new sinks, toilets and tub/shower units make an older home look newer and fresher.

Up to Code

Of course, everything in your fixer-upper must prove up-to-code before you can sell it or live in it. That means what you must fix depends on the individual home. Bringing  a house up to code might not cost that much, or it could end up a deal breaker as far as renovation and resale.  If you aren’t familiar with local zoning codes, your realtor can help point you in the right direction.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home or find a rental or investment property, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


June 25, 2019

Leaseholds: What Are They?

What You Need to Know About Leaseholds

In Hawaii, there are two ways to own property – fee simple and leasehold. Most people are familiar with the fee simple form of ownership, which gives title to the property to the owner and includes the land. With fee simple condominium ownership, the person receives a share of the “land” on a pro-rata basis.

With a leasehold,  you own the home, but not the land. Lease rent is paid to the landowner. Many condos are leaseholds, and in this instance, the condo owner owns their unit, but leases a pro-rata percentage of the land rather than owning it. Homes listed for sale as leaseholds usually include “LH” in the listing.

The majority of Hawaiian leaseholds include a surrender clause, meaning the lands reverts to the owner at the end of the lease. There are many cases of landowners taking back the property when the lease is up. However, most leaseholds are renegotiated with the landowner at the expiration date. Some landowners may offer the land to the leaseholder in a fee arrangement.

Royal Beginnings

Leaseholds are seldom found in other states, and grew out of the large trusts created during the Kingdom of Hawaii, according to Hawaii Business magazine.  These trusts once owned most of Hawaii’s the privately held land. As real estate values soared after World War II, and lawsuits proliferated forcing properties to convert from leasehold to fee simple, most of single-family homes became fee simple by the 21st century.

Leasehold Advantages

Because leaseholds expire, they are often great deals for the right buyer. That’s especially true for older people who want to retire in Hawaii and appreciate the good value provided by a leasehold. Such leaseholds are less expensive than mortgages. Such buyers must have a plan in place in case they outlive their lease.

Parents with children going to college in Hawaii might want to rent a leasehold rather than spend a similar amount on campus housing. Once the kids graduate, the parents can continue renting the unit and generating income until the lease is up – and then just walk away.

Leasehold Risks

Leasehold properties are more likely to decline in value than fee simple properties, especially when the lease hits about 25 years pre-expiration. You cannot purchase a leasehold property and obtain a 30-year mortgage if the lease will expire before that time. That means the buyer must obtain a 15-year mortgage requiring a higher monthly payment. Overall, it’s harder to get financing for a leasehold than a fee simple property.

If the lease expires and the lease is renegotiated with the landowner, expect the lease rent to increase substantially. After all, prices rise significantly over 30 or more years.

Each Leasehold is Unique

Fee simple contracts are generally straightforward, but each leasehold is unique. That’s why it’s essential to have a real estate attorney look over any leasehold you consider purchasing. It’s also important that you understand the terms of the lease and what you can and cannot do.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home or find a rental property, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


How to Make Your Small Hawaii Home Look Bigger

How to Make Your Small Hawaii Home Look Bigger

You can’t add square footage to your small Hawaiian home, but there are ways to make a modest dwelling seem much larger. If you are selling your house, you want to give potential buyers the idea that, for a small house, there’s a lot of space.

All About Staging

Proper staging makes a big difference in how quickly your home sells. Staging accentuates the positive and minimizes the negative aspects of any property. Your real estate agent can recommend a professional stager, but many people can perform these tasks themselves.

Any room benefits from as much light as possible. Hawaiian homes are usually light and airy, but you can make your home even lighter and airier – and larger looking – with the right staging and s little in the way of window treatments.

Painting Contrasts

It’s always a good idea to give your interior walls a coat of paint before putting the house on the market. In some rooms, such as the kitchen or bathrooms, create the illusion of a larger space by using a bright white paint contrasting with a darker paint. The resulting depth created by the white and dark contrast makes the space look bigger.

Furniture to Scale

Furniture out of proportion to the room dwarfs it. You probably know someone who put a large bed in a small bedroom, leaving little room to walk around. If that’s the case in your home, replace the bed with a smaller version until you find a buyer. Put the bed as far away from the door as possible to make the room feel larger.

Look around your own home and see if there is any large item making a room look even smaller than it is. For many people, a giant TV in a small space is their favorite choice for entertainment, but it’s wise to replace the screen with a smaller version until your house sells.

Decorating a small space to make it appear larger means making some adjustments. For example, rather than purchase a sofa for the living room, consider buying a love seat. Not only it a love seat less expensive, but its proportions fit a small room. When furniture shopping, look for other proportionate pieces. Another tip: Consider furniture fabrics the same color as your walls. This makes the furniture blend in, giving a sense of a larger space.

The Mirror Effect

The right use of mirrors makes any room look larger. Placing a mirror across from a window reflects light and provides visual depth. Another way to create depth is by choosing a focal point in the room and angling a mirror toward it. A large mirror over the sofa is often effective. For best results, use a large mirror or two rather than a lot of small mirrors.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home or find a rental property, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


May 24, 2019

DIY Landscaping: Help Your Home Sell

DIY Landscaping Ideas to Boost the Value of Your Home

Good landscaping makes a huge difference in a home’s appearance, and plays a role in a buyer’s decision to make an offer on a house. Professional landscaping often proves expensive, but there’s no reason a homeowner with a bit of a green thumb can’t employ some effective DIY landscaping ideas.

Trimming and Pruning

Before getting started with landscaping, take a good look at your current situation and see if there are bushes or trees requiring removal. After getting rid of dead or dying plants, trim and prune any overgrown varieties. If you aren’t sure how to trim or prune a particular tree or bush, you can likely find a video with instructions on YouTube.

Choose Native Plants

Whatever your landscape plans, choose native Hawaiian plants to fulfil. Not only are native plants suitable for local soils, but they also provide food and shelter for native wildlife. The right native plants for your property are also easier to maintain than non-native species. Native landscaping favorites include:

  • Acacia koa
  • Beach vitex
  • Hawaiian soapberry
  • Hawaiian tree fern
  • Heliotropium anomalum (hina hina)
  • Hibiscus
  • Kou
  • Ohi’a
  • Pandanus

Make you decision on which plants to include in your landscape not only on aesthetics, but also on the right growing conditions for each species. For example, a shady area near your house won’t support plants requiring full-day sun, but plants enjoying full or partial shade should thrive.

Get Creative with Paving

Landscaping is about more than plants. Paving also plays a major role in landscaping. While you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for paving when you are planning to sell your home, a few hundred dollars’ worth of pavers in a style you feel appropriate for the setting is a good DIY investment for an afternoon’s worth of work. While it’s fun to get create with paving, don’t overdo it. That’s because when you are selling your home, you want conservative landscaping appealing to every demographic.

The Back Yard

While curb appeal rests primarily on your front yard and the section of your house facing the street, don’t neglect the back yard landscaping. In Hawaii, the back yard so often become a home’s outdoor room that warm, welcoming landscaping is absolutely essential to entice buyers. If you have a pool, add containers full of flowering plants to add color and complement the blue water and green grass. Palms and banana trees in containers give the pool area a cool, relaxing feel.

Again, using native plants in the back yard can aid in creating a natural, low-maintenance landscape. For the DIYer, another advantage of native plants is that you don’t need to install an extensive – and expensive – hardscape with these plants, as you do with plantings requiring strict beds to look their best.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home or find a rental property, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


Military Families: How To Purchase Your Dream Home

Buying Options for Military Families

When it comes to military assignments, being sent to Hawaii probably tops the list for preferred destinations. Who doesn’t want to live in paradise? There is a downside, though, as Hawaiian real estate is much pricier than that found near mainland assignments. Depending on your grade and Basic Housing Allowance (BHA), you can find a suitable dwelling to buy, not rent, and potentially make a sizable profit when you sell upon your next assignment.

BHA 2019

A military family with a member whose grade is at least E08 has a $3,465 monthly non-taxable BHA in Honolulu County for 2019. The current highest BHA for a military family is $4,202 for a O07, but the BHA rate for those whose grades are between an E08 and a O07 differs by just a few hundred dollars. You could spend that money renting a home during your assignment, but your BHA is put to much better use if you purchase a home. Once you pay rent, that money is gone. When you purchase a home, you build equity. For many military families, building equity isn’t a great consideration, since they may not stay in the home long enough to amass substantial equity. However, even if a family is here for just a few years, a rising market can mean they will sell their home for much more than they paid for it, and selling a condo in Hawaii can leave them with enough capital to buy a huge home and pay cash on their next assignment.

