Real Estate Matters

MAUI, HAWAII — The mainland might be freezing, but it’s another beautiful day in Paradise. The only trouble is, if you want to live here, you’ve only got two choices: Win a huge lottery pot, or be content in a tent on the beach.

It’s always expensive to live on an island because you have to ship everything in except fresh fish and bamboo. But as home prices rose an average of 30 percent over the past five years in the other 49 states, prices in Hawaii seem to have skyrocketed at a New York rate.

Take a look at what’s on the market right now. Fred Haywood Realty ( has a 3.7 acre vacant lot overlooking the ocean for $299,000. Want something with water or utilities on it? Try 2 acres for $380,000. Want something with a single-family house? A custom-built home with a pool might set you back $1.7 million. For $2.7 million, you can get 12 acres with waterfalls and an ocean view.

But if you actually want to live on the ocean, expect to start spending some real money. In Wailea, oceanfront property goes for more than a million dollars an acre. If you want to build a house on the ocean, prices start around $6 million.

Landmark Maui Properties ( offers a 1 bedroom, 2-bath home of 2,000 square feet on two acres for $3.85 million. A vacant lot across the street from Makena beach is listed for $950,000. A 3-bedroom, 2-bath home on less than a quarter acre in Haiku is $649,000.

Of course, there are more expensive and less expensive areas on the island. Even here, on an island that’s less than 60 miles end to end, it’s all about location. But when you flip through the free sales brochures that are available on the door of every real estate agent in town, you get the feeling that living in paradise doesn’t come cheap.

If you want to own something here, but can’t quite afford the payments on a $4 million mortgage, the magical answer would be a timeshare. Which is how thousands of Americans get their piece of Maui sun once a year.

On Highway 30 past Lahaina, you can drive the Lower Honoapiilani Highway, past miles of condos built in the 1960s to a place where cranes are visible.

The cranes are orange and they’re in use building a new timeshare development from the Westin, called Ka’annnapali Ocean Resort Villas. You can spend $19,800 to $79,200 for a timeshare property ranging in size from 960 square feet, one-bedroom, one-bath villa to a two-bedroom, two-bath villa of approximately 1,750 square feet.

The resort includes swimming pools, lush, tropical landscaping, and, of course, access to the beach. If you take a 90-minute tour, Westin will give you $100 to use at the Westin Maui Resort for dining, shopping or spa services. But don’t show up if your household income isn’t at least $85,500, and the fine print on the brochure says you have to own a primary residence.

Or, there’s Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club, a timeshare property at the center of Ka’anapali Beach with a 3.5 acre pool with waterslides, waterfalls and a pirate ship for kids to play on.

Of course, timeshare sales can be a pressurized, emotional sale. Why be stressed out when you’re buying property? Several real estate agents on Maui offer free newsletters, email reports and guides to buying a smart home.

Tom Tezak (, who works for Coldwell Banker Island Properties, advertises his special report called “Maui Buyers: How to avoid paying too much.” Of course, on an island where one-bedroom condos go for a half million dollars that would seem to be next to impossible.

But somehow, somewhere, millions of visitors find a way to get here, and some even stay. Although there are maybe 50,000 visitors on Maui at any given time, condos and homes are being built all over the island for the hundreds who come and decide to stay.

So if youâ€ââ€Â¢re looking to “drop out� and move as far away from the mainland but still be near a Costco, Wal-Mart and Borderâ€ââ€Â¢s Bookstore, Maui might be the place. And if you canâ€ââ€Â¢t afford a $6 million house, donâ€ââ€Â¢t worry. You can rent a room in Paia, the surferâ€ââ€Â¢s hangout, for about $300 a month.

Just make sure you ask if the house has electricity before you sign the lease.