Ocean Views from Everywhere. Second floor shows Master Bedroom.

Ocean Views from Everywhere. Second floor shows Master Bedroom.

Talk about location, location, location — 202 Kaikuono Place in Honolulu is two doors away from what’s arguably the most famous piece of residential property in Hawaii, Doris Duke’s Shangri-La estate.  Both are located on the ancient lava flow “toe” that juts out into the Pacific called Black Point.  It’s one thing to say you live in Diamond Head, but to call Black Point home raises your cred exponentially. It’s been estimated that were Duke’s five-acre oceanfront estate ever to make it to market, it would be the most expensive piece of residential real estate in the state. And it’s two doors down.

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Hawaii is where "Million-Dollar Views" Really Are Millions of Dollars

Hawaii is where “Million-Dollar Views” really do cost millions of dollars

Last week we saw the sexy, unattainable house porn of Oahu. Now let’s be realistic. You don’t need millions to realize a dream of a second home in Hawaii. When looking for a home in Hawaii, it comes down to location, location, and size. Let me explain.

Location: The further a home is away from the ocean, the less expensive it will be until you start looking uphill. The further uphill you get, prices increases will follow. Sure, there are certain areas and neighborhoods that are generally less expensive. These areas target more local buyers who want typical homes without the ocean views second home-buyers generally clamor for.

Location: In this case, location equals view. When looking at a high-rise condo, what can you see? Will that view change (likely), and how detrimental would a view change be? Is an oceanfront building with a unit facing the garage better than a unit several blocks away from the ocean with good ocean views better? Often the price (factoring in size) can be similar. Many are in Waikiki, but I chose units on the fringe so you get the convenience without the tourist throng at your doorstep.

Size: How large of a space do you want? Size and price often will dictate both location variables. If you’re a single person, a few hundred feet of paradise may suit, but if you’re looking to house a family, probably not.

A single-family home on the water will be millions, but there are other alternatives. I’ve not discussed them in this column, because the easiest ownership will be a lock-and-go condo that has rental potential (if you need help with fees and perhaps a mortgage). Here’s smattering of what’s available in the Honolulu area from the $200,000 to $1m. I chose Honolulu to focus on first because I know it best, has the most selection and is the easiest to area rent.

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Berkshire Hawaii Small

Out on a morning walk, I saw a sign for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Hawai’i and decided to give them a call. I wanted to get the insight into what Allie Beth Allman’s crew have gotten themselves into. A few days later, I met local president Tracy Bradley at that first-seen home’s open house. The short answer is that others in Dallas real estate should be a bit worried by the Berkshire firepower and savvy.

The Honolulu real estate playing field was at one time dominated by local brokerages that over time were acquired by national brands like RE/MAX, Prudential and such. Often what was gained in national presence was lost at the local level with layers of mainland management out of touch with the islands. Also, like many conglomerates, technology tools were not the best. Bradley told me of one of her agents who had been screaming for years for a way to embed a video into an email – no link, no Dropbox. Spoiler alert: now she can film a property on her phone and embed the impromptu tour into an email to her client from her phone.

1,820 oceanfront square feet. A snip at $4.69m

1,820 oceanfront square feet. A snip at $4.69m

One of Berkshire’s first real estate acquisitions was Prudential. Apparently, franchisees had the option of opting out and that’s what Hawai’ian offices did. With no presence in high-priced Honolulu, Berkshire approached Bradley and a select group of agents to be their start-up in Hawai’i. Little did I know how timely my meeting would be.

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Ward Gateway 1

Figure 1: Recently Approved Phase 2 of Hughes’ Kaka’ako Plans

The market for Honolulu condos makes Dallas look like Sleepy Hollow.  Even the ultra-tony Bleu Ciel with its recent price hikes is only pricing its smallest unit at a meager $640 a square foot.  Compare that with still-being-built Honolulu high-rises Anaha and Waiea where a 435-square-foot studio on a no-view floor will run ya nearly double that.

And while sales in Dallas for these costly homes chugs along, Bleu Ciel, Museum Tower and its kin must dream of Hawai’ian voraciousness with 2016’s Anaha already 80 percent-plus sold.  After a recession hiatus, Honolulu is again seeing buyers (likely their staff) camping out on sidewalks when new blocks of units are released for sale.

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