VA Mortgage

One of the perks of serving in the military is VA mortgage eligibility. In 2019, the VA loan limit for Hawaii is $726,525, an increase of nearly 7 percent over 2018. In many cases, such loans require no money down. You have plenty of comfortable single-family home options at this price. If you do have money to make a large down payment – approximately $70,000 – a VA loan allows you to purchase a million dollar property.

Where to Live

There are approximately 120,000 members of the various U.S. armed forces stationed in Hawaii, a number comprising about 10 percent of all residents. Those stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center are at a particular advantage, as the location allows them to live virtually anywhere on the island without a daunting commute. If stationed at Schofield Barracks, new development at Ewa Beach is 30 minutes away, and Miliani and Royal Kunia are also good choices. Navy personnel at Pearl Harbor often prefer Kaneohe for the easy commute, and that’s also true of Marine families assigned to Kaneohe Bay Marine Corp. Air Force personnel at Hickam Air Force Base are close to Honolulu, but the traffic is tough. For these families, Kaneohe is a top choice.

Contact Us

If you’re in the military and looking to buy or rent a home, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


April 24, 2019

Where Can You Maximize Your Budget?

Real Estate Per Square Foot –  Where Can You Maximize Your Money?

As of March 2019, the median list price per square foot of Hawaiian residential real estate is $525, and the median home sale price is $602,500. If you recall the term from math class, median is the middle value, meaning so that half of such values fall above this amount and half fall below it. Let’s examine the latter, to see where you can find the most amount of space for the least amount of money.

Residential Zones

Residential zoning in Hawaii often refers to minimum square footage. For example, the R5 zoning designation in the Land Use Ordinance means each lot requires at least 5,000 square feet for building a single-family house. However, if a particular lot is larger, say 7,500 square feet, it is possible to build a duplex. It’s important to take zoning into consideration when looking at properties to buy so you know the type of development you can expect around you.

Ewa Beach

In Ewa Beach, the median price per square foot is $457, considerably lower than the average for the Honolulu metropolitan area. The median home sale price as of March, 2019, is slightly higher than the island overall, at $647,700. However, that still means your dollar goes further, as you can purchase a larger home based on the square footage price. A three-bedroom, one bath home of 1,508 square feet was recently listed for $641,150, which breaks down to $406 per square foot. Another recent sale in Ewa Beach was a 1,174 square foot, three-bedroom, two bath home with a large yard which sold for $580,000, or $497 per square foot.


This planned community, known as Oahu’s Second City, also features more bang for the square footage buck. However, there are restrictions on some home sales, including a certain percentage of native Hawaiian blood. Recent non-restricted properties include a 1,481 square foot three-bedroom, three-bath home with a list price of $488,000 and a large lot. A four-bedroom, three-bath home consisting of 1,947 square feet is also on the market for $550,000, while a three-bedroom, two-bath townhouse at 1,346 square feet is listed for $440,000. These are just a few examples of the way you can stretch your housing dollar and buy a larger home if you are willing to make a longer commute. Of course, more and more people work remotely, so commuting is either not necessary or isn’t something you must do every day. If that’s the case, you can really save on housing costs if a less “convenient” neighborhood is perfectly convenient for your purposes.


Contact Us

If you’re in the market to buy or rent a home, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or

Ewa VS Kapolei – Where Should You Live?

Ewa Beach vs. Kapolei – Where Should Someone New Live and Why?

Aloha! You’ve decided to live in Hawaii’s paradise, but aren’t sure exactly what part of Oahu best suits your needs. While Ewa Beach and Kapolei are close together, they offer different lifestyle options for residents.

Ewa Beach

While Ewa Beach has long been a bedroom community of Honolulu, its robust growth means that shopping and commercial opportunities are increasing exponentially. According to the 2010 U.S. census, of Ewa Beach’s nearly 3,300 households, half had children under age 18 living there.  Along with an excellent school system, home buyers have a wide choice of residences, which range from the more affordable Ewa Gentry’s Laulani to luxury golf course communities and gated communities. Overall, Ewa Beach has a more neighborhood feel than nearby Kapolei, and because it wasn’t a planned community per se, there is more architectural variety.

If you have school-age children, Ewa Beach may prove a better choice than nearby Kapolei. You’ll find larger living spaces available for families. Restaurants and stores are part of the neighborhood, in easy walking or biking distance. Parts of Ewa Beach have Kapolei beat on the affordability index, although the difference isn’t dramatic. If commuting is part of your daily ritual, though, keep in mind you’ll spend a lot of time battling traffic. Although Ewa Beach is just 22 miles from downtown Honolulu, it is often a one-hour commute during rush hour.


