How to Buy a House in Hawaii: A Homebuyer’s Guide

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Edited byAshley Jacobs

Updated: October 21, 2023

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The median price of a home in Hawaii is approximately $908,490. This is an increase of 14.8% from the previous year.

In fact, Hawaii real estate is nearly three times more expensive than the $357,589 national average, making it one of the most expensive places to purchase a home.

Furthermore, Hawaii's average home price growth over the past year was higher than that of the country as a whole.

MoneyGeek walks you through the process of negotiating and handling the down payment process, mortgage approval process and home inspection if you're searching for the cheapest places to buy a house in Hawaii.


Choose an Ideal Location

The location of a property is often a top priority when people are looking to buy a house. Your property and mortgage costs will vary greatly depending on the location you pick.

Culture, cost of living, proximity to conveniences and leisure options all impact the overall appeal of a particular location. These also impact the overall cost of homes in that area.

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Finding a home in Hawaii might be difficult if you don't know where to look. A real estate agent can show you houses, help you come up with a competitive offer, represent your interests during negotiations and handle the financial aspects of the transaction. Finding the perfect house within your budget and timeline can be much easier with the assistance of a buyer's agent who is trustworthy and familiar with the local market.

When searching for a real estate agent, you can use the following guidelines as a starting point:

  • Look to your friends and family for advice
  • Review the agent’s references
  • Get in touch with your top choices for an interview
  • Evaluate how communicative they are
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The amount of money required to maintain one's current standard of living in a given location is known as the "cost of living." The cost of living in Hawaii varies widely from one region to the next.

Consider the following costs while making your decision about where you want to live:

  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Health
  • Entertainment
  • Taxes
  • Transportation
  • Education

You can use our cost of living calculator to estimate how much an average family may need to live in Hawaii each month.

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The best place to buy a house in Hawaii depends on your needs and preferences. Homebuyers looking to make the most of their finances in Hawaii may wish to live in more affordable communities. Hilo, Waianae and Kailua are just a few examples of cities with reasonably priced housing options.

While it's true that relocating to the suburbs might help you save money, you may find yourself further away from essential services like hospitals, schools and retail areas. The cost of city living might be higher, but it can be justified by the advantages of being near more resources.

Calculate Mortgage Rates

Numerous variables, including the mortgage lender, your credit score, income, interest rates, loan type, terms, loan amount and more, all contribute to the overall mortgage cost.

As you evaluate various mortgages, you'll want to choose one that meets your requirements without breaking the bank.

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Mortgage interest rates vary from one mortgage loan product to the next. Those with lower credit ratings are more likely to be granted higher interest rates. Factors that might affect your interest rate include your credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio and length of employment. However, certain loans have maximum income requirements, such as the USDA loan.

Here are some typical average interest rates for various 30-year Hawaii mortgages:

Keep in mind certain loans have prerequisites. For instance, only service members and veterans are eligible for VA loans.

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You might end up saving money in the long run by calculating your estimated mortgage. Since you can customize the estimate to your situation, this can help you determine how much it costs to buy a property in Hawaii.

You can also use MoneyGeek's FHA vs. conventional loan calculator if you're unsure of which loan type is best for you. We go into a number of suggestions that might aid in determining the best type of loan for your needs.

To ensure you are obtaining the best value for money, you should also look into how rates differ between lenders in Hawaii. Remember that interest rates only make up a portion of the picture, and you should consider other fees that may be part of your loan.

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Depending on the borrower's financial profile, term durations and rates might differ greatly. Lenders frequently take into account a number of the following factors before accepting a loan.

These include your:

  • Credit score: Although not all loan types require a credit score, lenders typically favor customers with a good credit standing.
  • Income: The size of your paycheck usually indicates your ability to repay a mortgage.
  • Down payment: If you can afford a larger down payment, your lender will likely offer you a lower interest rate.
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI): Your DTI ratio reveals how much of your income is spent on debt payments.

If your mortgage application isn’t approved, you might try to make it stronger in these areas.

Prepare Down Payment Requirements

You might be worried about saving enough money for a down payment on your first house. Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment. However, this can vary greatly based on the kind of mortgage and the overall cost of the loan.

Keep in mind that your down payment can impact the total cost of your loan.

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The type of mortgage you choose will determine how much of a down payment you will need to make. It is common for borrowers to put 20% down when applying for a traditional loan. Borrowers who qualify for a USDA or VA loan don't have to worry about a down payment, while a 3.5% down payment is required for an FHA loan.

