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Taking a Leap of Faith....
01-14-2011, 02:36 PM
Post: #1
Taking a Leap of Faith....
From day to day,people that are on vacation here are always asking me about whether it was hard to move here and many think in terms of the Hawaii they have heard about from several years ago when Japanese tourism and outragous real estate market made it only a dream to move and live here in Hawaii.
With tourism numbers down dramtically and the bottom falling out of the real estate market and a super bad economy,Hawaii really is a wise choice to look at these days.
Hawaii has also won the School Challage-Race to the Top and the only state west of Tennesse to win this honor. Schools in Hawaii are getting an extra $50 million dollars pumped into our schools now. In fact,in my opinion,you'd be wasting your hard earned money enrolling your children into private schools here as the public schools are now receiving more funding and better teachers.
Hawaii is also one of the safest states to raise a family and has been for a very long time.Honolulu is listed as the 12th largest city in the United States and we have more police officers per capital than almost any other city in America. We enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in the country.I will also say that we also have the nicest police officers in the country too. Well,I suppose they have to be since we thrive from tourism from around the world.
To be honest here, I fell in love with Hawaii the very first time I came here so many years ago and have been coming here every year ever since. So when the opportunity came along and I had done all of my research,moving here was a no-brainer.
My children were young enough to make the move without impacting friendships or falling behind in school. Now,they will admit to you that the schools here are harder and more advanced than their schools on the mainland. If you ask them whether they would like to move back to the mainland, in Dolby stereo,you will get a very loud"Nooooo!!!!". They just love it here and always have. We had been bringing them here to Hawaii since they were babies. They love their schools and love the ocean and sand.
Now for the move. After doing all of my research and making two trips just for that in the same year and was able to convince a very doubtful spouse that this move was possible and we did it. One word of advice though,whatever moving cost amount you come up with to make this leap of faith,take that amount and triple it and now you're in the ballpark. There was a lot of hidden costs that I didn't take into account but I was prepared for whatever came my way. Get those credit cards paid down before your move.
Actually, I have found that it is a great deal cheaper to live here than the mainland because the state taxes are so cheap here except the taxes on food here. After the initial costs to supply my fidge and cabinets with food,spices,can goods,dry goods and whatever else you can think of, our food bills are cheap if we don't eat out as much. To us,the cost of living here is half of what we are use to.
People always ask me about the job market here and the best informed answert that I can give you is that there is more jobs than people are willing to work here. We enjoy one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. It seems that there are more people here willing to work part-time so they can surf and have fun in the sun. It helps if you have training and a background that works well with tourism or the medical fields.Those are in very high demand here in Hawaii.
What I have found that is very cheap here is auto insurance and entertainment,the ocean is our entertainment for the most part. You don't need 4000 channels of cable,there is plenty of free internet hotspots and WiFi and auto insurance is dirt cheap here. These are all monthly savings and really improves your bottom line.
Housing here is cheap if you consider the view and location here. To be honest,you could live very well here if you have a consistant income around $4-5k a month. An oceanview condo will run you between $1400-$2500 a month depending your own personal standards of living.
Real Estate here varies so greatly that I can't even quote you a ballpark figure. I will say this though,it is much cheaper now than it has been in a very long time. Real Estate here is either "leasehold" or "fee simple". Leasehold,in simple terms,means you do not own the land your property sits on and Fee Simple means that you do. So,in those terms,Fee Simple is more expensive but well worth it in the long run. Fee Simple condos here start at about $50k and houses around $150k and up. I will add to this thread later but for now,this gives you some idea of what it would be like to "take that leap of faith".
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01-15-2011, 08:28 PM (This post was last modified: 01-15-2011 09:23 PM by kaniamea.)
Post: #2
RE: Taking a Leap of Faith....
Well, where to start. I came to Hawaii when the economy was booming here and the real estate and housing prices were still on the way up. My "leap of faith" was an interesting one and I can say that it was a bit of a culture shock, or better said location shock, when I first arrived. Since my budget was very limited, I had to find an apartment that was affordable. After looking all over Honolulu for about two weeks, I found one. The owner met me in front of the two-story walk-up in the Honolulu neighborhood Ala Moana. He told me the previous renters still haven't moved out, but that I can have a look at the place anyway. When I entered the apartment, the place was a mess. The owner told me "just look at the size" and he repeated this over and over. Since the size was good enough for my needs, I told him I'd take it. A week later I moved in. The furniture and all belongings of the previous renters were now all out, but the place looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years. It took me 3 weeks to clean it! I had to wash everything, including the walls.

The kitchen had some unwanted guests in it as well - huge roaches. I got rid of one after the other and it took me a week to find out where they came from. There was an old microwave and when I looked closer, I saw that they had a big nest in the cracks of that microwave. Yuck! I put it on the dumpster right away.

My neighbors were a big Micronesian family. Mother, father, grandpa, grandma and 4 young children. They all lived in their small two-bedroom apartment. When they couldn't pay rent anymore two months later, they had to leave. The apartment needed to be "bombed" out because it had roach nests all over. One day when I came home, I saw literally dozens of them crawling on the window trying to escape.

What made my neighborhood even more interesting was the Korean restaurant right below my apartment. The owners prepared the food in the building parking lot. They sat on small wooden stools right next to the parked cars, big red dumpster and rat traps. They were nice people though, even though it took some getting used to smelling burned meat about 12 hours each day.

