Living In The Middle

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Aloha from beautiful Waimea, where the Paniolo are now riding through knee-deep grass, and the graceful pueo are circling and wheeling above the pastures. The snows have been plentiful this winter and form a sparkling back drop high above the saddle lands. We are so glad to be alive here in this magnificent paradise!

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Last weekend we took our lovely boat, Kakalina, out onto the slick blue swells and headed for Maui. Very far from shore we came across a pod of Melon-headed whales cavorting near a pod of gigantic sperm whales as we motored along, hoping to catch a golden ahi. Beneath us the sea floor plunged well over a mile, forming a steep cliff that had attracted the whales to a huge upwelling of rich, cold water. It was the kind of thing that sticks in the mind, and we were all humbled to be there.

Miles away, the steep sea cliffs of the Kohala Mountains seemed to leap up out of the ocean in great, vertical ramparts smoking with mist and crested with bright sunlight. While we carved long lazy loops through the ocean plumes, my friends in delicate gliders were soaring on the currents of warm air that billowed off the faces of those ancient mountains. To see what I am talking about, click on this link, which will take you to a website with photos of winter sailplane flights that originate out of our little airport.

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So, there we were, out on the surface of the sea, between the deeps and the heavens. We were living in the middle of the sea and sky, between the dark, cold depths of the ocean and the bright, airy clouds sailing high above snowy Mauna Kea. We were living on an Island out in the middle of the vast North Pacific. Some might say were live in the middle of nowhere, but those of us lucky enough to spend our lives here say it differently.

We are living in the middle of everywhere.

Malama Pono,

Bill Jardine

Who Is Keeping Prices High?

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Aloha from the vivid green slopes of the Kohala Mountains! Everyone knows that Hawaii just can’t be duplicated when it comes to natural beauty and perfect weather. That being the case, Waimea has to be one of the brightest jewels in the crown. We are a very small town full of wonderful people who actually revel in being able to spend as many of their years as possible in this sparkling, breezy paradise.

The Paniolo cowboys are now riding through knee deep grass, pulling their hats down as they turn into the wind that rustles flannel collars and brings bright smiles to their sun burnished faces. This is the season of separation out on the ranches, as the large calves are moved away from their mothers to the high pastures, where they crowd together for a night or two before their hunger sends them out into the hills in small bands. The nights are now filled with the distant cries of their mothers calling. They seem to be saying “Be safe. Be good. Be well.” as their children move away beneath the broad canopy of stars.

Of course all of this naturally segues to the subject of real estate values … as my kids would say “Not!”

Well, the subject matter of this little piece arose at a recent fund-raiser as I listened in with one ear to a conversation some ladies were having as the crowd milled about, waiting to be seated. One of these gals caught my attention when she said ” … and the real estate agents are keeping prices so high!” This was something I didn’t know was going on …

Once the work week rolled around I asked a number of real estate friends if it could be true that knowingly or even unknowingly the Realtors were keeping prices up. Let me paraphrase a typical response:

“We are trying to get prices DOWN, Stupid Head!”

So who on earth is keeping prices up so high, then? Well, um, I don’t think it is the Buyer, and we know it isn’t the real estate agent, so it must be the Seller. Sellers are keeping prices up while values (the actual amount the property is worth) are down.

You, the Buyers, are responsible for the actual value of any given property. You don’t have anything to do with the price, but whatever you are willing to spend for the property is the value of that property that day. The Seller may accept that value or not, but the value doesn’t change until some other Buyer is willing to pay more.

At our Exclusive Buyers Agency we don’t pay much attention to prices, but we track values very closely. If we see a property where the price is much higher than the value we are going to tell you about that property in spite of the silly price.

Just because the Seller may be unrealistic doesn’t mean that you need to be.

If you’d like to respond to this little ditty, please do so on line below, so others can enjoy your wisdom, humor or point of view.

Please contact us … you will be glad you did!

Imua,

Bill Jardine

Foreclosure – Good Deal or Lemon Peel?

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Aloha from beautiful Waimea, where the winter rains have painted the pastures brilliant green, and flocks of cotton ball clouds are drifting across the saddle lands. The snow on Mauna Kea has been dazzling this year. Click on this snapshot from our lanai, for instance.

