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Maximize Your Space!

Furnishings to Maximize Space in a Smaller Home

If you dwell in a small house, apartment or condo, space is at a premium. On the plus side, that means you probably aren’t keeping a lot of unnecessary junk around. A small living space really teaches you what you do and do not need. However, the right furnishings allow you to make the most of the space you have and not turn you into an involuntary ascetic. When planning to put your home on the market, it’s essential to make your home look as comfortable – and spacious – as possible.

Get Rid of Clutter
Nothing makes a room look smaller than a lot of clutter. Choose chic furnishings that maximize storage space. Some suggestions:
• Kitchen/work table that can also store pots and pans
• Coffee tables with lift-able lids
• Apothecary tables

Hide storage bins under the bed or in other, easily accessible areas. That’s the place to put out of season clothing – although there are fewer items in that category in Hawaii – while reserving your day-to-day wear for your precious closet space. For your closet, invest in shoe organizers and other practicalities for maximum organization and space-saving.

Go Full Size

Choosing smaller furniture for a small space seems to make sense, but it actually makes rooms look tinier. While you don’t want huge pieces that can overwhelm a room, pick conventionally-sized furnishings that add to the idea of normal proportions. What you can do is choose furniture serving more than purpose, such as a convertible sofa or daybed that can double as a guest bed.

Hang’em High

Make your walls and ceiling seem higher by hanging artwork above eye level. If guests or potential buyers have to look up at the art, the brain registers the setting as taller.

The Bathroom

If your home only has one bathroom, it’s easy for it to become clutter central. Make it space-saver central instead, with attractive shelving over the toilet and a raised vanity for additional storage space. Opt for rounded vanities rather than square – they take up a bit less space, and no one gets hurt by accidentally bumping into it in a tiny bathroom.


Although “room” delineation in a studio or small apartment doesn’t involve furniture per se, it does address the flow of space. For example, in a studio apartment, use different – but complementary – paint colors for delineation. You might use three separate wall colors that are all “cool,” which helps separate the kitchen from the living area from the bedroom. Separating spaces in a studio – and paint color is just one way to do this – really helps to corral guests in certain areas of the apartment.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll help you sell your current house and find you the house of your dreams.

April 19, 2017

Beyond the Mortgage

Beyond the Mortgage – Additional Cost Considerations for Home Shoppers

When assessing how much house they can afford, potential home shoppers concentrate on the down payment and the mortgage rate. While those are two important elements in home buying, there are other costs that can trip up home buyers if not taken into consideration. Hawaii has the dubious distinction of the highest closing and third-party fees in the nation.

Closing Costs

Homebuyers will pay between 3 and 5 percent of a home’s value in closing costs. For a $500,000 home, that’s between $15,000 and $25,000. Such costs also vary by the lender. These costs include:

• Broker’s commission
• Loan origination fee – also known as points, this fee is based on the amount of the loan. Each point amounts to 1 percent of the loan. Document preparation, funding and underwriting all fall under the guise of “loan origination.”
• Title insurance -Title insurance protects the buyer and the lender and is an absolute necessity for homebuyers with a mortgage. A title company ensures a legitimate title to a particular piece of property. The insurance protects buyer and lender from any possible litigation against title – or ownership – of the property. In Hawaii, expect to pay around $1,000 for title insurance, split between seller and buyer.
• Escrow fees – split 60-40 percent between seller and buyer.
• Property taxes – if the seller has prepaid property taxes at the time of closing, the buyer must reimburse the seller for the amount. If the seller owes taxes on the time they owned the house, they must pay them at the closing.

Third Party Fees

During the home buying process, all sorts of third-party fees arise. Some of them you may expect, while others may catch you unawares. Your lender may not have knowledge of some of these third party fees. Here’s a basic list for those who don’t like surprises:

• Appraisal fees – expect appraisal fees to range from $600 to $800, depending on the size and condition of the house.
• Survey – the survey fee is generally in the neighborhood of $800.
• Pest inspection – $125
• Legal fees – without extenuating circumstances causing attorney fees to rise, expect to pay about $650 for a standard closing.
• Flood report – $10
• Credit report – a flat fee of about $20
• Courier services – approximately $50.

Beware of “No Closing Costs” Loans

There is really no such thing as a “no closing costs” loan. A buyer won’t pay these fees individually, but they are still tucked into the mortgage.

Mortgage Insurance

If you put less than 20 percent down on a home, your lender will require you to carry mortgage insurance. Once you reach 20 percent equity in the dwelling, you can ask your lender to cancel the mortgage insurance.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy a home, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll help you find the house of your dreams.

