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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

Staging to Sell

6 Top Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Faster

You know your house should appear neat and clean to appeal to buyers, but staging your home for a faster sale goes beyond that. It makes your home as attractive as possible while appealing to the widest number of buyers. Good staging not only helps homes sell more quickly, but for a higher price.
While you can hire professional stagers, most people can do the work themselves. Your real estate agent can give you suggestions for accentuating the positives and diminishing any negatives, and you can take it from there.

Curb Appeal

Your home gets one chance to make a first impression, and that starts at the curb. While it’s important to mow the lawn and keep plantings tidy, make sure your house looks fresh and inviting. Paint trim, clean windows until they sparkle and give your house, driveway and walkways a good power wash. Make sure it’s easy to read the house number. If your house sports a porch, remove everything but one or two pieces of attractive outdoor furniture and blooming plants. If a buyer is coming to look at the house in the evening, keep the porch lights on. They add a lovely, welcoming glow.

Get Rid of Clutter

While getting rid of clutter is rather obvious, you’re so used to seeing certain items you may not even realize strangers perceive them as untidy or obtrusive. Your want your home to look as large and spacious as possible. That won’t happen if rooms are full of furniture. Remove unnecessary pieces, and rearrange the furniture so the room boasts good flow for movement. In the kitchen, hide away all the non-essential items on the counter. Non-essential means anything you don’t use on a daily basis. The same holds true for the bathroom. Store your personal items in a drawer.

Avoid using closets as a storage space for temporarily unwanted things. Buyers will look at the closets, and they don’t want to see clutter – or junk – there either. Quite the opposite – they want to see closets with plenty of room. Consider having a yard sale or donating useful but unwanted items to charity. Renting storage space for your possessions is another option.
Put Away the Personal
You love the family photographs, awards and other mementoes scattered throughout your home. That’s fine, but a potential buyer wants to visualize the house as their place. It’s harder to do with constant reminders that other people live there. Pack away the personal, and display them again in your new abode.

Let There be Light

Bright and airy are powerful selling points. Allow as much light into rooms as possible, and augment that with attractive and strategically placed fixtures and lamps.

Neutral Colors

A fresh coat of paint brightens any home prior to sale, but it’s especially crucial to use subdued, neutral colors. Such shades allow buyers to imagine their furnishings and art in the room, which isn’t necessarily the case with louder tones.

Cleaning and Repairing

When you’re readying your house for a staging, don’t forget about the carpets, curtains and hardwood floors. Have carpets and draperies professionally cleaned, and replace any worn curtains. Your hardwood floors require polishing, and may need sanding and restaining if they appear worn.

Preparing your home for sale involves a lot of work and a certain amount of money. Good staging is worth it – you should soon entertain offers.

Before Making an Offer

Things to Look for Before Making an Offer

It’s the house of your dreams, and you can’t wait to make an offer. Sit down, take a deep breath, and let your head rule your heart. No matter how much you like the house, it may have issues. Some problems are easily fixed, others will cost significant money and there are those that can’t change. Make an offer only when you’re sure you can deal with any downside the home may have.

Open Houses

During an open house, the real estate agent ensures the home looks as good as possible. Everything is neat, clean and uncluttered. However, even the best staging can’t camouflage certain items. Take a walk around the house and inspect the exterior. Termites are a problem in Hawaii, so know the telltale signs. Look for “sawdust” around the base of the home, which are actually the droppings of drywood termites. Subterranean termite infestation is just as common. Indications of subterranean termite issues include warped walls or sagging flooring, in case you don’t see the pests’ mud tunnels outdoors. Look at the roof, foundation, windows and exterior painting to see if work or replacement is needed.

When inside, feel free to open cabinets, check closets, turn faucets on and off and flush the toilets. You want to ensure there is sufficient storage space for your needs and that the plumbing is in good working order. If the house doesn’t smell right, or the real estate agent has gone to great lengths to mask orders, that’s a red flag. It’s possible mold is the culprit, or pet urine has soaked into the carpets or floors.

While you’re inspecting your potential new home, take a good look at surrounding properties. Are they in satisfactory condition, or are any of the houses run down? That affects property values, but it also may have an effect on an offer the seller is willing to entertain. Take photos and videos so you can discuss the pros and cons later on.

Perform Due Diligence

A little online research makes all the difference before making an offer on a home. You can check out the school system, neighborhood crime rates, local restaurants and shopping opportunities. Check out the neighborhood demographics if you’re looking for a community focused on your age group and lifestyle. Figure out how long it will take you to get to work. Try visiting the neighborhood at night to experience the vibe.

Other Bills

It’s important to think beyond the mortgage and take other costs of a particular home into consideration. While tax information is readily available, you also want to know about any homeowner’s association fees, water and sewer service costs, insurance and utilities.

When you’ve gotten good feedback on your questions, then it’s time to make an offer. Make your offer based on all considerations. Much depends on the market. If it’s hot, you won’t have much leeway, but in a normal or slow market, you’re in a better position to negotiate. Your real estate agent can advise you on the right offer to make, and it’s the seller’s decision from there. With luck, it’s a win-win for both parties.

Owning a Home with a Pool

Pros and Cons of Owning a Home with a Pool

Dreams of living in a tropical paradise usually include a pool somewhere in the fantasy. In reality, a home with a pool also comes with responsibilities and some downsides. While there are plenty of wonderful reasons to own a home with a pool, it’s important to consider the entire picture.

Perfect Relaxation

A pool offers more than an inviting place to take a dip. It’s an extension of your home and a focal point, a place to entertain and relax. Landscaped with native plants, it’s truly an object of beauty. The pool is the place where you and your family make memories.

Resale Value

In colder parts of the country, pools don’t necessarily add strong resale value to the house. That’s not the case in Hawaii and other warm climates, where winter doesn’t come into play. Buyers in these areas love pools.


The state of Hawaii doesn’t set fencing or barrier requirements for private pools, but there are county and local requirements. Your insurance company will likely set a minimum, so if you’re planning to install a pool, expect to put in at least a 4’ fence.

Pool Upkeep

There is upkeep involved, and you can either do it yourself or hire out the work. Robotic pool cleaners are also available. Standard upkeep is not that expensive, even if you use a service, but repairs are another story. Perhaps someone, somewhere, once had an inexpensive pool repair, but they are the exception.


Liability insurance for your home covers your pool, so you don’t need an additional policy per se. However, it’s a good idea to increase your liability limit, and most insurance companies will insist on this. Your insurance advisor will likely recommend adding an umbrella policy, which supplements regular insurance coverage. A $1 million umbrella policy is well worth the few hundred dollars it costs annually, because if the worst happens in your pool and there’s a death or serious injury, a lawsuit is inevitable.

An Attractive Nuisance

Lawyers refer to pools as an “attractive nuisance,” because children may become attracted to them and trespass on your land. As pools are inherently dangerous, your insurance company is going to want to know everything about your pool. If a pool falls to meet the company’s standards, you won’t receive coverage without making the changes or upgrades.

There’s no reason your Hawaiian dream home shouldn’t include a backyard pool. Take basic precautions to ensure your pool is as safe as possible. Extra insurance also gives you peace of mind, the kind of tranquility experienced on a gorgeous Hawaiian day poolside.