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Finding Hawaii’s Affordable Condos

homes0707_3Second in a series

Although their “dream home” may be a house with a garden, many first-time buyers with limited financial resources are taking a realistic look at the market and opting to make their debut as homeowners with the purchase of a condominium apartment or townhome. They’ve decided not to wait for single family home prices to come down…because neither Realtors nor lenders have a crystal ball revealing “if or when”…and, if they are in a position to qualify for a loan now, they know it makes sense to make their move while interest rates are still low. In this series on affordable condos and town-homes, Realtors will comment on the marketplace and finding the best values.

One of Oahu’s largest concentrations of condominium apartments is in the Punchbowl area where condominium development began in the mid 1960s. Gradually lowrise, midrise, and eventually highrise structures replaced the original single family homes, changing the landscape of this older residential community on the edge of town.

The neighborhood divides into two sectors, Upper and Lower Punchbowl, with the higher priced properties generally located at the higher elevations on the crater. The best views, usually a major determinant in pricing, along with size and condition of the unit, are normally offered by the highrises or buildings on the upper slopes of Punchbowl, but not always. Views can be blocked by other structures.

Currently, a 2 bedroom, 1 bath condo in Emerson Plaza at 1516 Emerson Street is being offered at $142,500 leasehold by Realtor Stephanie Chirrick of Century 21 All Islands, Waikele. The lease is available from the owner at approximately $100,000.

The 720 square foot apartment, located on the third floor of the building, has city, mountain, ocean, and sunset views. “This unit is the best located in the building,” Chirrick said. “It’s on the top floor at the end of the exterior corridor, so no one would be walking by it to get to their apartment. It’s quiet and private. It’s an easy walk from ground level to the third floor, and the parking garage is right under the building.

“One of the great features of this apartment is that it comes with two covered, assigned parking spaces, which is quite rare for condos these days. Another nice convenience that you don’t find in all condominiums is that it has its own laundry, as opposed to a shared laundry area which was common in the older buildings. Although Emerson Plaza was built in 1967, it has been very well maintained by the management company, Cadmus Properties. There’s even a small garden on the ground level adjacent to the parking area where residents plant flowers and herbs. And it’s a pet friendly building, which is a big plus considering that so many of the condo projects impose restrictions on pets.”

Chirrick noted that the interior of the apartment is in good condition, including the kitchen, which is equipped with all major appliances, and the bathroom, which has a full size tub and shower. One bedroom wall was removed by a previous owner to enlarge the main living and dining areas. According to Chirrick, a buyer could easily replace it or leave the interior as is. The galley-style kitchen is a separate room, which was typical of the floor plans of the period.

“This apartment would be ideal for a young family or a single, particularly people working in town or attending UH or HPU. Due to the shortage of dormitory accommodations, parents and investors are on the lookout for condos that are conveniently located and priced to sell. The Ward Centres and Ala Moana Center are just down the hill, and downtown Honolulu is accessible by several routes.”

The growth of condominium development in the Punchbowl area over the years has been driven primarily by its convenience to business centers, shopping malls, and cultural options, such as the Academy of Arts, Thomas Square Park, Blaisdell Center, and the concert hall. “Considering that the year-to-date average sales price of Honolulu condos is $398,923, this apartment right in the heart of the Punchbowl neighborhood is an amazing buy,” Chirrick said.

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