March 14, 2017

Preparing for Home Inspections

How Sellers Should Prepare for Home Inspections

Even if your home is in good condition, having a home inspector come in to examine the dwelling is nerve-wracking. Some basic preparations can smooth the inspection process along.

Inspected Systems

The home inspector makes visual and hands-on inspections of different systems in the dwelling to ensure they are in good working order. These include:
• Plumbing
• Electric
• Air Conditioning
• Heating

The inspector also evaluates the condition of the exterior, roof, foundation, framing, insulation, interior, kitchen and bathrooms. A buyer may request mold, asbestos or lead paint assessments.


Clean the house and remove clutter. That’s really a no-brainer, since an unkempt, messy home reflects on the overall maintenance of the property. Make sure the inspector can easily access any areas requiring inspection, such all electrical panels, under the sink plumbing and HVAC systems. Check all filters and clean or replace as needed. If there’s a toilet that’s not flushing properly or a leaky faucet, have them fixed beforehand. Appliances staying with the house must be in good working order. If that includes the washer and dryer, remove all laundry.
If there are cracks in windows or door glass, have the glass replaced. Test smoke detectors to make sure they work. If your home has a fireplace or wood stove, have it cleaned and give the inspector a copy of the service record. Check all of the light bulbs and replace any that have burned out.


Have the gutters cleaned. Check all vents to ensure they are open and working. Trim any foliage back so it is not interfering with the foundation, downspouts and exterior walls. Check downspouts to see if they are draining away from the house.


Keep a Good Attitude
Yes, the home inspector is checking for any possible defects in your home. Remember that this gives you an opportunity to make those repairs and avoid disrupting the sale. Keep a positive attitude and treat the inspector courteously. Home inspectors often experience a bit of antagonism from sellers – a friendly seller makes the inspection go easier for both of you.
If you are not going to be home during the inspection, place your pets in crates. Let the inspector know where he or she may find a key.


If your home is older, is it worthwhile to spend the money and have the property pre-inspected before putting it on the market. Not only can you correct any issues ahead of time, but a recent inspection certification helps sell your home faster.


Contact Us
If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll help you sell your current house and find you the house of your dreams.


Adding Square Footage – Is It Worth It for Resale Value?

Adding Square Footage – Is It Worth It for Resale Value?

You need more room. Whether it’s because you now have kids in the picture or your home is bursting at the seams, you’re left with two basic choices: Add on or move. Certain additions will up the value of your house for resale, while others won’t make a difference – or make the home harder to sell.

Kitchen and Bathrooms

From an investment standpoint – as well as quality of life – enlarging the kitchen and/or adding a bathroom are your best bets. A large, airy kitchen with up-to-date appliances attracts buyers much more than a small, cramped space. Many buyers won’t even consider a home with just one bathroom, and they want state-of-the art fixtures. If your budget is tight, add a half-bath with a shower but no tub.


In Hawaii, adding a sunroom to add to your living space makes a lot of economic sense. That’s true whether you want to enclose an existing lanai or add an entirely new room. Depending on the structure of your home, adding a sunroom may serve as a way to enlarge your kitchen. There’s such versatility to a sunroom, as it can serve as a playroom for kids, a light-filled dining space or however you want to use it. Family rooms are a wise addition to smaller homes, and the sunroom can fill this purpose.

Additions Unlikely to Add Value

There’s nothing wrong with adding to your house for your own pleasure, as long as you’re realistic about possible payback. If your master bedroom leaves a lot to be desired, go ahead and add a master suite. You spend a great deal of your life in that room. Enjoy it but don’t expect it to add much value to your home, and avoid going overboard. You probably don’t need that mini-bar.
The same holds true for home offices. Increasingly, anywhere you place your laptop is your office, so putting on an addition for that purpose makes little sense. If you really want a home office, make sure it’s easily convertible to another bedroom or den.

When Not to Add On

Additions don’t make sense if they aren’t compatible with the neighborhood. If an addition makes your home the largest on the block by a noticeable margin, you’re unlikely to recoup your money when you try to sell. If you love the area you live in, consider moving to a nearby neighborhood with larger homes. Of course, if the opposite is true, and your home is among the smallest in the neighborhood, adding on makes sense and should increase value.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll help you sell your current house and find you the house of your dreams.

