Big Island Hawaii FAQ frequently asked questions


Living on the Big Island of Hawaii - Frequently Asked Question



1)  How is the Hawaii Real Estate Market?

 After 4 extraordinary years, prices softened. Over the past few months, buyers confidence is picking up and and we are now seing an increase once again in first time home buyers, cash buyers and investors.

If you have been thinking of buying now is the time.  We are seing amazing properties short sale, forclosure or simply well priced properties selling for record low prices.  

Hawaii Properties for Sale. Big Island = Big Value!™

Hilo - Hamakua - Puna - Kona - Kohala - Kau

How Much Do Houses Cost in Hawaii?

Maybe it is time to consider the Big Island of Hawaii











Hawaii Median Home Sale Prices - July

2009 Year to Date

Source:  Title Guaranty Hawaii


2)  Volcano, Lava, and Vog:  There is very little property for sale in the remote areas near the active lava flow, which border the east side of Volcanoes National Park.  Since 1983, the lava flow has covered about 50 square miles and destroyed approximately 190 structures in the Kalapana area.   The Hawaii County Civil Defense website to keep the public informed:  

Lava Flow Update

The Vog (volcanic vapors) is more common to our Kau and Kona districts, and on occasions it can affect the Kohala, Hilo, Hamakua and Puna districts.  Vog generally blows west from the volcanic vents by the trade winds, but can be sometimes be seen as far away as our neighbor islands Maui and Oahu.  

People suffering from upper respitory diseases may be  more prone to adverse effects of Vog which may include headaches, breathing difficulties, increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments, watery eyes, and sore throat.   Vog Conditions

Living in Hawaii: Living near an active volcano is a matter of perspective.  Some people see "risk" to be 10 to 25 miles from an active or dormant volcano vent, while others see "opportunity" to have a business to cater to the many visitors who come to see the lava flow.  No matter where you live there is risk of a natural disaster:  Earthquake, Tornado, Hurricane, Blizzard, Flood, Landslide, Sand Storm, Fire, Volcano... It's a matter of which risk you are willing to live with.  Most people who live here don't think about it.



  Volcanic Lava ZonesHawaii Volcanoes National Park

3)  Koki Frogs, Coqui Frogs or Caribbean Tree Frogs: tree frogs are said to have found their way into Hawaii years ago in some tropical plant shipments. Some people HATE them, some LOVE them and some are indifferent. 

   Koki Frog Information

4)  Rainwater Catchment Systems:  Catchment Water is common on our rural island, where piped county or private well water is in limited supply.  Typically you would have a metal roof on your house, and use rain gutters to catch the rain water where it goes into a steel or plastic water tank that kind of looks like an above ground swimming pool.  There is then a filter system and water pump to bring the water into the house.  

Catchment Water Systems

5)  Big Island Hawaii Flood Zones:  All of Hawaii County is mapped with a flood zone code.  However, unless you are near a stream or low elevation shoreline area, chances are your Hawaii property will be located in Flood Zone "X", which is the lowest level of risk area (less than 1% annual risk from stream flooding).  Some properties may have localized ponding during a heavy rain, which is not reflected in the flood zone designation.  

Big Island Flood Zones

6)  What is SSPP?  Special Subdivision Project Provision.  This is a cost share between HELCO (Hawaiian Electric Light Company) and land owners to bring electricity to some of the rural subdivisions.  When you hook up to the electric lines you pay a share of the cost of the power poles.  I've seen SSPP range from about $500 to over $5000.  Depending on the amount, you may be able to pay it off over a period of time.  For specific details you will need a tax map key number of a particular property, then contact HELCO Engineering (808) 969-0311   


7)  Hawaii Land Tenure: Fee Simple or Leasehold? 

Fee Simple is when you buy the land and the improvements just like you would anywhere. Fee simple land tends to be more expensive, since the owner holds title to the property and can pass it along to heirs.


In Hawaii, much of the land is owned by trusts, dating from the time when Hawaii was a monarchy, and a few large estates owned the land.  These trusts still retain ownership of the land.  The trusts then lease the land to a buyer through a leasehold interest.  The buyer makes regular lease payments and pays property taxes.Private ownership of land zoned for residential use is more limited than leasehold property.  Typical leasehold provisions run for 55 years with the rent fixed for approximately 30 years.  New rates may be based on the current market value of the land.  The State limits the lease rent.  Financing is available, although many lenders look at the number of years left in the lease at the time of the sale.

The question of whether or not to buy leasehold land is something that you must consider separately for each property; there is no one "best answer."



8)  What is a Cesspool?  Basically it's like a well in the ground.   



9) Am I Subject to Harpta Firpta?  HARPTA (Hawaii Real Property Tax Law)



10)  How many square feet are in an acre?  43,560 feet are in one acre.  For many people, an acre of land is plenty to take care of.  12,000 sq ft is enough to give you a nice front yard and a back yard, while 8,000 sq ft gives you one or the other.


11)  Can I use a Mainland lender to buy property in Hawaii?  Yes - BUT!  If the off-Island lender does not have personal experience with processing loans for properties on the Big Island, I suggest to add two weeks additional escrow time.  Off-Island loan agents may not be familiar with volcanic zones, agriculture zoning, catchment water, or which type of loans work in which districts and subdivisions.  I have some recommended local lenders and mortgage brokers on website that you may like to talk with, if just to compare loan options.  Whichever lender you chose to work with, I'm glad to help!  

Real Estate Referrals

12)  Where is the best place to live on the Big island of Hawaii?  Well, it all depends on YOU.  What I have found is people generally like where they live, and not always the area where someone else lives.  Some people like the warmer dryer Southern California like weather of our Kona side, with the nearby golf and beach resorts, condos and timeshares, tourist shops and restaurants.  Other people prefer the cooler more tropical weather of the greener Hilo side, with it's sunny mornings and rain in the evenings as the clouds cross over the mountains, the "local Hawaii" small town atmosphere, neighbor gatherings or privacy in the forest.  I have had some clients move from one side of the island to the other saying "it was so different than what everyone told us."  What I have learned is the whole island is wonderful!   Rainfall Map   Relocation Assistance

Our Hawaii County Districts include Kona, Kohala, Hilo, Hamakua, Puna and Kau.  Hawaii Island (as most residents call it) is about 4000 square miles and is quite diverse in landscape all over the island.   East Hawaii Photos

Big Island Hawaii Districts Map



Coming Soon - FAQ:  Hawaii County Property Tax and Hawaii County Facts & Figures.

Short Sale or Foreclosure information:   What is a Short Sale?  What is a Foreclosure?





Big Island Hawaii Weather Conditions


Hilo Weather Forecast     Kailua Kona Weather Forecast     Kamuela Waimea Weather Forecast



Big Island of Hawaii in the News

Hawaii Tribune Herald   Big Island Video News   KPUA Hawaii Radio   Pacific Business News



Big Island Hawaii Resources


Big Island Information   Big Island Drive Times   Hawaii County Data Book   Prudential Buyer FAQ   Ready Map Books   TMK Info




Recommended Hawaii Books and Maps

allows for Hawaii income tax withholding from the proceeds of a sale, similar to when an employer withholds income tax from your paycheck.  The State of Hawaii generally requires that 5% of the sale price be withheld for taxes from out of state resident sellers.  Likewise, the US Government has FIRPTA withholding which requires that 10% be withheld for non-US residents.  You get credit for the full amount against any income tax owed on your capital gains when you report them on your Hawaii non-resident income tax return.   HARPTA   FIRPTACesspools  Septic Systems