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Is This Wealthy Neighborhood The Beverly Hills Of Honolulu?



A beautiful beach scene in the Kahala area of Honolulu, with fine white sand, shallow turquoise water, a view of coconut palm trees and Diamond Head in the background.

Much like Beverly Hills in Los Angeles or Tribeca in New York, the eastern Honolulu neighborhood of Kahala is famous for the affluence of its residents. Billionaires, celebrities and business moguls worldwide have gravitated to the oceanfront enclave, buying luxury mansions and a paradise where soft-sanded beaches and green expanses of the iconic Diamond Head meet the mighty waters of the Pacific.

Kahala’s ties to the rich and famous are nothing new— this stretch of premier land on the southern end of Oahu was originally owned by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and later by the Bishop Estate.

In the early 19th Century, residential developments began, and soon after, opulent estates were established along the beachfront. Since then, Kahala has been home to such notable residents as billionaire tobacco heiress Doris Duke, author and politician Clare Boothe Luce and Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar.

Architecture in Kahala

Although Kahala’s architecture is varied—styles and designs span across many eras and have multiple countries of origin—there are often common features that exemplify an ideal Hawai’i home, such as Dickey roofs and lanai porches.

Often, design characteristics are used to maximize breathtaking views and effortlessly transition from indoors to out. Floor-to-ceiling windows, flat yards with sparse landscaping or broad lanais are utilized to enhance and showcase Oahu’s natural landscapes.

Space is another luxury afforded to those living in this eastern neighborhood.

“On Oahu, a lot of the lots are small,” said Erik Hinshaw, a real estate broker for Hawai’i Life Real Estate. “But Kahala is an area of estate-sized lots—ten thousand plus is not unusual.”

Home prices in Kahala

Living in paradise is rarely cheap, and Kahala is no exception.

According to Hawai’i Life, the median price of homes sold in the last 12 months was approximately $2 million. For that price, prospective buyers can expect to find a smaller, single-family home or teardown.

Closer to the water, prices shoot up to the $5 million to $10 million range—along beachfront locations, homes can go for upwards of $20,000,000.

For those looking to develop a new property, one must consider not only price but also time.

“Developing on Oahu is tricky,” Hinshaw said. “Space is limited and there’s a lengthy permit process that can take years with public hearings and public comment.”

The price-time tradeoff has made pre-approved lots a hot item in luxury development circles. Beachfront properties such as this 58,205-square-foot, six-townhouse luxury development, which includes permits and plans, can command upwards of $25 million.

The Kahala vibe

“Kahala is part of Honolulu, which is the main urban center of Hawaii,” Hinshaw said. “But it’s also on the other side of Diamond Head, so it feels more remote. It’s more quiet and reserved, yet sophisticated.”

While Kahala is tailored to a tropical lifestyle—hiking, surfing, sunbathing and year-round golf options at internationally renowned golf resorts abound—the area also enjoys a big city atmosphere with boutique shopping, a bustling nightlife and a vibrant downtown arts scene.

For fine dining, Kahala Hotel & Resort is home to award-winning restaurant Plumeria Beach House where gourmet offerings come with an exclusive ocean view.

The schools in Kahala

Public schools in Kahala are operated by the Hawaii Department of Education, the only statewide public education system in the United States.

Children enrolled in public school attend Kahala Elementary. Located in Kahala proper, Kahala Elementary serves approximately 425 students, pre-K through fifth grade. In the 2018-2019 school year, students performed well above state averages according to the Strive HI Performance Report, with 72% of students meeting standards in language arts compared to 54% statewide, and 69% of students meeting standards in math (the statewide being 49%).

For high school, students may attend Kalani High School which serves about 1,400 students from many residential neighborhoods in East Honolulu, including Aina Haina and Maunalani Heights. On Strive HI testing, 73% of students were proficient in language arts compared to the statewide average of 59%.

Kahala is also home to Mary, Star of the Sea, a private Catholic school with students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Kahala’s surroundings

The morning commute for those working downtown is less than fifteen minutes west on I-H-1.

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is a twenty-minute drive away—an invaluable convenience for frequent travelers or anyone whose work takes them outside Honolulu.

