Unveiling the Differences: Fee Simple vs. Leasehold Real Estate on Kauai

When it comes to investing in paradise, Kauai, the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii, is a dream destination for many. Its breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture make it an alluring choice for both homebuyers and investors. However, before you dive headfirst into the world of Kauai real estate, it’s crucial to understand the fundamental difference between leasehold and fee simple ownership. Together, we’ll explore the battle of ownership types on Kauai, comparing the advantages and disadvantages of leasehold and fee-simple real estate, so you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and priorities.

Leasehold Ownership on Kauai:

In a leasehold agreement, the buyer purchases the rights to use a property for a specific period, typically ranging from 10 to 99 years. While the buyer doesn’t technically own the land itself, they have exclusive use and control over the property during the lease period. At the end of the lease term, the ownership reverts to the landowner, unless the lease is renewed.

Advantages of Leasehold:

  1. Lower upfront costs: Leasehold properties generally have a lower initial purchase price compared to fee-simple properties, making them more accessible to buyers with a limited budget.
  2. Amenities and location: Leasehold properties often offer premium locations and amenities that might be out of reach for the same budget in a fee-simple scenario.
  3. Short-term investment: For those looking for a short-term investment or a vacation property, a leasehold can be an appealing option without committing to long-term ownership.

Fee Simple Ownership on Kauai:

Fee simple ownership, also known as freehold ownership, is the most common form of real estate ownership in the United States. In this arrangement, the buyer owns both the land and the property on it outright, with no expiration date on their ownership.

Advantages of Fee Simple:

  1. Absolute ownership: Fee simple ownership provides the highest level of ownership and control, giving buyers the freedom to use, modify, or sell the property as they see fit (within the guidelines of the county zoning and ordinances).
  2. Potential appreciation: Historically, fee-simple properties tend to appreciate more consistently over time, making them a great option for a long-term investment.
  3. Less uncertainty: With no lease expiration looming, fee simple ownership offers greater stability and peace of mind, ensuring you won’t have to worry about lease renewal negotiations.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Leasehold and Fee Simple:

  1. Financial Goals: Assess your long-term financial goals to determine which ownership type aligns better with your investment strategy. Are you looking for short-term gains or long-term appreciation?
  2. Budget: Consider your budget constraints; leasehold properties might be more affordable upfront, but you’ll have to factor in potential lease renewal costs in the future.
  3. Market Conditions: Analyze the current real estate market on Kauai. In some situations, one ownership type might be more prevalent than the other, impacting availability and pricing.


The battle between leasehold and fee simple ownership on Kauai boils down to personal preferences, financial goals, and the time horizon of your investment. While leasehold properties may offer lower upfront costs and unique locations, fee simple ownership provides a sense of security, potential appreciation, and full control over your property. As you explore the Kauai real estate market, take the time to consider your priorities and consult with a qualified real estate professional who can guide you toward the ownership type that best suits your needs. No matter your choice, investing in the beauty and allure of Kauai is a decision you won’t regret. Happy house hunting!

About the Author

Kristine Dugan

Kristine Dugan is a REALTOR Salesperson with Hawai'i Life. As a trusted resource in the Kauai real estate market, I am committed to helping buyers and sellers navigate the complexities of the process and make decisions that meet their needs. By taking the time to listen to my clients' concerns and providing them with the best possible options, I strive to ensure they are well-informed and have the greatest chance of achieving their Kauai Real Estate goals. You can email me at kristinedugan@hawaiilife.com or via phone at (808) 435-4464.

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August 26, 2023

So if you purchase a leasehold, and eventually the lease is up, then you have to come up with a whole purchase price again?

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