Kapolei is an Oahu planned community, named after a volcanic cone and situated on former sugarcane and pineapple fields.  It is now becoming Oahu’s second urban center, after Honolulu, and the area is growing fast. Approximately 100,000 people call Kapolei home. There’s easy access to the beach, miles of hiking trails, parks and golf enthusiasts can choose from various world-class courses. Kapolei offers plenty of community activities, which is a great way to meet new neighbors.

In Kapolei, entertainment and shopping options abound, and draw visitors from all over the island.  That includes Hawaii’s third largest shopping center, Ka Makana Alli, which boasts more than 100 stores and restaurants. There are also plenty of big box retail stores for all your necessities. Unlike Ewa Beach, however, you’ll need to drive to get to most of these large and small retail destinations.

Kapolei is a cooler place to live than Ewa Beach – in the sense of temperatures, not hipness. It’s something to consider if you aren’t fond of summer heat. Another benefit of Kapolei vs. Ewa Beach is an easier commute to Honolulu, as Kapolei contains more access points to the highway than its neighbor. Those seeking condo or townhome living may prefer Kapolei, because while Ewa Beach has plenty of those residential choices its focus is on the single-family home.

Contact Us

If you’re new to Hawaii and looking to buy or rent a home, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


March 29, 2019

Selling During Spring

Spring Cleaning – Tips to Sell Your Home During Spring

Spring is here, and that means the start of the busiest season of the year in the real estate business. A thorough spring cleaning is a tradition with many homeowners, but if you’re planning to put your home on the market, more effort than usual is required.

Outdoor Cleaning

Take an objective look at your home’s exterior and see what needs freshening. You want the house to make a good first impression on potential buyers. If the outside needs painting, have it done. At the least, paint the trim and give the front door a fresh coat of paint. Clean all the windows, inside and out. Purchase a new welcome mat and place colorful container plants on both sides of the door to make your home even more inviting. Don’t neglect the light fixtures, both outdoors and indoors. Aside from cleaning them, you want to ensure the light fixtures aren’t a dead bug graveyard.

The Yard

Trim all vegetation so that it appears neat and tidy. Make sure you don’t have landscaping blocking sunlight into the house or hanging over your entranceway. For best results, mow your lawn on the diagonal, as this makes your property look larger. Keep the edge along your driveway and walkway well-trimmed. If your mailbox is in less than stellar condition, replace it.

In the backyard, power wash the lanai, deck or patio, and replace worn-out patio furniture with a new and attractive table and chair set. Again, set out colorful plants in containers to add to the atmosphere.

Indoor Cleaning

Steam clean any carpets and polish wooden floors. Along with cleaning the interior windows, polish mirrors and any mirrored surfaces until they shine. If your older light switch plates don’t clean up well, replace them. Wash or paint interior walls. Wash or dry clean curtains and draperies, and give blinds a good clean. You want to make the inside of your home as light and bright as possible. Re-caulk the shower and tubs in your bathrooms, and clean grout between tiles. If necessary, hire a professional for tile or marble cleaning.

This year’s spring cleaning should involve a complete decluttering. While you can throw away or donate items you aren’t using, you’ll also want to put family photos and other personal materials in storage. Buyers want to imagine themselves living in the house, and that’s harder to do when someone else’s family photos and artifacts take pride of place. If your rooms are full of furniture, remove some pieces so that there’s a good flow between rooms. Decluttering also involves cleaning out your closets, because buyers want to know how much storage space is available.

While you want every room looking shipshape, the condition of the kitchen is crucial. Clean everything, especially the oven interior. Paint the walls if necessary, and consider adding new knobs or handles to the drawers and cupboards. It’s an inexpensive way to spruce up your kitchen’s appearance.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home this spring or any other time of year, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


Best Islands for Purchasing A Vacation Home

Investors may find value in their stocks and bonds, but these aren’t investment they can “enjoy” per se. That’s not the case with purchasing a Hawaiian vacation home, which you can use part of the year and rent out during the top tourist season. If you’re in the market for a vacation/rental property, explore each of the Hawaiian Islands before making your decision. Location, location, location is the real estate mantra, and much depends on proximity to beaches and other attractions.


