House Hunting Guide for Hawaii

first, welcome to the island!

I’ve had PLENTY of experience in this area. Coming from a family that has had rentals in the past, I do see the agony of both sides and coming here with THREE DOGS definitely meant we were searching so quite some time!

So I’ve created a guide for what information I needed at the time and things to look out for.

Before I get started, make sure you know your current credit score and have reference information from previous homeowners. If you put down the references, please let them know they’ll probably be getting a call them about your rental history.

Create a Checklist

Make a checklist for you and a separate one for your spouse. Realistically, you two might not agree on the same house as your favorite so if you could separately rank your picks first, that’ll help with negotiating later.

Tip: If you’re active duty, ask about waiving background check fees. Although the property owner has every right to ask, most will waive it since they know military members need an extensive background check for their job. Let them know that your BAH covers the rent as well to reassure them. 

Some of the local property owners I went through were not aware of these things and seemed unsure as to what to do. So I usually will let them know that if you have unit information down and something happens they can call the unit and they’ll make sure the soldier is holding up their end of the rental agreement. This is pretty comforting since the property owners basically have to trust someone with their own home. 

oahu hawaii home buying spouse first-time buyer

Here are a few things to consider in Hawaii for your checklist:

Air Conditioning: Many houses do not have central A/C and consider the costs of running the A/C because electric is incredibly expensive.

Parking: Many places have crowded parking and different towns have vastly different road conditions.

Pet Deposit: A lot of places don’t accept pets or some of the ones that do will want ridiculous things like additional month’s rent in collateral. Yikes!

Weather: Different parts of the island have widely different weather (look up annual rainfall, etc)

Jalousie windows:  This is something I wished I learned about before I moved in. They are great for letting air in but if you want to run an A/C a lot of the older windows have large gaps in between when you close them.

Appliances/Utilities: So I’ve noticed many homeowners will say ‘The rent covers utilities’ especially if they have solar panels. Keep in mind what your likely costs of utilities might be with the cite listed here and if the homeowner wants to regulate your electricity usage.

Garage/storage spaces: Most of the homes we looked at had park ports with an outdoor storage closet.

Location: Considering children there are a few websites like Family WatchDog for crime. For education, there is SchoolDigger to find schools and Hawaii DOE to find what school district they would be placed in if you choose a certain neighborhood. Also, think about the proximity to work and traffic hours.

If you rental shares walls or you live on the same property as the homeowner: I know this sounds odd to most people but places like Haleiwa do have large places but the only drawback is your property owner might be a little too close for comfort.

Home Owner Associations: This is pretty important for my husband and I, the nicer parts of town typically don’t let you have cars on jack stands if leave tools out and for good reason! But the good thing is a lot of the associations have benefits like access to the YCMAs in the area (if your property owner will pass that info to you).

Closet/room space: I’ve found many homes had little to no closet space even in the master bedroom.

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