Kauai Real Estate and Local News Update

Tsunami!

Saturday morning started for my husband and I with a phone call at 5:45 a.m. from the Civil Defense Department warning us of an approaching tsunami.  We were awake anyways as we were planning on going golfing so we were watching the morning news when the call came.  I checked our phone book as the news had suggested to make sure that our home is not in a tsunami zone which it was not but, our main access road is Poipu Road which looked like it would be blocked off.  We decided to continue on with our plans to golf because the 9 hole Kukuiolono Golf Course is uphill in Kalaheo and well out the way of danger.  The golf course is also a park and has plenty of lawn areas and walking paths, a favorite for joggers and dog walkers.

We got to the deserted golf course (very unusual for a Saturday) and started our round with another local friend.  The three of us noticed car after car after car of tourists coming up to the course with the same idea about the safety of the location that we had.  By the end of our second round the parking lot was full, the driving range was closed since emergency helicopters were parked on it, hundreds people were camped all over the course in beach chairs and some had brought pillows, blankets and umbrellas.  The golf course snack shop was packed and well over capacity with people drinking beer and watching the news on the flat screen tv.  Those on the lawns all over the rest of the course were getting updates on their cell phones and sharing those updates with everybody around them.  On hole number 7 people had tents set up and acted as a gallery for us golfers, applauding good shots and being politely quiet when we missed pitch shots or par putts.  The atmosphere on the course was that of a “concert in the park” setting and I sensed no panic or distress from the displaced tourists.

The expanse of Poipu and Waimea was easily seen from our location and we kept up on the news by asking the people on the course what they have heard, by the end of our second round the tsunami was suppose to hit Kauai within the half hour but it had already proven to be a “no show” on Hilo where it was suppose to hit first.  Oahu and Maui didn’t have any real activity either, but that did not mean that we were a guaranteed the same.   So we decided to walk another nine holes while the course itself was almost deserted because now the golfers had parked their carts and joined the crowds of tsunami watchers. 

All over the rest of the island coastal roads were closed with Kauai Police standing guard at the roadblocks.  Resorts had evacuated their guests by 9 that morning and all outdoor activities were cancelled leaving some brides stranded that had planned a Saturday Kauai wedding.  Crowds formed outside of Walmart, Home Depot  etc. with people doing just what we were doing at Kukuiolono Golf Course.  Calling to the mainland got cut off to us at times and we all knew our loved ones were watching and worrying back on the mainland. 

As my husband and I were walking our third round of golf it became obvious that the tsunami was going to be a non-event on our island as well.  Thankfully and with good humor people made their way to their cars and filed out of the course and we did the same when we finished our 27thhole of golf.  We saw as we left the course that the overflow of cars had people parking all over the residential neighborhood of Kalaheo and trucking up to the courses high ground on foot.  I would love to know the final count of people that actually were there that day. 

I can say that there was no panic, lots and lots of Aloha Spirit and good cheer from the tourists who obviously had not planned on this during their vacation.  This is the spirit of Kauai.  Our hearts go out to all those involved in the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Chile and by the end of our day there were efforts to help those in Chile that are in need.  This is also the spirit of Kauai and this is why I love living here.

Murder-Suicide in Lawai 

On Wednesday morning the South Shore was abuzz with an apparent murder-suicide that happened in the sleepy small town of Lawai.  Largely a residential community not much news is made in Lawai which is located right before you get to Kalaheo.

The dead man is Duane Bukoski, 38, of Lawa‘i. The female victim was an acquaintance of Bukoski named Clara Kaneshiro, 43, of Kapa‘a.  After completing their investigation Kauai Police Department said the female victim had been shot and the male had committed suicide.  The females name was originally held back so her husband could be notified.  Police are not speculating on the relationship between the Clara Kaneshiro and Duane Bukoski.

Clara Kaneshiro’s truck had been missing and was discovered at Bukoski’s Lawa‘i residence where both the bodies were also found.

Pirates Of The Caribbean Coming to Kauai?????

The Black Pearl, which is the pirate ship in the widely popular Pirates of the Caribbean movies, is “dry docked” in Oahu at the boat repair facility in Kalaeloa and attracting a LOT of attention.  Aggressive and curious movie fans are lined up outside the gates and security has a strong presence.

What is being done to the ship is not being discussed but the obvious fact is they are working on it for the next picture which is rumored to take place on Kauai and Oahu.