On the Big Island, tourists tend to prefer smaller vacation rentals. Studio rentals have an average occupancy rate of 77 percent, with one-bedrooms averaging a 68 percent occupancy rate.  A larger property may not have the highest occupancy rate, but that may not matter as far as cash flow goes as you will charge more for the larger rental. Of course, if you plan to use the home as your own vacation site, you’ll want a property that suits your needs. For a single person or a couple who want the most bang for their investment buck, a studio or one-bedroom is the way to go.


On Kauai, the most popular type of vacation rental is the studio apartment, with a 79 percent average occupancy rate. That’s compared to a one-bedroom average occupancy rate of 69 percent and a three-bedroom rate of 63 percent. Of course, if you plan to use the home as your own vacation site, you’ll want a property that suits your needs. For a single person or a couple who want the most bang for their investment buck, the studio is the way to go.


The demand for vacation homes on quiet, little Lanai is not as great as on the larger islands. Large rental homes near the two major resorts do well, but the smaller vacation properties in the countryside attract a different type of tourist. You love Lanai for its solitude and slow pace, and so do those who choose to vacation here instead of an island with more formal activities.


Vacation condo rentals are popular in Maui, but keep in mind that not all condo associations permit rentals. A Maui vacation rental benefits from the relatively long length of bookings, with an average of nine days in 2018.


Molokai’s small population is not the only reason it isn’t a favorite tourist destination. It beaches are lovely, but many lack facilities or have accessibility issues or aren’t safe for swimming or snorkeling. Vacation rental rates on Molokai are quite affordable, so while that’s good for vacationers, it won’t bring landlords a stellar ROI.


Oahu is the most expensive of the Hawaiian Islands, and while you’ll pay more for your vacation/rental property, you can expect to charge more for rent. In Honolulu, studios are the best investment, while those vacationing on the North Shore prefer larger rentals.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home or find a vacation or rental property, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or


February 14, 2019

Discovering Each Hawaiian Island

If you’re considering moving to Hawaii, you have a lot of decisions to make. One of the most critical is which island to call your new home. Perhaps you’re currently considering just one island because it’s the island with which you’re most familiar, but each island sports its own desirable features. Before making a definite decision, explore what each island has to offer.


Although the Big Island is the largest in area, with under 200,000 residents it feels underpopulated. The Kona side is frequented by tourists, while the Hilo side is green and very wet. If you love nature and don’t mind rain, laid-back Hilo is an excellent choice. It’s also the place native Hawaiian prefer. If you love sunshine, beaches and water sports, Kona is the better choice. Hawaii is the least expensive of the larger islands in which to buy a home. As of 2018, the average single family home price on Hawaii was $330,400.


Tourism is the main industry on this lovely, lush isle. If you want to live among unspoiled nature, Kauai is the place to go. Jobs are relatively scarce outside of tourism, and the approximately 67,000 residents are spread out over Kauai. If you seek a simple lifestyle, head for Kauai. The 2018 single family median home price was $625,500.


Residents of this small island are primarily descendants of pineapple plantation workers. If you like a small town island feel, you might fall in love with Lanai. Even though there are few people, the island has great beaches and historic sites. Most people live in Lanai City, referred to as “The Village.” Most of Lanai’s businesses and commercial establishments are located in the Village. In Lanai City, the average median home price is $551,600.


Gorgeous Maui has some drawbacks, as it doesn’t have the shopping and nightlife some residents crave. The upside is that there are plenty of relatively cheap flights to Oahu available to indulge yourself, and you can then return home to quiet Maui. Besides tourism, jobs in the healthcare and construction industries are plentiful. The 2018 single family median home price was $620,000.


If you like solitude, consider this least populated isle. If you need to work, it’s not the best choice, as there are relatively few jobs. There is, however, abundant beauty, and it’s the ideal site for someone who truly wants to get away from it all. The average median home price ranges from $200,000  to $400,000, as there are relatively few houses on the market at one time.


Those who like nightlife will feel at home on Oahu. This most populated island is also the best place to find a job outside of the tourism industry in the state. Oahu also holds the dubious distinction of being the most expensive of the Hawaiian Islands. The 2018 single family median home price was $735,500. World-class shopping, dining, beaches and entertainment make this one of the best places to live in the U.S.


Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home or find a rental property, you need a knowledgeable, experienced realtor familiar with all aspects of the Hawaiian real estate market. Contact Island Realty Group LLC at 808-689-7407 or