Maui, Hawaii

Tag: condo

Kihei Surfside shut-down

Today is an exciting day for us! After more than two years of planning, it’s the last day of our rentals at our Kihei Surfside condo pre-renovation. No, not the interior, though we have a few minor projects that we hope to tackle in October. The exterior of the building is being re-done. This 40 year-old oceanfront building is receiving a face-lift! Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and glass railings, new lanai surfacing, some spalling repairs and a waterproofing/paint job. We are excited!

The exterior of Kihei Surfside is getting a face-lift! We can’t wait!

Spalling you ask? What is that? This is something that plagues oceanfront properties. This is something that happens when the salt air finds its way through tiny air holes in concrete and starts rusting the rebar in the building. All oceanfront buildings experience this, and as long as the building is properly maintained and water-proofed, the buildings are fine. But maintenance is the key!

Once our guests check out this morning, we start packing up linens, towels and valuables, moving furniture to the interior of the unit, removing blinds and shutters…

Welcome home to our toaster! So glad to have you back!

Very excitingly for our family, it also means the return of our toaster! What, you may say? The guests called Saturday to let us know the toaster had died, so I temporarily loaned our toaster to the condo. Driving to Kahului to buy a toaster to get a guest through the final 3 days of their stay seemed unnecessary particularly as noone will be needing a toaster for the next 5 months. I’ll bring it home today. We’ll check the old toaster (which we had just replaced a few months ago). If it no longer works, we’ll get a new one for the next check-in.

In the mean time, with this condo, I will kick back and relax and wait for the renovation to be complete!

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Stay-cation Research trip

Our family went on a little stay-cation this past summer. We drove an hour to west Maui where we had rented a beautiful 2 bedroom condo at the Honua Kai at the end of Ka’anapali. Call it a research trip. This is a five year old building, condos renting at double what our nicest condo at Palms at Wailea rents for (and that in off-season). Sig has drooled over this building for the past year, and I finally insisted we needed to stay there before we got too serious.

the beautiful condo we rented on VRBO at the Honua Kai

From the moment we walked in the door, Sig was walking around, looking at finishings, details, appliances, ‘what do they have that we are missing?’ etc. I was trying to get all the frozen items from our cooler into the freezer, as he was pulling me away to read a label (the type was too small), or ‘check this out!’ Within the first minute upon arrival I realized this trip was going to be a write-off. Condo research supreme. And you know what, that’s fine. They had nice pools for the kids, our condo had a stellar view, and since Sig can’t relax or just sit, he might as well do something for the condos.

So yes, this condo has some beautiful features. And we’ve taken pictures, made notes and will consider if and how we can incorporate some of them in our properties.

our late afternoon view was gorgeous

It also is missing some key things.

Like hooks or a drying rack. As a family of five, we came back from the pools/beach and had no place to hang our wet swim suits and beach towels. You are not allowed to hang them on the lanai (thankfully, it would look incredibly tacky to see everyone else’s beach gear on the lanais), but there are no hooks and too few towel rods in the bathrooms. So we put them in the dryer, which took 2 1/2 hours to dry four towels – it was a fancy condensation dryer since the building does not have proper dryer ventilation. Wow – I groaned inwardly at the thought of the owner’s power bill.

But Cara, what about at your condos, you ask? Our condos have either retractable hotel-style laundry lines in the bathtubs (perfect for hanging dripping swim wear) or collapsible clothes racks (or both). Please be considerate when using them indoors and set them up on tiled areas only (not carpets or laminate flooring).

Looking back from our condo into the courtyard.
This is definitely apartment living with little privacy

We loved the condo, but what would have made it perfect? Something to do in down-time, when you’re taking a break from the beach/pool. Like DVDs, or books, a stereo or some games.

We loved having a restaurant (Duke’s) on site, and having a convenience store and gym in the building were definite perks.