February 21, 2017

Buying a Foreclosure – What Buyers Need to Know

Buying a Foreclosure – What Buyers Need to Know

Buying a foreclosure comes with risks. You might score a great deal, but a foreclosure in a good Hawaiian neighborhood might sell for close to its market value. While the number of foreclosures has dropped dramatically in the past few years, as of late 2016 the Hawaiian foreclosure rate was 1.7 percent, according to real estate information intelligence company CoreLogic. That puts it fourth in the nation for the highest inventory foreclosure rate, behind New Jersey, New York and Maine. That means the bargains are here in Hawaii, but you need to know what to do to find them.

Bank-Owned Properties

Foreclosed properties are bank-owned, also known as real-estate owned (REO). There are advantages to bank-owned properties. The house costs the bank money, and they want to get it off their ledgers as soon as possible. There’s no emotional attachment to the dwelling, so that isn’t a pricing factor as in some privately owned homes. The downside: the bank probably doesn’t have any maintenance records for the property, which hinders assessment of the house’s actual condition. The bank is unlikely to make any repairs.

As Is

When you purchase a foreclosure, the home is sold “as is.” You probably know that, but it’s imperative to know just how much work is involved. That’s why you should never buy a foreclosure sight unseen. It’s not unusual for just about everything – plumbing and lighting fixtures, electrical systems – to be gone or unusable. Photos and videos won’t tell the complete story. Even a great Hawaii location can’t make up for the fact that you may have to virtually reconstruct the home to make it livable. Spend a few hundred dollars and have the house professionally inspected. If the inspector finds it in acceptable condition, have a licensed contractor provide an estimate for any necessary repairs. Only then do you know what you’re getting into, and an idea of how much it will cost to make the house livable. On a national average, foreclosed properties sell for approximately 18 percent below market value. Crunch the numbers to ensure repairs make buying a foreclosure feasible.

Use a Real Estate Agent

Improve your chances of success with a foreclosure by using a real estate agent. These types of sales are often more complicated than traditional purchases, and a knowledgeable realtor can help you through the process and extra paperwork. An experienced real estate agent knows what to look for in any distressed property, and the right valuation for the home. They also know the “comps,” or recent sale prices for similar properties.


Contact Us
If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, or are interested in a foreclosure, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll help you sell your current house and find you the house of your dreams.

When to Buy and Sell

The Best Time to Buy and Sell a Home in Hawaii

On the mainland, spring reigns as the best season for buying and selling a home. Houses show better in the midst of warmth and greenery than in cold and snow. That’s not an issue in Hawaii, so what is the best time to buy and sell here? Much depends on the type of dwelling involved.

Single Family Homes

Parents and children still stick by school schedules, so spring remains the best time to buy or sell a single family home. A spring purchase means children are settled in their new homes by summer, ready to begin the school year in a new school.

Online Searches

Online real estate searches peak at different times for different states, and in Hawaii the peak occurs in the first month of the year. The holidays are over and the New Year offers a fresh start – a perfect time to house hunt in a place where January is warm and sunny. Most of the people looking to buy homes in January are singles, couples without children or with pre-school age kids, empty nesters and retirees. They comprise a substantial percentage of the market, so a seller with a condo, townhouse or retirement property may want to put their home up for sale right around New Year’s Day. If you don’t have any particular plans for New Year’s, why not sell your house?

See You in September

September seems a counterintuitive time to put a house up for sale. You’ve missed the parents who don’t want their kids to go to a new school after the session starts. Why is it often a good idea to put a home on the market in early fall? That’s because there’s still demand, but relatively little in the way of supply. You’ll experience a lot less competition than if you sell in the spring, and likely receive a higher price. With luck, a person or family purchasing a house in September or October is happily ensconced by the time the holidays roll around.


December is not the best time to sell a home, but it’s a good time to buy one. Fewer people look for homes during the holiday due to traveling and social obligations. If the seller celebrates Christmas, it’s an extra opportunity to make a home appear festive and comfortable.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home at any time of year, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll find you the house of your dreams and get you the best price on your current home.


January 30, 2017

Beachfront Buying: What to Know

What to Know When Buying a Beachfront Property

Living on beachfront property in Hawaii – can it get any better? Still, even this part of paradise has its downsides, and it’s crucial to know about certain limitations when purchasing a home on the beach. Beachfront properties are subject to far more restrictions than other parcels. As long as you’re knowledgeable about these requirements, you won’t experience any unpleasant surprises.

Public Access

Beaches aren’t private in Hawaii. You’re probably well aware of that, but take into consideration that “beachfront” includes cliff frontage in terms of public access. Block an existing right-of-way to the shoreline and face substantial penalties. Just keep in mind that beachfront property is not synonymous with “private.”

