Thursday, 8 October 2020

California residents are snapping up homes in Hawaii SIGHT UNSEEN as wildfires and the pandemic push people to flee the Golden State and seek island life

 Beset by fire and a pandemic, Californians are buying up houses in Hawaii at a fearsome clip - often without even having set foot on the islands. 

Golden State residents, representing 41 percent of Hawaii home buyers from the U.S., plunked down $587.6 million on Hawaiian real estate between January and June this year.

As COVID fatigue set in and smoke from wildfires clouded the sky, California residents were calling Hawaii real estate agents.  

Catherine Pennell, a real-estate agent with KW Kauai Keller Williams who sells homes on the island of Kauai, told SFGate.com that since March, she's been taking two or three calls a day from U.S. mainlanders wanting to buy a house on the islands.

The Big Island of Hawaii is still under COVID quarantine for visitors from the mainland, but that hasn't stopped Californians from buying up houses there and on the other Hawaiian islands. Many are buying sight-unseen

As wildfires rage across the West Coast, Californians have been buying homes in Hawaii. California residents spent over $587million on Hawaii real estate from January to June 2020

As wildfires rage across the West Coast, Californians have been buying homes in Hawaii. California residents spent over $587million on Hawaii real estate from January to June 2020

'I think people are saying, "Life is short." It's a lot of talk because they're not here yet and they can't get here yet, but I've done more sight-unseen sales than I've ever done during the pandemic,' she said. 

Realtor Jeanna Rimmer of the Hawai'i Life agency said since March, she's sold 15 houses to buyers who had not set foot inside their new abodes. 


'I've had clients since April been trying to get over here. Those that are OK with taking a little risk are buying sight unseen,' she told the Daily Mail. 

Buyers are looking for single-family homes, not condos, which are often used for Airbnb tourists and are thus moldering on the market, according to SFGate. New condos listings in Maui are up 97 percent this August vs. August 2019.

Overall, however, the market is tight, evidenced by the fact that inventory across the islands from April to August 2020 is down over 15 percent compared to the same period last year.  

The market for condominiums in Hawaii is soft, as many are zoned for AirbnB rentals. With a 14-day quarantine in effect for visitors from the mainland, the Aloha state's tourism industry has been decimated

The market for condominiums in Hawaii is soft, as many are zoned for AirbnB rentals. With a 14-day quarantine in effect for visitors from the mainland, the Aloha state's tourism industry has been decimated

Opinion polls conducted during the early coronavirus wave suggested a large percentage of city dwellers in the US wanted out. As lockdowns have lifted, most have decided instead that they don't mind staying put. 

Still, a Yahoo Finance-Harris poll from early August found that 26 percent of urbanites were at least somewhat likely to move out the city, and 51 percent of suburban residents were at least somewhat likely to leave the burbs. 

As of June, 3 percent of Americans had already moved due to the pandemic, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.   

After lockdowns sent home sales tumbling, pent-up demand has pushed transactions to 14-year highs in the U.S. 

Sales of new residential homes were up 43 percent in August compared to the same month last year, and sales of existing homes were up over 10 percent.

But for mainlanders wanting to make Hawaii their home, the only way to check out real estate has been through virtual tours - or to quarantine for 14 days upon landing on one of the islands. 

New residential sales in the U.S. reached a 14-year high in August, following pent-up demand during lockdowns that shut down real estate transactions

New residential sales in the U.S. reached a 14-year high in August, following pent-up demand during lockdowns that shut down real estate transactions

Sales of single-family homes in Hawaii have outstripped those of condominiums, which are often used as rentals in a state where tourism is at a standstill during a 14-day quarantine

Sales of single-family homes in Hawaii have outstripped those of condominiums, which are often used as rentals in a state where tourism is at a standstill during a 14-day quarantine

That mandatory quarantine began March 26 for visitors coming from out of state and was supposed to lift September 1. 

But Hawaii suffered an explosion in COVID-19 cases in August, when the total for that month exceeded that of the previous five months combined. That surge led the state to push back the date when tourists would be allowed back onto the islands.  

After the caseload plummeted, the state decided that on October 15, all islands except the Big Island will begin admitting visitors who test negative for COVID before they travel.

For now, potential homebuyers are still stymied at upon landing in Hawaii. But many have decided to roll the dice anyway and buy homes sight unseen. 

California and Washington are the two biggest states from which Rimmer's clients hail. The pandemic, wildfires, and the country's general malaise are driving these sales, she said. Most are retired or can work from home and want a 'completely different pace of life,' said Rimmer. 

Most of these 'sight-unseen' clients are buying primary residences, not second homes, and arrive in Hawaii with very few possessions, said Rimmer.

'It's been very stressful because they haven't seen it, and people fly in. If they close, they're able to quarantine in their new home.'

But so far, she said, there's been no buyer's remorse. 

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