Parking was complicated (in the basement parkade of the other tower) and there was a daily charge for parking (our condos have parking closeby and it’s free). And instead of keyless entry (which our condos have), we had hotel-style cards to enter the building and our condo. A bit of a nuisance and an extra thing to forget.

All in all, it was fun to get away and be a tourist, even if it’s just an hour’s drive away. But, it is an hour’s drive away from South Maui. And while we loved the complex, we have after much consideration decided not to purchase at this property.

Many of our guests appreciate our being hands-on owners, just a short drive away from our properties, able to help when needed. A one hour drive (and that’s without traffic delays) is a little far away to be hands-on.

Ah well. If you are looking for a place on the west-side and have money to spend, do check it out. It was wonderful. If you like a little more privacy, less busy-ness at more reasonable rates, do check out our condos.

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Is your Maui vacation rental legal?

The front page article in this Sunday’s Maui News is about Maui County’s crackdown on illegal vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts. Are you feeling panicked yet? Chances are, your vacation rental is legal, especially if you are staying at one of the vacation rental resorts in Kihei, Wailea, Maalaea, Lahaina or Kaanapali. Many of those condo complexes are already zoned hotel/resort and are grandfathered in for vacation rental purposes (as long as the owners declare it as a vacation rental to the County for tax purposes – this would roughly quadruple the property taxes compared to if it is owner occupied).

The illegal ones may be in condo complexes that have long-term (longer than 6 months) rental restrictions, or in residential neighborhoods (though there are some that are permitted in residential neighborhoods). 
The entrance to popular vacation rental property ‘The Palms at Wailea‘.
Its sister property, Wailea Palms which is directly next door,
does not allow vacation rentals (the AOAO has a minimum 6 month rental policy
and the County of Maui’s property tax rates are adjusted accordingly).
Why does the County care if a property is zoned for vacation rentals or not? The property tax rate is much higher than if the property is owner-occupied or even a long-term rental. Also, the County limits the number of vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts in residential neighborhoods to keep pacify the neighbors (when someone applies for a vacation rental or b&b permit, the neighbors have a say in it).
The danger of renting an illegal or should we say un-permitted vacation rental or bed and breakfast is that if they are found out by the County, they have five days from receiving their notice to shut down operations, or will be fined $1000/day they continue operating. This means that your booking would be cancelled. In high season, this would be disastrous as everything is booked up well in advance. You may end up pitching a tent on the beach (oh right, on many beaches that’s also illegal). In the past the County has relied on disgruntled neighbors reporting these rentals, but now they are stepping up the ante, finding them on vacation rental sites, such as VRBO, Homeaway, Flipkey, Airbnb etc.
How do you as the renter ensure your vacation rental is legal? 
Ask questions: 
– Are you paying taxes on your rental? Are you paying the correct taxes? There should be 9.25% TAT (transient accommodations tax) and 4.167% GET (general excise tax) for a total of 13.417% – these numbers are slightly different if it’s a timeshare property). 
– Does the rental listing and your rental agreement have a tax ID listed? Is it valid (check on this website, does the company/owner name correspond with the name on your rental agreement)? 
– What are the County’s property records showing for your rental’s address (sometimes this can be tricky to look up)? Look up the address on Google maps, does it look like a residential neighborhood? Again, there ARE some permitted vacation rentals/b&bs in residential neighborhoods, but they should have a permit they can show you.

– Can I see a copy of your permit? If this is a rental in a residential neighborhood, they will need to have one.

When in doubt, ask.
For the record, all four of our vacation rental condos are legal. We also collect and submit all taxes to the government.
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Great Air Canada deals!

Book by December 29th and get 15% off bookings on flights to and from the US with Air Canada. Use promotion code GIFT2014. I just looked up some spring break flights – $506 Canadian return, all in, from Vancouver to Maui in March. That is a crazy good deal!

Incidentally I have a few March dates available at our condos.

