The Prince or The Pauper?


Brett and I have become interested in two condos that are currently available in a complex that’s a good choice for both location and price. Both units are the same size (2 BR, 2B, 1000 square feet), have the same floorplan, the same taxes, the same HOA fees. But that’s where the similarities end.

In order to tell them apart when we talk about them, we named the two units The Prince and The Pauper:

  • The Prince: This is an upstairs unit and has beautiful open-beam cathedral ceilings as well as a storage loft. The unit has been upgraded with porcelain tile floors in the living room and new carpet in the bedrooms, It has a fully-renovated kitchen with high-end finishes (tiled backsplash and granite countertops), new appliances and loads of cabinet space. Both bathrooms have been upgraded. Air conditioners are already installed, and the two lanais are screened-in. The lanais overlook a greenbelt and the complex swimming pool.
  • The Pauper: This is a downstairs unit that hasn’t had any upgrades in nearly 20 years and was probably used as a rental. There is older carpet throughout, the kitchen could use renovating but is useable, and the bathrooms need upgrading. The whole interior needs painting. The lanais are not enclosed, and are really just open concrete patios. They look out over a forested area.

The Prince is priced at $50,000 more than The Pauper.

If we bought The Prince all we would have to do is move in – everything is already done. The loft provides a bit more storage space, and there’s the nice views from the lanai. But, while it’s very attractive, many of the decorating choices are not ones we would make and we’re not sure how we would feel about them over time.

With The Pauper, there would be lots of work to do – like immediately replacing the carpet with tile and doing the painting, for example – but we could get things done the way we wanted versus living with someone else’s decorating choices (for example, we really don’t care for granite countertops). We could enclose the lanais. And, all the renovations/upgrades could be done for a whole lot less than $50,000. Our monthly mortgage payment would be much smaller. But, there’s no extra loft storage, and the unit doesn’t have those lovely open beam ceilings or as nice a view.

There is a third unit available, priced the same as The Prince, but it’s also on the ground floor and needing some work, so we probably won’t even consider it. 

The choice between The Prince and The Pauper almost makes us feel like we’re on an episode of Househunters. Brett and I go back and forth over which would be a better choice for us – one day it’s The Prince, the next it’s The Pauper. The girls love The Prince, but they’re not paying the mortgage nor will they be living there after a couple of years.

We have plans to visit the complex with our agent this weekend to check out the two competing units, and we’re hoping that actually seeing them will help us decide. Maybe we won’t like either of them!

What do you think?


17 thoughts on “The Prince or The Pauper?

  1. If I were in this situation, I might choose The Pauper because I spend a lot of time indoors and I would like to be surrounded by my own choices. However, I am not much on doing renos myself (time/skills) so I would have to factor in labour costs!


  2. The Pauper would be great if you have the time and the cash to renovate.
    Here are some ideas for the Prince: trade winds are easier to catch higher, view will be a sell point for VRBO, “new” will also sell VRBO better. A con could be the threat that the HOAs could go up?


  3. Without seeing them it’s tough to decide because from what I learned when I was house hunting a few years ago, sometimes places look better/worse than they do online. But from what you’re describing, I’d go with the Prince, mainly because I personally don’t like living on the first floor (can be noisy, less privacy). I also would rather move into a place that does not need renovation because I hate dealing with contractors. Maybe it’s different there, but where I am, just getting a contractor to show up is like pulling teeth and I just would rather avoid the aggravation, even if the place is not decorated to my taste. If you really hate it, you can always make some changes later, but at least you wouldn’t have to do it right away. It sounds like the Prince has a nicer view which is important if you plan to spend a lot of time sitting outside. As someone else said, the Prince could be more attractive to VRBOs. Also, just because the kids aren’t paying and won’t be living there long, you shouldn’t discount their opinions. When I bought my house, my nephew who was only 9 at the time pointed some things out to me that I hadn’t noticed, so kids sometimes see things we don’t. For me, the decision would be easy–the Prince!


  4. Prince…we slowly came round to granite, and now really like it. (It looks clean even if you know you haven’t wiped counters down in a day or two!) Instead of worrying about renovating you can enjoy the view, your girls and work on your Japanese skills. VRBO or Home Away rentals will be a given with the upgrades and the view. (Providing there’s no prohibition in the condo rules on short term rentals.) Everyone will enjoy the view and the lanai…maybe the price is negotiable?

    The view, the view, the view along with the soaring ceiling…and finally never, ever underestimate the importance of extra storage. Although you could do the upgrades the pauper will never have 1) the view 2) soaring ceiling 3) extra storage nor with your future upgrades will it match the price point even then because see 1, 2 & 3…on the other hand until you have set foot in both units and done a feet on the ground comparison you just won’t know.

