Kauai Realtor Diaries
Photo-Illustration: Lined; Photos: Getty Images
In this bi-weekly series,Realtor Logs“, hear us people in the center of a wilder market than ever. Today’s hour-by-hour insight into the working world of a seasoned broker in Kauai, Hawaii.
9 a.m. There is a six hour time difference between Hawaii and New York. If you’re a highly motivated real estate agent here, you wake up early to work with East Coast clientele and then your California clientele. But then… there’s me. I get up at nine, slowly drink coffee, and head to my home office. The best thing about real estate is that you’re on your own clock. Things were absolutely crazy during COVID and now they’re slow, but I always have at least six to 12 trusted third parties at a time. People think real estate agents get paid a lot for doing a little – and sometimes that’s true. Other times it’s like, Are you kidding me with all this work?
10:30 a.m. All of them settled in my home office. My house is quite simple. It’s located on a one-mile street in the mountains, ten minutes from the beach, and the area is extremely mishmash. There are pastures around, someone living in a bus, a family living in a yurt, a 3 million dollar house on a hill, a few horses in a field and my very bourgeois house, where I live with my wife. I am firmly rooted in the middle class. I’m not a celebrity realtor, although I work with a lot of them. I sell multi-million dollar homes to wealthy families and starter homes to locals, and everything in between. The common denominator for all of us who work here in real estate is the work ethic. I’m not beautiful. I don’t have an amazing number. I am not charismatic. I am not logged in. But I go to work every day and I work hard. I moved here in the 80s with $200 in my pocket. My wife and I said we would stay until the money ran out. Then I got into real estate.
10:45 a.m. I drink some of my home brewed black tea (which no one but me will drink because it contains so much caffeine) and prepare some for my conclusion. I represent the seller. She challenged all the way. Refuse almost everything. It was a bit frustrating, but today at closing everything made sense to me. She finally said, “You know, this house was our family dream, and our life has changed, and I’m just having a hard time letting go.” All I could do was say, “Of course you are.” It’s emotional. Hawaii is an emotional place.
12 p.m. Every day, at noon sharp, I have lunch. Today I get lunch from a Jamaican jerk truck and eat it in my truck. This is my second office, my truck. This is honestly where it all happens.
A note on trucks. With all the tech money moving here, the most noticeable thing that has changed is the vehicles you see in Kauai. They are much nicer now. They’re all Teslas and huge pickup trucks. They all have California plates, maybe Texas ones. There must be a lot of overcompensation – because these are big vans.
1 p.m. I’m checking the waves at my favorite beach, Intersections – it’s tempting, but the tide is bad, so move on. I always have my surfboard with me in my truck, so I can participate when the situation allows. I’m pivoting and going to buy a “Rolinda” and “Tamarind” fruit tree from a stand since I don’t have any yet.
2 p.m. Today I have to pay a neighbor for a minor encroachment situation just to keep a deal on track and keep anyone from getting upset. It’s all legal, but it’s also crazy. My boss always says, “We don’t sell houses, we deal with people’s emotions. I did everything under the sun to save a case – bought fridges, built stone walls at the 11th hour – just to make sure everyone and everything was okay.
3 p.m. I’m happy to get an offer on one of my ads just now. Right now $5 million homes are selling and $2 million homes are selling, but the $4 million properties are just sticking around, and that’s a $4 million home . There’s no rhyme or reason as to why – real estate doesn’t always make sense. Anyway, this is our first offering, so that’s pretty cool. I’m not thrilled because it’s not a slam dunk. But any offer is a good offer. This one in particular just has a few issues – it depends on selling his house and a few other things.
4 p.m. I show some locals a few “affordable properties,” starting with a plain starter home with three bedrooms and a bathroom, and it needs a new roof — for $600,000. It’s not on the beach but you’re never far from a beach here.