Palms at Wailea #503 March 4-15 (8 night minimum stay)

Sugar Beach #104 March 21-April 1

Maui Kamaole I-103 March 25-31

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Severe flood warnings on Maui – stay out of the ocean please

It is winter and technically rainy season in Hawaii. Though in Kihei we tend to forget about that – last year we had a grand 8 inches of rain for the year. We were up in Kaanapali yesterday evening and on the way home it sure was raining… We aren’t used to this rain in Kihei!

This morning my phone buzzed with a ‘severe threat alert‘. There are flash flood warnings throughout Maui, the alert advises to check the local news.

What is a flash flood warning? It is when it rains heavily enough that water doesn’t absorb into the ground but instead runs off the island into the ocean. Newer developments have gulches that should be able to handle the run-off, but some areas and roads in Kihei will flood – particularly in North and Central Kihei. If you see flooding, please stop and turn around, do not try to walk or drive through it. Remember, it may not be raining at your part of Maui, but if it’s been raining up the mountain from you, you can see run-off.

Most importantly, it is important to STAY OUT OF THE OCEAN during and after storms until the water is no longer murky.

I know this is hard when you’ve come all this way and all you want to do is play in the ocean. As long as the water is murky from the extra run-off and change in currents (caused by the storm), this is also prime shark feeding time. Please, for your safety, stay out of the water.

Wondering what to do instead? Here are a few ideas: check out the condo pool, do some last minute Christmas shopping, scope out where you want to eat Christmas dinner (and make a reservation!!), go see Santa swimming with the sharks at the Maui Ocean Center, do some outlet shopping at the one-year-old Outlet mall in Lahaina, hang low at the condo and nurse that sunburn (remember, we have netflix, a small DVD collection and a few books), check out the movies in Kahului (at Maui Mall and Queen Kaahumanu Mall), watch the waves roll in on the North Shore (near Paia, just don’t go in). Check out a show in Lahaina – Ulalena, Elvis – or Warren and Annabelle’s magic show….

Stay safe!

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What do you do on check-out day?

airport check-ins

Oh check-out day. When planning a vacation, most of us don’t plan for check-out day. What time is check-out? What time does our flight leave on the last day? What are we doing in between? If we don’t plan for it, that last day can be a bit of a downer (and not just because we’re heading back home and to reality).

Most flights back to Canada (and some US mainland flights) are red-eye flights, meaning they leave between 9 and 11pm.

Standard condo check-out time is at 11am, and most days our cleaning and sometimes maintenance staff is scheduled to arrive at 11am to prepare the condo for the next guest.

So what do you do about that ‘magical’ 10-12 hour window where you are homeless with no place to put your luggage? Maybe you are lucky enough to have a rental car with a large trunk, then your luggage is at least not visible to the casual observer (doubtful if you have a convertible and definitely not if you have a jeep). Generally it is not a good idea to keep any valuables in your car though. It just seems to be asking for trouble.

Is there a place you can store your luggage? Not really. I have read on Tripadvisor forums about people wanting to rent a locker at a self-storage place for the day, but I don’t know if anyone has actually done it or how it worked. You can’t leave it at the condo as there is often another guest checking in that afternoon. The front desk on property does not have storage facilities (nor insurance) to hold onto guests’ luggage. I am not aware of any luggage storage at Kahului airport (OGG).

You may be able to get late check-out, but this really depends on the condo’s rental schedule, the cleaner’s schedule, the maintenance schedule etc. And as an owner I won’t commit to late check-out until a few days prior to your check-out when I have a better handle on all the scheduling.

The best bet (and this is what we always did prior to moving to Maui) is to rent the condo for an extra night. So if your flight leaves Monday night, book the condo til Tuesday. Yes, I get it, it’s an extra cost. But look at the benefits:

  • you can enjoy your last day and can pack up closer to your flight time
  • no problems storing your luggage (it’s at the condo)
  • no need to wear mainland clothes until it’s actually time to go to the airport
  • you can shower after a day at the beach or of activities, feeling refreshed and non-cranky prior to heading to the airport
  • a quiet place to rest (especially great with little kids)
Can you book that extra night at half price since you’re not staying overnight? Unfortunately no. Our cleaner doesn’t do night cleans, so she won’t be able to clean until the next morning.
What are some trip ideas for those who don’t book an extra night? Well, some guests go for an upcountry drive, up Haleakala (bonus, it’s cooler up there, so those mainland clothes won’t feel so hot). You could spend a few hours at the Maui Ocean Center (bonus, it’s air-conditioned). Even if you’ve checked out, you can still use the condo’s pool (and the public/guest-use bathrooms) for the rest of the day. 
What do you do on your last day? I’d love to hear!

