Buying Advice

5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Oahu Home

You’ve finally decided to make the big move to Oahu… or maybe this is your first home purchase, here on the island? Maybe you are trading up or down, and it’s been years since you’ve purchased… What are the steps you should take in finding the perfect Oahu home? Where do you start? Watch our video for a summary, or read on, to find out more!

There are 5 basic steps to finding the perfect Oahu home.

1. Find a Great Full-time, Full-Service Realtor with Lots of Experience and Expertise

Experience is Necessary, with Both Buyers and Sellers

It’s important, first, to find an experienced realtor; someone with many years of helping buyers and sellers of Oahu real estate. Realtors should have experience with both buyers and sellers because it helps to know both what buyers want and need, and what sellers expect from buyers. This knowledge can help make your offers stronger and more competitive. It also enables your realtor to have a full understanding of the market conditions and various competing factors that will affect finding the perfect Oahu home.

Local and Island-Wide Expertise and Both Important

It’s also important that your realtor has experience in the geographical areas in which you are looking. The odd thing about Oahu real estate, however, is that many buyers start out looking in one area and end up buying in another area. Sometimes, this is because of unfamiliarity with the various areas and neighborhoods of Oahu. Other times, it is a result of affordability or not being able to find the right property in the first neighborhood you liked.

As a result, you might be best off with a realtor that knows all of Oahu and has experience in many areas of the island. It is great when your realtor can offer numerous ideas for places to live that would work for you. Having options is good and being prodded into searching in only one area may not always be the best solution. With an experienced realtor, you may discover a whole new neighborhood that you really love, and that meets your needs better than the place in which you originally thought you would purchase.

{Check out the qualifications of Yvonne Ahearn + Ana Kuna, The OAHU. REAL ESTATE. LIFE. Team of Hawaii Life. We are full-time and full-service and both have years of experience helping buyers and sellers all over Oahu.}

2. Find a Great Local Lender, So You Can Be Sure of What You Can Afford

The second step in your Oahu home search is finding a great, experienced local lender. Working with a local lender is not mandatory, but it can be a good idea. The reason local lenders are preferred is that they understand the local Oahu real estate market better than mainland lenders. It is safe to say that more Oahu deals close more quickly and easily with local lenders.

Hawaii Properties Can Be Complex

Often local lenders also have special programs and portfolio loans that will be less stringent as to property qualifications or provide benefits particular to Oahu borrowers. For example, a local lender might loan on a property which has an ADU and allows that income to be used to qualify. Another local lender might have less stringent requirements for improvements built without building permits. I had one client, once, that insisted on a mainland lender. That mainland lender refused to lend in a popular, desirable, and somewhat expensive neighborhood on Oahu because there was a sewage treatment plant in the vicinity.

Local lenders provide loans in this same area all day long! Delay and headache could have been easily avoided had my client initially used a local lender.

We are happy to provide referrals to local lenders with whom we have worked in the past and who provided us great service. Let us know if you need one.

Kailua Home on Oahu

Home Buying on Oahu – Affordability is a Factor for Most People

You Need to Know What Properties Will Work and How Much You Can Afford

Talk to a local lender BEFORE you start looking at property. You need to know what type of loan you are getting and how much you can afford. Not all loans are appropriate for all properties. If you are limited to VA or USDA loans, you might approach your property search a bit differently. For example, if you are using a VA loan to purchase a condo, you need to make sure that the condo is on the VA approved list or that, at least, it is eligible for addition (another process) to this list.

You need to know how much you can afford, so that your heart is not broken when you find your dream home, only to learn that it is beyond your budget. Get pre-approved, know what properties work for your loan type, and be prepared and ready to go when that amazing home pops up. You will be so happy you were ready!

3. Narrow Down Your Location and/or Search Criteria

What Type of Property Do You Need?

The third step is to identify your needs and your wants. Think about what is most important to you. Identify the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. What view would you like? Pool or no pool? Do you want a rental or ADU type unit for potential extra rental income? Do you want a detached single family home or a condominium? What features are deal-breakers? Older homes in Hawaii tend to have smaller rooms than newer construction homes on the mainland. You may have to come to terms with the fact that your 12 person dining room table will not fit in any of the Oahu homes that you are looking to purchase.

What Location is Best?

You need to also identify your location constraints. How long of a commute to work is tolerable? How close do you need to be to hospitals and schools? Do you prefer easy access to the beach or stunning mountain views? The choices of geography are numerous on Oahu and will be influenced by both your lifestyle and your work and family situation. They will also be influenced by your budget. In general, the closer to the beach, the more expensive the property. They better the views, the more expensive the property. Properties easily accessible to downtown amenities and popular schools are also more expensive.

