Goldilocks and the Three Towns on Maui

Aloha!

A recent letter from a reader who wants to move to Maui asked, “What’s the prettiest town?” I think that’s a very subjective thing, and I can’t choose pretty for you any more than you could choose it for me. A better question might be about the weather of the town you choose to live in. For instance, I was at a party up in Kula, and everyone there was freezing. It was an outdoor party, and the windchill felt about 30°. I was wearing the same leather coat I wear in San Francisco and was still cold. After you live in Hawaii a while, your blood thins out and you can’t take the cold anymore, particularly if you live at an elevation that is always warm.

At the party I visited with a lady who had moved from Oahu (very warm there) and needed to choose a place to live on Maui. Her husband asked, “What about Haiku?” and the lady responded, “Too rainy.” Her husband said, “What about Hana?” The wife responded, “Too remote.” (At least she’d done her homework, lots of people don’t). So they ended up in Kula, where there is less rain, but it’s too cold for her. I almost asked her, “So what about Kihei, or Lahaina? But I know what her response would’ve been: “Too crowded. Too hot!”

So it really is like Goldilocks, you have to pick what’s “just right” for you, and you alone.

I also spoke with another couple who recently purchased a home in Maui Meadows (a residential area up the hill from Kihei) after living in a condo for years. I asked why they moved, and he said, “It gets old living in a resort. Tourists coming and going all the time.” So that’s another thing to think about when moving here: condo life might sound wonderful and low – maintenance, but there are very few condo complexes on Maui that are long-term rental only. What that means is at least half (or usually a higher percentage) of the people on the property where you will be living are transient or tourists. There is no getting to know them better, and the worst of them really feel no obligation to behave. (“We’re on vacation…par-tay!!”)

Then there are the maintenance fees at condos…ask lots of questions. I was tempted to buy a lovely condo when I first loved here, till I found out the maintenance fees were $1,200. per month– and this was fifteen years ago!

If you’re thinking of a move to Maui, like Goldilocks, I hope you do your homework and find the area that is “just right.”

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right, or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Maui Home Prices Surge

Aloha!

If you want to check out Maui real estate, it’s helpful to know that the median prices for single-family homes jumped 21.3% to $570,0000 in September, compared to 2013. Condos are up 34.8% to $465,000, according to the Realtors Association of Maui.

It’s worth noting that all of this is based on the area. For single-family homes, Central Maui (Kahului) had 32 sales and a $449,500 median price. Kihei had 12 sales and a $502,500 median price. But Haiku came in with eight sales and a $745,575 median price.

These low-end median prices are usually a typical Maui home made of cement block, and have three bedrooms, one bath, and a tiny kitchen. Perhaps a more accurate depiction of a median is this home in Olinda that I found on http://www.Zillow.com. (I love Zillow, especially the mapping and birds-eye views.) With a nice-sized kitchen, covered porch, etc.

image

Four sales of luxury homes occurred in Wailea, for a total sales volume of $12.4 million and a median price of $1.4 million.

For those interested in condos, Kihei, the town right next-door to Wailea, outpaced all of the regions. It had 31 sales of condos with a median price of $315,000. Up north, Napili/Kahana/Honokowai had 12 condo sales, and a median price of $465,000. And upper-end Kaanapali came in with a median price of $930,000.

This is good news for Maui homeowners who have been hanging on waiting for their house prices to bump up so that they could sell. For those looking to buy in Maui, the time is now!

The full report can be seen at http://www.ramaui.com

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage, or to the right. Mahalo for reading along.

Aloha, Jamaica

Ask the Right Questions Before Vacation on Maui

Aloha!

We just had the staycation from hell here on Maui (the vacation that wasn’t). So even though we asked all the right questions before staying in this condo, we still got burned, so I thought I would share the questions always to ask before renting a place here.

Realize that the west side of Maui was first settled in 1969, with a few resorts. Condos then sprung up along the shoreline and across the road from the ocean, and those units are now 30 to 40 years old.

Condos that are part of a chain HOTEL property are required by their owners to upgrade to a certain grade, such as A, A+, etc. Not so with an individual condo owner in a little complex, who posts a rental on the web, complete with photos, and it looks just too good to be true. Perhaps it is.

