Maui, Hawaii

Tag: condo

Monthly warning siren testing

Maui’s new warning sirens

If you’ve been here around the first of the month, you should be familiar with the monthly warning siren testing that takes place. Loud sirens sound at 11:45AM on the first day of every month. This checks that the sirens are operational and is meant to be a reminder to all that tsunamis can happen.

Starting tomorrow (Friday, December 1st) the State is adding an additional ‘wailing’ siren test to the monthly routine. This is called the attack warning siren and will sound in conjunction with the tsunami warning siren on the first day of every month at 11:45AM. I am told it will be a wailing tone that goes for about a minute. Click here for a sound sample as reported by MauiNow.

As an FYI, the tsunami siren test is a 45 second steady tone. During an actual tsunami warning, it goes for 3 minutes.

What should you do when you hear warning sirens?

If it’s the first of the month and at 11:45AM, it’s just a test. No further action needed.

These older warning sirens have for the most part been replaced.

If you hear these sirens at any other time, you need to take action. If it’s the tsunami siren, you need to head to higher ground immediately. It could be a locally triggered tsunami and you may have just a few minutes to get to safety. Tune in to radio or TV for further instructions. Depending on where the earthquake happened, we sometimes have up to 10 hours notice (no the sirens won’t go off that far in advance).

Locally triggered tsunamis? Yes, tsunamis are triggered by some earthquakes. While Hawaii is far removed from fault lines, we do have volcanic activity which causes earthquakes (generally they are rather small and I don’t recall experiencing a locally triggered tsunami in the past 7 years on island).

If it’s the attack warning siren, that indicates that a nuclear attack is imminent. Head indoors, close doors and windows and turn on radio or TV for further instructions for a pending emergency. Having said that, I assume you’d have to be find a local station?

Isn’t it crazy that things have deteriorated on the world stage that we need to plan for this?  The last time these attack sirens were tested was in the 1980s. Is the State expecting a nuclear attack? Politicians think it’s unlikely. And yet, State planners are running through scenarios so that they are prepared in case something were to happen. It’s good to have a plan. Hopefully we will never need to use it.

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Last minute opening at Palms at Wailea #503

Palms at Wailea #503 lanai
Your huge wrap-around lanai, the large lawn and an oceanview in the distance

We’ve had a cancellation at our lovely 2 bedroom 2 bathroom Palms at Wailea condo from November 8-19, 2017! We’d love to have you!

This fully remodeled ground floor condo is a 10 minute walk from Keawakapu beach. It is fully stocked with beach gear, linens and dishes and even includes a Vitamix for your tropical beverages of choice!

The discounted rate is $239/night, if you can stay 7 nights or longer, I’ll rent at $229/night. Rate is plus cleaning and tax! Book now and come to Maui for a last minute getaway!

Palms at Wailea #503
Welcome to our condo, Palms at Wailea #503, the spacious living and dining room

 

Palms at Wailea #503 bedroom ensuite
Master bedroom with master bath which includes laundry
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Coming in 2018…. an increase in the transient accommodations tax

I’ve had many a discussion with our kids about taxes and why one has to pay them. Yes, we all like to complain about taxes, but in truth, if noone paid tax, we’d have to find another way to fund the basics we all want to have taken care of for us.

Yes, even in paradise (or should I say especially in paradise) we pay our share of taxes. State lawmakers have been struggling to find a way to pay for Oahu’s light rail transit system especially since costs spiraled out of control. Yes, it turns out it has been a bit of a boondoggle. Opinions range from ‘shut the whole thing down’ to ‘raise taxes’ and various versions in between. After failing to deal with it in the spring legislative session, lawmakers came together in August for a special session specifically to deal with the light rail transit system.

Did I mention, this rail system is only on Oahu? Sigh. Oahu is smaller than Maui but with a population of over a million, and it is known for its traffic congestion. In fact, one of their highways is in parts 6 lanes across. I don’t begrudge them a transit solution. I guess I just wish our guests’ tax dollars went towards funding one of the many special projects we need done here on Maui instead.

The end result of the special session is an increase in the State’s transient accommodation tax (TAT) from 9.25% to 10.25% effective January 1, 2018. This is Hawaii’s version of a hotel tax and applies also to all vacation rentals. Just FYI, time shares pay a higher percentage still.

In addition to the TAT, you also pay general excise tax (GET) on everything purchased in Hawaii (all goods, services, and yes, also your vacation rental). The GET is 4.167%. So the new total tax goes from 13.417% to 14.417%.

How much will this really affect you? If your vacation rental is $1000/night, the added tax works out to $10.

In the overall scheme of things, it could be worse (lawmakers had been discussing increasing the TAT by 5 points instead of the 1 we got). I suppose we should be thankful.

