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Finding Hawaii’s Affordable Condos

Photo by Phil Spalding III
Photo by Phil Spalding III
First 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.

Realtor/developer Peter Savio is finalizing plans for a new condo offering geared to first-time homebuyers. Studios and one and two bedroom apartments in the Rycroft Terrace at 1525 Rycroft Street will range from $118,000 to $270,000 fee simple. Units are furnished with major appliances and the majority will be offered with one parking space included in the price. Residents will have access to a swimming pool and recreation room, and the building will be pet friendly.

Two years ago, Savio acquired properties in the area developed in the 1960s by H. T. Hayashi, including the Pagoda Hotel, Pagoda Restaurant, parking structure, office building, and the former Pagoda Terrace, now the Rycroft Terrace, which was operated as part of the Pagoda Hotel. Savio is in the process of converting 162 units in the five-story building into residential condominiums.

“We are still awaiting final approvals from the City and County to complete the conversion, but if prospective buyers notify us of their interest now, we will add them to a mailing list and contact them as soon as we start sales,” Savio said.

He noted that buyers with income as low as 40 percent of median as established by HUD would be in a position to qualify as purchasers, adding that most affordable projects today are selling at 120 to 140 percent of the applicable median income. “Our project is priced to appeal to the lower end of the spectrum, not only young, first time homebuyers but also older people who like the convenience of being in town,” Savio said. “For anyone who doesn’t drive or just prefers to take the bus, it doesn’t get any better than this location which is close to three bus lines. Also, this quiet residential neighborhood is within walking distance of Ala Moana Center and Ala Moana Beach Park.

“H. T. Hayashi was an innovative and visionary developer. He was responsible for the street tree planting and open green space around many of the structures, as well as the unique Pagoda Restaurant and Koi Pond, which we’re upgrading. We plan to continue breeding these rare fish. The Pagoda has been referred to as Hawaii’s ‘first themed restaurant,’ which is possible since it was built 50 years ago. It contributes to the desirability of this pocket neighborhood right in the heart of urban Honolulu.”

Savio recalls that Hawaii’s first residential condominium sales took place in the area. “My mother, Mary Savio, who established her Tropic Shores Realty in the late 1950s, was a pioneer in condominium development and a member of the team that drafted Hawaii’s condominium law, one of the first in the nation and the model for other states. She conducted some of the first condominium sales in a tent set up on the street right in this neighborhood.”

Peter Savio was also a pioneer in the condominium marketplace, converting over 10,000 apartments to condominiums over the past 25 years. His company, Hawaiian Island Homes, recently sold out his Lanai City Apartments condominium development with fee simple studios and one bedroom apartments priced from $80,000 to $104,950.

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