Buying Advice

5 Important Tips for Buying a Vacation Rentable Condo on Maui

Thinking of purchasing a vacation rentable condo on Maui but don’t know where to start? Here are 5 important tips to know!

1. Get Pre-Approved by a Local Mortgage Broker

If you are financing, this is the most important tip by far as it can make or break a deal. Loaning on vacation rentable condos here on Maui is a lot more involved than loaning on residential condos, or even other vacation rentable type properties on the mainland. Because most of the vacation rentable condos here are classified as condotels, they are not able to be financed through many major banks. Instead, they have to be financed through select local banks, including First Hawaiian Bank, Bank of Hawaii, etc. Thus, it is essential that you use a mortgage broker that has access to these banks in order for the loan to go through.

Many mainland lenders don’t realize this and think that they can loan on vacation rentable properties here just like they do on the mainland, only to find out halfway through the escrow that they can’t. Unfortunately, I, and many other seasoned agents, have experienced this situation in our careers, and it often causes deals to cancel, or need to be saved by a local mortgage broker halfway through the escrow process. I therefore advise all of my clients interested in vacation rentable condos on Maui to get pre-approved by a reputable local mortgage broker right off the bat in order to avoid these issues and ensure that the deal will get to the finish line. Also, using a local mortgage broker will strengthen your offer, as other experienced listing agents understand the importance of this and will impart this to their sellers (especially in a multiple offer situation if one is using a local mortgage broker and another is attempting to use a mainland lender).

Many Buyers are also not aware that the minimum time frame to close a financed deal on a vacation rentable property on Maui is around 60 days. If you find a mainland lender that thinks they can do it in 30-45 days, chances are that they are incorrect and will find out the hard way halfway through the escrow. If you want to chat more about this in depth with an excellent local mortgage broker, reach out to me for their contact info (I know a few of the best on island and are well-known for their efficiency and track record).

2. Filter Out Non Vacation Rentable Properties in Your Search

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see when Buyers first start searching for vacation rentable condos on Maui. They start their search on one of the major sites: Zillow,, etc., and don’t realize that they can’t filter out vacation rentable properties from residential ones. This then creates a skewed perspective on the market as factors such as pricing, location, sizes of units, etc. can differ drastically between those that are approved as vacation rentables and those that are not.

Unfortunately, the only way to properly filter out non vacation rentable properties is to do it on our MLS, which only Maui Realtors have access to. Thus, the first thing I do for my new clients is to set them up on a MLS collab center search, in which I can filter out non vacation rentable properties in the backend as well as add in other specified criteria. If you’d like me to set you up with a search like this, reach out to me!

3. Check Out Both South and West Maui Properties

Regardless of whether you have only visited either South Maui (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) or West Maui (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kahana, Kapalua, etc.), I always tell clients to at least visit both areas before buying a vacation rentable property. That way you can be sure to “leave no stone unturned” when you do buy, as both areas have their pros and cons. I’ve had clients who only vacationed in either South or West Maui and were convinced that they wanted to buy there because that’s all they knew — only to find out that they liked the other area more when I suggested to at least check it out. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes their trip to the unexplored area only strengthens their conviction in their favorite spot. However, I believe that this is also valuable as it eliminates potential Buyers’ remorse in the event that they end up discovering and liking the other area after purchase.

4. Pay Attention to Maintenance Fees

Maintenance, or HOA fees, can vary quite a bit from property to property and can really cut into your margin. For example, the fees for a 1bd vacation rentable can range anywhere from around $500-$1,500 per month. Keep in mind that sometimes what is covered under these maintenance fees can differ from complex to complex (i.e. a handful of complexes cover electricity in their maintenance fees, but the majority don’t). However, a difference of $1,000 per month or so can really cut into your income, so make sure to pay attention to this. Also, just like the inability to search specifically for vacation rentable condos on sites like Zillow and, maintenance fees are not always listed on those as well. Thus, reach out to me so that I can send you listings directly from our MLS with those fees listed.

5. Research an Established Vacation Rental Management Company

If you plan on renting your condo after purchase, it’s important to find a reputable vacation rental management company to get you up and running. Or, if the unit you are purchasing is already in a rental program, it still doesn’t hurt to research a couple of other companies just to make sure you have the right fit for your needs. There are quite a few rental companies on island varying in size, areas of the island they service, pricing, etc. In my opinion, some of them do a better job than others, but the best of them provide an all-inclusive type of service in which they handle all aspects of the rental process (advertising, booking, cleaning, minor maintenance, etc.). Most buyers that don’t live on island find that this is the easiest way to manage their rental as it is quite a “hands-off” approach. Also, per Hawaii law, if you don’t live on island, you need a qualified on-island representative or management company in order to rent a unit transiently. Reach out to me if you’d like some suggestions on my favorite companies.

Bonus tip: Get help from an experienced local agent. With all the specific nuances that come with buying property on Maui, some of which you’ve seen above, it’s important to find a local agent that can assist you in your search and educate you about the ins and outs of buying here. I personally have 10 years of experience in the Maui real estate industry, and have sold over $60M in Maui Real Estate in the past 7 years as a licensed agent. Thus, I’d love to be your trusted source in your Maui real estate journey!

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