And from the shoreline, visitors can feast their eyes on a close-up view of the Black Pearl’s high, swooping stern — plus get a snapshot of the ship’s actual name: The Sunset.

Kauai Real Estate News

Again this week we had some really good number of completed sales.  The island is packed with people and I’m seeing a lot of properties going “contingent” on our MLS so these hopefully will be future sales to report.  Here is an excel spreadsheet on the activity island last week CLICK HERE

Kauai Real Estate and Local News Update

Body Found in Kalalau Valley

A week ago last Sunday Inter-Island Helicopters was doing a typical tour of the Kalalau Valley when the saw that “SOS” had been scrawled on the sand by the campers in the valley.  They notified the Police Department who sent a rescue specialist to the site.  One of the campers said that he had hiked back into the valley because a man who is in his late 50’s was overdue to come back.  Once there they found him dead in his sleeping bag.  The remains were turned over to the Kauai Police Department and on Wednesday the man was positively identified as Rodney Ahn, 58.  Rodney was a surfer and a waiter here on the South Shore before moving to the north shore.

Have Hands and Car Worked on Simultaneously!

Hair Razors and King Auto Center have teamed up to help the woman of Kauai multi task.  On Fridays between 9 and 1 you can have a technician working on your car and a nail technician working on your fingernails.  This program has been in existence for the last two weeks and is a hit!  The dealership and salon are experimenting with the times that work best.

Hawaii Hotel Occupancy Improves

Hawaii hotel occupancy overall improved 78.4 % February 6 to Feb. 13, this is a 2.1 percentage point increase as compared with the same week last year.

Room rates are still down but the numbers increase is encouraging and the first step toward stabilizing and raising rates.

Occupancy and room rates for the four main Hawaiian islands were as follows:

• Oahu occupancy was up slightly to 82.9 percent, while room rates slid 7.7 percent to $152;

• Maui occupancy jumped 9.1 percentage points to 81.5 percent, while room rates dipped 7.2 percent to $235;

• Kauai occupancy slipped 1 percentage point to 68.1 percent, while room rates dropped 6 percent to $189; and

• Big Island occupancy eased 2.1 percentage points downward to 64.5 percent, while room rates were off 2.1 percent to $170.

Nationwide hotel occupancy was down 1.3 percentage points to 53.7 percent

Hawaii Has Highest “Well-Being” in the U.S. for 2009

 “Individuals wanting to increase their personal well-being and enjoy the highest quality of life in America might want to consider relocating to Boulder, Colo. or the state of Hawaii,” according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The survey questions were designed to measure how respondents are faring in all aspects of their lives: physically, emotionally, socially and professionally.

The top 10 states for well-being and their survey scores were Hawaii (70.2), Utah (68.3), Montana (68.3), Minnesota (67.8), Iowa (67.6), Vermont (67.4), Colorado (67.3), Alaska (67.3), North Dakota (67.3) and Kansas (67.2).

The bottom five states were West Virginia (60.5), Kentucky (62.3), Arkansas (62.8), Ohio (63.6) and Nevada (63.8).

The top 10 cities for well-being were Boulder (72.5), Holland, Mich. (71.0), Honolulu (70.8), Provo, Utah (70.6), Santa Rosa, Calif. (69.4) Santa Barbara, Calif. (69.3), San Jose, Calif. (69.2), Washington, D.C. (69.1), Ogden, Utah (69.1) and Oxnard, Calif. (69).

This was a national telephone survey completed by 353,849 adults between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2009.

Waimea Town Celebration

Much like the Koloa Plantation Days that we have here in July the town of Waimea is alive with thousands of people turning out for the Waimea Town Celebration.  The weather has been perfect for residents and tourists alike to enjoy canoe races, lei contests, robotic show, music and much, much more.  Kirk Marois owner of Island Taco, Waimeas newest take out eatery, has reported record business and his team is staying super busy keeping up with the thousands of tourists.  Additionally the tour boats have been packed here on the south side enjoying booming business due to the fantastic weather we have been having.  

Kauai Gets Higher Bond Ratings Across Three Categories

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said the county has received record high credit ratings from three bond rating companies.  That means the interest rate for a new $120 million bond issuance will be lower than it would have been with the previous ratings and that will translate to a savings of $3 million in gross interest.  Moody’s Investors Service announced the county received an Aa3 rating, up from A1 and Standard & Poor’s Rating Services raised its rating and underlying rating for Kauai from AA- to AA, while Fitch Ratings assigned an AA- rating to the county and upgraded its general obligation debt to AA- from A+. 