The median price in Kauai is $2.3 million. It was $3.3 million for a while, but it dropped after COVID I guess. At the high end, there are two homes for sale for $17.5 million right now — they’ll likely go to the techs. One is nearly an oceanfront acre in sunny Poipu and is rentable for vacations. The other is an 11,000 square foot monster home on an ocean bluff over an acre (it’s been for sale for years). One is 5,000 square feet on eight acres and not even on the ocean, which means it’s extremely expensive. Then there’s also a $79 million plot of land, which sits on 1,000 acres of wild, woolly headland and yet there isn’t a single beach. I would buy it anyway.
5 p.m.. Get an interesting email regarding a fence I have in a few weeks – I represent buyers. It’s in a valley in Hanapepe. One whole side is a rocky cliff. This is the land that time has forgotten. You wait for a dinosaur to pass through the garden. The owner just sent some notes. It turns out he has the most amazing collection of exotic and rare apple trees. Sweetsop, soursop – I mean everything grows here, but this property has the most amazing fruit trees! I sold the house to a local family who had dreamed of living here on this particular property for years and finally succeeded. It’s a great feeling.
6 p.m. Coming home after my screenings, I think about the fact that Kauai is a real microcosm. We have homeless people and we have Mark Zuckerberg. And when it comes to Zuckerberg, there’s definitely some tension surrounding all of his purchases. You will constantly hear people say “it’s not fair” or “my family is from here and we should live there”. And, of course, I understand. But I also understand that he is an easy target. My theory is that, while I disagree with much of what he stands for, I would rather him live there than many other possibilities. At one time, his property was supposed to be a housing estate. Or, it could be another golf course. Or a gargantuan hotel. I’d rather he live there with his “intentions to do good” than any of those options! He also buys other amazing large plots to add to his portfolio, with the eye for conservation – I mean, that’s what they all say, ‘conservation’ – but maybe it’s genuine . I mean, why would he poop in his own garden? The resort he and his wife built is nice, but it’s not crazy. It’s not even on my favorite beach, personally. that of Larsen. There is no surfing. They added a lot of infrastructure. I think he wants to make it more of a hangout for his crew – a nice place to relax, get inspired, and strategize. Kauai is a very inspirational and healing place. He just bought another 962 acres, so… What can you do? If you don’t like it, you still have to accept it. It is reality.
There are always rumors about him. Someone told me recently that she heard he was almost eaten by a shark. I’m not sure about that. Personally, I doubt his security department would allow it. He has a crew of people on Jet Skis every time he goes out in the water, from what I hear. He’s not going to the ocean to clear his mind on his own.
6:30 p.m. I have a call with a customer from California from my truck. They want to know if people will like them here, if they will make friends. I tell him: it’s a question of assimilation. You must assimilate into the culture of the host. You have to take the time to get to know people. You must give back. There’s something called the Hawaii Foundation – they help rich people do philanthropy. I suggest my client start talking to them.
7 p.m. I feed my horses. As I do, I laugh a little thinking about one of my wealthy clients. He and his wife have no children and their cats were their life. I sold him a property here, and when they moved he chartered a jet to bring all his cats. I’m talking about a $70,000 private plane to move in with her cats. It also added a chat room with its own surgical suite. And now they bring in their favorite vet to see the cats when there’s a problem. But anyway, I remember they had the same strategy I mentioned before to get accepted – when they moved here, they went straight to human society and said, “ What can we do to help? What’s on your wishlist? »
8 p.m. My wife comes home from work. We ride our horses. We are preparing dinner.
10 p.m. I’m a night owl and like to work at night, so after dinner I go back to my office to catch up on my emails and work on my marketing. A business contact emails me and asks if I heard of a $45 million property a tech billionaire was trying to buy — she thinks it’s from Uber. She said he was desperately trying to buy the house, at all costs, but the seller was not giving up. She’s just curious if I know the scoop. I reply that I think she’s talking about what used to be called the Faye House which once belonged to Julia Roberts, but honestly, I’m not sure. The houses and transactions that take place in this area are never officially on the market. It’s very underground. It’s not really my scene. I know I used to fish for bass on Jonathan Ive’s property from Apple, and I once helped Pierce Brosnan buy property without knowing who he was. I can find anything I want on this island with just one phone call, so I write, “Give me an hour!”