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It seems hard to believe that there could be such a mundane thing as a foreclosure amid all this great beauty, and in truth they are few and far between. Still, foreclosures are on lots of minds these days as bargain hunters prowl the streets with pockets full of cash and eyes full of dreams.

Although there is a statute on the books that allows for private foreclosures, in Hawaii our foreclosures usually go through the Court system. Three big problems with judicial foreclosure are that it is so awkward, time consuming and requires so much cash in hand. For instance, if you wish to be successful at a public auction you need to come prepared to plunk down 10% of your maximum bid by way of a cashier’s check. Even if you are the successful bidder at the auction, you still don’t have any real security, because others will be allowed to surpass your bidding prior to the Court Confirmation, which may be weeks if not months down the road!

Even if you manage to maintain your lead position until you receive Court Confirmation, you will next be presented with a demand by the Court that you come up with the balance of the purchase price in, say, 30 days, because the Court wants to get rid of this problem property and get on to dealing with the next one. Can you imagine getting mortgage financing on a run-down “As-Is” property within 30 days? Sounds doubtful to me.

Still, if you are somehow able to manage all this, please be aware that you aren’t going to get a warranty deed from the Court. Without a warranty deed you may not be able to get adequate title insurance either. Yikes! It isn’t hard to see why more people don’t take advantage of foreclosure sales, is it? It isn’t very hard to see that a foreclosure property will have to sell for far less than it is likely worth to find a buyer willing to meet such difficult Court demands.

Now that you are more familiar with the realities of foreclosure you may want to consider an alternative. Why not find a property that is likely to go into foreclosure and try to make a deal on it before it does? If you are interested in this kind of thing you may be wise to call us and “talk story” about your goals. We are very good at listening.

Imua,

Bill Jardine

Sue Your Agent?

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Aloha from breezy Waimea, as the trade winds sift through the branches and sweep leaves across the yards. The whales are back from their long summer season in Alaska and can be seen spouting and rolling in the warm waters of Kawaihae Bay. The price of fresh mahimahi is falling, and striped marlin are in town to give the fishermen a thrill.

In spite of investor fears, the economy is still quite strong, and Asian demand for oil is keeping prices high. Of course the big question on Wall street is how much of an effect the credit crunch may have on stock prices. This is the hangover from the cheap lending party we had a couple of years ago, when you could buy houses with no money down. Banks are so severely regulated that it is hard for them to make any money anymore. They still have to pay for those big, expensive buildings while the on-line brokerages offer many of the same services at little cost. Selling mortgage loans was a good way for the banks to bring in some much needed revenue, and at the same time, there were a whole lot of institutions who wanted to balance their portfolios with real estate securities and were willing to buy weak mortgage loans to do so. Now we are wondering just how far the damage of foreclosures may spread, but no one seems to know how to estimate those things. One little snippet of information is that the estimated losses from this crisis are still running at a about a tenth of those generated by the Savings and Loan crisis years ago.

Those of us in the real estate brokerage business are used to prices rising and falling, and good brokers will always discourage purely speculative buying as a very risky business, but often buyers cannot be discouraged. I have had clients actually tell me that based on what they “know” prices are going to rise “from now on”. As a rule, we don’t work with these folks, because they know so much more than we do and are uncomfortable with our ignorance. A recent article by Victor Hanson illuminates the problems we have and where they are coming from.

Today there is an article on the Internet about a gal who has decided to sue the agent who assisted her in buying her house. The market value of the house has gone down instead of up, and I think her allegation is that her agent knew she could buy other similar houses cheaper, but he didn’t tell her. Maybe she is right, and maybe she is just manipulative and desperate not to take responsibility for something she insisted on doing. No one knows right now, and it should remind us all that when you buy real estate you should insist that you know as much as you can before making your decision.

Our agency represents only Buyers, so we are very careful about counseling our clients as thoroughly as possible. We show them properties based on their needs, of course, and they are presented with everything in their price range. That is easy to do here, since we never have that many properties to choose from in the first place.