Our market also looked good this week, here are the new listings and closed transactions for last week.  For an excel spreadsheet CLICK HERE

Kauai Real Estate and Local News Update

Happy Presidents Day Weekend and Valentine’s Day!

Still really chilly here at night and in the early mornings for us but the days have been filled with sunshine and happy tourists wearing shorts and tank tops. We read about the weather in the eastern part of the USA and feel so lucky to be here enjoying beautiful Kauai. Island wide we had many different events happening to celebrate the holiday weekend and Valentine’s Day. Occupancy levels are at very high levels for all over the island. I’m noticing a huge increase in Canadian visitors and I believe it’s due to the new direct flight from WestJet Airlines which offers a non-stop flight Vancouver BC to Lihue.

Third Traffic Fatality in 2010

A 59 year old Kalaheo resident died last Thursday when his Ford Mustang was hit head on by a Kauai Coffee delivery van. The driver of the van, a 61 year old Lihue resident, crossed the center line hitting the mustang head on killing the driver. The accident took place on Kaumuali’i Highway in Lawai. The other two accidents have also been on the Highway in the south shore area.

Helicopter Tour Abruptly Ends In Kalalau Valley

A sightseeing helicopter tour took a different turn last Friday when the pilot of a “Jack Harter Helicopters” noticed that something was not right with the engine. The pilot landed the helicopter without incident or injuries in the Kalalau Valley where another helicopter was dispatched to the scene. The tourists finished out the tour on a different helicopter. The original helicopter was flown out of the valley and has been fixed and is up and running. The company stated that this is first time that this has happened to their company and that all procedures were followed correctly. Additionally the passengers actually got to experience a part of Kalalau Valley which is inaccessible for many and campers in the valley extended “their aloha” to the tourists.

Ready for a Goat Hunt?

If so the State Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife announces an opportunity for interested individuals to participate in the control of feral goats on Kauai in Waimea Canyon. Weaponry and the amount of goats that you can hunt are limited and interested participants can contact the Lihu‘e office of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife at (808) 274-3433.

New Electrical Company in Town

American Electric Company, located in Oahu, is expanding its residential electrical service to Kauai and the Big Island. This is one of the largest electrical contractors in Hawaii who have done business with the government, commercial buildings, hotels, military and industrial. They have recently expanded to offer residential service. One service they offer is called CurrentSAFE which uses thermographic and ultrasonic testing equipment to detect concealed electrical problems within a home and provide homeowners with a report specifying electrical risk factors such as wiring and outlet problems.

Kauai Real Estate

Looking to buy a resort? The Makena Beach and Golf Resort in Maui will be sold at a foreclosure auction this April. It had been purchased by a Maui developer for $575 million in 2007. The resort’s hotel, formerly known as the Maui Prince Hotel, has been managed by Benchmark Hospitality International since September 17, 2009, under oversight by court-appointed receiver Miles Furutani, who will remain in possession of the resort until it transitions to a new owner and management. The resort which has the hotel and golf courses is to remain operational and was originally bought from the troubled Seibu Group from Japan in June of 2007. My husband and I had taken a weekend trip to this hotel in July of 2007 and loved the location as well as the hotel itself. The hotel was at the end of a long line of Kihei hotels but easily accessible to the great shopping and restaurants that are nearby.

In our local real estate market we had 12 Islander on the Beach units flood the market, they are being sold as short sales. The Islander on the Beach was one of those condo complexes that had caught the uptick of the market just right with many people buying and selling these units over and over again and prices insubstantially escalated. Like the game “Hot Potato” when the market lost the momentum lots of people were left holding something that they just could not hang on to. Financing had been hard to get but not it’s being offered at a 75% loan to value by First Hawaiian, this is good news since the project had not been able to get financing. Questions? Give me a call or email. For an excel spreadsheet of what came on the market and what sold here island wide CLICK HERE FOR SPREADSHEET

Kauai Real Estate and Local News Update

Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving Comes to Kaua’i

Here on Kaua’i I believe we’ve all seen it coming and now it’s officially here.  Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance that will bar drivers from using handheld electronic devices.  The law, which would fine drivers $50 for holding and using mobile electronic devices like cell phones, text messaging devices, pagers, digital assistants, laptop computers, video games and cameras, is slated to go into effect on May 3 and enforcement will begin promptly when the law takes effect in three months.

