Market Trends

Don’t Forget to Phone Home

Like “ET,” those of us who weren’t with Mom Resort Style Home on her special day were all phoning home. We certainly don’t want to forget Mom. Thanks to my own Mom, I have a pretty good sense of humor. Seemed to really help when you had as many kids as we did. Besides being witty, my Mother was very particular about her appearance.

Several years ago, her dentist installed implants but failed to inform her there could be complications that might affect her looks. Well, there were and it did, and trust me, I was glad I wasn’t her dentist! Moms are special. They certainly make a house a home. Because I don’t wish to end up in the same doghouse as the dentist, I won’t tell you the year Jewel (aka Mini Ma) was born.

Then and Now

Interestingly, in that year, the average yearly income was $1,652. The cost of the average house was $6,515. Things have certainly changed.

  • 2019: The average income in a Hilo household at the end of 2019 was about $53,000.
  • 2002: When I wrote the original version of this article back in 2002, the average home was about $150,000.
  • 2021: It’s now more than double that amount. Mortgage payments certainly aren’t what they used to be.

What’s the point, you wonder? Let’s put things in perspective.

Today’s Hilo families (mostly two-income households) making $53,000 per year can qualify for a mortgage of around $400,000, not including property taxes and insurance. Back when baby-boomer parents were born, mortgages were for only 20 years. This meant the payment of that $6,515 house was about $43. It took only about $138 monthly income to qualify. An average purchaser could buy an average home.

Today’s Buyer

Ratios and payment terms are more liberal these days. We qualify for larger loans than previous generations, but we still struggle to find a home in town that doesn’t need major repairs for $350,000. Lack of inventory is a big problem. Fortunately, many purchasers have additional sources of income such as overtime. Many opt to commute from our feeder communities, so with a few compromises, owning a home is still possible.

Our parents realized that homeownership was a way to freeze housing costs. They also understood that certain personal freedoms accompany homeownership. Now as then, these concepts still hold true. Over time, we have learned that homeownership provides a vehicle for creating wealth. In the not too distant future, we will consider current mortgage payments a breeze.

And while Mom may wish gasoline was still 10 cents per gallon and bread was still 7 cents, the cost of consumable goods is impossible to control for the average consumer. Through homeownership, it’s entirely possible to fix housing costs now and in the years to come. Just one more reason to consider homeownership on the day we honor one of the most precious people in our lives.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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