Imua,

BIll Jardine

The Race Card – Hallmark of Ignorance

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Here in Hawaii we know a thing or two about race. No … make that just one thing.

Race is meaningless. Seriously, it really is absolutely meaningless. It has no significance whatsoever … none, zilch, nada.

Hawaii has always been known as a melting pot, and the Polynesians who identified with this Island paradise rapidly and happily inter-married with the many other races that found their way here as the Polynesians had hundreds of years before. Perhaps it was because Island people understand that they must rely on each other and have only each other to rely upon. Living on and Island is like living in a boat. Look around you and you can see who you have to help you and who has you to help them. It is clear and right, even if it may be a bit scary.

At the moment the folks up on the mainland are making a big deal about how they should be allowed to talk about Mr. Obama’s racial heritage. Nothing could be more pathetic in the eyes of Hawai’i people … real Hawai’i people, that is. Nothing could be more meaningless in the eyes of God, for that matter.

Racism requires ignorance and cannot exist without it. Unfortunately, many people confuse race with culture. For instance, if a purple family comes to live in your neighborhood and makes a practice of eating cats, because that is what their culture has taught them to do, you may think they are bad people doing bad things, since you think of cats as pets rather than food. You may then teach your children that purple people are bad people, since you have not seen the problem as a cultural one, versus a racial one.

If a purple orphan is adopted by a family from London and is raised with the English culture, that purple person will not exhibit any of the cultural traits associated with the original purple culture. He or she will act and be British. Period. It has been proven millions of times. It is a fact, not a theory.

Going back to Mr. Obama, his culture to a large extend is modern Hawai’i. In other words, he is as far from being race-oriented as anyone on earth. We can’t do anything about changing the way our ancestors made us look. Even Michael Jackson with all his millions hasn’t been very successful with that. We should not insult our ancestors or even be trying! Mr. Obama is bound to look the way he does, just as you and I are bound to look the way we do.

If Mr. Obama ends up winning the presidency – something I doubt – he will not be the first black president, the first green president, or the first orange president. He would be the first president from Hawai’i, where people see people, not races.

Imua,

Bill Jardine

A Way To Eliminate the Traffic?

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As the new year blooms in Waimea, we have been enjoying the most perfect weather in memory. High above us, in the alpine fields of sloping cinder and craggy basaltic outcrops, the snows of December glisten and shine as the warm Hawaiian sun sails slowly across the blue face of the sky. Here in the village we have been wearing our new outfits, unwrapped from their fancy boxes under the Christmas tree, and cheeks are rosy with the chilly morning air as the lovely Waimea wahine bustle into Starbucks for steaming coffee. It is just wonderful!

We have also been noticing that no one is complaining about the traffic delays at rush hour since the schools let out in late December. Speaking of traffic, have you noticed how incredibly courteous the Waimea drivers are as they wait patiently for our “main” traffic light to organize the competing flows of traffic? It is really the most impressive display of community aloha and pride of place that I have seen anywhere.

This sudden lack of congestion on the highway is of course due to the lack of school traffic, and as I was thinking about this the other day it occurred to me that if we were to just eliminate the schools a great deal of our traffic troubles would go away. My goodness, we really have lots of schools too! Just think about it … we have the Waimea Middle and Elementary Schools, the Kamehameha preschool, Parker School, HPA, Waimea Country, Small World Preschool and the Montessori schools to boot! Yikes! Maybe we can just eliminate a few of them, but eliminating all of them would be much better, don’t you think?

Well, this is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but it does illustrate a current of exclusivity that has been running dangerously close to the surface this past year or two. Do you recall the analogy promoted not long ago that when traffic swells we look for more roadway yet when a fat man swells … perhaps with too much good cheer … he should go on a diet? That struck me as the sort of feel-good but backward thinking we see so often in pop culture today. We certainly don’t want to drive people out of town in order to “lose weight” and lessen the congestion on the roads any more than we should consider eliminating the schools to achieve the same result, right?

