More than just a real estate magazine for 16 years

 Serving all of Maui's Real Estate Community

By Wayne Smith

 What is the status of the Maui real estate market? What is the price of a condo in Kaanapali? What is the best deal on a beach front home, or upcountry estate? What real estate office has the listings that are most appealing? Or what is the distinction between Hawaii's leasehold and fee simple properties?

 For fifteen years Maui residents and visitors alike have turned to Real Estate Maui Style for answers to these and similar questions .

 The magazine has been through shifts and changes, along with the economy and real estate markets of Maui. There have been good times when the publication swelled to 100 pages and bad times when it contracted to half that size. But, throughout its history, Real Estate Maui Style (REMS) has been Maui's leading source for information about buying, owning and living on Maui.

 Volume 1, Number 1 of the magazine appeared on January 1, 1984. Originally planned as a semi-monthly, it quickly became clear help would be needed. The amount of time it took to put out a quality magazine, even on a monthly basis, according to Foster Hull, who started it and served as its "chief cook and bottle washer" was enormous.

 "Maui real estate was just beginning its ascent to international resort status when we began to publish," says Foster. "AMFAC's Kaanapali project was complete and becoming very popular on the world travel scene and it was clear that Maui was going to become a vacation and winter seasonal home for people from the more frigid regions of the mainland" he adds.

 Boom and bust has been the norm in this paradise. Before the '70s Waikiki was the dominate Hawaii vacation destination. But when AMFAC developed Kaanapali, everything changed and Maui became a popular destination resort community. In the late '70s and '80s much of the condo development on the island was driven by Canadian buyers who, with a very favorable exchange rate, saw Maui as the perfect respite from their harsh winters. Later the influx of Japanese buyers, flush with trade dollars, discovered Maui and became the driving force behind the boom of the late '80s and early '90s. Now Californians and travelers from other mainland states, armed with cash from the stock market, seem to be leading the way into a new boom era for the island.

 The editorial content of early issues of Real Estate Maui Style focused on articles about real estate topics such as explaining fee simple ownership vs leasehold properties; changes in State laws related to property ownership; and many of the issues that the contemporary REMS covers today.

 After about three months of doing the magazine largely on his own, it became clear to Foster that he needed help. He needed an investor and Jim Gallagher, a Chicagoan who spends winters in sunny Maui, joined the team and has been a mainstay ever since. Wayne Gordon, Sales Manager also joined the team to inspire and build the advertising base. Later, in the late-'80s, current publisher and editor Leil Koch joined the ownership team.  The influx of new capital and leadership made it possible for the magazine to carve out its niche with Maui residents and visiting readers who had an interest in all aspects of real estate.

 Looking back at issues from the past fifteen years in five year increments reveals an overview of developments and trends in Maui's real estate community.

 1984 A New Era on Maui

 Issue #1 carried several predictions about Maui's growth and many have come true. "Maui has been discovered," said the article. "We've reached the  point of no return," it continued, predicting that the permanent population, then at about 70,000, would reach 120,000 by 2000. The number now hovers around the 115,000 mark in all of Maui county. In the decade of the '70s condominiums were the rage both in West and South Maui. Kihei was just beginning to move onto the scene with new condos and resorts. One bedroom units at Kapalua's Bay Villas were listed at $197,500 (this issue has the units listed in the $325,00 to $500,000 range). Similarly, top of the tower units at The Whaler were pegged at $395,000 and today sell in the $695,000 to $1 million bracket.

 According to another article chronicling the ups and downs of Maui real estate between 1974 and '84, the last decade's booms and busts are nothing new. It reports value increases in the 500% range in the first high demand era between 1974 and '79 and nearly equal decreases in the high-interest-rate era of the early '80s. Upcountry was just a farming region which was yet to be discovered by new residents to our island paradise.

 The cartoons of Dirk Reith enlivened the pages with humor about the joys of life on Maui compared to the Mainland. One final thing about this era: there was an ad for The Polo Beach Club, then way out by itself at the south end of Wailea, with the major selling point being "financing below market interest rate at 12%."

 1989 The Japanese Era

 By 1989 the impact of Japanese buyers on Maui was obvious and REMS was perfectly in step with the times. REMS and many savvy Realtors' ads used phrases in the language of the Japanese visitors who were finding Maui's natural attributes and prices irresistible. While much of Maui's real estate had been sold as leasehold property (condo or home structures are owned, but the land on which they sit is owned by a developer, corporattion or individual and leased for a specific number of years) new laws started a trend toward fee simple ownership and was becoming more prevalent. Prices were in a constant state of flux because of high demand and relatively low availability to meet the public's desire to own their piece of Paradise. Prices seemed to be changing monthly and moving mostly upwards. It was a sellers market with multiple bids on the more desirable properties.

 1994 Big Development Era

 When the Japanese economy began to falter in the mid '90s Maui and all of Hawaii entered a real estate bust period.  Prices tumbled and inventory of properties for sale began to accumulate. From the early '90s two big new developments began to impact Maui's landscape and real estate inventory.

 Wailea, in South Maui, was in full bloom with its hotel row growing to include the grand Grand Wailea Resort (originally the Hyatt), Four Seasons, Renaissance (formerly Stouffer's) and Intercontinental (subsequently the Aston and now the Outrigger). With it's many condo villas clustered in the beautiful natural coastal setting and high-end homes lining the fairways of its golf courses, Wailea was becoming a focal destination in its own right.

 At the north end of West Maui, Kapalua was reaching it's maturity as a contemporary planned community development providing exclusive villas, homes and hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton and Kapalua Bay Hotel. In between these two developments which serve as high-end bookends for the island's leeward side development, Maui was experiencing a slow down, caused in part by the mainland's struggling economy and Japan's severe economic woes and a large inventory of unsold property. Prices were stagnant at best and Maui had become a buyer's market.

 REMS produced and began marketing Maui­–A Place in Paradise, a video tour of Maui designed for visitors who need more information about the many communities and distinct regions of the island. (See the business reply card in this magazine for more details.)

 1999 Possible New Boom Beginning

 Most Maui Realtors are cheering 1998 as a banner year for real estate sales. Many had record years in sales and are celebrating this as a major indicator of the health and vitality of the real estate market. The Maui Board of Realtors released aggregate figures showing double digit increases in unit sales and dollar volume for single family homes and condominiums. According to the Board, both single family homes and condominium unit sales increased by 19%.

 Of equal importance to the perceived health of the island's economy and real estate market is the upward swing in average prices registered by both single family homes and condominiums. Again the two were closely linked with single family homes increasing 8% from $352,772 in 1997 to $379,780 last year and condominiums going up 9% from $211,609 to $231,246.

 Latest numbers from the Maui Board of Realtors indicate a healthy inventory of property for sale on the island. At the end of '98 there are 688 single family homes and 1,283 condos (942 fee simple and 341 leasehold) listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service. Both of these numbers are down significantly from this time last year, indicating a sizable reduction in the number of housing units for sale on Maui, according to Terry Tolman, executive officer of the Maui Board.

Many cautiously see this upward trend in sales and prices continuing and see the potential for a new boom period for Maui real estate. The island's ultra-high end properties (over $5 million) are moving extremely well; and many savvy investors, recognizing that the Maui market has bottomed-out and is turning upward, are buying multiple homes and condos.

What the future holds for Maui real estate is not absolutely clear. One thing is certain however, Real Estate Maui Style will be here supporting all areas of the real estate-related industry with quality advertising and editorially covering the range of issues affecting real estate ownership and living on Maui. In it's fifteen years of serving this diverse community it has truly become "more than just a real estate magazine."


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