The process of buying a house/farm was a total whirlwind - once we started looking at houses, we had put an offer on the one we wanted within just a couple weeks! Which I know sounds crazy considering some people look for months (and even years) for the perfect place. But for us, we knew exactly what we wanted, and when we found it we knew we had to jump on it. Our main criteria when looking at properties were:
- A fee simple property-- there are two main types of property one can buy in Hawaii - fee simple and leasehold. A fee simple property is what most people would consider to be a "normal" property - where you own the house and the land and you can sell it/will it/give it to whomever you want. A leasehold property is bought and sold the same way as regular property, but the land is technically owned by the state and is leased to the buyer (normally in 30ish year increments). Also the lessor maintains some control over the uses of the property ect. - so you are not quite as free to make changes. The benefit of a leasehold is that it is much cheaper than a fee simple. But the bureaucratic annoyances of a leasehold can be so frustrating that the cost savings wasn't worth it to us.
- 5-20 acres
- prime coffee growing elevation (1400-2500ft) and great soil
- ideally no coffee already planted - better to do it right from the start than inherit the previous owner's sub-par (and likely over priced) coffee orchard
- A nice house with 2-3 bedrooms and 2+ bathrooms
- A guest house for Mike to live in or plenty of space in the budget to build a place for him.
- An area for chickens and goats.
- A lot of native trees and plants - ideally fruit trees and macadamia nut trees
After researching properties with Patti (our Realtor) and George (our coffee consultant), there were really only three farms fitting our criteria currently on the market. We were prepared (and expecting) to maybe not buy any of the three and just wait for something else to pop up because three places is just not much when buying something as important as a house! However, there was one place we loved from the listing and we wanted to seriously consider it. So we flew Mike out to Hawaii to look at the properties with us, do soil testing, and really consider each property for its farming potential.
The day we looked at houses (February 15th), felt a lot like being on House Hunters! As it turned out, we looked at three homes, discussed the pros and cons of each, and then put in an offer on one of those three that day. I always thought House Hunters was super fake (and it is) - but the House Hunters method worked for us, so who knows?
House #1 - Hilltop Ranch
The first farm we saw, and the one we ended up picking, is a 20 acre property in Holualoa. It has no coffee planted, but great soil and is at a perfect coffee growing elevation. It has some fruit trees, is off the grid (with solar power and water catchment), came with an awesome chicken set-up, great barn, ATV and riding mower, and a beautiful house! This house had literally every.single.thing. we needed and most of the things we wanted.
Also, Patti and George pulled us a ton of comps and this house was priced very reasonably compared to the rest of the market. Additionally, being 20 acres, this property allows us to start with a few acres of coffee and expand to more later.The only thing that is missing from this property is a house for Mike. However, because it is a 20 acre property and is zoned for agricultural use, we are allowed to build another dwelling. So we are planning to build yurt a for Mike very soon! More on that in a future post...
House #2 - Disheveled Dwelling
The second property we saw is 13 acres and about 1000 ft. lower in elevation than the first property. It is also in Holualoa and also at coffee growing elevation with good soil. Additionally, this property has a guest home. That's where the good things about this place ended. It was so junky and in complete disrepair! You cannot tell from the outside of the home that well, but on the listing there were no pictures of the inside of the house - a red flag for sure!
The guest home even had a tree growing through the wall!
The other crazy thing about this second property was that it is priced exactly the same as the first property! Not only is it seven fewer acres than the first property, but it is so disheveled. Going to this property made us so confident about how much we liked the first property - especially for the cost.
House #3 - Vanilla Vacation Home
The third property we considered was a small five acre farm right near the beach. This property was not a coffee farm but a working vanilla bean farm that, based on our calculations, could bring in just under six figures a year!
The home was beautiful, it had a pool and was very nicely landscaped.
There is also a big space on the lot to build a vacation rental/guest home. The home was in a gated community, which is always nice (although not really all that necessary in this area of Hawaii).
This property is beautiful and very reasonably priced (especially considering its proximity to the beach!). It is priced lower than houses 1 and 2 and has built-in income already. The problem with this property, for us, was that the elevation is far too low to allow us to grow coffee, which is really what we want. Additionally, it just doesn't have the space to accommodate a place for Mike, a garden, chickens etc.
Putting in an Offer
The Friday that we saw all of the places, we went back to our hotel in Kona (we had flown over from Maui and were staying a few days), and worked on our offer with Patti. The whole thing felt unbelievably easy (although having taken Real Estate Law helped a lot with that)! House #1 is just so perfect for us that there was not a doubt in any of our minds that it was the place we were meant to live. That night Doug, Mike and I went to eat at Kona Brewing and had some celebratory beers.
The next couple days we had a little back and forth with the sellers, but by Sunday we were under contract on our farm!