Once you know the types of loans for which you are eligible, you may calculate your down payment percentage. Your monthly payments will also be affected by the amount you put down. The more you put down, the less you have to pay each month toward your mortgage.

Knowing the total upfront will give you a good estimate of how much money you will need to save every month.

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Getting mortgage insurance might increase your loan's chances of approval because it lowers the lender's risk. Homebuyers putting down less than 20% of the purchase price generally need private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is typically required on FHA and USDA loans as well. Depending on your loan type, there are conditions you must fulfill in order to qualify for mortgages with zero down payment.

Mortgage insurance is not required for VA loans, which is a great perk. However, you may need to pay a VA guarantee.

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There are a number of down payment aid programs in Hawaii that may be accessible to first-time and low-income homebuyers. These include:

  • Down Payment Assistance Loan Program: In order to help people with low to moderate incomes buy a home in Hawaii, the Hawaii HomeOwnership Center (HHOC) created a Down Payment Assistance Loan Program. Borrowers who qualify can put 3% down on a property and avoid paying mortgage insurance.
  • Deferred Closing Cost Loan: If you're a first-time buyer in Hawaii, you can get a Deferred Closing Cost Loan. Borrowers who qualify can get a $10,000 interest-free, payment-free loan for 15 years. However, your yearly household income must not be more than 120% of the median income in your county.

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval is the next step after selecting a lender. With pre-approval, you may talk to the lender about their payment terms for your financial profile.

Note that pre-approval differs from prequalification. Prequalification does not include a hard credit check, but a pre-approval often does. Pre-approval often gives your offer more credibility than prequalification since it is a more trustworthy indication of your capacity to pay.

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In order to move forward with the loan approval process, lenders normally need your financial and personal information. Depending on the kind of mortgage, you may also be requested to provide supporting documents to show your eligibility. Find out what is required from your lender so you can quickly compile the necessary paperwork. If you don’t have a specific document, you may also ask about substitutes.

Expect the following requests from the lender:

  • Pay stubs
  • W-2 forms over the past two years
  • Signed federal tax return from the previous two years
  • Two bank statements
  • A valid ID, such as a driver's license
  • Social Security number
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Time is essential at the pre-approval stage. By obtaining the required mortgage paperwork, you can simplify the approval process. Pre-approval requests can be processed in as little as 24 hours or as long as 10 days.

Since the pre-approval letter from your lender typically lasts for 30 to 90 days, you'll need to apply for another one if it expires. You can also check if there's any way to improve your mortgage terms if you'd like to get more favorable terms.

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You can find out how much money you can borrow from a lender by getting a pre-approval letter. It also demonstrates that you're a serious homebuyer with the resources necessary to obtain a mortgage. There are no limits on the number of pre-approval letters you can obtain, but lenders run hard credit checks that may lower your credit score. As a result, it’s a good idea to time your application so that you can use it before the expiration date is up.

Typically, pre-approval letters contain the following information:

  • Loan type
  • Duration of loan
  • Loan amount
  • Interest rate
  • Expiration date of pre-approval letter

Conduct a Home Inspection

A home inspection gives a buyer a chance to learn about any serious issues with a house before closing. You should determine as quickly as possible whether the house has any severe structural or safety concerns so you can determine whether it needs repairs.

A house inspection is typically paid for by the buyer of the property.

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It's preferable to consult with a certified inspector to make sure you receive a detailed examination of your property and ensure that it’s in good condition. When choosing an inspector, you can seek referrals from family or friends and/or check with any state or licensing organizations.

Some areas of your home to inspect include:

  • Foundation
  • Roof
  • Exteriors
  • Light switches and power outlets
  • HVAC systems and thermostats
  • Water system
  • Floors and windows
  • Doors and windows
  • Stairs and railings
  • Walkways and driveways
  • Garages, basements and attics
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According to Hawaii law, a seller may only sell Hawaii residential real estate once the seller has signed and dated a disclosure statement, which would include any flaws with the home's main appliances, bathtubs, ceilings, building's foundation, plumbing, heating system and other significant fixtures. This must take place no later than ten calendar days (or six months) prior to the buyer's acceptance of a Hawaii real estate contract.