Oh yes, I forgot. The day I moved into my first apartment in Hawaii, we had a power outage! It lasted all evening. I hadn't even unpacked anything yet, hadn't blown up my air mattress, etc. (I didn't have any furniture in the beginning). And then after living there for 2 weeks, someone broke into my apartment and stole a laptop. Until then I didn't realize how easy it is to break into a place. Here in Hawaii, many places have window panels that you can simply slide out. So this is what happened. I woke up at 7 in the morning and went to the living room. I noticed the window is missing. The door was closed and nothing was broken. The window panels were carefully placed outside against the wall. The burglar simply removed the panels, climbed in, took whatever he wanted, opened the door and walked out. When I asked the old Korean lady who lives next door if she saw anything, she looked at me and said yes, she saw a guy climb into my apartment just half an hour ago, but she didn't think of anything bad. She thought he's a friend of mine who forgot his key.

Anyway, here are my thoughts when it comes to housing and food prices in Hawaii. I have visited more than 15 states on the continental U.S. and I can say that I found food prices to be cheaper there. Just two years ago when I visited L.A. and went to a supermarket there, I saw many of the foods that I usually buy here in Hawaii and they were much cheaper there. And L.A. is supposed to be one of the more expensive places in the U.S. The supermarket where I shopped there was in Santa Monica. I have also asked friends who live on the mainland what certain foods cost and found that they pay less. Not to mention that even if you shop online, no matter if it's food or anything else, the shipping costs to Hawaii are most of the time more than if you lived on the continental U.S., or sometimes items are not shippable at all. In other words, often times it says "free shipping," except for Hawaii and Alaska residents. So people in Hawaii usually pay more for shipping costs if they are lucky enough to have the items they want to order shipped in the first place.

When I first came to Hawaii and went to a supermarket, I was in shock. My first thought was, oh my gosh, how will I be able to survive here. And since then prices have even increased more. Not to mention the housing cost, which has increased a lot since I came here. I lived in my first apartment for over 3 years and just in that short time the rent increased by $260. I'm sure by now it is even more. Many times I have researched places on the mainland just out of curiosity and I found that housing is cheaper in many places. Not to mention that the places are bigger for what you pay for and look better, compared to many buildings here that are for people on a budget.

Now to the jobs here. It's a fact that many rich people live in Hawaii and that's why Hawaii is one of the states in the U.S. with the most millionaires. That makes sense because why wouldn't a millionaire choose a beautiful place to live or retire. If you have money, Hawaii is great. But you got to bring your money. In other words, you either are already rich or you first make your money somewhere else and then bring it here. It is much harder coming here with nothing and trying to make money here.

The main industries in Hawaii are military and government. On average the income in these sectors is good. However, in the public sector, most jobs are in tourism and in the food & beverage industry. And many of these jobs are low pay. There are so many service jobs that pay minimum wage or close to minimum wage here. And if you're not happy with what your employer offers you and you quit your job, your employer doesn't care because there are plenty of candidates who will be more than happy to take your job. That's because in Hawaii there is a big supply of workers. More and more people are moving to Hawaii every year and dream of a life in paradise. Therefore, employers are more than happy with this situation and can allow themselves to pay less. Even in the medical field, the pay for doctors is lower here than on the U.S. mainland. Just a few weeks ago I read an article that many orthopedics on the Big Island have left and moved to the mainland because they make more there. That's why you hear many local residents say, "it's the price of paradise," the price we pay to live here.

I have friends here who work in different private sector industries and all of them tell me that their degree is worth less here and that they would likely make more money on the mainland. That's why so many people here have more than one job, basically a full-time job and another part-time job because they need the money to make ends meet. So they live in beautiful Hawaii, but when do they get to see it? And because in Honolulu rush hour is pretty bad, many people have a long commute to work, which adds to the time that they can't enjoy life.

State tax may be cheaper here than in some other states, but in my opinion, costs are higher. Yes, you can try to eat cheap by buying at farmer's markets and only buying what's on sale. But if you're health conscious and try to avoid foods with unhealthy ingredients, your food bills won't be cheap. To give you an example, in the very few health food stores in Hawaii, prices are quite high. Last time I went to buy an organic fennel (also known as anise), I paid $7! A small can of natural olives is about $6. A half gallon of organic milk is between $5-6, etc.

But even if you can somehow hunt down cheap foods, you can't get around the high housing cost. Yes, you may find a two-bedroom for $1,500, but that place will likely be small and ugly, or in an undesirable location. Same goes for purchasing a place. I've seen many places advertised for an "affordable" price of around $400K here on Oahu, but when I looked at pictures of the house, it looked more like a garden shack rather than a house.

Yes, sometimes there are condos in Waikiki or elsewhere in Hawaii that sell for under 100K, but often times they are either leasehold and/or have big maintenance fees (many of these places are located in hotels). So basically, you think you own it, but you don't, because if you can't keep up with the monthly maintenance fees (which usually also increase over time), then too bad. You lose your place.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that my home phone doesn't work since last December? It rained a few times in the last 4-6 weeks and it seems like a bit of rain can turn life upside down here. Hawaiian Telcom, the local telephone provider, seems to be unable to fix their phone service issues. Not to mention the Internet and power outages that occurred in my neighborhood and other neighborhoods as well. Plus, just today I noticed that water is dribbling down from my kitchen ceiling. Good construction, lol!

Here are two images from my first week in my first apartment in Hawaii. The first image is after my first round of cleaning. I think I scrubbed my floor five times, lol. This picture also shows the window with the sliding glass panels. The second image, well... it is self-explanatory, lol!

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