On Being an Attorney and a Realtor in Hawaii: Here to Help with Your Commercial and Residential Real Estate Needs

A Short Introduction: A Law-Trained Hawaii Realtor

Cheers and Aloha! My name is Joey Furlett, and I am a Realtor-Broker at Hawaii Life. But…I am also an attorney* (*but not at Hawaii Life– more on that later). From my time in real estate law, I have helped my clients through over 1,600 transactions ranging from residential to commercial (Yes, that is a lot of transactions– more on that later, too!). My background isn’t common for a realtor, so I should formally introduce myself to you, and share a bit more about my legal and realty background. I hope you enjoy– I know I had fun writing this article!

This is me at a luxury property listing in Diamondhead. I just love the curated bamboo.

First, My Philosophy:

“I do as much as I can to make the process as simple as it can be for you.”

This is a philosophy I developed in my years of legal practice. I found that many (or even most!) folks who go through a real estate transaction have a few bumps along the way. So, my goal is to minimize those bumps in the road. I like to identify and handle problems *before* they happen, rather than waiting until a problem *does* happen. When I work as a Realtor-Broker, I use all of the knowledge I have gained in my legal background to answer all of your questions and to make sure the process goes just as it should–smoothly and simply. After doing over 1,500 transactions, if there is something odd that could happen, I have probably seen it!

On Joining Hawaii Life:

I joined Hawaii Life in 2021, and since then I have started sharing real estate-related topics and insights through my blogs. I’ve written informative and understandable summaries of some of the trickiest parts of buying and selling real estate. In my articles, I try to answer the types of burning questions buyers and sellers always have, but rarely get answers about. In one such article., I wrote a guide to the most important flood zones on Oahu and Maui (Click here for the flood hazard zone article!). In another article, I wrote a guide to gift tax issues when parents or grandparents help the next generation buy a home (Click here for the estate and gift tax article!). Back in Illinois, where my career first started, I gained a reputation as the person who could advise on even the most difficult of transactions, and with that came a fun nickname: “the Professor.” It may have helped that I also taught classes to first-year law students as an adjunct professor! Part of being a good realtor, to me, is being a good and non-judgmental source of information for my clients.

On Closing Over 1,600 Real Estate Transactions:

Funny enough, it didn’t really dawn on me quite how many clients I had helped—or even that I had helped an uncommonly large number of people—until I was casually chatting with a successful and soon-to-retire realtor about a year ago. That realtor gave me a tour of his office and very proudly stated that in his and his wife’s 40 years in practice they had together closed just about 1,400 transactions. I, of course, congratulated this man on their achievements. But at the same time, I recall a little *zing* in my mind, and my brain started whirring “Wait… I’ve closed over 1,500 transactions… That means I’ve done more than these two professionals have done in 40 years…?(…wait, Joey, did you make a typo…? I thought you said you did 1,600 transactions? Yup, I had a few more transactions since that revelation!) It sounds silly, but until then I had never even stopped to actually think about how much work I was doing or just how many people I had helped. After seeing so many transactions, and helping so many people, I still wake up every day looking forward to the next phone call. I take pleasure and pride in being a source of information for my clients who can explain the process and ensure a smooth transaction.

On Having Multiple Licenses in Two States:

I often joke that I am a walking ball of licenses! I am a Real Estate Broker and an Attorney, and I am licensed in both professions in both Hawaii and Illinois. Since Illinois attorneys write title insurance policies for sellers, I am also licensed there as a title insurance agent with two different companies. If you are counting licenses on your fingers and toes, you will find that I have six different real estate-related licenses (2 realty licenses, 2 law licenses, and 2 title insurance licenses). In other words, I’ve gone pretty deep down the real estate rabbit hole! But that also means that I usually know what is happening on all levels of a real estate transaction, and when clients have questions about obscure things happening behind the scenes in a real estate transaction, I am usually able to give some guidance. Got a question about buying or selling? Feel free to reach out! 🙂 You can reach me by phone/text at 808-811-8811. Or, you can catch me by email at:

A Law-Trained Realtor: What it Means for You

For anyone who has bought or sold a house before, you know that the transaction can get stressful, and weird things can happen. In fact, weird things usually do happen. Luckily, I’ve seen most anything that can happen in a transaction, be it underfunded HOA’s, Flood hazard zones, or even coastal and environmental land-use restrictions. What is new to a buyer or seller is probably not new to me– I take pride in helping my clients carefully navigate the difficult intricacies and judgment calls needed to make your personal transaction as smooth as possible.

