PCS to Hawaii: Find a Military Relocation Professional

A few years ago the National Association of Realtors developed a new certification course, the Military Relocation Professional (MRP), after recognizing military buyers and sellers need agents who speak the language of military permanent change of station (PCS) moves, and understand military families’ unique needs and interests. This was old news to me, as we had already developed a team of agents with personal military experience to serve the military market.

The demand for military experienced agents is particularly evident here in Hawaii where, on the small island of Oahu, all services are represented. The Navy and Air Force are based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Army is located at Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield. The Marines are based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe and also operate out of Camp Smith, and Sand Island is home of Coast Guard Base Honolulu.

Real estate agents on Oahu without personal military experience should absolutely earn the MRP, to at least become familiar with the market.

While earning the MRP certification provides a basic level of understanding by requiring a reading assignment, a one-day classroom or online course, and two hours of webinar viewing to orient agents to the processes and procedures involved in a military relocation and how these impact service members’ relocation and housing choices, those qualifications do not come close to the level of real-life experience faced by Hawaii Life’s military veteran or dependent agents.

We have personally lived the PCS process, understand the limitations of your TLA, PTDY, BAH and COLA, and know how to assist your family with getting back into a normal routine in an entirely new place. We’ve been there, done that, and will expertly guide you along the way.

Commissioning day

Commissioning day

Here to Serve You

Since there are many agents on Oahu who have authentic military experience in addition to the Military Relocation Professional certification, military families PCS’ing to Oahu can be comfortable requesting a higher standard of service in Hawaii, beginning with our team of agents.


Ka Malanai - Bargain or Bomb of Kailua?

D.R. Horton has offered for sale the final building in the new construction condos, Ka Malanai in Kailua. As an incentive, contracts signed by January 15th allowed buyers to select their kitchen materials. Six buildings are currently occupied, and work continues on buildings 7 and 8. Building 7 was released for purchase in late November, and building 8 is currently available. Building 7 is less preferred since it’s located on the corner of two roads, so I’d expect more auto and foot traffic noise there.

Ka Malanai in Kailua

Ka Malanai in Kailua

Building 8: The Premier Location

Building 8 is the premier location, since it’s the closest to Kailua Beach and away from the traffic and commercial activity of Kailua – but still close enough. The best unit available is 8303, a 3 bed/2 bath unit with 1,491 square feet and two parking stalls. This top floor unit is located in the back of the building bordering a residential area, so it should be quietest and breeziest, yet very close to all of Kailua town.




D.R. Horton released some Building 7 with the requirement that buyers be owner-occupants for at least a year, and use the home as their primary residence, thus giving preference to Hawaii residents. Building 8 does not have this requirement.

Dining Area

Dining Area

The community is approved for VA loans, so military members who PCS to Hawaii can live here and easily commute to the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, or the Coast Guard Station. Military veterans retiring to Kailua can also purchase here.  Because of the price point, however, service members will have to put 25% of the difference between the purchase price and the VA loan limit ($721,050) down in cash. 

Good Value for Kailua Condos

Ka Malanai was introduced in the fall of 2013 with the typical new construction fanfare and hype, including a lottery for the chance to purchase a unit. About two years later, the scene was different. After increasing commissions for agents selling multiple units from 3%, to 3.5%, to 4%, the sales center later offered price reductions and credits toward closing on certain units. But, as the median home price in Kailua kept increasing, Ka Malanai’s asking price began to look more “affordable” and the units sell at a steady rate.

Affordable is a contentious term in Kailua, one of the highest priced zip codes on Oahu. Many long-time Kailuans have disparaged D.R. Horton building this project because it replaced housing for lower income residents previously built on the site. The old building was by many accounts an eyesore with frequent police activity, but many residents were expecting condos geared more toward full-time, working class residents to replace it.

One-bedroom units are usually snapped up quickly and start at over $600,000. There are very few in the plan. Two-bedroom units are readily available, as they make up the bulk of the offering, starting in the mid $700′s. There are some three bedroom units also.

A buyer looking for a 3-bedroom residence in Kailua would have to value new construction and a central location well above space if they purchase in Ka Malanai. With a price tag starting at about $900,000, most buyers would prefer an older single family home outside of the center of Kailua, though those are rare, competition is tough, and condition average at best.

For a buyer intent on a condo in Kailua, Ka Malanai is a good value. Comparable communities in the area include Bluestone and Kukilakila.

As I’ve predicted since 2013, the biggest fans of Ka Malanai should be the owners of the surrounding condos, such as Gardenia Manor, Poinciana Manor, and Hokulani, who have seen their condo values skyrocket with all of the attention next door. Many buyers drawn in by D.R. Horton’s persistent marketing found the prices out of their budget, but love this gem of a beach town, so they quickly looked next door to the older but pleasant units selling for $300,000 less.

