What Are Homes Like in Hawaii?

Hawaii homes are as unique as the island state is itself. From our moderate year round temperatures to our high cost of living and our humble cultural roots, these factors all play a part in making Hawaii homes special.

Hawaii Home with green grass lawn

Most of the State’s population base is here on Oahu, also called the gathering place. We see a variety of things that make Hawaii homes different from mainland homes. Though you will find every type of home that you see on the mainland, I thought I’d help put together a few things you will find with Hawaii homes, reasons why living in the islands is unique and what to expect when you start looking to buy a Hawaii home.

History of Housing Development On Oahu

To fully understand why Oahu homes are the way they are, you first have to understand a little bit about Hawaii’s history.

Hawaii officially became a state in 1959. In doing so, Hawaii became a safe place to invest and Oahu experienced a significant boom in housing development following statehood in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In fact, during that time, there were 14,000 new housing units (homes and condos) created each year on average. Compare that to today, where we have around 4,000 new housing units created each year, that’s quite a boom time!

View from a Gold Coast Condo on Oahu

Oahu was also developed from Waikiki and Honolulu outward, so the further out from the city center you go, generally speaking, the newer the homes will get. Add into the fact that we are an island with limited land, our lots tend to be smaller and the high cost of living here in Hawaii means most people don’t tear down their homes and rebuild new. They renovate or add on to existing homes. That brings us to the uniqueness you will find in many Hawaii homes.

How Are Hawaiian Homes Different From Mainland Homes?

Hawaiian architecture nowadays is generally defined by an eclectic mix of western and Asian elements. This coalition has resulted in distinct features that set its residences apart from those on the mainland.

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Older Hawaii Homes Used Single-Wall Design

Many of the older homes in Hawaii are single-walled. Though this type of home is not allowed to be built now, single-wall houses were the most frequent in Hawaii development until the mid-1970s.

Because of Hawaii’s climate (moderate temperatures all year round), single-wall construction became the home of choice. This is due to its cost effectiveness - with our warm moderate temperatures, you don’t need wall insulation to keep out the cold or extreme heat. I know, it sounds a bit strange coming from standard double wall construction. Here, homes naturally heat and cool with Hawaii’s weather.

Hawaiian Living Room

Since Hawaii has a high cost of living, most people don’t tear down the older homes but renovate them or add on instead. A lot of the inventory of homes that were built during the 1960’s and 1970’s boom time are still around and you will see them in the marketplace for sale.

Exterior walls of single-wall dwellings are composed of redwood tongue and groove boards. To build the wall, these boards are vertically connected and these walls serve as both the external and internal surfaces of the house after they are built.

A single wall home's electrical wiring is routed on the inside surface of the walls and concealed by wood molding trim. These homes tended to use sugar cane ceilings which insulate the heat trapped in the roof.

Furthermore, many single-wall dwellings were not constructed on concrete slabs but rather on stilts above ground level, called post and pier. The windows were normally jalousie louver type, which, when fully opened, delivered 100% ventilation and lend itself to a house that breaths.

Hawaii Building Materials Are Different From Mainland Materials

Most of the materials used for building homes on the mainland have to be shipped across the pacific, which adds to the cost of building here in Hawaii.

Until the recent addition of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, building products were significantly more expensive due to our remote location. That has changed recently but it still has meant that it is uncommon for homes to be torn down or built from scratch. You are more likely to see a renovated property on the market than get a brand new home, except for in our luxury neighborhoods.

Some of the building materials unique to older Hawaiian homes include:

Jalousie Windows

Due to their ventilation, jalousie windows have been popular in Hawaii for the longest time. These windows provide optimum ventilation at an inexpensive price, thanks to the trade winds and pleasant climate our islands have to offer. Because of the wood's inherent resistance to rain, residents originally built these windows entirely of wood, and the blades had to be changed routinely.

Bedroom with Jalousie Windows

Modern jalousie window slats are rarely made of wood instead of glass or vinyl, which require less frequent replacement. As opposed to glass hanging and sliding glass windows, Jalousie windows are simple to maintain, inexpensive to repair, and provide excellent ventilation.

Canec

Canec (sometimes called caneboard, pinboard, or softboard) is a low-density fibreboard panel manufactured from sugar cane fibers. It was simple to use, lightweight, and long-lasting. It is regarded as a sustainable building material because of its low environmental impact. It can be left unfinished or painted.

Redwood

Redwood is a high-end construction material that is surprisingly inexpensive. A special chemical within its pores makes it resistant to the elements, insects, and decomposition. Redwood will survive significantly longer than any other wood variant when exposed to the outdoors. It's suitable for practically any outdoor use, but one may also use it indoors.