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happy FOUR year anniversary to us!

Wednesday marks four years since we closed escrow on both our Sugar Beach #104 and Kihei Surfside #405 condos. I can’t believe it’s been four years! Within the following four months we also closed on our Maui Kamaole I-103 and Palms at Wailea 503 condos.

As many of you know, we used to be dairy farmers in Chilliwack BC, Canada. Never heard of Chilliwack? It’s an 80,000 person town with a lot of agriculture (dairy, chickens, nursery trees, blueberries etc) along the TransCanada highway, just 5 miles away from the US/Canada border (1 1/2 hour drive east of Vancouver).

our old farm back in Chilliwack!

After doing much paperwork, obtaining green cards and selling our farm, we moved to sunny Kihei where we had discovered Sig was free from his Reynaud’s symptoms. The question became – okay, now that we’re here, now what? You can’t just move to a vacation destination and be on permanent vacation? We needed an income and something to keep us busy!

Sig has for years had a love affair with real estate. His uncle in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) owns rental apartments and taught Sig the value of owning real estate. For years every time we came to Maui Sig would check out vacation rental open houses, researching, talking and dreaming about buying one. But the timing and the market was not right. As we stayed in vacation rentals, we talked about what we would do differently, the many pros and cons to owning a vacation rental property. What – there are cons? Sure there are – how about this one: we are letting complete strangers stay in our rather expensive condos, hoping that they don’t trash the place! So far so lucky (thank you!!!)

When we moved here, this was our chance to get into the business! We had a few objectives:

  • buy ocean view condos (after all, our website says Maui Oceanview Condos)
  • provide renters with a better product than the competition
  • pay the bills and, better yet, make a modest living off the condos

How did we do with our objectives? All four of our condos have an ocean view, Kihei Surfside is a direct ocean front property (oh my goodness, what a view), while Maui Kamaole and Palms at Wailea present an ocean view from a distance. Our Sugar Beach condo is on an ocean front property with a sliver of an ocean view.

walking the 5 mile beach past our Sugar Beach condo

How about providing renters with a better product? We had noticed that having an absentee landlord often means little maintenance and poor cleaning. Have I ever mentioned my husband is a perfectionist? He has a rigorous maintenance program, in fact he has a spreadsheet of all the tasks that need doing monthly/quarterly/semi-annually and follows through with them. We also listen to guest and cleaner comments and personally check the condos, fixing and replacing items as soon as we notice.

Our cleaner Cindy is fantastic. She is incredibly detail-oriented and it shows! Our reviews and guest book entries have a recurring theme: “the condo was so clean!” Why would guests comment on cleanliness? Is this not something that is expected? Well, yes, I would expect a vacation rental condo to be thoroughly cleaned, but sadly that is often not the case. We are very thankful for Cindy and her crew.

I love the beautiful Mediterranean look of Palms at Wailea

How about paying those bills? Well, so far the condos are paying for themselves and yes, providing us with a modest living.

What has been the biggest surprise? For me it has been how much I am enjoying this job. In fact, I love my job. I get to deal with happy people! Think of it – people are planning their vacation! Typically this is an exciting and fun-filled time for them. They are happy when they come, and almost always leave happy. Yes, we’ve had a few cases where things went wrong – such as when the A/C failed or the freezer failed. Thankfully our guests were gracious as we scrambled to fix things. Being on-island landlords has given us the opportunity to jump into action rather than relying on property managers to do the work for us. As I always tell our guests: “we are just a 5-10 minute drive away from the condo. Let us know if there’s a problem and we will deal with it!”

