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So You Want To Buy A Coffee Farm In Hawaii?

Usually if someone comes to me wanting to buy a coffee farm or macadamia nut farm in Hawaii, I refer them to a colleague located closer to where most of the farms would be. But lots of ocean view homes on acreage that otherwise compete with properties I list and sell have a bit of coffee or other crops, so for the second time this year, I found myself looking at coffee beans on the tree and enjoying a cup fresh from the farm.

coffee plants, ohia trees and ocean views

Three elements often found together on Hawaii Island: coffee trees, ʻohia trees, and panoramic ocean views.

Why Are So Many Coffee Farms “Leasehold” Instead Of Fee Simple?

As explained in several articles here on the website, some large landowners in Hawaii only offer long term leases on their land rather than selling the parcels outright. With approximately 70% of the agricultural land in the Kona coffee belt belonging to the trust Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, if you are looking specifically for a coffee farm, you will likely be looking at some KSBE leaseholds.

Your lease requires the property to be in agricultural production and may have other terms and restrictions. For example, one listing on the market includes a 2,638 sq ft ocean view residence on 19.5 acres of leasehold land, but only 11.5 acres are planted in coffee. Thatʻs because in addition to the acre or so containing the residence and farm buildings, there is a conservation easement for ʻohia forest on the land.

Leasehold opportunity: Ocean view home, over 3,000 coffee trees, a label recommended by the most popular Big Island guidebook, only $600,000 (MLS 620682)

While the residences on some leasehold coffee farms qualify as the proverbial “coffee shack,” some compete in quality with those in a residential gated community on the Kona or Kohala Coast. In other words, knowledgeable owners have no reservations about investing serious capital in improvements to a leasehold property. But because you are not paying for the underlying land value, you can acquire these homes at a significant discount to an equivalent fee simple property.

Pool at Luxury Coffee Farm

Ocean and mountain view, custom 4 bed/4 bath home with swimming pool and hot tub, 3,000 coffee trees, asking only $1,295,000 (MLS 620864)

Multiple Streams Of Income: Kona Coffee & Bed-and-Breakfast

If you are looking for an income property with more than one revenue stream, the coffee farm that also has a bed-and-breakfast license is a rare commodity. Remember, Hawaii County passed a bill restricting short term vacation rentals that will make it more difficult for you to offer overnight accommodations on ag-zoned property. Right now hosted rentals are excluded, but will almost certainly be regulated in the near future. Thatʻs why an existing B&B permit, which will transfer with the property to a new owner, has added value.

So how does this combination sound: 6 acres planted in coffee under the Lyman Coffee Farm label, a licensed bed-and-breakfast, and a separate main residence? This is a fee simple property and has the potential to generate even more revenue with an investment to make the accommodations attractive to a more upscale market.

coffee drying

The more steps of coffee production done in-house, the higher the profit. Farm coffee and run a B&B too! (MLS 625016)

I am currently a little over-caffeinated after a week touring coffee farms, but give me a few days to recover, and Iʻd be happy to show you some of the options.

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John Medeiros

November 30, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Beth, John & Marty

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