- Wow! I just
read some of the newest reviews of Affordable Paradise
on Amazon. There are several that claim housing
prices on the Big Island are two to three times the amounts shown
in the book. Well, what can I say? Housing prices have been on
a roller coaster ride here for the last five years or so, and
during that time there have been no less than three editions
of the book published, trying to keep readers accurately informed.
- The Third
Edition, published in '05, came our just before prices
went through the roof, but the good news is that they have now
more-or-less stabilized and the early-'05 prices are once again
fairly accurate. In spite of the reviews.
One reviewer wrote that the Big Island's housing prices are on
a par with Kauai now. Well, that would be nice for anyone seeking
a home on Kauai, but it simply is not true.
- Sure there are
exceptions to everything, and if you want to use published price
statistics, you can make them look any way you like. There are
multi-million dollar homes on either Island (on any of the Islands,
actually), but I'd sure like to see some $2-300K houses on Kauai.
And contrary to another reviewer's claim that the only affordable
housing on the Big Island is in the volcano zones of Lower Puna,
that isn't true, either.
- We just sold
a beautiful 3-bedroom, 2 bath home, 1440 sq. ft. on a huge lot,
ocean view, house completely remodeled, sold it fully furnished.
It went for $340K and is in one of the most desirable areas of
Hilo, five minutes from downtown and in one of the best school
districts on the Island. I believe that compares well to the
prices shown in the Third Edition, and it is typical
of Hilo prices at this time.
- Any of this
can easily be verified with a visit to Hawaii Information
- Premium real
estate, like anything in the more desirable areas of Hilo, homes
near the ocean or even with great ocean views, or most places
on the Hamakua Coast, is still expensive. Compared to 2005 prices,
they're down, but prices are still higher now than before that
crazy boom. The upside is that if you choose to find residence
in any of the Hilo-side subdivisions, like Paradise Park, Hawaiian
Shores, etc., they're practically giving away houses there right
now, and interest rates are the lowest they've been for many
years and supposedly coming down more. Of course, this is the
notorious lava-zone area of Lower Puna.
- Brand new homes
in Hawaiian Shores that were selling briskly for close to $400K
in late 2005 are now being offered for around $249, sometimes
with incentives like no payments for the first year, no money
down, and so on. And when the brand new homes are going at those
kinds of prices, the older ones are even cheaper. Yes, it is
again reasonable to look for homes under $200K in Hawaii! We've
also seen a few fixers right in Hilo in the mid-twos.
The not-so-good news is that in spite of the leveling off of
housing prices, "Affordable Paradise" is getting less
and less affordable with each passing day. The rising cost of
fuel offers a convenient excuse for many vendors and suppliers
to jack up prices on everything, even when their shipping costs
are pretty much a non-issue. Some suppliers have, of course,
used "shipping costs" as their excuse forever, and
it just doesn't wash. For example, a few weeks ago I needed to
replace a computer monitor. The one I wanted was available at
one of the very few sources we have for such items, Office Max.
Their price was $395 for this item that carried a manufacturer's
suggested retail price of $330. Already knowing the dumb answer
I'd receive, I asked the salesman why they needed a whopping
$69 more that retail for this unit, and of course he said that's
what it cost to ship it here. NOT!
- So I found it
on sale at Amazon for $300 with $20 shipping to Hawaii. Of course
I ordered it. When you shop for a new appliance, they'll routinely
gouge you from $70 to $100 for "shipping." (It's an
invisible gouge, as it is built into the "Island price.")
Well, you can arrange to have one appliance strapped to a pallet
and shipped here for about that amount. Sears brings over many
container-loads and it probably comes to about $10/appliance
to ship them. They probably make more profit on the shipping
than on the appliance!
- So anyway, back
to "affordable," what's the solution? This rule never
changes: Shop around. If possible, never by anything that isn't
on sale. When items are on sale, they're about what they should
- Let's see .
. . more ways to save money. Here's one: Own your home free and
clear. If you are coming over here from the mainland and are
selling an expensive home there, consider buying one here you
can afford to pay for in cash. Look at the money you won't have
to earn! Most people's mortgage payments are nearly all interest.
So if you no longer have to make that $1500/month payment, that's
about $2000 per month you won't have to earn. At least that much,
actually, when you figure your net income after taxes. In addition,
if you own your home, you won't be told by your mortgage company
that you have to shell out that $1000/year for hurricane insurance
to help them pay for all the hurricane damage on the mainland
in the last few years.
- Consider there
has never been a hurricane on the Big Island when deciding if
hurricane insurance is a good investment.
- Save even more
money: To anyone interested in building new, I can't stress enough
the importance of considering a solar home! Yes, there is an
investment involved, but when you are already spending $100K
or more to build your home, it IS possible to shuffle things
around to divert $20 - 30K into an electrical system that will
cut your electric bills to near zero forever, not to mention
the wonderful feeling of knowing that you have done something
significant to help the environment. Speaking in terms of dollars,
the average electric bill here is now $200/month, so the payback
on that investment is pretty fast. In addition, there are County
and federal tax credits available that can bring the cost of
a solar system down significantly.
is one of those items that unless you create your own, you are
held hostage to whatever the utility company decides to charge.
We are now paying over .30/KWH here, compared to rates like .06/KWH
in Seattle or .12/KWH in LA, and just about the time our beloved
HELCO gets one of their regular rate hikes, they have an application
in for the next one.
- In my humble
opinion, it is obscene to burn coal and oil to produce electricity
in a place that gets the sunshine we enjoy in Hawaii. As with
so many other environmental issues, the U.S. is behind just about
every other developed country in utilizing renewable energy.
Ironic, since we use more energy than anyone in the world.
- All the rest
of the "survival secrets" in Affordable Paradise
still apply, but if you have any particular concerns, opinions,
questions or whatever, please post them at the Affordable Paradise
- And in the
meanwhile, please, please,
- Mahalo for
- Skip Thomsen