Hawaii Homes Offer Simpler Living

With Hawaii homes, larger isn't necessarily better. While having more space in your home may be the norm on the mainland, there's a case to be made for the Islands' humble homes and the comfort they bring.

We live in an island state, which means we are limited in land. So our homes can only be so big to begin with and our smaller lot sizes will restrict how big our homes can be. Hawaiian property sizes are usually smaller than what you'd see on the mainland and the older homes were built in the 750-1500 sq ft range. This compels you to live with less, thereby simplifying your life.

Hawaiian Home

With Hawaii homes being smaller in size on average than mainland homes, this naturally means the room sizes are smaller, so if you are planning on bringing your bulky mainland furniture with you, you may want to think twice about that. Not only are our homes and rooms smaller but the type of furniture you have for the climate you live in on the mainland will be different, so your furniture may not fit here and it may appear out of place from a certain style or material if it does fit. Believe it or not, I have actually had people trying to buy a home to fit their furniture.

One of the nice things about living in smaller spaces is that you collect and store less stuff. The limited space forces you to keep only what is truly important and you end up not spending as much on lots of little nicnacs that you rarely use.

Hawaii Homes Integrate The Outdoors

Because Hawaii's weather is amazing, with cool island breezes and moderate temperatures all year round, and because our homes are smaller to begin with, we embrace the outdoors and outdoor living. What better way to enjoy Hawaii than to carry your home and lifestyle from your living room directly to the outdoors where you can sit and relax with family and entertain while enjoying majestic views, warm weather and swaying palm trees.

Hawaiian Home Lanai

Since Hawaii has such nice weather all year, builders and homeowners can blend design features with interior and exterior spaces. Although interior space may be limited, locals can make their lānai (Hawaiian for porch or veranda) an additional room or living space.

On the mainland, a lānai is solely used as an outside place; however, in the Islands, the combination of interior décor with these external "rooms" complements the pure air and sunshine of Hawai'i. We often will see large sliding glass doors that “pocket” into the side wall that carry your interior space directly to a large outdoor living space. This allows for homes to not only feel larger but it brings the outdoor elements indoors. Large open sliders help bring light and island breezes indoors. We also see this in the abundance of windows that are often left open 24/7 and with passthrough windows in kitchens to an outdoor entertaining space that helps connect the kitchen to the outdoors. I’ve even seen master bathrooms that have a door to an enclosed outdoor shower for true indoor-outdoor living.

Hawaii Homes Are In Hawaii!

The most obvious yet significant benefit of having a property in Hawaii is being able to call the islands home. When you relocate to Hawaii, you'll have the option of living on one of six major populated islands: the Big Island, Oahu, Lanai, Maui, Kauai, and Molokai. Whichever you choose, you'll have easy access to explore the personality of each Island via regular inter-island flights.

Hawaii Surfing

We all know that Hawaii is a watersports paradise, with many activities centered on the water. These include:

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is, without a doubt, the most popular water sport among tourists visiting Hawai'i. It's a healthy, energetic, and thrilling way to get up and personal with the underwater environment, and you don't have to be an expert to attempt it as long as the conditions are calm.

Surfing

All Hawaiian islands have a surf culture and numerous surf breaks. Every year, millions of people go to Waikiki Beach with the hopes of becoming the first person to stand up on a surfboard.

Scuba diving

You can spot tropical fish, turtles, octopus, dolphins, sharks, and other marine life while scuba diving Hawaii's reefs. However, don't anticipate seeing the same vibrant coral as you would in the Caribbean or Southeast Asia reefs. Hawaiian reefs are often dark brown and light beige in tone, with primarily subdued colors, even when they are thriving.

Kayaking

Kayaking is a popular pastime due to its ease of access and low cost. They are generally inexpensive to rent and only require basic skills to operate. Kayaking around Hawai'i is a fantastic way to see the sights. There's always a fantastic mix of shallow reefs, serene water, rollicking waves, and off-shore islands to see.

How Much Do Homes Cost In Hawaii?

Hawaii has long been an attractive option of residence. But it's unlikely that this yearning has ever been more acute as it is now. Midway into 2020 up to the first half of 2021, luxury sales volume in Hawaii increased at a breakneck speed. The coronavirus pandemic made people realize that they can more easily work remotely. They also discovered that if they must return to the workplace, they are only a five-and-a-half-hour plane flight away from paradise.