To get to Kawela Bay on the opposite side of the Oahu takes an hour and a half via HI-99.

Hawai’i Life is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Real Estate

A Monument To Catalan Modernism Asks $5.9 Million In Barcelona



Palau de la Musica

The distinct architecture of Barcelona, with its curved shapes, floral motifs and ornamentation, is defined by its Catalan Modernism. The aesthetically pleasing style was a major force in the larger Modernisme movement, which also permeated art, theater and literature at the end of the 19th century.

This recently refurbished Modernist house is located in the area of Tibidabo Mountain, the tallest hill in Collserola Natural Park, an expansive green space within Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia.

Villa Paula, as it is known, was designed in 1912 by Spanish architect Jerome Granell Manresa. He is known for creating the stained-glass windows of Barcelona’s famed concert hall, Palau de la Música Catalana. Other examples of the stained-glass maker’s work can be found locally in the landmark Navàs House and the Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul.

Manresa’s use of sgraffito on stucco exteriors—to create contrasting color designs by scratching through the facade to reveal the layer below—remains in evidence on select residential buildings today.

The more than 8,200-square-foot home retains such original and restored Modernist features as the facade, the mosaic tilework, the high ceilings with moldings, the stained-glass windows and the Arabic-style roof crowned with green tiles. The four floors are accessed by a marble staircase and an elevator. The watchtower can serve as a guest house, an office or a studio.

The light-filled rooms have hardwood, marble or mosaic-tile floors, air-conditioning and in-floor heating. There are eight bedrooms, a conservatory, a home theater, a gym, a wine cellar and eight bathrooms.

The 10 acres of grounds contain gardens, terraces and mature trees. A gently curved staircase off the house leads to a terracotta veranda surrounding an infinity pool. A wooden deck below the pool level creates another outdoor lounging space. Views take in Barcelona and the coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. 

A two-car garage and a workshop complete the gated property.

Cristina Martinez of Immobiliaria Rimontgo is the listing agent for the estate, priced at approximately $5.93 million (EUR 4.95 million).

Villa Paula is located about five kilometers, or three miles, from Barcelona’s city center. International flights are available from Barcelona–El Prat Airport, about a 20-minute drive away.

Immobiliaria Rimontgo is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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Real Estate

Here’s Where Property Taxes Are The Highest And Lowest



Mansion in San Francisco

Buying a home is exciting, but it’s also a huge commitment. And one of the responsibilities of homeownership is paying real estate taxes. How much you will end up paying can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors — from how much your home is worth to where you live.

To illustrate just how much variance there is in the amount of property taxes people pay, LendingTree looked at the median amount of real estate taxes paid in each of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. In doing so, the online lending marketplace found that homeowners in some metros can expect to pay thousands of dollars more per year than homeowners in other parts of the country.

“Different county and state governments assess property value in different ways, which can contribute to why tax amounts vary so significantly across the country,” says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, explaining that individual areas also have different tax rates and offer different tax breaks to homeowners, which can also affect how much people are paying in real estate taxes.

Revenue generated from property taxes is generally used to fund local projects and services such as fire departments, law enforcement, local public recreation, education, street maintenance and sanitation.

The median real estate tax amount in Las Vegas — where homeowners pay the least in property taxes — is about $7,700 cheaper than in New York, where real estate taxes are highest.

Las Vegas and Birmingham, Alabama are the only two metros where median real estate taxes amount to less than $1,000 a year. The median property tax amount paid by homeowners is $696 in Las Vegas and $892 in Birmingham.

Besides New York, homeowners pay the most in property taxes in expensive cities like San Jose, California and San Francisco. The median amount paid is $8,400 in New York, $7,051 in San Jose and $6,181 in San Francisco.

“Despite these regional differences, how much homes are selling for in a given area is usually the most important factor in determining an individual home’s value, regardless of where you live,” says Kapfidze. “As a result, places where home prices are higher like New York and San Francisco are more likely to pay higher real estate taxes than other parts of the country, even adjusting for variations in tax rate or appraisal practices.”