Would we do it again? What would you say if I told you Sig is eyeing another property? Well, it’s somewhere in the future, but for now, it would appear we are in this for the long haul!

gorgeous Keawakapu beach – within walking distance
of our Kihei Surfside, Palms at Wailea and Maui Kamaole condos

To all our wonderful guests and repeat guests who have stayed in our condos the first four years – a big thank you to you! Thank you for booking our condos, trusting us with your vacations, and taking such good care of our condos. As a side note – in the first four years we have not once had to withhold the refundable security deposit, refunding it within a week or two of every guest’s check-out. A big mahalo for that!

Here’s to a fantastic fifth year of vacation renting!

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Kihei Surfside updates

Do you enjoy shopping? I love looking through magazines and admiring home decorating. I have been looking for a ‘new look’ for our Kihei Surfside 405 bedroom for a while now. Guess what – I found some great deals on Labor Day weekend…. here is the updated Kihei Surfside #405 bedroom. This is just a cell-phone picture (not professional).

If you are like me, you may not know what the brown blanket at the base of the bed is. I’ve come across them in hotels and always wondered.

Guess what – it’s not a blanket for you to use, nor is it a ‘foot warmer’. It’s called a bed scarf or bed runner and its specific purpose is to protect the bedding from dirty luggage.

The bedroom at Surfside is a little crowded because of the big cal-king bed (it is so comfortable that I am willing to give up a little extra space). So rather than a luggage rack, we have this bed runner for you to hoist your suitcase onto while you unpack into the dresser at the end of the bed (this protects our white duvet cover from getting marked up). Once you are done, please fold the bed runner and place it in the closet or out of the way.

Unless of course you like a foot warmer!

By the way, if you prefer to live out of the suitcase, the hallway is nice and wide. Some of our guests just leave their suitcases laying along the wall in the hallway. It’s up to you.

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Preparing for winter

What? No no no, let’s not start talking about winter yet. I can’t believe we’re already in September. One of the moms at school told me yesterday, ‘only 16 Mondays left til Christmas’. Oh stop it already! Let’s enjoy the seasons while they last, right?

My husband Sig sent me a link from Hoards Dairyman yesterday. Yes, we are former Canadian dairy farmers, and yes, my dear hubby still reads a variety of farm magazines with a passion. You will at any given time find cow, animal nutrition, cropping and yes, manure magazines on our living room table. By the way, if you are on island and would like some ‘light reading’, let us know – I will happily recycle some of the read issues your way.

The article he sent me yesterday was on the 2015 Old Farms Almanac weather forecast for the US. Apparently the forecast for most of the US mainland (with exception of the West Coast) is for ‘another frigid winter.’

Farmer’s Almanac 2015, taken from Hoards Dairyman website

By the way – do you notice any states missing? Yup – Hawaii and Alaska. Alaska – well, we expect it will be cold – I mean, it is Alaska, right? And Hawaii? The climate is so temperate and hardly changes between seasons, so I expect it will be a lot more of the ‘same old same old’ – namely, temps in the low to mid 80s, dropping to around 70 at night. Sigh. I look forward to ‘cooling down’.

Just what you wanted to hear? Welllll….. now would be a great time to book that mid-winter Maui trip to warm up a little. The winter months, particularly Christmas through mid April, are high season months on Maui. Condos are filling up fast, so especially if you aren’t flexible with your dates, it’s a good time to start looking and nail down a condo soon.

On a budget but looking to escape winter? Have a look at the first two weeks of December! Traditionally this is a very slow time of year, and therefore you are looking at LOW SEASON prices. Plus, you are still escaping cold weather back home. So finish your Christmas shopping up early (or do it on Maui) and enjoy a restful Maui break! By the way, yes, we still have December ‘low season’ availability at our Palms at Wailea condo.

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