Special Zoning

Virtually all oceanfront property in Hawaii falls under conservation zoning and “special management areas” or “shoreline setback areas.” Any type of construction, no matter how minor, requires permitting. An environmental impact statement is also a common requirement for relatively simple procedures, including landscaping.

Beach Erosion and Setbacks

Hawaii takes beach erosion seriously, and has strong policies in place to combat it. That includes strictly limiting any type of structure within a shoreline setback. Currently, the shoreline setback area in most areas is 40 feet from the shore, although some setback boundaries are further inland. Fines for shoreline setback violations can run up to $100,000 – along with a $10,000 fine per day as long as the violation persists. Receiving a variance for construction within the setback is possible, but it’s not a simple process.


Older homes may not meet current setback requirements. They are known as “legally nonconforming.” That’s fine if you love the house and don’t want to make any changes. If you extend the footprint of the home, you can run into serious problems. Even minor enlargement triggers the need to meet current setback requirements – which may prove extremely expensive or impractical.

Storm Damage

A house on the beach is more susceptible to storm damage and similar natural disasters. Because there’s a higher risk, you’ll pay more for insurance.

Extra Maintenance

Beachfront houses are subject to constant sea spray. Over time, the incessant salt exposure damages the home. This means higher maintenance requirements than an inland home. In many ways, the type of maintenance required for a beachfront house is similar to that of a boat – they are both exposed to similar elements.

An Experienced Agent

While an experienced real estate agent is always valuable, never is that more true than when buying beachfront property. We realize that a buyer must fully understand all of the sometimes confusing issues surrounding beachfront property, and we make sure our client knows of any restraints on a parcel before making an offer.

Contact Us

If you’re looking for beachfront property or any other type of home, call Island Realty Group, LLC today at (808) 689-7407. We’ll find you the house of your dreams.


Luxury Properties on Oahu

Luxury Properties on Oahu
Every region has its top-drawer neighborhoods. Since Oahu is paradise, its luxury properties are the equivalent of seventh heaven. It’s simply a matter of choosing between a mansion on the beach or life in an idyllic rainforest. Tough choices, but somebody has to make’em.

Diamond Head
Only about 650 homes exist in Diamond Head proper, making it one of the most exclusive neighborhoods on the island. If geography is destiny, it’s easy to see why Diamond Head merits this honor. Roughly 10 percent of these homes are directly on the ocean, perched above the white sand beaches. Other top properties boast Diamond Head or mountain views. Modest dwellings sell for about $2 million, while estates might top the $22 million mark. It is where Honolulu’s elite – the most influential and affluent – tend to call home.

Black Point
Not far from Diamond Head, Black Point has a reputation as a celebrity homebuyer magnet. That’s partly because it offers both fabulous ocean views and seclusion, with terraced, hilly properties. Tom Selleck has a home here, and Johnny Depp sightings are fairly frequent. Heiress Doris Duke’s estate “Shangri-La” is now an art museum. The most prestigious section of this upscale community, the ocean side of Black Point Road is gated, and homes rarely come on the market. Smaller homes outside the gated half of the community start in the $2 million range, with the occasional home available within the gates beginning at about $10 million.

Dubbed the “Beverly Hills of Hawaii,” Kahala boasts some of the priciest real estate on a very expensive island. Like its Los Angeles counterpart, Kahala lures moguls and movie stars, although primarily for vacation homes. Another LA syndrome is affecting Kahala – the teardown of homes built in the ‘50s and ‘60s for much larger, modern structures. A small lot alone is worth over $1.5 million, and oceanfront properties reach the $20 million mark. Actual oceanfront properties are fairly rare, but Kalala lots are comparatively large and density is low.

If you desire privacy and love nature, no other neighborhood compares with Tantalus. The land – a tropical rainforest – is so lush that viewing a home from the road is difficult. Behind those thick green curtains lie 120 homes, and most homeowners can’t even see their neighbor’s dwelling. The fragrant air, cooler temperatures and incredible foliage make Tantalus an extraordinary place to live. Home prices range from $1.2 to $3.2 million. One caveat: There is no public water or sewer. Homeowners rely on catch basins to collect rainwater and septic systems.

Makiki Heights
Bordered on the north by Tantalus, the luxury homes of Makiki Heights include spectacular views of the ocean, Diamond Head and Honolulu. It’s almost as private as Tantalus. Houses in the estate area range from $2 million to $18 million and up.

Hawaii Loa Ridge
On an island with no shortage of gated communities, Hawaii Loa Ridge is considered the crème de la crème. Residents enjoy panoramic views of eastern Oahu and the ocean. Amenities include tennis courts, a park, a community center, controlled access private roads and 24-hour mobile security. The most recent median home sale price in Hawaii Loa Ridge was $2.2 million.

