Big Island Buyer’s Scoop – What You Need to Know When Buying on the Big Island
When purchasing a home on the Big Island of Hawaii, there are many situations, issues and items that one should be aware of and learn about. Most likely the real estate company that is assisting you in your purchase will have you sign a supplemental Big Island disclosure addendum to the Purchase Contract that will list many of these. Here are several that I feel you should know about prior to purchasing property here on the Big Island, with links for additional information on each.
Many areas of the Big Island do not have a city or county water supply and one must use a catchment water system. Basically, this is where one captures rainwater water from the roof of home, transfers this water to a catchment tank for storage and then filters and pumps this water to the home. Filtration systems are very efficient and if done properly, the water can be used for everything, including drinking! The State of Hawaii Department of Health has an informative Catchment Information Guide that can be found here. In addition to this guide, I suggest you do some internet research and familiarize yourself with catchment systems if you purchase in an area that does not have city or county water.
Many properties here on the Big Island are not connected to city sewer systems and have either cesspools or septic systems for wastewater disposal. A septic tank is designed to hold your wastewater in an underground tank where sold waste settles to the bottom. Then wastewater is distributed in a series of perforated pipes and slowly distributed over a large area of land called a “drain field” or leach field.” A cesspool is an underground tank with walls that are perforated to allow liquid wast to leak into the surrounding soil while sold waste accumulates at the bottom. The County of Hawaii is currently implementing a conversion program to replace existing cesspools with septic systems by 2050. Grants can be found to help in the cost by visiting the Hawaii State Department of Health Pilot Grant Program website.
The Big Island of Hawaii is home to several active volcanoes that can erupt at any time. Fortunately, these volcanoes are shield volcanoes with no violent eruptions and not cone volcanoes which do. If you are unfamiliar with the difference between the two this is a great website to visit. When there is an active eruption on the Big Island certain areas can be affected by VOG (volcanic fog caused by gas emissions), lava flows and earthquakes. In addition, the island is divided into 9 Lava zones, Zone 1 being the most likely to be affected by lava flows and Zone 9 having no danger at all. If purchasing property on Lava Hazard Zones 1 & 2 there are both mortgage restrictions and Homeowner’s Insurance restrictions. Here is a link to a Blog I wrote that explains these zones: Buying Property in Lava Hazard Zones 1 & 2.
Invasive species have found their way to the Big Island via birds, ships, plants, etc… Among them are termites, coqui frogs, fires ants and albizia trees. There are both dry wood and subterranean termites and I recommend to have a termite inspection completed during the escrow process when purchasing a home. If there is evidence of live termites then the Seller usually is required to both pay for and eradicate infestation with tent fumigation or localized spraying. Coqui frogs are found now in most areas of the Big Island and emit a very loud chirping sound from dusk to dawn. Buyers should visit any property they are purchasing in the evening to determine if the noise is tolerable. I have coqui frogs all around my property and their chirping has become a background noise I hardly register and does not bother me a bit. Fire Ants also knows as LFA are a nuisance and difficult to eradicate. They nest in fruit trees among other plants and have a painful bite that can leave hives and welts on skin. If on your property it is best to control the infestation to a tolerable level. There are many companies that specialize in this, although homeowners can also take care of this. Albizia trees are potentially the fastest growing tree on the planet! Although they are very beautiful, they get very tall and have shallow root system. In tropical storms and hurricanes they are known to fall over. If near your house it is recommended they be removed.
Mold and Mildew
Both mold and mildew are types of fungus that are common in humid climates like the Big Island of Hawaii. Mildew is not considered to be hazardous; however, mold can seriously affect one’s health. Homes located on the windward side in rainy areas may have mold growing on walls and other areas of a home. I always recommend my Buyers have a professional home inspection completed during the inspection period of the transaction. If mold is found, it is recommended that you have remediation completed by a company that specialize in this. Many times one can negotiate with the Seller and have Seller pay for this.
Tsunami & Hurricanes
Yes, both tsunamis and hurricanes have occurred here on the Big Island and had significant negative impacts. The Hawaii County Civil Defense is the place to contact regarding tsunami or hurricane warnings One can set up automatic alerts on cell phone to stay aware of any predicted tidal waves or approaching hurricanes with this agency. Those properties located in Tsunami zones may have building restrictions and/or insurance issues that Buyers should check. In addition, if getting a mortgage, the lender most likely will require Hurricane Insurance.
I’m certainly not trying to burst your Hawaii dream bubble! I absolutely love living the aloha lifestyle and would not trade it for anything. But as a real estate professional I will always inform my Buyers of any and all situations that could affect your purchase of property here on the Big Island. I have been selling real estate here since 2003 and have learned much in my 20+ years of hands-on experience. Please contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. I would love to represent you as your Buyer’s agent!