Find Your Hawaii Home

There are so many benefits of moving to Hawaii, but finding the perfect home might be challenging. Browse through HiEstates listings to discover the right home at the right budget for you. When you are ready to discuss your Oahu real estate needs, contact Scott Startsman…

1725 Properties
Page 1 of 144
$725,000
Condo: Waikiki Windsor
2
Beds
2
Baths
941
Sq.Ft.
1986
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301402
MLS
Situated in the beginning of Waikiki we have the Windsor. Tucked away from the busy streets and traffic but within walking distance to the beach, restaurants and the mall. Across the way you can find...
Open 1/29
2333 Kapiolani Boulevard #408 Honolulu,  HI 96826
2
Beds
2
Baths
930
Sq.Ft.
1971
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301265
MLS
MARCO POLO - 2020 Building of the Year Award! This well priced, spacious 2bed/2bath/ 1pkg, corner end unit with a large wraparound lanai where you can enjoy peaceful treetop, Ala Wai park and canal...
Open 1/29
95-969 Ukuwai Street #3407 Mililani,  HI 96789
$718,000
Condo: Nohona II @Mililani Mauka 3
3
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
1,195
Sq.Ft.
2007
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301454
MLS
Don't miss out on this rare opportunity to own in highly desiarble "Nohona II at Mililani Mauka. This newer built 3/2.5 split-level ground floor unit is well maintained and move in ready with all the...
Open 1/29
91-1001 Keaunui Drive #154 Ewa Beach,  HI 96706
$855,000
Neighborhood: Ewa Gen Laulani-Tides
4
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
1,344
Sq.Ft.
2011
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301478
MLS
Welcome home to your cozy desirable CUL-DE-SAC corner home! This 4 bedroom, 3 bath home has a lot of 4,032 sq ft., twice as large as most of the homes in the Laulani-Tides! It is one of the few homes...
$529,000
Neighborhood: Makaha
3
Beds
2
Baths
1,508
Sq.Ft.
1959
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301496
MLS
PRICED TO SELL FAST...MAKE OFFERS SUBJECT TO INSPECTION. LARGE LOT WITH GREAT POTENTIAL FOR THE RIGHTR INVESTOR. MANY NEW HOMES AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THIS AREA.

AGENTS PLEASE READ SHOWING...
$718,000
Condo: Makakilo Hale 1
4
Beds
2
Baths
1,335
Sq.Ft.
1974
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301492
MLS
Freshly Interior painting. Corner end unit, large fenced backyard off dining room and kitchen. Spacious floor plan with 4th bedroom and a full bath on the ground floor. Pretty laminate flooring...
Open 1/29
98-1694 Apala Loop Aiea,  HI 96701
$1,100,000
Neighborhood: Newtown
3
Beds
2
Baths
1,632
Sq.Ft.
1973
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301156
MLS
Open House this Sunday, 1/29/23, 2-5pm. This SINGLE level 1632 sqft 3 bedroom 2 bath home with NO stairs sits on a 6008 sqft level lot in highly desirable Newtown Estates with easy access to the...
$1,475,000
Neighborhood: Kapalama
11
Beds
6F11/2
Baths
3,572
Sq.Ft.
1973
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301521
MLS
HUGE HOUSE LOCATED IN PRIME LOCATION IN KALIHI, BLOCK AWAY TO RAIL TRANSIT, 6 BEDROOMS, 3 FULL BATH UPSTAIRS WITH MASTER BEDROOM, 5 BEDROOMS, 3.5 BATH DOWNSTAIRS WITH MASTER BEDROOM. CLOSE TO BANK,...
Open 1/29
95-991 Makaunulau Street Mililani,  HI 96789
$1,150,000
Neighborhood: Mililani Area
5
Beds
3F11/2
Baths
2,026
Sq.Ft.
1983
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301357
MLS
Come and see all Mililani has to offer in this 5 bed/ 3.5 bath home close to 16 Acres Park and 3 homes away from Kaomaaiku Neighborhood Park with its very own skate park. With over 2000 sqft of...
$7,775,000
Neighborhood: Portlock
3
Beds
3F11/2
Baths
3,362
Sq.Ft.
1958
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301224
MLS
PHOTOS COMING SOON! Rarely will you find a home that evokes quintessential Hawaiian living at its finest. This charming single level oceanfront home is located on a large lot in the prestigious...
$2,085,000
Neighborhood: Kalaheo Hillside
6
Beds
4
Baths
3,855
Sq.Ft.
1979
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301511
MLS
HIDDEN GEM! This unique custom built home offers over 3,800 sqft of living with an option for multi-family living. The upstairs living area includes 3 bedrooms and 2 baths with sweeping views of...
Open 1/29
98-1277 Neki Street Aiea,  HI 96701
$1,100,000
Neighborhood: Aiea Heights
3
Beds
1F11/2
Baths
1,281
Sq.Ft.
1964
Year Built
2
Days on Site
202301451
MLS
FIRST OPEN HOUSE 1/29/2023! Amazing ocean, city, mountain & Pearl Harbor Views in Aiea Heights! Single family home with 3-bedroom. 1.5-bath. Minutes from Pearlridge Shopping Center, Aloha Stadium,...

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