We also may find ourselves waiting another 40 years for the pie-in-the-sky bypass roads that would relieve traffic while starving our retail community, which is all ready on life support. We should think about solving the problems we have within our existing roadways long before we place our hopes and dreams of a far-distant and super expensive alternative. For instance, what if the schools agreed to stagger their hours and we could get the resort employers to do the same? What if we had “contra” lanes like the other towns and villages in lovely settings across our great land?

An environmentalist friend pointed out to me that roadways are one of the most environmentally destructive things we create as a society. Could that be true? If it is, we better stop to think a bit harder about encouraging the State of Hawaii to create another big one across the sunlit pastures lying at the foot of the world’s tallest mountain, no?

For goodness sake, post an opinion :-)

Imua,

Bill Jardine

Are Some Agents Encouraging Unrealsitic Prices?

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Riding the Hawaii real estate market can be a lot like surfing. You don’t get to control the waves, but you sure can control how you are going to deal with them!

Living in Waimea, we have an opportunity to see success and failure up close. There are those who have made great rides out of big waves as well as those who have been capsized by mere ripples. The difference between the two often seems to be their outlook on things. Those of us in the real estate agency business have been watching prices slowly fall as the natural real estate cycle recovers from the last big demand wave. Some are now crying that the market is bad, while others are calmly adjusting to reality.

The truth is that Sellers are asking too much money for their properties right now. It is really just as simple as that. When demand is high, prices rise. When demand slacks, prices fall.

Simple, simple, simple.

The problem is that their are real estate agencies willing to list properties at unrealistic prices. Think about it for a moment … If Sellers dropped prices by, say, 25%, don’t you think lots of those properties would sell? Pick any percentage you like, but the message is the same:

If Sellers adjusted prices to current demand, all properties would sell.

In the same token, if there were no real estate agencies that were willing to list properties at unrealistic prices, there wouldn’t be any over-priced listings.

There are lots of Realtors who made their reputations when selling property was easy and all they had to say to their clients was “Sure, we can try that.” They are still hoping that their lack of skill will work the way it did when rising demand would erase their short-comings.

The way to tell the difference between a good agency and a lousy one today is to offer them an over-priced listing. If they politely say “no” you are in good hands. If they say “Well, we can try that.”, you are probably dealing with someone perpetuating the problem rather than solving it.

Meantime … if you want to get a property at a great price this is the time to do it. We can help you make offers that address the real value of the property rather than the poofy dreams left over from yesterday’s fevered Sellers’ market. Were just a simple “click” away. Try it out.

Imua!

Bill Jardine

On Giving and Receiving

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Here we are at the very brink of Christmas (no apologies to PC specialists), and it looks like everyone in town is doing some last minute shopping. We usually have the inclination to talk about how good this all is for the stores, of course, and I expect we will soon learn whether or not this has been a “good” or “bad” retail season. From there investors will draw cryptic messages about the year ahead and will adjust their investments up or down … but mostly sideways.

Living in this upcountry paradise called Waimea, we have just a remote interest in the machinations of the retail industry and the forms retail has taken out in the sprawling suburbs that most Americans choose for their home lives. We do have access to KMart and Wall Mart as well as Costco, Home Depot and Lowes, so we aren’t entirely isolated, but regional malls are few and far between. Accordingly, Waimea folks may think about giving and getting in more homespun ways.

In a nutshell, I think that giving and getting is good for us. I know quite a few people who struggle with the notion of giving, because they can’t grasp that there is more of everything than anyone could ever own. Plus, selecting a gift that you think fits the person may be too frustrating to handle. How about that wealthy relative who has everything? Don’t you just want to give up on them because nothing you can buy would be seen favorably against all the wonderful things they all ready have?

It seems like most of us have some problem “getting” things as well. For instance, what if the color of the sheets you got from Aunt Momi aren’t the color you would have chosen? Do you appreciate her gift less, because you are being judgmental about the sheets? Our tendency to be judgmental can deprive us of the pleasure of the gifting itself.

What if you receive an expensive gift from a friend? Will you then feel obligated to return the favor and buy them something expensive? Our internal system of weights and balances can also deprive us of enjoying the gifting itself.