So remember, should you make it to Oahu – go ride their light rail transit system! Once it’s finally completed, that is. Current estimated completion date is sometime in 2025. Maybe.

Can you avoid paying the tax?

All legal vacation rentals in Hawaii by law have to submit both taxes (the TAT and GET) to the government. By law they need to post their tax IDs on all their advertising (look for it). If you come across a landlord or property manager not charging the tax, be very careful. Chances are great this is a scam – an illegal rental (which could be shut down at any time) or a con-man trying to get your money. Wouldn’t that be an awful way to start your vacation – arriving on Maui with no place to stay!

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Four things that will make or break your vacation rental business

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since we dove head-first into the vacation rental business, buying four condos in five months. At the time we knew rather little about what we were doing. Sure we had been long-term rental landlords for years, so we knew about property management. But vacation rentals are a completely different ball game. There are many lessons learned in the past seven years.

We were fortunate to have several people guide us as we entered the world of vacation rentals. The owners of Kihei Surfside and Sugar Beach each gave me an information download over lunch of what they had learned in years of vacation renting. The first year we worked closely with a vacation rental company at Kihei Surfside – they were a great resource. Very importantly we were fortunate to retain a fantastic cleaning lady from day one who has brought her expertise and knowledge to our business.

Four things will make or break your vacation rental business

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Guests want the condo to be clean and they want it to be well-maintained. This is really a no-brainer. But did you know the majority of condo owners live off-island? Both cleanliness and maintenance slip big-time when you don’t have a hands-on on-island owner to check and stay on top of things. As on-island owners we walk into our condos between all bookings. Our wonderful cleaner Cindy has been cleaning our condos for seven years now. She is a perfectionist and together with Beth (an amazing artist – we have a number of her paintings hanging in our condos) does her best to keep our condos in top shape given the time constraints she works within. Sig (my husband) is our maintenance man – also a perfectionist he enjoys going into the condos and making little (or big) improvements, tinkering with things to get them ‘just right’ for the next guest. If you stay at one of our condos and something needs fixing, please call him and if urgent, he will take care of it within the day, or add it to his ‘to-do list’ for the next check-out.

Sig & Cara Birkholz
Cara & Sig – owners of Maui Oceanview Condos

Good Communication

In today’s online world we expect quick and good communication. I try – I really do try to respond to your inquiries as quickly as possible. Sometimes life happens, but do know that I am on it.

Integrity

Isn’t this key with everything in life? Please read our reviews (on this website, our web listings and our guestbook entries). They speak for themselves.

Do we have it all together? Does anyone ever? We do try our best with our vacation rental business and hope that you have a wonderful vacation when you stay at one of our condos!

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Happy 7 year anniversary to us!

Seven years ago today we purchased our first two condos. Sugar Beach 104 and Kihei Surfside 405. We had just sold our dairy farm and moved to Maui with hopes of getting into the vacation rental business. What a life-changing move that was. As we adjusted to island-living Sig dove headfirst into real estate and spent countless hours researching properties in South Kihei, reading online, checking out open houses, talking with realtors etc. Hard to believe that we are now celebrating our 7 year anniversary!

Sugar Beach 104
Sugar Beach Resort aerial
Sugar Beach Resort aerial

When we bought Sugar Beach 104, it had recently reopened after being closed for an extensive building remodel for a year. There were many distressed properties and the timing was good. As a family with young children we liked the ground floor location (no stairs or elevator to deal with) and that the kids could spill out onto the lawn just off the lanai, giving more living space. We tackled a renovation head-on: new bathroom, new flooring (out with the suspicious carpet and old tile), new sofa and luxurious Averte shades. We removed the popcorn ceiling and repainted all the walls. We took careful inventory of all everything in the condo, replacing sheets and towels, pots and pans, small appliances and TVs as needed. It was fun putting our own stamp on the condo, and then listing it on VRBO to rent it out.

Since then we’ve tackled several additional projects – with any rental property there is always something that needs fixing or replacing.

Kihei Surfside 405
aerial2
Kihei Surfside aerial

Kihei Surfside 405 was an entirely different operation. We were fortunate to purchase that condo from hands-on owners Cynthia and Bill. Unlike our Sugar Beach condo, they passed on a full roster of bookings. They took the time to sit down with us and pass on their condo rental knowledge they had gathered from years of experience. I still remember that lunch at Gannons, furiously taking notes. I appreciate the time they took to teach this newby the ropes. Their condo needed little work – we replaced some of the art work (they took some of their favorites) and checked an inventory list to make sure we had everything needed.

