At the beginning of the year, Brett and I started looking into home-buying options on Kaua’i. We had no plans to buy right away, but wanted to be better educated about what’s available and be ready to buy if something suitable came along. We had already decided that a condo would be our best option as houses here are unaffordable: the current median home price on Kaua’i is $985K 😱! We also aren’t interested in all the maintenance, yard work, etc. that comes with owning a home here. A couple of weeks ago there were only four single family-homes on the island in our price range but two were already contingent, all were very small, one needed a lot of work, and three were in a location that doesn’t work for us. There were also issues here with the few available condos in our price range as well (fee simple versus leasehold, for example). We’re definitely not keen on living in a building with tourists coming and going most of the time, but purely residential condos are few and far between and expensive. A condo we considered purchasing five years ago now costs $100K+ more than it did then. The massive elephant in the room with any condo purchase here is always the HOA fee. While there are some that are less, the usual HOA fee on Kaua’i is over $800/month and climbs rapidly from there, and can often double any mortgage payment.
While our current income is more than adequate to allow us to do many things, live comfortably, and save, if Brett dies before me I will lose close to 2/3 of that amount – his military retirement will go away (although I will retain health insurance and all other benefits) as will my Social Security (I would receive his higher amount instead). Unless there’s a miracle, my student loans will continue and I will be paying those until I am 83 years old. A big factor for us in any home purchase therefore is keeping our mortgage payment (including any HOA fees) at an affordable level so I will be OK financially if something should happen to Brett.
Both Brett and I are veterans and qualify for a VA loan, with no money required for a downpayment, and no mortgage insurance required. However, we can see that our best bet going forward will be to start with as large a down payment as possible to reduce the monthly payment. So, after much thought and number crunching we gave ourselves a deadline of early 2023 and decided that between now and then we would save, save, save as much as possible toward a down payment. We would continue to save for travel, but adjust those plans to fit a smaller amount of savings and tighter budget.
We also know that housing prices on Kaua’i are going to continue to rise – it’s frightening how much they’ve gone up since we left two years ago – and HOA fees are only going to go up as well. What if even with a downpayment we can’t meet our price goal? Can we accept having to rent versus owning with those costs going up as well? We love living here for many reasons, but should we honestly reconsider moving back to the mainland? And if so, where would that be?
The discussions over this are ongoing. For the past few weeks the pros and cons of staying in Hawaii or possibly moving back to the mainland have dominated our conversations, and there has been no good answers. Our three daughters all live back east now and will be staying there. Meiling is currently in NYC, but wants to eventually move to Boston, to be closer to WenYu who lives in the area. YaYu currently attends college in eastern Pennsylvania, and has said she is planning to stay back east as well if possible (it will depend on where she goes to grad school). When we spoke with Meiling and WenYu last week they both said they would be thrilled if we lived closer to them. They know we are are happy here and love living on Kaua’i, but at the same time now admit that they wish we were closer to them, especially as we age and as they move closer to raising their own families. We miss them terribly – celebrating Christmas from a distance really drove that home – and wish we could get together with our girls more often. We recently looked at pictures of houses back east though, most currently covered with snow, and Brett and I both said, “I don’t think we can do this . . . ” (or want to).
What we know now is only that we will have to make a decision one way or the other one of these days. In the meantime we are going to stick with our deadline of early 2023, and continue to save as much as possible and then see where that takes us in the real world.