Home disclosures are legal records that must be filed in Hawaii. They primarily serve to shield the buyer from a dishonest transaction. However, they also defend the seller against future legal actions. It is less likely that a house buyer would feel that a major issue was not properly revealed if the disclosure is done in an appropriate manner.

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When acquiring a property in Hawaii, a home appraisal is a crucial step. Based on the property's size, location, market value at the time and other factors, an expert will place a monetary value on it. This can provide the lender with more information about how much money they're willing to loan a borrower.

The lender normally makes the request to have the appraisal conducted since it largely protects the lender's interests. Depending on a property's size, condition and degree of detail required, an appraisal's cost may vary. However, it often costs a few hundred dollars.

Close Your Mortgage Loan

You can close your mortgage loan after carefully reading the loan conditions. When buying a property, keep in mind that there are closing charges. These expenses include the amounts you pay the lender for the credit report, the cost of the appraisal and other charges.

In addition, you may have to pay other parties for services like pest inspection and legal fees.

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Examine the accompanying documents carefully, then sign them if you accept the loan's terms. Check the loan terms to make sure they line up with what you agreed to before you sign anything.

Inform your lender of any mistakes you believe to be made, and clarify any points you are unclear on. For particular forms, like the deed of trust, the notary public must verify your signature.

You could be required to sign the following documents:

  • Your closing disclosure, which outlines the loan's conditions
  • A mortgage promissory note, which binds you to the debt's repayment
  • The deed, which formally conveys ownership of the property to you
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A few days before your closing meeting, your lender will provide you a paper called the Closing Disclosure. This will outline all closing expenses as well as your loan information.

Usually, the following costs may be included:

  • Appraisal fee: Pays for a licensed appraiser to examine a property and estimate its market value.
  • Fees for tax service providers: A fee assessed and collected by a lender to ensure that borrowers pay their property taxes on schedule.
  • Fees for title insurance: You are protected against the possibility that someone else may have a claim to your house by title insurance coverage.
  • Homeowners insurance fees: Owners are protected from liability resulting from particular incidents on the property as well as damage to their houses and personal items if they have homeowners insurance.
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Even though buying a property might be stressful, understanding the requirements can help you in the process. Once you've chosen the best place to buy a house in Hawaii, you can begin the next stages that we have outlined.

Don't forget to double-check your paperwork and keep track of any mortgage-related deadlines. To prevent missing deadlines, think about setting up automated payments or setting up recurring reminders. You can always speak with your realtor if you have any further inquiries about the paperwork you need.

As a new homeowner, don't forget to save money for maintenance and repair fees and other costs that might come up.

Hawaii Homebuying Details

Due to the high cost of real estate, living in Hawaii might be cost-prohibitive. However, Hawaii offers a lot of assistance to first-time home purchasers. You can opt to attend workshops to learn about buying a home, receive counseling and assistance or take advantage of both of these types of support. Additionally, you could be eligible for financial aid depending on your income level.


In Hawaii, it's mandatory for a real estate attorney to be involved in every property sale. Although your agent may provide suggestions, keep in mind that you have the final say. Before selecting a lawyer, ask about their experience to be sure they have the knowledge you seek.


For homeowners on Oahu affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is offering mortgage and utility help as well as housing and legal advice.


To help first-time homeowners in Hawaii be successful, the Hawaii HomeOwnership Center offers free education and information. It offers free workshops, HHOC programs and support services for those in need.

Frequently Asked Questions About Buying a Home in Hawaii

Buying a home can be a confusing and complicated process. MoneyGeek addresses some common inquiries related to how to buy a house in Hawaii to help you in your homebuying journey.

Purchasing a house is a significant life event. Before you start, it's crucial to ask yourself a few practical and financial questions. Consider asking yourself:

  • What’s the best location based on your needs and budget?
  • What mortgages do you qualify for?
  • How much of a down payment can you afford?
  • Do you qualify for any zero-down-payment loans?

If you have the money, buying a home in Hawaii might be a good choice because of its rising property prices. You may check your credit score and loan terms to see if you're prepared.

It depends on your financial situation. Housing prices have been rising, so if you have the money to buy a house, it could be a good time to buy. However, you never know what the housing market will do, so move forward with any purchase carefully.

Mortgage lenders in Hawaii normally need a 20% down payment on the property price. However, certain types of loans will accept a smaller down payment.

The property tax rate in Hawaii varies depending on the county and home value.

Some of the most affordable places to live in Hawaii include Hilo, Waianae, Kailua and Kahului.