In the fall of 2013, typical units in the neighboring buildings sold in the low $400,000 range, and now regularly sell for over $500,000, outpacing the Kailua zip code statistics. For example, here is a lovely two bed/two bath Poinciana Manor unit with just over 1,000 sqft currently listed for $520,000.

I have plenty of photos and video of Ka Malanai, and would be happy to answer any questions you may have about it, or about Kailua. 


Ka Malanai Courtyard

Ka Malanai Courtyard

Is Your Property Manager the Right Person to Sell Your Home?

On Oahu, unlike in many other real estate markets, property management is quite separate from buying or selling homes. So many rentals exist on Oahu that property managers specialize solely in managing properties and have little to no interaction with the sales market on a regular basis. Because renters are so plentiful, landlords rarely even offer a fee for an agent who brings a renter to a property. You will find agents who manage property and Realtors who assist buyers and sellers full-time rarely have relevant information about each others’ business.

So, when it comes time to sell the home you’ve been renting out, is your property manager a good fit?


- Your property manager is used to fixing things. Tenants can be rough on a property, and property managers have many vendors ready to make repairs.  If you're looking at other Realtors, check their vendor list. 

- If you've had a good property management experience, your P.M. probably knows the home well.  If you feel they know your property quirks and condition inside and out, and the property isn’t a simple one, using your property manager can lead to a smooth sale.  

- If your property manager is communicating with you promptly and well, by all means consider him. This will be the person you’ll be dealing with several times per week for a few months.

Consider Other Options.

- Property managers are typically bogged down in repair issues, tenant troubles, and paperwork. That takes a lot of time away from studying and participating in the real estate market. When it’s time to sell, does your property manager know the market pace, current contract strategies, and consumer expectations?  If your property manager isn't out showing homes, seeing the world from a buyer's perspective, you may want to consider other options.   

- Property managers are often not skilled at marketing or staging a home. It doesn’t take much to attract a tenant. A posting on Craigslist and some poorly-lit iPhone photos are enough to have piles of tenant applications. Selling your home for top dollar, however, is another story. To yield the most money, your property needs to be cleaned, repaired, staged, and marketed by a company with an international reach.

- Being priced appropriately for the market is key.  Management companies often mis-price listings. Overpricing kills your momentum, and underpricing means the seller leaves money on the table.

- Realtors who buy and sell are excellent communicators because we’re used to dealing with buyers and sellers who expect instant answers, especially in the fast-moving sectors of our market.

- Realtors who are always operating in the buying and selling market are always in contact with other agents, keeping up those relationships. There’s a good chance they know someone who will bring a buyer to your home.

Final Thoughts

A Realtor will bring a keen eye and attention to detail to your home sale, and will be mindful of the timeline of the transaction and your needs.

If you have questions about the difference between property managers and agents who buy and sell, feel free to contact me.

Everyone Hates Condo Association Fees

Homebuyers are often averse to paying condo fees or living in an association, but in Hawaii they should reconsider this point of view..

  • After seeing unregulated neighborhoods, most people prefer communities with standards for noise, pets, construction, and maintenance.
  • On an island land is limited, and in urban Honolulu the most economical housing is located in a high-rise condominium building.
  • On the leeward side of Oahu, it’s rare to find a home not located in an association, since most construction projects in the past 30 years has involved large developers building master planned communities.
The Arbors   Community garden space: Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry Community Association

The Arbors Community garden space: Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry Community Association

Mountain View Terrace Pool, Kaneohe

Mountain View Terrace Pool, Kaneohe

What Am I Paying For?

The important question to ask when paying association fees is: What am I paying for?

Select Utilities: In most associations, the homeowner is paying the association for utilities instead of paying the company directly. Depending on the number of people in a family, and the type of water and sewer usage (pool, sprinkler system, etc.), a homeowner not residing in an association may pay $100-250 per month out of pocket to the utility instead. Sometimes, particularly if a building has central air conditioning serving all the units, electricity will be included also. Some buildings do not pay for all electricity, but pay for the amount used to heat water, as it’s located in a central water heater.

Reserve fund for future expenses: Associations are also required to put money in a reserve fund for future expenses, both planned and unexpected. Of course, homeowners are supposed to do this also, but how many of us have been surprised by bill for a plumbing problem, roof leak, or air conditioning failure? Due to the old age of buildings in Honolulu, many have undergone complete system overhauls in the past several years, and many more need to be done. If an association has not saved money in reserve for plumbing replacement, concrete spalling repair, roof replacement, or window replacement, owners may be asked to pay a “special assessment” when the work is unavoidable. This assessment not only raises the dues for unit owners, it also decreases the marketability of the condo, should an owner want to sell. A healthy reserve fund is always better! Fortunately, to verify this, a potential homebuyer is given a review period for all of the organization’s documents, including the budget, once they have an accepted contract.

