quote author=GDER link=board=intro_board;num=1077267100;start=0#6 date=02/21/04 at 12:05:26]It comes down to affordible real estate and bugs. The latter an issue with the wife. I guess moving costs are also a consideration. Being able to retire from the service there would have been a plan, but timing wasn't meant to be. How's the rental market?[/quote]
"Affordable" real estate is tough. You're about five years too late, or maybe five-ten years too early. The real estate market had a huge Japanese-fueled bubble back in the late '80s and the subsequent Kuwait invasion hit the whole state very hard. Our rental property has just regained its 1990 value.
So although prices are rocketing up in the last few years, they're not that unreasonable when viewed over the last 25 years. I think this surge has a few years left, especially since the local concrete employees' union just went on strike and brought new construction to a standstill. With low interest rates fueling huge mortgages, a lot of loose money is chasing a limited inventory. The only threats are rising rates or a recession.
I'm afraid that you're going to have to see it for yourself. What many do is spend a few months here or on a neighbor island. If you've never been to Waikiki, get a room at the Hale Koa (http://www.halekoa.com/
) and a rental car for a few weeks and roam the island with the real estate classifieds. Then get away from Waikiki and rent a condo out in a smaller town like Aiea, Mililani, Waimanalo, or Makakilo. We like south Maui and the Big Island (Hilo & south), too, but it's much more rural and there's no military infrastructure (commissaries or VA centers). Season doesn't really matter but the "worst" months are Dec-Feb (rain) and Aug-Sep (slightly hotter). Feb and Sep are probably the cheapest months but the Hale Koa staff has the experts at those questions.
Oahu rents are breathtaking-- $1000 & up for a two-bedroom townhouse, easily $1750 for a three-bedroom house. Median house sales are $400K. Median condos are $187K. Neighbor islands are cheaper for a reason.
Bugs. That's been blown out of proportion. Hawaii's mosquitoes here are much wimpier than anything I've ever seen on the Mainland. Our east-coast friends can't believe that we actually sit out on our lanai after nightfall without screens or other defenses. Even with the tradewinds blowing them around, though, we probably still swat two or three of them a week. Our cockroaches are much smaller than anything I've ever seen in Florida, and it's mainly a function of damp & housekeeping. I haven't had to kill a cockroach in months. Pet food & water leaks attract rats & ants but otherwise those pests stay outside. (We keep the pet food in Ziploc bags.) A couple times a year we'll have flying termite swarms (especially around lights) but modern biochemistry (Termidor) is winning Hawaii's termite war. Six-inch centipedes will really open your eyes (especially if you step on one) but they prefer dark & wet. If your indoors is only one of those at a time then it's not an issue, although I wouldn't go prancing around the backyard barefoot after dark.
Our geckos keep all of those bugs in check (they love free-range termites on the half-wing) but it can be a little disconcerting to see small lizards roaming freely throughout the houses & lanais. They stay away from humans & pets but they stake out their territories on ceilings and high walls. I think they're cute, but I also feel that way about the Jackson chameleons and mongoose running around our back yard.
Hawaiian real estate is still broken down by "fee simple" and "leasehold". "Leasehold" means that you rent your house's land for anywhere from 20-50 years. Unfortunately you don't get to buy it unless conversion is mandated by the government, and when you do you'll probably have to get a second mortgage to afford it. Stick with "fee simple", where you get title to the property AND the house.
One final caveat-- don't jump into raw land here. The unbuilt parcels are either culturally significant (anthropological sites or human remains), restricted (preservation, no building), or contaminated (years of sugarcane, pineapple, & pesticides). The local experts have picked all of the deals clean.
Here's a couple other links to help you start:
the less-bloated website of our two local newspapers. Honolulu Advertiser is the other one.
covers many of the island's neighborhoods. You could spend hours here.
the realtor's database, complete with search criteria & photos.
Let me know if you have questions!