By Sarah Ruppenthal
Jennifer Edwards and Eric Littlejohn’s sales office has a distinctly homey feel. And that’s because it is a home. The two work out of one of the fully furnished condominiums at the oceanfront Montage Kapalua Bay resort, one of a handful of luxury resorts on Maui that is composed of both hotel suites and residential units. And yes, living in a five-star hotel is as luxe as it sounds: Owners get the same perks as guests, including round-the-clock concierge service, daily housekeeping, in-room dining, and valet parking. With years of experience under their belts, Jennifer and Eric understand the nuances of Maui’s luxury real estate market. Here, they offer some expert tips to help buyers and sellers stay informed.
Is it a good time to buy or to sell—or both?
Eric: We believe it’s both: a good time to buy or to sell. The numbers show that 2019 was another strong year for sales on Maui. We have seen a very robust market here at Montage Kapalua Bay over the past four years, with sales volume and sales transactions continuing to increase. As we wind down the developer sales, we’ve started to see the resale market pick up this past year, with residences showing a really strong price appreciation from their original purchase price to the sold price.
What should buyers from beyond Hawai‘i’s shores know before purchasing a home on Maui?
Eric: Hawai‘i is a “good funds” state. That means all funds must be received by escrow no later than two business days prior to recordation and closing. Buyers should also know if a property is fee simple or leasehold [Hawai‘i is one of a few places in the United States that has leasehold land]. And we definitely recommend working with a seasoned on-island real estate agent.
Jennifer: Understanding our market is also really important. Sometimes you don’t appreciate or fully understand the value of what you’re purchasing until you see what else is out there.
Apart from the obvious—all of the services and amenities—what do buyers find most appealing about owning a home in a resort community like Montage Kapalua Bay?
Jennifer: For most of our buyers, this is a second home where the whole family can gather during the holidays or throughout the year. It also appeals to buyers who no longer want to maintain a big house and who like the lock-and-leave lifestyle—when they’re not here, they don’t have to worry about it. Our owners can leave knowing their home is in good hands and there’s always an extra set of eyes on it.
What nuggets of wisdom do you have for sellers?
Eric: Sellers need to be familiar with HARPTA [the Hawai‘i Real Property Tax Act] and FIRPTA [Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act] withholdings for non-Hawai‘i residents or non-U.S. citizens. And staging a home is very important for our sellers. Buyers are extremely visual and need to be able to see themselves living there. A furnished home shows so much better.
When it comes to desirable home features, what tends to be on a buyer’s “must-have” list these days?
Eric: Indoor-outdoor living spaces. An open kitchen that flows to the outdoor lānai. And smart-home technology. We’ve seen owners install Control4 [home automation] systems so they can control the air-conditioning, lighting, TV, and music with the touch of a button.
Jennifer: Yes, a lot of our owners are making those electronic upgrades. If you don’t have it, maybe you’re not missing it… but once you get a taste of it, it becomes a must-have.
Clearly, you enjoy your jobs. What is most rewarding?
Jennifer: Here at Montage Kapalua Bay, it’s not so much about the bricks and mortar—it’s about families spending time together and making memories. We get to help them make those memories. That’s the greatest reward for us.
Interested in the latest market data for Maui? The Realtors Association of Maui publishes monthly real estate market reports at RAMaui.com/Consumers/Market-Statistics.