Insurance: Often, the association carries insurance on the exterior and common areas of the building, so a homeowner pays less out of pocket monthly, only insuring from the “walls in” – essentially the interior structure and personal property.

Common Area Maintenance: This means if your community has a elevator, sign, trash service, private road or driveway, lighting, landscaping, a lobby, a shared roof, or a shared building exterior, the dues pay toward that upkeep. A homeowner not located in an association would be paying to re-seal their own driveway, maintain their yard and exterior lighting, replace the roof, and paint the exterior. That said, some associations of single family homes do require the homeowner to maintain their own roof or paint their house, but there is nearly always some common area the association is maintaining, and the dues should be lower than for an association maintaining those items.

Extra Services or Amenities Requiring Staffing and Maintenance: Pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, extensive gardens, cable/internet, and recreation areas are examples of amenities the homeowner’s dues may pay toward. Some associations have a resident manager or concierge services on site to address any owner’s needs, or a security patrol dedicated to the property. An owner not located in an association would have to pay additional membership fees or use public facilities in order to enjoy these features.

Bottom Line

The bottom line when considering a condominium or homeowner’s association is the value you receive for the monthly dues. It’s important to understand exactly what the association pays for when budgeting for your purchase. Try adding up the following amounts you pay monthly, to see how a property you’re considering compares:

  • cable/internet
  • water/sewer
  • electricity
  • pool/fitness center membership
  • alarm system/security
  • party room/pavilion rental
  • savings for unexpected repairs
  • exterior maintenance
  • driveway maintenance
  • landscaping
  • insurance

Is An Association A Good Fit For You?

I have worked with buyers and sellers of homes in many associations around the island. Contact me today and we can discuss whether a home in an association may be a good fit for you!

Where Do Hawaii Residents Vacation?

Sunshine, ocean, rainbows, and umbrella drinks are a regular part of my life. Socks and mittens are not. After growing up in the snowy Midwest, wearing a parka over my Halloween costume and Easter dress, I know how fortunate I am. A popular phrase here is “Lucky We Live Hawaii,” implying we don’t just live IN Hawaii, we LIVE the Hawaii way, with Aloha.

Geisha costumes in Kyoto, Japan

Geisha costumes in Kyoto, Japan

So, when Hawaii residents take a vacation, where do we go?

1. We Visit Family. Hawaii residents spend a lot of vacation dollars traveling to the U.S. Mainland, Canada, or Asian countries to visit extended family. So, we don’t often choose where we go on vacation, but it’s a reasonable trade. Recently, as a compromise,, I coordinated to meet my parents who live in Florida, in California so we both got to see a new spot.

seward, alaska

seward, alaska

2. North. When it’s hot in Hawaii, going north to a cold climate can be refreshing. Alaska, Vancouver, Jackson Hole, and other snowy spots are popular. I recently re-lived my frigid childhood by warming up the car and scraping the ice off the windshield in Whistler, British Columbia.  One week was enough winter for me.

3. Vegas, Baby! Hawaii’s infatuation with “the 9th island” runs deep. Vegas is a comparatively cheap and easy getaway spot, and plenty of Hawaii expats make Vegas different enough, but still familiar.

Golden gate bridge, san francisco

Golden gate bridge, san francisco

4. Asia. If you’re from the U.S. Mainland or Canada, Hawaii is about halfway to Asia, both geographically and culturally, so continuing west seems easy. My children took Chinese and Japanese language classes in school, and later we visited those countries with an educational tour group for a reasonable rate.

5. Down Under. While Australia and New Zealand are still a 10 hour or more plane ride from Hawaii, they’re not nearly as far as from the Mainland U.S., and there are even a few direct flights available..

Lava tube, volcanoes National Park

Lava tube, volcanoes National Park

6. Other Hawaiian Islands. For a weekend getaway, try another island. You’ll be amazed at the variety of scenery and the differences between each island. The Big Island of Hawaii is lava coated in some areas, snow covered mountain in others, and has high prairies with livestock, too. Kauai has The Grand Canyon of the Pacific at Waimea Canyon, and Maui's Haleakala looks like the surface of the moon, yet is just down the road from lavender and strawberry farms.

When Hawaii residents need a vacation, we have some fantastic options for traveling. There’s a lot that can’t be beat about this place, though, and we truly are lucky we are living the Hawaii Life!

Want to Know More?

If you have any questions about the Hawaii lifestyle, feel free to contact me.



Hawaii Military Life: How to Sell your Home when you PCS

If you’re PCS’ing from Hawaii and own a home, selling it before you move can be one more challenge considering the logistics involved. How do you make sure you have the best experience when you sell? Call a Realtor. I happen to be one…And I happen to have PCS’d many times.