Of course, since purchasing Kihei Surfside 405 in September 2010 we’ve done several remodels. In 2012 we replaced the kitchen cabinets and repainted. Then in 2015 the entire building was shut down for five months for extensive exterior work. We took the opportunity to replace the carpeting, blinds and sofa. Every year we take an inventory and replace items on an as-needed basis. Most recently we’ve added a Vitamix and replaced the TV.

Happy 7 year anniversary to us!

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June 2-9 Cancellation Special!

I just had a call from a guest who needs to cancel his June 2-9, 2017 booking at our beautiful Maui Kamaole I-103 condo!

Maui Kamaole
Welcome to Maui Kamaole I-103

How about a Maui getaway? We just renovated this condo this past fall. It is an over-sized one bedroom, two bathroom condo. California king bed in the bedroom and a queen Murphy bed (the kind that hides in the cabinet) in the over-sized living. No need to sleep on a pull-out couch!

Sleeps 4 guests.

$160/night plus $135 cleaning and 13.417% tax. Minimum stay is 4 nights.

Call 808-281-7934 to book, or send me an email!

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What should be on your Maui packing list

Currently there’s an interesting discussion thread on Tripadvisor’s Maui forum that I thought I’d expand on. When you book a vacation rental condo on Maui, what can you expect to find and what should you bring from home? What should be on your Maui packing list?Maui packing list

Vacation rentals and what is provided can vary greatly across the US and Canada. On Maui you can generally expect to find the following in a fully furnished vacation rental condo:

  • bedding
  • towels
  • beach towels
  • a starter pack of paper towel, toilet paper, trash bags and soap
  • dishes, pots and pans, small kitchen appliances

Beyond that it really depends on the owner, management company and cleaner. Some have a bare cupboard policy, others allow certain things to be left behind by guests. It’s a good idea to ask the owner/management company.

If you are staying at one of our Maui Oceanview Condos’ apartments, you will also find the following:

  • beach chairs, boogie boards, cooler (no umbrella unless left by a guest)
  • laundry soap/fabric softener
  • dish washer pods
  • tin foil, plastic wrap
  • fully stocked spice rack, salt & pepper
  • small DVD library (and a dedicated condo netflix account)
  • hair dryer
  • small book library
  • Maui guide book
  • power bar (to charge electronics)
  • laundry drying rack
  • basic cleaning supplies

Our policy is to evaluate things left behind by guests – we will leave some cooking oil and condiments if they look to be in good shape. If you are a guest and think something is questionable, please throw it out.

Your Maui packing list

Things you may consider bringing if you have room in your luggage:

  • a few ziploc baggies (for leftovers, snacks, your cell phone at the beach, to pack that wet swim suit on your last day)
  • extra trash bags (we provide 3-4)
  • your favorite bar of soap, shampoo/conditioner
  • sunscreen and after-sun care product
  • your favorite spices (a couple spoonfuls in a ziploc bag in checked luggage)
  • a few extra rolls of toilet paper (we supply 2 rolls/toilet)
  • a swim suit or two and a favorite beach cover-up if desired
  • casual clothing and shoes (even at the fancy restaurants all you need is a pair of khakis and Hawaiian-style top or a cute sundress).

But guess what? If you forget anything, we have stores here! You can just easily run out and buy it!

Maui packing list
Are you missing the beach?
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The Grand Wailea Luau

We have had family visiting which is always fun! They wanted to go to a luau, so I put my research cap on to figure out which of Maui’s luaus we should attend.

There are several – in Wailea there are two, offered at the Wailea Marriott and Grand Wailea. On the West side there are several in Lahaina and Kaanapali: the Old Lahaina Luau, Feast of Lele, Drums of the Pacific and Royal Lahaina Luau (Hyatt).

Another option, if you are looking for the cultural story (and not the dinner), is the Ulalena – which is like a musical and indoors in a theatre. I highly recommend it – it is very good.

luau
sunset at the Grand Wailea luau

According to Tripadvisor, the Old Lahaina Luau ranks best. However, if you are staying in Kihei or Wailea, that’s a good 45-60 minute drive away if traffic is moving. That highway between Maalaea and Lahaina can get really backed up, and it’s just one lane each direction, so if there’s an accident, you could be a lot longer. Add the drive to the fact that drinks are included in the ticket price, you’ve got to figure that many drivers will have been drinking as you drive back to your condo (Maui County has strict don’t drink and drive rules, btw).

Grand Wailea luau

We let our visiting family choose, and they chose the Grand Wailea luau. Perfect. We got our tickets online at Costco.com (just do a luau search and it comes up). They email you confirmation numbers for each ticket, then you call the Grand Wailea and make the reservations. Children tickets (12 and under) you get a discounted rate directly at the Grand Wailea when you make reservations.