Real estate taxes are an average of $641 lower on homes without mortgages. Because property taxes are based in large part on home value and homes without mortgages tend to be worth less than those with mortgages, it makes sense why this is the case. Nonetheless, real estate taxes on homes without a mortgage can still be pricey, especially in areas like Salt Lake City and Seattle.

“I think it’s fair to say that knowing how much you’ll pay in property taxes is about as important as knowing how much your mortgage payment will be,” says Kapfidze. “After all, both are things you have to pay in order to keep your home, and both can be significant expenses.”

Many lenders will roll your property taxes into your monthly mortgage payments, and then use that money to pay your tax bill for you when it’s due to the government.

“As a result, while you should always double check to be sure you’re paying what you owe in taxes, you might only need to keep track of one payment a month,” explains Kapfidze. “If you’ve paid off your mortgage, then you definitely have to keep a closer eye on property taxes as you’ll likely no longer be able to count on your lender to keep track of them for you.”

Here’s the LendingTree report, including the methodology, and full list of cities where real estate taxes are highest and lowest.

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Real Estate

How Digital Technology Changed The Face Of The Mortgage Industry



Focused man and woman using laptop, checking financial documents

The rise of digital technology ushered in a new era for the mortgage application process as borrowers took advantage of historically low interest rates and lenders embraced digital mortgages more than ever before.

A new survey on borrowing and lending by ICE Mortgage Technology finds that the pandemic has permanently changed the way consumers utilize technology, and those looking to buy or refinance a home are seeking lenders who offer online tools to complete their mortgage loans from home.

The overwhelming majority (90%) of lenders believe that technology can help improve the mortgage application process, citing benefits that include simplifying the entire process (74%), reducing time to close (70%) and minimizing data entry (67%).

“Last year brought our industry a perfect storm,” said Joe Tyrrell, president of ICE Mortgage Technology. “You not only had COVID, which required lenders to shift to virtual workforces, but you also had to continue to conduct business in a safe and socially distanced way with borrowers, all happening at the same time that we were experiencing a historical increase in loan volume.” 

He added, “This caused many lenders to re-evaluate their technology partners, how they were leveraging technology, the systems that they employed, and the tools that they relied on. We heard many stories from our lenders across the country that had to completely and permanently shift the way they served borrowers.”

According to the survey, the importance of lenders offering digital solutions such as online applications during the lending process increased for borrowers in 2020, with 58% saying it would likely affect their lender decision (up from 50% in 2018). While still important, the offering of a mobile app specifically was less likely to influence borrowers’ lender selection, with 47% saying availability of one would factor into their decision in 2020 (compared to 40% in 2018).

Homeowners who used an online application appreciated the simpler application process (55%), reduced time to close (53%) and resulted in fewer in-person interactions (49%).

Not surprisingly, decreased in-person interactions grew in importance in 2020, as just 37% of consumers in 2018 cited “no need to meet in person” as something they liked about their online application process. Whether they had been through the mortgage loan process or not, 64% of consumers surveyed believe that an online mortgage process would make buying a home or refinancing easier than an in-person process.

“From a borrower’s perspective, the pandemic has accelerated the demand for a consistent, digital first borrowing experience,” said Tyrrell. “Signing documents electronically is quickly becoming the minimum, and borrowers expect a seamless experience from start to finish. In 2020, many lenders cobbled together different solutions to meet borrower demands, but that often led to a more confusing, fragmented process. Covid highlighted the need for a single consistent digital experience for consumers.”

Currently, online applications and online portals are the digital tools most offered among lenders, with more than nine in 10 offering both options to borrowers (91%). Of lenders who offer online applications, 64% said more than half of all loan applications are submitted online, while 38% said more than 80% of their applications were completed online in 2020. However, traditional loan application methods may be more common at larger organizations. Half of large institutional lenders, or those with 200 or more employees, indicated that less than 50% of their loan applications were submitted online.

Borrower respondents who were offered online and/or mobile options by their lenders took advantage of those tools during the mortgage loan process. Sixty-one percent of borrowers used an online application in 2020, slightly up from 58% in 2018. Sixty-one percent also used an online portal for electronically signing and notarizing documents, compared to 56% in 2018.

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