Buying a condo in Hawaii


Hawaii Condo


So you want to live in Paradise and don’t have tons of money to spend. Buying a condo in Hawaii can be a great option to get your foot into the door so to speak and own your slice of Paradise.


Aloha my name is Stephen Proski and if you don’t know me already, I am a Real Estate Broker here in Kailua Kona with Compass Hawaii.


So, can buying a condo in Hawaii be a good thing or a bad thing?  


With condo prices starting at around 400K for a fee simple unit, this my friends is the easiest way to get started in the real estate market here in Kailua Kona Hawaii.


First, there are 2 types of condos here on the Big Island Fee Simple and Leasehold.  You are probably very familiar with fee simple ownership, but might not know much about leasehold. 


Well with fee simple you own the unit and a portion of the ground where it is located.  With leasehold, you only own the unit, but lease the ground from a landlord for a fixed period of time.  Those leases could run between 10 to 20 years. But it is a lease and they do expire

Kailua Kona


We get calls and emails from people all the time saying I found this great condo with ocean views for 175K in Kona and I want to buy it.   Sorry, there are no ocean view condos in the Kailua Kona area anywhere near this price point that are fee simple ownership.  If it looks that great it was more than likely a lease hold condo.  

So make sure when you are searching for properties, you determine fee simple versus leasehold ownership.  


That’s not to say that leasehold condos are bad ideas, for some people they can be perfect.   You need to know the differences between the 2 otherwise you could make the wrong decision on your condo purchase


Next you need to decide whether you plan on renting out your condo once you purchase it.  Before you do that you need to know that the Big Island Hawaii requires owners to obtain a permit if they plan on renting out their condo.


So, you need to determine whether the complex where the condo is located will allow short term rentals.


Here on the Big Island any property that is rented 30 days or less at a time is considered a Short Term Rental and if you plan on going this direction you will need a Short Term Vacation Rental Permit


Not all condo complexes here on the Big Island will allow for short term rentals so you need to do your home work when considering buying a condo here in Hawaii if going in this direction.  Your Realtor should be able to answer that question for you.  


Okay we decided that we need to hone in on the type of property we are searching for and the intended use of the condo


Now lets focus on Location.  If you have visited Kailua Kona in the past, you know that the majority of condos here are located off Alii Drive.  Either on the Makai (ocean) or Mauka (mountain) sides.  That’s not to say that there are no other condos in and around Kona and there are.  You can find condos from Captain Cook all the way up to Waikoloa

you just need to decide which location you prefer and what types of amenities you are looking for in a condo complex. 


The next item that is important when buying a condo in Hawaii is financing.   First, I can’t stress enough that you use a local lender if you are going this route.   Mainland lenders are not familiar with the different types of properties here in Hawaii and you could be spinning your wheels so to speak going in this direction.  Just saying.   Lenders will not finance a leasehold property unless there are more than 30 years remaining on the lease so you will need to use your cash to buy a leasehold condo here in Hawaii. 


If you are financing you need to make sure the complex is not considered a condotel.  What is condotel you may ask.  Well, some of our condo complexes are primarily owned by investors and are run by a property management company that also controls leasing.   When you run across one of these complexes you will find it difficult to obtain financing, so to avoid this problem, we recommend you use a local Hawaii lender who will be able to guide and direct you if this occurs.


Next on our list of things you need to be aware of buying a condo in Hawaii are the HOA fees.


HOA fees here in Hawaii can be on the high side.  With our unique climate and costal location, condo’s require extra maintenance.   With the close proximity to the ocean, salt air and humidity, these things can wear down a building a lot quicker.  Plus many complexes offer pools, hot tubs, bbq grilling areas, tennis courts and lush landscaping.  All of these can contribute to higher HOA fees.


Another reason is the utility costs to maintain a complex.  Yes, Hawaii has some of the highest cost of electricity in the US and condo owners share with a portion of these costs through HOA fees.


Another factor is the price of insurance.  Yes, the HOA must maintain insurance on the complex and with Hawaii’s unique weather of potential Tsunamis, Hurricanes and Earthquakes, this cost again is shared with all condo owners and can drive up the cost of HOA fees.


Another reason why HOA fees can be a bit expensive here is the management and staffing of the complex.  Yes, many condo complexes here have resident managers who assist the owners on a regular basis and also maintain the complex.  These costs get passed along to the owners as well.


Remember that the HOA fees are covering items that you would be responsible for individually, like maintenance, insurance and amenities.  They ensure that your condo complex is maintained and looking great.  So make sure when considering buying a condo in Hawaii what the HOA fees cover and what it does not.   Most complexes here cover building insurance, building maintenance, water, trash, grounds and facility maintenance.   Electric is generally your responsibility however there are few complexes here that do provide a/c with their monthly HOA dues. So make sure you ask all the right questions when it comes to HOA fees when buying a condo in Hawaii


Yes, I did say some condo complexes have a/c however the majority of complexes here do not have a/c


Rules and Regulations is next on my list of things you need to be aware of when buying a condo in Hawaii.  Make sure you understand about the parking, pets, smoking, rental restrictions, assessments, reserves.  All the things that should be important to know.   You can get some of this information prior to going under contract, however once you have obtained an accepted offer, the sellers agent will order all this information for you so you can be well informed prior to closing. 


 you will have access to all the complex rules and regulations, copies of HOA meeting minutes, financials, covenants and conditions and restrictions.  Also, Whether there are any pending assessments.  Things that you need to know prior to owning that condo.


With regards to parking, well spaces are not generally deeded and the complex can change your parking spot location at any time.  Most complexes do not have garages or covered spots so you need to take that into consideration when bringing a vehicle here.


Not all complexes are pet friendly either.  Yes, that is a big issue here so if you have a large door or a cat, you need to do your homework on the condo complex to determine if their pet friendly.


And as for smoking.  Condo complexes are smoke free zones and if you are a smoker, they generally will provide a common area smoking spot for the complex residents.


So this wraps up what you need to know about buying a condo in Hawaii and the things you need to do your homework on to make sure you are making the right decision on your condo purchase.


 Hawaii.   Feel free to send me an email at  to schedule a call to learn more about life here on the Big Island, I would welcome hearing from you.   Until next week, Mahalo and have a great week Aloha






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