Anyone in the military has probably been introduced to the concept of backward planning. You may recall that the day the mission is executed is “D day” and all time calculations are based off of that. We’ll call the day you wave goodbye to Honolulu from the airplane “D Day.”

A Timeline For Sellers

Below you'll find a general timeline of events to successfully sell your home prior to D Day. This schedule is flexible depending on the time you have available and your personal situation. We’ll tailor this schedule to your needs, but the timeline will be clear to you from the beginning.

D -120

To learn about your situation and make recommendations about any repairs or improvements you should accomplish, I’d like to visit your home about 120 days before you leave.  I’ll line up any contractors you need to assist. I’ll also explain the paperwork involved in listing your home for sale. Of course, this can be done less than 120 days in advance if you receive orders unexpectedly, and for planning purposes you may prefer to have this conversation more than 120 days in advance.

D -119

After visiting your home I’ll provide you a complete market value assessment for your property, showing you how much other homes have sold for, how long it took them to sell, and how they compare in condition and features to yours.

I’ll recommend a price range for listing your property based on the market details and on your needs.  I’ll also provide a detailed list of the expenses involved in selling your home, such as commissions, title and escrow fees, and transfer taxes, so you know how much money you'll have to purchase a home at your next duty station.  Beware any agent who walks in the door with an exact number in mind!  They have not taken the condition and improvements in your home, nor your personal needs into consideration.

If you’re planning on buying another home, I’ll also interview a few military focused Realtors at your next duty station and recommend the best fit.  I ask the tough questions for you. You can now start getting familiar with your new station and the homes available in your price range.

D -90 to D -60

Depending on how quickly the homes in your neighborhood are selling, I'll list your home for sale in this timeframe. The week before we list you’d need to have any repairs made, your personal items “de-cluttered” and stored, and the home clean and ready for photographs. I’ll walk you through that entire process and help with staging, so your home is as beautiful possible, which earns you the most money in a sale.  Don't worry if it seems overwhelming.  You'd be amazed at the "Before" and "After" photos of my listings. 

Prior to D Day, you’re welcome to have the movers pack your household goods, move to temporary housing, ship your cars, and any other out-processing tasks whenever you like. We’ll plan that together to best suit your needs.

D -15

By this date, you’ve signed the deed transfer paperwork on your Hawaii home and are ready to close the sale. If you’ve decided to leave early, I work with the escrow officer to provide a mobile notary who will come to you, wherever you are, making your life easy.

D Day

All you have to do is get yourself, your whole family, your pets, your 42 checked bags, and one last case of Dole pineapple onto the plane. Easy, right?

D + 10

By this time you’re on leave en route or you’re signing into your new unit, and you're boots on the ground with a new Realtor looking for your next home. The money from your sale is safely in your bank, your VA Certificate of Eligibility has been restored.  Now you’re ready to make an offer on your next home.

Kakaako: The Collection Townhomes

The Collection has just opened the doors to its new model townhome in Kakaako. These properties are unique in the downtown area for a few reasons:

  • 560 square feet of rooftop deck per home – a rarity in the downtown area!

  • Private two-car garages

  • 3 bedrooms WITH an additional enclosed den

  • Finish selections from Philpotts Interiors



Fourteen townhomes were offered and six have been reserved. Prices range from $1,695,000 to $1,795,000 depending on exact square footage and location..

All of the units are essentially the same, though the end units are slightly wider and have side windows.

For the buyer looking for ocean view and more windows, Townhome #1 (along South St. near the corner of Ala Moana) was perfect; however, this model unit sold quickly. Townhome #2 sold soon after. These units may hear more traffic noise from Ala Moana Blvd., but each unit is fully air conditioned, and the windows are very sound resistant.

The most desirable unit remaining is Townhome #14. This is an end unit on the Auahi St. side of the complex, so it will be quieter than the units facing Ala Moana, and has a little extra room.

What's the Catch?

This is not an age-in-place location for older buyers or people with mobility issues.  This condo has three full sets of stairs - one from the garage level to the main living floor, one from the main living floor to the bedroom area, and one from the bedroom area to the wet bar and rooftop deck.  I took clients to view this property and they declined it for this reason.  A stairway chair lift may be possible.  I have researched vendors and am happy to share that information.

Want to Know More?

If you’re ready to downsize from a single family home, but aren’t quite ready for a high-rise because you love your private outdoor space and your own garage, The Collection is perfect. Or if you’re ready to “move up” from a smaller condo to a large home, but want to stay in the downtown area, this is for you.

I took many videos of The Collection townhouse model, inside and out. Contact me today for links or to schedule a showing!