Ask:
1) “How old is this unit? When was it last updated? Is there a dishwasher?”
2) “Is the subfloor between floors wood, or concrete?” You want concrete. I once rented an oceanfront condo in Honokowai with wood subfloors and the people above me scraped counter stools in and out at 3 AM for a week. Who knows what they were doing up there!
3) “Is it air-conditioned?” Most older units are not. (“But we have the sea-breeze!” they say gleefully). Realize this: red dirt blows all the time on this island. If the only means of cooling a unit is open windows, it is most likely full of red dirt, which is hard on allergies. Ask also: “Is it central air, or a room air-conditioner? Located where?” I once stayed in an old Kihei condo while attending the Maui Writer’s Conference, and I’ve never been so hot my life. The window unit was in the living room and the cool air never got close to the back bedroom.
4) “Is it carpeted?” Many places have tile floors. That’s a good thing, because all that red dirt and dust and sand is otherwise trapped in the carpet.
5) ” Is there shade on the property for the pool/lounge chairs?” My favorite property on Maui, the Aston Kaanapali Villas, (http://www.astonmauikaanapalivillas.com) is beloved by guests who return every year because of it’s wide expanse of lawn with lounge chairs under glorious old shade trees….absolutely perfect for stretching out with a summer read.
6)” Is there road noise?” This is obviously subjective, because I asked the woman before we rented the condo, and she said no. I didn’t sleep a wink. We checked in one day and checked right out the next. (After hauling a week’s worth of food, drinks and clothes up a flight of stairs. The idea of a condo is to be able to eat in it. So then we had to haul it all back out.) And the road noise was just one of many issues, like no hot water!
7) Which leads to, “What is your cancellation policy?”

When you go online and see these cheap units in Kihei, Honokowai, Mahinahina, Kahana and Napili, it’s tempting to whip out the credit card and book. Realize how old they might be, that many have never been upgraded or have been done cheaply or shoddily.

So don’t forget: ASK QUESTIONS.

And remember, the closer your unit is to oceanfront, the quieter it is more likely to be (and more expensive).

Now, if you rent a house, room, or ohana someplace like Paia, Kihei, or Upcountry, I’m afraid you’re on your own. Here’s a hint though: your first question should be “Are there roosters in this neighborhood?”

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the Follow button to the right, or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Lahaina Ranks in Top Seaside Towns

Aloha!

No one that I know actually stays in Lahaina. They just do the “Lahaina crawl”: shopping, dining, taking a boat ride out of the harbor. They stay in Kihei, Kaanapali, Kapalua. As for my years as a concierge on Maui, my favorite dining experiences in Lahaina are: Io Restaurant http://www.iomaui.com/, Gerards (it’s French, he was a master chef from France) http://www.gerardsmaui.com/cms/index.php, and was awarded five stars by Forbes. If you go, ask to be seated on the veranda; the restaurant is in a lovely old hotel. For luaus, my favorite is the Feast at Lele http://www.feastatlele.com/ because the food is fabulous and you can’t get any closer to the beach. It’s small and intimate (about fifty tables) you have your your own table,your own server, and the price includes champagne if you desire. I always told my guests at the hotel that it was a great last-night on Maui celebration place.Be sure to take a sweater or wrap, ladies, it cools down on the beach after you watch that spectacular sunset.

Lahaina Sunset

Here’s the AP article on Lahaina from  the Maui News May 17th:

NEW YORK – Lahaina was ranked 10th on Coastal Living’s 15 “Happiest Seaside Towns.”

The survey is a first for the magazine that covers life along the coast and is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Beach communities from California to South Carolina were ranked as the “best places to live along the coasts of the United States.”

In an announcement of the ranking, the magazine called Lahaina, “the charming gateway to Maui’s world-famous Kaanapali and Kapalua beach resorts to the north.”

“Its banyan trees add a courtly air to the downtown, and its brightly colored Front Street, busy with shops and galleries, keeps things lively,” the announcement said. “Lahaina has nearly perfect air quality, and when you add its dry, sunny climate in a tropical paradise, that makes life pretty ideal.”

There were no other Hawaii seaside towns listed in the survey. The No. 1 “Happiest Seaside Town” was Kiawah Island in South Carolina, followed by Naples, Fla.; and Sausalito, Calif.

“It’s wonderful news,” said Lynn Donovan, executive director of LahainaTown Action Committee, an organization that helps promote the west-side town. “Our reaction is that we are thrilled that this is happening and that we are lucky that we live Lahaina.”

She noted that the honor comes on the heels of being ranked 21 out of 25 island destinations listed in a TripAdvisor survey and Front Street being named one of the “Great Streets of America.”

The Coastal Living ranking appears in the June issue, which hits newsstands Friday.

…So folks, how do YOU feel about Lahaina? Do you look forward to visiting it when you come, or do you avoid it and its crowds?

A hui hou (til we meet again). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage.

Aloha! Jamaica