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Big Island real estate is booming despite volcanic activity


HAWAII ISLAND(KHON2) — There are currently two active volcanoes erupting on the Big Island, but realtors said that is not deterring interested buyers. In fact, realtors said some people find the volcanoes alluring in addition to the affordable prices.

In 2018, Kilauea erupted in the middle of the residential neighborhood of Leilani Estates in Puna on the Big Island. The flow destroyed 700 homes and changed the landscape of the area forever.

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A home in Kapoho near what used to be called Green Lake, was spared. The lava completely surrounded it.

Two years after that happened, long time Puna resident Amadeo Markoff, bought it.

“The opportunity came for us to purchase a home that was nicer than what we had been living in. And I took it,” Markoff said.

“There is the chance for another eruption in the area. But, you know, the way lava tends to work, it doesn’t flow over the exact same footprint. So by my way of thinking, it’s probably a safer place than most,” he added.

Real estate agent Jared Gates sold the house to Markoff. He said there were multiple offers, and it was only on the market for a month.

“It was viewed as special. Right,” Gates said. “So there are those that want to be close and kind of on the edge of the magic that is Pele over here.”

He said the volcanoes and rawness of nature are alluring for some.

Kealohanui Browning, a realtor for Hawaii Life, said most people are not scared off by Pele.

“I think a lot of people that are planning to purchase on the Big Island, they’re aware that we have active volcanoes,” explained Browning.

And as realtors, she said, they’re required to disclose the potential impact of an eruption to buyers.

Every part of the island is broken down into lava zones.

“Leilani [Estates] is in lava zone one; whereas, Hamakua is in lava zone eight. Eight is a much safer zone to purchase in than lava zone one or two,” Browning said.

But, one of the main reasons people are drawn to the Big Isalnd properties is the price.

According to Hawaii Association of Realtor’s data, the median sales price of a single family home on Oahu in October 2022 was $1,050,000. The median price on the Big Island is half of that at $505,000.

“It’s still affordable,” Gates said. “There’s neighborhoods where you can come and buy a brand new three bedroom, two bathroom home on an acre of land for $500,000 or under.”

According to Gates, real estate sales increased about 40 percent since the pandemic with a lot of mainland retirees and locals who live on neighbor islands purchasing property.

He said the Mauna Loa eruption did not impact the market at all.

“The changes in the market are mostly driven by changing interest rates and those kind of trends,” Gates explained.

His advice for anyone interested in buying on the Big Island: do your homework.

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“I really advise folks to come here first to come, travel, spend some time, boots on the ground, really explore the neighborhoods and get a sense of of what it means because there’s a reason it’s affordable, aside from the lava zones,” Gates said. “There’s also a different kind of lifestyle here.”

Gates said buying a Big Island home, without going there in person, is not a good idea.


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