Why Are There So Few Places to Live On Maui?


Some friends recently moved to Maui, and commented on how hard it was to find a place to live. They asked, “Why are there so few long-term rentals on Maui?”

The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. A typical landlord can pull in much more per month renting a condo unit out by the week in a rental pool, than by the month. Of course, he/she has to keep it rented.

If you are the condo owner, you probably want to use the condo a month or so in the year– or let the kids and grandkids use it. You can’t kick a long – term tenant out, but you can block out a month for yourself– which means it’s a vacation-rental only.

So now you, the landlord, have yourself a place to vacation on Maui, plus it’s pulling in money the rest of the year. Pretty much a win – win, wouldn’t you say?

Yes, for everyone except the locals, who are pulling their hair out trying to find a decent rental for a decent price. And be warned, what is out there for rent is rarely in pristine shape. One of the first places I rented on Maui was a condo in Honokowai. It was built in the early 70’s and had dirty, worn Pepto-Bismol pink carpeting throughout. Plus a pink toilet, a pink sink… just lovely. (Not). Nothing had been replaced or upgraded.

When I moved in, the new owner/landlord hadn’t even had it cleaned after taking it out of the rental pool. When I asked him to clean it, he acted shocked, SHOCKED! that he wasn’t going to get to be a slum-lord with no out-of-pocket expenses. And then he found the two lowest priced local girls to come in and do the job, because I’d never seen two people move so slowly and get less done in that amount of time.

I cleaned the whole thing over again, which was fruitless, because there were holes so big in the “natural” rock walls that the cockroaches had a freeway going from the outside in. And red dirt blows right through jalousie windows, even when they are closed.

For this, I was paying an exhorbitant price. And this was the beginning of my real education on Maui: the landlord mostly wins.

Now that I’m a landlord, I vow never to be that way. And I don’t vacation-rental it. I save it for a local, who is tired of the rental war.

I was once that person, you see.

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

Affordable Housing in Maui

Maui Weather Today…More of the same.

Affordable Housing in Maui


People write to ask me about living in Maui, and how to afford it. One of the ways that many locals make it work is to build an Ohana. “Ohana” means family in Hawaiian, but in this case refers to a living space, technically attached to the main house. Like an in-law unit.

When we built our house we added an attached ohana. It’s one-bedroom with a nice sized covered lanai, and it shares one wall with our part of the house, which makes the main house more like a duplex. This is a smart move in Hawaii, as many people can’t afford to buy, so it’s a win-win for everybody.

Until it’s not. We got spoiled with our very first tenant, a woman with a big Labrador. She also loved our cat, Lili, and was in fact a vet tech.  “Auntie Amy” as we called her, was heaven sent: she was quiet, clean, and loved to take care of Lili if we had to leave the island (and even took it upon herself to vacuum the house because Lili has allergies to dust and red dirt). I am not making this up. Auntie Amy was with us for five years. I kinda hoped she’d stay till she was eighty.

But then Auntie Amy got cancer and was down for about a year. Then it came back, and she decided she had to move. That’s when we found out about Crazy Tenants.

Crazy Tenants are people who look good on paper but in fact will make you question your own sanity for renting to them.There was Bernard, the old Japanese carpenter who was from Oahu and wanted a temporary place to live while he built a house on Maui. He signed the lease and the next thing we knew he had covered up all the windows with brown paper grocery bags and the place was emitting a very strange odor, like fish left out for two weeks. Then Mike came around the corner and found Bernard changing the locks. A no-no, and against the lease (how can a landlord get in if there’s a fire or a dead person in there?) He muttered something and Mike realized he was paranoid and possibly schizophrenic. His daughter threatened to sue us because there was a spot in the sidewalk that was raised a quarter of an inch and he might trip on it. Bernard moved out.

Then there was the Maui fireman (Mike was a fireman, so we figured this was a sure bet) who lived in the unit for almost six weeks. Then, when the yearly influx of German cockroaches began (it was a  particularly bad year) he accused us of hiding them from him. Um…so we were like keeping them in a cardboard box and only released them once he’d lived there six weeks? Another one moved out.

Then there was Crazy Katie. She promptly moved a boyfriend in (breaking the lease) and then got a cat without permission. We are animal people…we just told her she’d need a pet addendum to the lease. She refused. She started sending strange emails and quoting landlord/tenant code to us. About the time it appeared she was going to spin out, she moved. We breathed a sigh of relief.

After that came a girl who shall remain nameless because she was so scary. I thought I was going to spin out with that one. And each time we said, “We sure miss Auntie Amy.” And we surely did.

These people all appeared normal and looked great on paper. Appearances are deceiving.

This last go-round, we gave up on Maui people and imported a couple from Alaska. Mike teases that he had to import me from California…so we figured it could work with tenants, too. They are a joy. They are quiet and polite and we are happy. They tell us they are happy too.

Affordable housing in Maui? An ohana really only makes your mortgage more affordable if you aren’t putting up with Crazy Tenants.

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica