- Aloha Nui!
Time flies when you're busy, and busy we have been. Again, my
apologies for not keeping up the Updates during the year, but
then not a whole lot in Hawaii has changed (aside from a major
hurricane) enough to make good Update reading, and
the big thing of interest to the Affordable Living enthusiasts
is that the cost of living here on the Mainland just keeps going
up, up, making Hawaii even more affordable in comparison.
- Our cost of
living is easily double now from what it was in our Beautiful
Hilo Town. And along with the costs here, the population keeps
growing, the roads, highways and communities get more jammed
with people, everybody is more in a hurry and getting everywhere
slower, and, well, you get the picture, right? That's why you're
either yearning to live in Hawaii or already happily doing so.
We've fallen into reluctant step with our new California lifestyle.
Sort of. The only thing that makes it even doable at all is that
we were lucky enough to find this place here, deep in the redwood
forest, with streams and rivers here and there, and small villages
of cabin-like homes scattered along the length of the Russian
River from where we are, about 15 miles from the ocean. It's
really quite beautiful, and the pace of life here is considerably
slower than even in Santa Rosa, our closest city. At least it
is during the week. The Russian River is the easy-access vacation
destination of choice for thousands of Bay Area residents, and
they're up here every weekend during the summer months.
Do we miss Hawaii? On a daily basis. We find ourselves going
through the thousands of photos we have of our Hawaii environs,
talking to friends there, some of them visit here and we can
reminisce, and since I still have an interest in reporting any
pertinent changes in Real Estate values, I'm on several Big Island
Web sites at least once a month.
- As I reported
in the last update, my feelings have not changed about the affordability
of Hawaii compared to most places on the mainland. Everything
here seems to cost more than in Hawaii. Real Estate taxes here
are huge here, especially since houses cost more, too. You can
still find cheaper homes on the Mainland, depending on where
you're interested in living, but since it seems that the majority
of the folks I've talked to who moved over from the Mainland
came from either the West or East coast, it is fair to say that
home values are comparable.
- Prices are way
more stable on the Big Island (and have been for a few years)
than they are here, at least here in California. For example,
when we bought our house here in 2011, we paid $330K for it,
and that was high for the area. We only bought it because it
needed no repairs and was to serve until we found our special
little house for half that amount, and that's what little houses
were going for then. Well, we waited too long, and now those
little houses have all been snapped up by flippers,
and are back on the market for more than we paid for ours. Our
house has appreciated in value along with the rest of the market,
and in this scary, volatile market, that could all turn around
again in a heartbeat.
- If we were in
a position to move back to Hilo right now, we could sell our
house here and buy a really nice Hilo property and end up with
lots of change. In addition, our taxes would go from the $4300/year
we're paying now back down to the few hundred dollars we would
have to pay there.
- Hawaii folks
complain about 4% Use Tax, and here we pay 9.75% sales tax on
everything. If you buy a $10,000 used car from a friend here,
you'll even have to pay $975 sales tax on it before you're allowed
to register it. Oh yeah, and our 10-year-old pickup costs $155/year
for the license. And every two years you get to take your car
in for a $70 smog inspection and certificate, and
often the inspection will lead to hundreds in repairs
before the car will pass.
- Our utilities
here continue to cost as much, or more, than they did in Hawaii.
Yes, Hawaii's electric rates are higher, but that's only until
you use a certain amount of electricity. Then they soar. In
addition, it costs us about $300/month for gas to heat this house
in the cold, rainy winters.
- Check out my
last Update for the rest of the story of comparisons. Get this:
Some friends were over here a few weeks ago from Puna and stayed
with us for a very fun week. They were blown away that gas prices
were LESS in Hilo than here in California. And we live about
an hour's drive from one of the biggest refineries (ugh) on the
West Coast. So shipping is no long a valid excuse for the disparity
in gas prices, is it?
We also ate a lot better in Hawaii. Fresh veggies were somehow
so easy and natural there. Here, we find ourselves heating up
a frozen pizza or some other packaged, processed thing. It's
just so California. There are lots of farmers
markets here, but many sell produce shipped from other
states or even countries. We go to the ones where we know for
sure we're buying local, organic produce, but then we also have
to pay double the grocery-store prices. Like $4/pound for apples
- I yearn for
some of those 5-for-a-dollar papayas from the Hilo Farmer's Market!
Here you pay $5 for ONE hard-as-a-rock papaya that will rot before
I've said this before, but it bears repeating. I have to qualify
this discussion by saying that an average income will not support
you if your idea of living in Hawaii is Honolulu. Or Maui. I've
received lots of flak about that in Amazon Reviews. People write
a nasty review saying that my title is misleading because the
book doesn't say how one can have an affordable life on Oahu
or Maui. Well, had I written a book on Affordable California,
it would certainly not have been about Beverly Hills or San Francisco.
Rather, it would have given the reader all of the best places
in California that are still affordable. The Big Island (a.k.a.
Hawaii) is the only part of the State of Hawaii that
is affordable. And in the humble opinion of this writer (an opinion
shared by many), if I had the opportunity to live on any of the
Hawaiian Islands again and even if cost was no object, I would
return to the Big Island. Camille and I love the BI with all
our hearts, and it was a Huge Deal for us to come back here.
It's all about those sweet grandkids, and we do love having
them a part of our lives now. We would love to kidnap them and
move back to Hawaii! They'd love it, too. Too bad their parents
don't like it there . . .
OK, that's about it for now. The bottom line is that Affordable
Paradise, the 4th Edition, is still very much up-to-date in Real
Estate values. There are always exceptions, as with very unique
properties that will always command premium prices, but we're
talking average prices. The cost of an average, decent house
is still about what it was back in 2009-10, and in some cases,
- Thanks for listening,
and if you have any questions or other thoughts you would like
to share, please feel free to email me!
With abundant aloha always,
Skip & Camille
- We wish
you all the best, and never forget to
Thomsen & Ohana