The food was good, show was fun, yes, there’s an imu pit with a pig roasting in it. Is it the most authentic experience? No. But in truth, none of the luaus are authentic. Authentic would be a feast with friends and family, not a commercial event. But, it’s fun and a nice way to spend an evening.

luau
Uncovering the imu pit with the roast pig

 

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The new Coconuts restaurant in Kihei

Coconuts
one of the amazing fish tacos at Coconuts

If you’ve been to Maui before, you may have been to the small (but good) Coconuts Fish Cafe in Azeka plaza. They have the best fish tacos – at least in my humble opinion. I think what really makes it is the mango on top. Yum.

A few months ago they opened a second location in South Kihei’s Kamaole Plaza. This is a strip mall across from Kamaole II beach. The old Denny’s used to be in here. This shopping plaza also has a Whaler’s Village, the Cinnamon bun place (yum), Maui Ocean Arts (a really neat artisan souvenir shop), the Nail Bar, an ice cream store etc. etc. This strip mall is next to Rainbow Plaza (home of Cafe o Lei).

Coconuts
Inside the new restaurant

Yesterday we had two condo check-ins. After doing some land-lordy things at our Palms at Wailea condo (involving a screw driver and the shower drain – I’ll leave it at that), I treated my son to lunch at Coconuts. He’s not much of a fish lover and had the burger (meh). I of course had the fish tacos which were fabulous (you get two).

Unlike the Azeka location, this new Coconuts is huge with lots of its cool surfboard tables. While Azeka is usually packed and you have to wait for and share a table, this location was half empty. So if you’re craving Coconuts fish flavors, come here! They are also open for breakfast (with a separate breakfast menu).

After lunch we stopped at the Cinnamon bun fair (downstairs) for desert straight out of the oven (cash only store)!

Coconuts
cinnamon buns fresh out of the oven
Recognize this guy?

Then over to our Kihei Surfside condo to change out some towels and prep it for our arriving guests. Guests at Kihei Surfside will recognize the turtle statue next to the oceanfront pool. He’s prepped and ready for the St Patty’s Day party on the 17th. Tickets and signups are at the Kihei Surfside office. By the way – this isn’t the only turtle at Kihei Surfside. You can often see turtles swimming just off the rocks at this location (access the water at Keawakapu beach in front of the Mana Kai if you want to go snorkeling).

Coconuts
the turtle at Kihei Surfside is dressed for St Patty’s day
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Three money-saving tips when booking a vacation rental

We all know that Maui isn’t the cheapest vacation destination. And yet it seems many of those who come are bitten by the Maui-bug. Here are some tips on how you can save money booking a vacation rental.

 

Book directly with the owner and avoid the middle-man.

I really cannot stress this enough. VRBO/Homeaway now charges a service fee to guests of anywhere from 5-12% (this is in addition to the owner paying a listing fee). The guest does not actually receive a service for this fee (ironically), the fee goes directly to the parent company Expedia. This service fee was implemented in February 2016 (initially at 4-9% but has recently increased). AirBnB is no better, they also charge guests a service fee, theirs is anywhere between 6-12%, however the owner does not pay a listing fee – rather just a 3% credit card transaction charge.

Hesitant to book directly because you don’t want to be scammed? No problem, check out MauiOwnerCondos. This is a listing site that verifies the condo’s ownership. Owners pay a flat rate to advertise their condos on the site with no additional fees payable by the guest.

Disclaimer: when booking a vacation rental it is always important to do some additional research to make sure you do not fall victim to a scam.

 

Kihei Surfside
Another sunset at the Kihei Surfside – love this place!
Book off-season

As you know, there are different seasons here on Maui. High season typically runs from mid-December through mid-April. This coincides with Christmas, whale season and generally winter on the mainland. Different owners have different season schedules as supply and demand varies even between complexes (complexes more popular with families will have an increased summer rate also for instance). There are definite savings to be found for instance by booking early December vs mid-December.

 

Ask about cash payment discounts

The majority of guests want to pay by credit card which provides an added layer of security and often gives them points or cash-back. But, especially if the condo has been recommended by a friend or you know the owner, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they’d consider a cash discount since they’d be saving on the credit card fees.

 

How can you book one of our condos?
Our beautiful Maui Kamaole condo

The cheapest way to book our condos is to book directly or through MauiOwnerCondos. Yes, I also advertise on VRBO and AirBnb.

Unfortunately if you initiate the booking process through VRBO or AirBnB, I cannot offer you to book directly. I’m sorry. Though I would love to, both VRBO and AirBnB have severe penalties for owners who try to direct potential renters off their sites (as they then lose revenue). What you can do, is click onto my website and email me directly off VRBO or AirBnB.

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