Big Island

Property Imperfections

We live on an Island where 11 of 13 climates of the Earth (or some similar ratio) are represented. On the East side of the island, lands are predominately overgrown cane fields or triple canopy forests. Typically, it’s impossible to know exactly what’s on your unimproved land.

Challenges of Property Management

Our previous office manager insisted we walk every piece of property. He soon realized it was impossible. While all attempts are made to disclose known imperfections, there are many things we just can’t know. Lava Tubes are probably the most common.

When I sold a home for a retired State Archeologist, this is what I learned. Lava tube mapping exists because of its relationship to archeological significance. Many ancient burials and artifacts are found in tube systems. Maps are plotted by bracketing exposed sections of tube and “guesstimating” the most probable course. Therefore, the maps aren’t completely precise and they only exist for major systems.

Navigating the Dense Puna Forests

Most of our Puna forests are dense native jungle where thick vegetation exists in the sharp lava fields. It is impossible to walk. Overgrown cane land is not much better. The State is happy to provide mapping information when they have it, but for properties, it’s really a coin toss. It’s best to assume there are tubes on the property. A private Geologist can be consulted but the cost may exceed the value of the land.

Understanding the Use of Lava Tubes

Of course, not everyone considers a lava tube an imperfection. Whether your tube is a pleasant surprise or an unanticipated challenge, it’s good to know that you also own the portion of the tube under your property. If you are aware of a lava tube on your property, you may want to research legislation pertaining to its use.

As disgusting as it may sound, some owners use lava tubes as makeshift cesspools. They are also used as a rubbish dump. Because these systems are often connected (many go for miles), spelunkers (cave explorers) love traversing them making illegal uses especially disgusting and a big NO-NO! For this reason (and others) REALTORS® request records for wastewater systems.

Managing Wastewater Systems

For older cesspools, the report will only show that the system exists, not always location. When you need to know where the system is, it’s best to order a video. Newer systems will have an approval for use acknowledged by their wastewater engineer. With so few homes connected to a county system, either type report is an important piece of information. When a report does not exist, a contractor/engineer must be hired to create one. We no longer have a State wastewater engineer in Hilo, so allow extra time for recording.

As we transition from old style systems, keep in mind that make-shift systems will prompt a requirement for a proper system…and on behalf of all the spelunkers out there, thank you in advance for keeping your property “imperfection” perfect!

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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