    Good luck! I am sure you will make the right decision for your family.


  5. Hmmm . . . I’m curious where you’re looking! I’m helping my son find a condo right now, and I feel your pain. I don’t want him making a bad investment, and I want it to be a nice area, but he is a 25 year old boy after all.

    I’ve heard that it’s very hard to get work done in Hawaii, because everyone is on island time. So even worse than a typical handyman or contractor. I think I’d choose the Prince too, simply to not have to deal with all that. It sounds very nice, and I’d rent it from you when you’re off on your nomadic adventures. 🙂


  6. Fixer uppers are not as much fun as seen on TV. We blew threw 30,000. budget and still have one bathroom not even touched. Everything took twice a long and twice as much and we did a lot of the work. Replace the granite it’s easy and move in to your Prince.


  7. Personally, for the long term value (and enjoyment) I think I’d go with the Prince. The extra storage space, more airy feel with the higher ceilings, and better views are things you would never be able to achieve with the Pauper, regardless of how much you put into upgrading it. Plus, looking at resale value – or even rental value should you want to rent or trade while you are traveling – the Prince is a better deal. $50K over 30 years isn’t that much more… plus there might be room for negotiation.

    One thing you haven’t mentioned, though, is if you are looking at units now, what will you do about your current lease? Didn’t you just sign a new one? Can you get out of it since your landlord is selling? I’m also curious if the new condos are close to your kids’ school or if they will have to change.


  8. Are you and your husband good at do it yourself or do you plan to hire contractors? Are you going to finance the upgrades or pay as you go? Are you willing to live in a construction zone for months or years at a time. Ask for copies of the electric bill if you will be responsible for utilities especially as the unit has a/c? Are the combined mortgage , utilities and hoa fees and the $50,000 difference in price going to cause any kind of hardship? Will your taxes and insurance costs be part of the mortgage or will they be obtained separately? If possible, speak to other unit owners both upstairs and down. Ask them if they would do anything differently. How do the tradewinds affect both units? If you go the do it yourself route, visit a couple of home improvement stores and get prices on flooring, appliances, curtains etc. You can also contact a contractor and try to get an estimate both time and money. Always add at least 20% more in terms of money and time . When I built my house , I was told it would be completed in 3 months.. It took 5 month.
    Aesthetically, you always speak of the view from your rental apartment so you might want to look for upper floor units.
    Personally, if I could afford it, I would go for the “Prince”.
    Good luck.


  9. If you do think you can renovate the Pauper for less than the extra needed to buy the Prince (including putting a price on your time and nerves during the renovation) then I think I’d go for that. One other point to perhaps consider is a slightly more long-term one that I know other friends of mine who have retired have thought about when moving to their “last” home. And that is stairs. I assume there might be a lift to the upper floor condo but still, they can sometimes break. You’re both very fit now but would you, at 90 say, still fancy trekking up the stairs or would you prefer to just walk straight in? Just something to think about. I know the neighbour who lives underneath me (so third floor) is 87 or so and still goes out, i.e. up and down the stairs, every day. But since I have heard other recent retirees wondering about this point, I thought I’d add it.


  10. Prince. Renovations take a bit longer on a small island. You seem to like what they did to the place. Fresh and done nicely. You also don’t have a history with contractors or lifelong friends there to ask references. And you have likely don’t little and big projects to the many places you lived in before. Also when you tear something out you may find an unintentional budget buster.

    I think the neighbors would be the thing to make or break the deal.


  11. I think the Pauper could be gotten for a lot less. Depending on what renovations you are making, $50,000 could get eaten up more quickly. I’d choose the Prince strictly because we don’t have the energy nor the inclination to do renovations. But, you guys are still young and vigorous! I’d need the cathedral ceilings for sure. We’ve never lived in a regular ceiling place since 1988.


  12. If there is no elevator, I would go for the Pauper as a good condo for aging in place. Otherwise, I have no idea …


  13. Hawaii is an island. Everything has to be imported. Do you have any idea how that escalates the prices of remodeling components? Have you ever walked through Home Depot or Lowe’s on the island and checked out their prices? You may be in for a shock. And we all know how remodeling goes when we do it ourselves? Something always goes wrong or we make a discovery that something is not right and we have to hire a contractor to correct it. You may find out in the end the $50K you think you are saving will cost you a whole lot more in the long run.


  14. I agree with all of the Prince comments. You didn’t move/retire to an island to slave away doing a remodel! Even with air conditioning. You will know what is right when you see the places in person. Photos don’t always do a place justice. You are so organized with your timeline, I am sure you will make a well-thought out decision.


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