Aloha on this football Sunday! I wanted to take a quick moment to make sure you’re aware of three great online resources if you’re researching a house or condo to buy in Hawaii. Buying a house can be a big decision, whether it’s to be a primary residence, secondary residence or an investment property to generate passive income. No matter the type, there’s a lot of research and overall legwork that goes into it before signing on the bottom line. These sites should be part of every buyer’s and investor’s homework:
Real Property Assessment and Tax Billing Information
Each county in Hawaii has its own site that lets you look up a property by the address or the Parcel ID (TMK). What do you get? Just some basic information like owner, year built, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of both the house and the parcel (sqft), most recent tax assessed value, tax bill and more. Useful? You bet.
You’ve likely heard of Zillow already, both good and bad things. At Zillow.com, you can enter an address and get some of the same stats of the tax websites above. You can also get what’s called the “Zestimate”, a computer algorithm-generated assessment of the current value of a property. A word of caution: this estimate is often wildly incorrect. While it can at times give you a rough starting guide as to the value of a property, especially if you’re just starting to research it, don’t assume it’s precise. As an algorithm-derived value, it doesn’t — and can’t — account for factors such as condition and local intangibles.
So why even bother using Zillow? For me, it’s the spatial data. I like maps. As a former geographer (yup), my brain just picks up on all the rich data that can be gleaned from maps that you just can’t get from spreadsheets and listing tables. On Zillow, you can center a map on your target property and plot all the houses for sale and that have recently sold in the general area.
Why is this useful? Well, one example is if there are a lot of houses for sale within a square mile, then you may be able to get a better deal on a property since the seller has to compete with the other sellers for your business. However, it also might say something about that neighborhood – ask yourself why everyone’s leaving. Conversely, if a lot of properties have sold, then either prices have dropped to fuel the buying activity or there’s something great about the area that’s attracting new residents or investors. It’s up to you to answer the questions properly, but without the map you can’t even begin to formulate the questions. That’s the power of spatial data!
The Honolulu Land Information System by the DPP is a GIS. A what? A GIS – geographic information system. Yup, I’m back at it with maps. Well, not really. You can dig some good zoning and parcel information in the Interactive Map Selector (although I find it a bit slow to load). But for me, I just like the easy Report Generator in the bottom right. Plug in an address or TMK and get some quick and easy data on the property. While some of this is redundant with the data on the tax assessment sites, you’ll find info on school districts and zoning and flood categories that you won’t get elsewhere.
So there are a few sites to help you out if you’re doing your own research. Are there other sites out there that also provide lots of great real estate data? Absolutely! If you have others or your own favorites, please share them below!
And finally, today marks the tenth year since the events of 9/11. There are certainly no shortage of remembrances today online, on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers, so at the risk of being redundant I will keep my thoughts brief. The events of that day and the days that followed are indelibly marked in the hearts and minds of all Americans. While we may at times behave like a divided and fractured nation — Republic vs. Democrat, secular vs. religious, liberal vs. conservative — we have also shown the world our resolve to be United in times of turmoil, as befits our country’s name. While it always seems ironic to me, I don’t recall ever feeling more support, pride and love of America both from me and from all Americans than I sensed in those days. Few things bring people together more strongly than a higher and greater purpose, a common objective — or, in this case, a common enemy.
None of us will probably ever know the true stories behind the attacks. Conspiracies and ideas will continue to flourish in the tabloids and cable TV, but we will likely never know what really happened that day or the days leading up to the events. Nor will we be privy to information of the likely countless other attacks that have been attempted since but kept out of the public eye for our own safety. Those details are kept behind closed doors and, if it protects us further, then I’m ok with that.
We have a strong military presence in Hawaii and while we may at times feel distant from our elected representatives in the White House and Washington DC and from our fellow countrymen in general, one only needs to speak with a locally stationed serviceman or servicewoman or to drive by Pearl Harbor to be reminded that we are indeed one of the 50 states of The United States of America. What happened on 9/11, while far away from us on the map, still hit close to home. And so here in Hawaii, the 50th state, we remember those who died, those who fought and those, both military and non-military, who continue to fight for our safety, freedom and liberty everyday.