These are just a few of Oahu’s finest neighborhoods. Whether you prefer sandy beaches, world-class golf courses, breathtaking views or feeling at one with nature, we will help you find the ideal property to fulfill your desires.


December 26, 2016

HOA’s on Oahu

The Pros and Cons of Homeowner’s Associations

You love the house, you love the neighborhood – but the idea of a homeowner’s association (HOA) bothers you. When you purchase a dwelling in a community governed by an HOA, you must abide by their rules, and you must pay their fees. On Oahu, all sorts of communities have HOAs, including condominiums, townhouses and single-family subdivisions. Although many people assume that HOAs are primarily found in gated communities, that’s not the case. Before you make an offer on a home, find out about the rules, regulations and costs associated with that particular HOA. Also look at the HOA’s latest budget, which shows where dues money goes.

The Case for HOAs
Fees paid to the HOA keep up the common area. That includes the guard in a gated community, as well as amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, clubhouses and the like. For those monthly fees, you have access to all of those amenities without having to deal with the upkeep. Many communities don’t have these perks, but HOA fees also cover maintenance, landscaping, insurance, garbage pick-up and other necessities. In some cases, the HOA fees cover water and electricity.

HOAs Aren’t for Everyone

Frankly, there are people just not temperamentally suited for HOA living. You had better like the way the dwelling looks, because you can probably make only minimal changes, especially to the exterior. Restrictions are unique to each HOA, but it’s not unusual for them to include permitted types of holiday decorations, how early you can put out trash for pick-up, and similar limitations on your personal decisions.
There’s another major “con” aspect to HOAs. If you stop paying your HOA fees and assessments, the HOA can put on a lien on your home. As part of the lien, the HOA can charge interest, legal fees, late fees and fines for HOA violations. If you don’t pay up – even if you are current on your mortgage – the HOA can foreclose on your home. That is why not paying fees in an HOA dispute isn’t a viable option.

Attend Meetings

There’s probably a million other things you’d rather do than attend HOA meetings, but it’s important to show up regularly. Find out firsthand how and why the board of directors makes certain decisions. As an HOA member, you have the right to voice your opinion during the public portion of the meeting, and to contribute ideas for the betterment of the community.

Things to do Before Selling

Top Upgrades and Additions to Make Before Selling Your Home
Making major upgrades to a house you’re planning to sell seems a bit ironic, but these expenditures often make the difference in how fast your home sells and the amount of money you make. The key is making an upgrade or putting in an addition that doesn’t cost you money at the time of the sale.

The Front Door
The front door makes the initial statement about what’s inside the house. Painting or replacing a front door promises an attractive dwelling within. Make sure the area around the front door is uncluttered, and add potted plants or plantings to increase the welcoming atmosphere.

Kitchens and Bathrooms
If your kitchen and bathrooms need major upgrades, spend the money and have them replaced. You should receive your investment back when selling the home. If you don’t have the funds, strip and stain or paint cabinets and make sure all windows sparkle. If possible, add at least one new major appliance. Potential buyers notice and it gives a kitchen an updated feel.

A fresh coat of neutral interior paint makes your house look fresh and doesn’t cost a great deal, especially if you do it yourself. The same holds true for the exterior.

It’s the Little Things
Replacing door handles, cabinet knobs, light plates and other minor matters can make a big difference in your home’s overall appearance.

Replace Carpeting
If your home is carpeted, tear out the carpets and replace them with solid-surface flooring. It’s also environmentally friendly.

Add a Lanai
Lanais and Hawaii are virtually synonymous. If your house doesn’t have one, that’s an addition to consider. Since it’s such a favored feature, the lack of a lanai may affect how long it takes to sell your home.

If your landscaping looks a little tired, install some new plantings. This relatively inexpensive fix greatly influences curb appeal. Sometimes it’s not a matter of planting anything new, but pruning back what has grown out of control. Your landscaping should enhance any views from your property.

Original Use
It’s not uncommon for people to use rooms for purposes that they were not originally intended. You may never use the dining room, so why not turn it into your home office? That may not work when you’re selling the home. If you have no other suitable place for a home office, try sticking it in a corner of a spare bedroom, but keep the bed and bedroom furnishings within.

Each home is different, and your real estate agent can advise you on the best tips for your property. He or she also knows the best additions and upgrades for your neighborhood. A little time, money and effort should yield you a good profit.

December 17, 2016