Homebuying in Hawaii vs California

homebuying in Hawaii vs California

Have you ever wondered about the differences between homebuying in Hawaii vs California? Well, perhaps I am a bit jaded since I’ve worked in California real estate for so long that it all makes perfect sense to me, but Hawaii practices in real estate seem convoluted. Strange. Twisted. More complicated than it ever needs to be. Unsupervised. Everybody makes up their own rules. Completely unsophisticated island style. And run by the builders and developers, I may add.

California has added protections, and caveat emptor really does not apply to buyers anymore. California real estate contracts protect buyers but, in Hawaii, contract law seems to throw them under the bus. If you are homebuying in Hawaii vs California, you better get ready for peculiar requests and demands.

For example, we just sold our vacation home in Hawaii and are in the process of buying another home up the hill at a higher elevation. Especially in Kona, the elevation is important. The higher you go, the cooler. If you go too high, though, you will get a bit more rain than you might like. With rain comes mold. Which means finding that perfect elevation is primary. Coupled with an easy commute into town.

Another difference in homebuying in Hawaii vs California is buyer possession. In Hawaii, if you are buying another home and moving up, buyers still expect — per contract default verbiage — that the seller will move out the day prior to closing. Don’t they get very many move-up buyers, I asked? Yes, but apparently most of them have other funds they use to buy their new home, and they don’t sell an existing to use the funds to buy another. Or, they move to the Mainland at closing.

I had to ask our agent, what I am supposed to do when I need the money from this closing to fund our new house? Go get a hotel room? She said I could sleep in the house, on the floor if necessary, but my furniture had to go. Go where? Can’t move it into the new house until we close the existing sale. What is wrong with Hawaii contracts? A lot. Obviously, we re-negotiated that I could move out the day after closing (but I would have been OK with the day of).

Another issue we have encountered is First American Title does not want to rely on the recorded recon in the public records from when we paid off our mortgage. Encountered resistance to accepting that document. There is some kind of new rule that if an owner paid off a mortgage within the last 2 years, a recorded reconveyance is NOT sufficient for title company purposes. FATCO wants a letter from the lender that shows the loan was paid, which is basically what a recon is. Getting lenders to do anything out of the norm is like pulling teeth. Good thing Dan Tharp at Guild Mortgage, our preferred mortgage lender in Sacramento, is stepping in to assist.

I suggest that buyers who decide to engage in homebuying in Hawaii vs California practices might want to hire a lawyer. An agent is not going to protect you as a buyer because Hawaii law doesn’t seem to give a crap about buyers. It favors sellers. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, it is crazy enough to drive you insane.

But that’s what Hawaii does to people. I am not kidding you. Just earlier this week, I had been complaining to my friends that our house is taking sooooooo long to sell. I feel like I am in limbo. Yet it is one of the BEST homes on the market. It is close to Kona, less than mile to the beach, completely remodeled and entirely affordable at $575K. 

Twenty-four days I have been on the market. Count ’em. Days on market: 24. But that is FAST in Hawaii. I don’t know, 3 weeks seems like a long time to me when most of my hot escrows in Sacramento began 3 or 4 days after listing. Although, patience is not my strong suit.

However, have to say, when my agent called me on Wednesday to say we had received a full-price offer on my house, I actually replied that I have to go to the beach. Commitment I made. Won’t be back until later on in the late afternoon, then we could talk about it. 

Elizabeth Weintraub at new home in Kona

Hung up the phone. Then stared at my iPhone. WTF? No, I am not a crazy seller. Hawaii has warped me. I immediately canceled my beach plans. Where was my head? In the homebuying in Hawaii vs California scenario, I better jump when the iron is hot. Thank goodness I still have a doofus radar that I can apply to my own behavior when it slouches toward screwiness.

That’s when I called my agent to say, don’t let me intimidate. When I say stupid shit, tell me, for crying out loud. I do the same for my own clients. But it goes to show that even real estate brokers with more than four decades of experience can lose it slightly when dealing with homebuying in Hawaii vs California.

I’m thinking maybe I should get my broker’s license in Hawaii so I could help them straighten out their messed up MLS and other practices. California tends to lead the country in many things, and real estate is one of those commodities that California does right.

The photo at the top shows the peak of Hualalai, which is rarely seen due to the clouds over that portion of the mountain in Kona. Our new home is located on the slopes of the Hualalai volcano. I have to also add that I hope they impeach Trump, even knowing it won’t remove him from office. Enough is enough.

— Elizabeth Weintraub

Elizabeth Weintraub

Weintraub & Wallace


Subscribe to Elizabeth Weintraub's Blog via email

Sorry we are experiencing system issues. Please try again.