Byron Matthews has been a Realtor on the Big Island for 13 years, and has never seen a market like this one.
“Prices have risen 10-20% just in the last quarter on the East side of the island,” he says. “My listings are snapped up as soon as they go on the market.”
I ask Matthews why. “I think it has a lot to do with Covid. More than half my buyers are coming from off the island right now. Many are coming from Oahu, as well as Washington, Oregon and California. The common theme is people who work remotely who want to get out of cities.”
Any visitor who starts dreaming of owning their own piece of paradise while vacationing is wise to seek out an experienced Realtor like Matthews. “The island is challenging for a buyer who doesn’t possess local knowledge,” says Matthews. “How many people have shopped for real estate in a market with Volcano Zones, for instance? When you overlay that information with ten distinct climate zones, and our unique water supply grid, it can get a little overwhelming.”
Basic information Matthews screens for starts with weather and surroundings. The Kona side of the island is more sunny and dry. The East, or Hilo, side of the island gets more rain and is much greener.”
“The Kona sun comes at a price. That side of the island is much more expensive and the lots tend to be smaller. In general, the Hilo side has more acreage and is less expensive. Of course, it’s greener because there’s a lot more rain.”
And the lava zones? “The lava zones let people know the relative risk of homes being destroyed by lava, from Kilauea,” Matthews explains, “which translates to fire insurance. There are ten volcano zones. Zone one is the highest risk. There are a limited number of insurance companies who will even cover homes in Volcano Zone 1, and the cost of premiums are extremely high. Most carriers will provide coverage in Zone 2, but the premiums are high. Once you get down to Zone 3 or below, the risk and premium costs start to normalize.”
Another common question has to do with the water systems. “Many of our island’s homes are not hooked up to the County water supply,” explains Matthews. “In these cases, a water catchment system is used, where the rain is collected from rain gutters of the home’s roof. People want to know how they work (a filtering system), if they’re safe (they are) and if they ever run out of water (they can, but not often and they can be refilled by water tank trucks).”
“Other than that customers want to know about the cost of living, the quality of medical care and the local job market.”
I ask Matthews what is his favorite part of the island. “I love the North Hilo area, specifically Hamakua. The area is gorgeous, lush, many big acreage lots and great ocean views with rivers and streams.”
Even with prices having soared in recent months, the Big Island is still the most affordable. “A very popular area on the East side is Hawaii Paradise Park, and 8,000 lot subdivision that opened in the 1960s. You can still get one-acre lots there for $45-50k. Ocean front lots start in the $300’s and across the street from the ocean you can find them from the mid $100’s. Most the ocean front lots are a half-acre.”
If the Big Island is calling, and you want to own your own piece of paradise, call Byron Matthews today at (808) 960-4131 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.