If you are from the mainland, especially, don’t be surprised if your desires and tolerances change once you starting looking for property. This is completely normal.

Kaneohe Ocean View Home

Speaking of location … This oceanfront Kaneohe home for sale (MLS 201906998) has a great location, convenient to shopping, restaurants, and freeways.

4. Have Your Realtor Set You Up With Searches from the Oahu MLS

All REALTORS on Oahu have a great tool to use, to help our clients to find the perfect Oahu home. This is the HiCentral/Matrix MLS Search Portal and it’s the fourth step to find the perfect Oahu home. Once you’ve identified your initial search criteria, your realtor can set up searches to match the criteria. This is the absolute best source available for finding properties that are available, as it has the most recent and up to date information. Zillow and Trulia do not have a direct feed from the MLS. The properties shown there are often unavailable or they are not picked up quickly.

You risk losing the property of your dreams if you rely on these resources. You can also be very frustrated as the property you want shows available there, when it is no longer available.

The HiCentral Matrix Portal is automated and can be set up to deliver new listings at the frequency you desire. The searches can be tailored to you and you can have more than one. You can also ask your realtor to stop or modify these at any time. The Portal allows you to discard homes that you definitely do not like into the “trash” and to mark the homes that you do love with a “heart.” This helps your realtor to identify the homes that will appeal to you the most and to schedule showings.

5. View Homes with Your Realtor

The fifth basic step to find the perfect Oahu home is to schedule showings with your realtor. These will generally be the homes that you identify in the Matrix Portal and/or that your realtor picks for you.

Open Houses

You can also attend open houses, if you wish, with or without your realtor. Open houses are sometimes good to go to because they may provide the first and only showing opportunity. However, this is not always the case. Many times, it is nicer to see a home in a private showing, where you are not rushed and where you have the opportunity to ask questions, without a crowd of people around. Usually, your realtor can find out for you if there will be showings before the first open house.

Often it is best t0 get in with a private showing first, before the open house, if it is a property likely to be in high demand. The early bird sometimes gets the worm.

It is a great idea to see homes with your realtor whenever possible. It allows your realtor to better understand your needs, wants, and to see your emotional reactions to properties. Your realtor can better identify properties for you, the better she understands your criteria. She can also provide valuable insights and advice at showings. Your realtor is here to help you find the best home available for your price and lifestyle needs.

Don’t Forget to Think Outside the Box

There are other ways to find a perfect home on Oahu, in addition to using the five steps above. I’ve helped my clients locate off-market properties, in several other ways. I’ve also known about properties coming to market, through my network, even before the properties have come on the market.

In a competitive market, sometimes, non-traditional methods should be used to supplement the usual ways. However, generally speaking, the five steps above are the ones to find the perfect Oahu home. At the very least, find yourself a great realtor who you can trust to guide your way in the direction best for you.

Good luck finding that perfect Oahu home! Aloha.

Connect With Yvonne Jaramillo Ahearn (B)

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About the Author

Yvonne Ahearn

Yvonne Ahearn is a REALTOR, ABR, CRS, CLHMS, ILHM Million Dollar Guild, GRI, MRP, with Hawai'i Life. Yvonne Jaramillo Ahearn, Esq. works out of the Honolulu Office, and lives in Kailua, Oahu. Her clients benefit from Yvonne’s in-depth Oahu expertise and negotiating skills. Yvonne has been a REALTOR on Oahu for more than a decade, selling mostly in Kailua and Honolulu, but also covering areas such as Kaneohe, Ewa Beach, Mililani, and North Shore. Many of her clients have relocated from the mainland, have second homes on Oahu, or are military, and a large percentage of her clients are repeat clients and referrals. Yvonne has a passion for architecture, and vintage and historical homes, as well as a personal flair for design. Besides her many contacts in the home remodeling space, she has become known locally for her beautiful home staging projects, which enhance both the sale price and the speed of sale for her listings. Yvonne Ahearn is a 2015, 2011 and 2010 Winner of the Aloha Aina “People’s Choice” Award for the island of Oahu. She and her husband have a delightful son, and are also involved in many of his activities. In her spare time, she is involved in various non-profits and enjoys beautifying her garden full of tropical plants. Please Contact Yvonne at 808-721-8088 or YvonneAhearn@HawaiiLife.com, if you need assistance with Oahu, Hawaii real estate. You can email me at YvonneAhearn@HawaiiLIfe.com or via phone at (808) 721-8088.

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