It seems like getting might be just as difficult as giving, doesn’t it? That is why I think it is good for us. Whatever is difficult seems to make us stronger and better … just another good reason to welcome Christmas tidings and recall the one who gave everything, so that we could come to realize that love is the real gift, shining brightly in every gift.

What do you think? Don’t hesitate to leave comments, by the way. It makes the search engines think we are cool :-)

Mele Kalikimaka!

Bill Jardineblog-shot.jpg

Developers … Good, Bad or Pitiful?

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Boy, we sure do read lots of things about developers these days. It seems like lots of folks who are pleased with what has been developed for them, such as their house and the local shopping center, may not be too pleased to see anything be developed for anybody else, right? I have even read some letters to the editor of our local newspaper in which developers are portrayed as evil people doing bad things to us for big, big profits!

My experience with developers and development is quite different, but that may be due to the fact that I actually have looked into the matter instead of relying on popular stereotypes. For instance, a company I manage built a very nice office building in Waimea recently, High Country Traders. It is a popular building and uses natural light and ventilation. It also has quite a lot of landscaping and was designed to fit into the pattern of historic Waimea architecture. That way it looks like it belongs where it is. The only problem has been trying to figure out how to make money on it!

It wasn’t very long ago that the Waikoloa Hiatt hotels were built. The Japanese had loads of money then and built something like 1400 hotel rooms, complete with a monorail train and a special boat to take you to your elevator! It was so funny to see, since most of us couldn’t imaging how they could charge enough money to ever get their investment back! We were told that we needed to “see the big picture”. Well it turned out the big picture was a bit harder to see than they thought, and the investors lost over $250,000,000 dollars on that development project. It is now called the Waikoloa Hilton and is operating on a much lower cost basis.

I wonder if anyone remembers Nansay Hawaii? Nansay was a good company with experienced people that developed the affordable housing at Ouli and the transitional housing at Kawaihae and did a great job of it. In fact they made so much money that they were forced into bankruptcy a few years ago. That is not unusual for a developer, actually.

Come to think of it, I read in the Honolulu Advertiser a few days ago that another developer has recently had to give up on building Hawaiian Homes houses. I know Fred Yamashiro, and he is a good man who was trying to build as cheaply as he could, so that Hawaiian families could get into housing as cheaply as they could. So what happened? Well the costs of building went way up way fast, and that was the end of the developer.

How about Hokulia in South Kona? That is one of the prettiest projects you can imagine. The developer there did everything right and still ended up losing millions and millions of dollars when the judicial branch of the Hawaii State Government disagreed with the legislative branch of the Hawaii State Government. The lawsuits have been bad theater from the start.

When you get right down to it, it is hard to find developers that actually make money, and it is easy to find developers who have lost everything in order to create housing, recreation and shopping experiences where none existed before. Maybe developers should have their heads examined before they are allowed to put their money on the line?

What do you think?

Imua,

Bill Jardine

Blizzard Strikes Hawaii!

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This time of year in the vast North Pacific the icy fingers of the arctic can and do probe south into the soft folds of the tropics. As the frigid air swirls and churns in great storms far out to sea, even fair Hawaii is not immune to the effects of winter’s deadly embrace. So what do we do about it? Do we sound the alarms and run for cover? Well, actually … no.

We celebrate! Children play in flooded parks, surfers test themselves in the heaviest waves of the year, and the cowboys of Waimea look up at the splendor of Mauna Kea with its glistening crown of bright snow!

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Yesterday I was talking to a group of high school kids who had gone up the mountain to fill their pickup truck with fresh snow in order to build a snowman for their classmates. That is no big deal in Montana, but just try finding lumps of coal for the snowman’s eyes around here! With Hawaiian ingenuity, they were going to use little lumps of black lava for the eyes and a jalapeƱo pepper for the nose.

A few minutes ago my fishing buddy, Greg Kaufman, Captain of the Reel Pleasure, called let me know that there is nothing in the world quite like standing on the deck of a beautiful fishing boat in your shorts and T-shirt, fighting a mahimahi with a snow-capped 13,000-foot mountain towering over you.

Paradise may be even more beautiful that you ever thought!

Contact us at Big Island Buyers Brokers to find out how you can live here too.

Imua,

Bill Jardine