Commercial Real Estate From a Law Perspective:

So, many real estate attorneys start their legal careers with easy files to get their feet wet. Perhaps new attorneys spend a couple of years organizing and scanning files, and might even work on proofreading and editing projects. Well, instead, when I went into business with my dad, who is a top-rated Illinois real estate attorney (you can check out his profile right here if you like– he is the real deal! Here is a link to his profile: My dad had a very different philosophy from most attorneys who expect their associates to do menial labor. His take on things: “give the kid something tricky and see what he can do with it.”

Anyway, my first real file as an attorney was negotiating a rather complex commercial lease within a large retail strip mall, where I had to coordinate the entire transaction with an international commercial holdings corporation. The lease was for a special-permitted-use business (ie. even with proper zoning you still needed special permissions [usually, this is something like a tobacco store, a salon, or other use that could “pollute” an area]), and the space had a rather thorny buildout and recapture agreement.

Wait… What is a “buildout and recapture” agreement, anyway?

Well, it means my client rented an empty space (known in the industry as a “vanilla box”), and the commercial entity financed improvements and hired contractors to build the tenant’s desired layout for the property. These improvements were then secured by future financial obligations for my client, which included payback provisions so that the landlord would be reimbursed for the improvements. These things are really dang tricky–many attorneys won’t touch these things after years in practice! Anyway, that gives you a flavor of my background in the subj0e0ct matter, and it gives me an opportunity to tell a fun little story!

Residential Real Estate From a Law Perspective:

Over my time working in residential real estate law, I gained a reputation as a person who could handle transactions that others did not know how to close. When I say that I’ve seen just about any real estate problem, I really mean it! When I say that, folks usually ask for an example–what is the craziest thing you have seen??? 

Well, here is a fun story about a situation I helped a client through a while ago. To set the stage, I was helping a buyer with a lovely waterfront property. The property was gorgeous, but the problems were pretty wild! To start with, the house was built on a coastal management setback–in other words, if it fell down you wouldn’t be able to repair it without zoning headaches). It also had an un-permitted flow-through foundation underneath the property (that means the water literally flowed under the property [if you are thinking there were some weird legal and practical issues regarding that, you are absolutely right!]). This property also included an old boat dock that led down to the water– for my client, that water access was the big selling point.

waikiki dock

Boats at a dock at the Waikiki Yacht Club (a picture for flavor)– I guarantee you this is a much nicer dock than the one from this story!

To make matters even trickier, by a quirk of municipal planning, the house didn’t have legal street access (yes, that can happen!) and the driveway had a 3-foot strip of undeveloped county land between the street and the driveway. As a practical matter, it looked like a regular driveway, but legally it meant that the owner had to trespass over county land to get into their driveway. Now here’s where it gets really weird–my buyer wanted to buy with a mortgage, but you need “legal access” to the property to get a mortgage. Well, even though there was no street access, I was still able to help my buyer.

Okay, Joey, how the heck did you help a buyer buy a place that didn’t have road access?

Well, I proved that we still had “legal access” because the property had a boat ramp connected to a “federally navigable waterway.” This was a home that I was told would be impossible to close on, but instead, my buyer was able to get their dream home despite a goofy planning department mistake! Not every transaction is this tricky, but often, the more geographically or structurally unique a house is, the tricker a purchase or sale can be. Knowing the right next step is important in situations like this, and when tricky things happen I am glad that I can draw upon over 1,600 transactions of experience to help my clients.

Here to Assist You:

If you want to read a bit more about my background in law or in real estate, feel free to take a look at my Hawaii Life bio page:

If you have a question, want to talk real estate, or just want to say “hello!” please feel free to reach out to me:

Call or Text me at: 808-811-8811

Send Me an Email at:

I would be happy to connect with you and assist you with your real estate needs. Or, if you have a friend you think I could help, please do send them this article. 

My philosophy, again: “I do as much as I can to make the process as simple as it can be for you.” 

Mahalo for reading. 🙂

Comments (2) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.

Monica Smith

May 26, 2022

Hi, I tried calling and texting the phone number listed in the article, but it is not a good number. I do have a question regarding a Tax Deed transaction that I need some advice on if you can please give me a call. Thanks.

Joey Furlett

May 26, 2022

> Hi there,
Thanks for the comment. 🙂 I checked, and it looks like and the links work. All good!
Cheers and Aloha,

More Articles from Hawaii Life