The fine would double to $100 for drivers who violate the ordinance in a school zone or construction area.  By comparison, a similar ban in the City and County of Honolulu has a maximum fine of $67 for the first offense, and the Big Island’s ordinance, which went into effect last month, charges up to $150 for each violation and up to $500 if illegal use of the device causes a crash.

Tourism Numbers Showing Signs of Recovery

Hawaii Tourism Authority is carefully looking at the statistics that inform marketing and other strategies in place for 2010 and into 2011, the year most analysts say will mark tourism’s recovery.

Yes, visitor arrivals and spending numbers were down in 2009, and the Neighbor Islands continue to feel the brunt.  But there also were sectors that showed promise and suggest where growth lies.

1.1 million Japanese still came to the Islands which is one-sixth of the total visitor count.  While down almost 5 percent from 2008, Japanese arrivals grew in the second half of the year. Air seats out of Japan were down only 0.5 percent for the year.

And, there was a 75 percent climb in the number of Japanese (28,185) who chose to stay in a time-share unit.  Good news is vacation rental condo use also was up, with growth in both accommodations coming at the expense of hotels.

The reviving Japanese market, coupled with a 20 percent jump in air seats from other Asian markets, supports the HTA’s belief that Asia remains vital to Hawaii.  Supporting this is the strong yen against the dollar, Japanese and Korean meetings, incentives, conferences and events in Hawaii.  In the Korean market the HTA states is ready to burst, as evidenced by the total number of Korean travelers to Hawaii rose almost 45% in 2009 as more Korean travelers take advantage of the visa waiver status with the United States that is identical to the one Japanese have long enjoyed.  Double digit growth is expected in 2010 with Korean Air’s announcement this last week that they will add 3 extra flights between Incheon and Honolulu.

The international market is not a big player in Kauai tourism but the tourism news that is reported for our state as a whole does play a part in consumer confidence.  Revenue generated from the rise in tourism also benefits the entire state and funds our marketing programs both internationally and domestically.

Locally the Grand Hyatt in Poipu will be undergoing a multi-million-dollar guestroom renovation beginning April 2010. The Poipu Bay Golf Course with close concurrently for greens renovations and other improvements including kitchen and bathroom renovations of the clubhouse resulting in a decision to temporarily close Po‘ipu Bay Clubhouse and Yum Cha restaurant.  Yum Chas is personally one of my very favorite places to eat and I know I will miss going there. 

Homes Bulldozed Along Wainiha Bay

North of Lumahai Beach on the North Shore lies Wainiha Bay where 10 to 15 native Hawaiian families had their dwellings bulldozed Thursday after county officials determined they were illegally erected on county park land along Wainiha Bay and Wainiha River.  Residents of the community and activists say the county does not own the land as it was given to the Native Hawaiian families who have been living in the area for years and farming taro on the mauka side of Kuhio Highway.  This system of living is known as “kuleana lands” tenancy.

As reported in the Garden Island Newspaper the county real-property tax records indicate Rose A. Andrade and others including some Haumea and Harada family members own a .292-acre parcel on Wainiha Bay that is referenced by tax-map-key number in some county communications to a Deilon Haumea, family member and representative for that parcel.  Unofficial reports indicate that coastal erosion may have caused loss of land involving some of the four beach-front parcels along Wainiha Bay, including Andrade’s, possibly causing the land owners to move structures away from the ocean and, possibly, onto county property.  The families owning the property owe around $300,000 in back real property taxes and the county wants to auction off the land.

County officials said in the summer of last year they began receiving complaints about alleged illegal structures and people living in the structures at Wainiha County Park.  Complainants asked that the structures be removed, and county officials conducted a survey of the property and verified that the illegal structures were indeed on county park land, said Tokioka.

Kauai Home Sales See Big Increase

As reported in the Pacific Business News (and on my blog last week!!); sales of single-family homes on Kauai in January increased three-fold, while the number of condominiums sold doubled.

There were 31 single-family homes sold on Kauai last month, more than three times the 10 houses that were sold in January 2009, according to the sales statistics.  There were 14 condos sold in January, twice as many sales as in the same month in 2009.  Prices didn’t fare as well as sales, however.  The median price of a single-family home on the Garden Isle in January was $375,000, a 20 percent drop from $466,785 in January 2009.  And the median price of a condo last month was $204,500, a 19 percent drop from $254,000 in January 2009.  However the first rule in prices solidifying is movement of the current inventory and these are good figures to start the year off.  For a list of what came on the market and what sold island wide CLICK HERE FOR SPREADSHEET