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Kahala brand value worth every penny


When Realtor Anita Bruhl began compiling statistics about Kahala for her Kahala NewsReal newsletter in 1986, fee-simple homes in this neighborhood sold for an average of $767,000. At the end of 2011, the average home sold in Kahala for more than $2 million – a 162 percent increase in 25 years.

“Going back even further to the ’60s and ’70s, these homes – originally built in the ’50s for about $17,000 to $22,000 – appreciated in the first 10 to 15 years to $100,000 and $200,000,” says Bruhl, Realtor at Prudential Locations and resident of Kahala for the past four decades. “That’s a 400 percent, or five to 10 times increase right there!

“In my humble opinion, no resident or seller has ever been able to get as great a return, in absolute dollar terms, on an original investment as one has received from investing in Kahala in these last 40 years,” Bruhl says.

In 2010 and 2011, the housing market woes hit Kahala mildly, causing prices, sales volume and days on the market to move sideways – with little movement up or down. Today, this darling of all Oahu neighborhoods is poised to break through that plateau.

“As we progress into 2012, our market is beginning to show some muscle when comparing the first quarter 2012 to 2011,” says Bruhl. “Not only is the average sold price up 18 percent from $1,813,000 to $2,200,000, but it reached that level with fewer sales (five compared to 11) and with $7,000,000 less in dollar volume ($11 million from $18 million).

“Keep in mind that markets vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, but this recent trend is showing Kahala to be elbowing its way through the sideways market, forging ahead like a bull seeing red,” says Bruhl.

And despite the normal real estate cycles over the last six decades, Kahala’s appeal – its quality of life and golden boy aura – almost seems to defy the laws that govern other housing markets.

“The reasons buyers want to own in Kahala are the same today as they were in 1971, when we were transferred here, arriving with five kids in tow ranging in age from 1 to 16,” recalls Bruhl. “I was looking for a fixer-upper with a pool and found it in the home in which I still live. We paid $72,300 leasehold, which I considered ridiculous without owning the land. But yet, even then, I saw tremendous potential in its location – the large 12,000-square-foot lot and the super-friendly neighborhood.

“We needed a neighborhood with alternate routes for my husband to get to the downtown office or other destinations. We liked the alternate routes through Diamond Head, Waikiki and Kaimuki’s back roads if our easily accessed freeway backed up,” says Bruhl. “We also needed good schools within walking distance, as well as proximity to recreation areas, soccer, baseball, beaches, church, gas stations, Kahala Mall and Times Market. Kahala’s 1,038 homes have access to miles of beaches, schools, churches, shopping centers and recreation areas. And we needed a safe, family-oriented neighborhood. How can you beat that combo?”

Homes currently for sale in Kahala include a vintage 1930s abode with 3 bedrooms and 3 baths, a stone fireplace and a permitted 1-bedroom, 1-bath separate cottage on Kealaolu Avenue listed at $1,740,000, and an ultra-modern mega mansion with 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, 4,000-square-foot interior and a 2,000-square-foot courtyard with pool, spa, sauna, barbecue and lounge areas listed for $3,199,000.

Inventory in Kahala is extremely low right now, with only 32 properties on the market. Demand has been exceeding supply, resulting in several multiple offer situations, according to Bruhl.

Demand is on the upswing because the buyer pool is increasing. A couple of years ago, 64 percent of the luxury home sales throughout Hawaii were made by local buyers, according to studies by Prudential Locations Research Division. But demographically, that may be changing.

“Lately, Chinese and Korean buyers are growing in numbers at open houses and showing appointments, joining the ranks of longtime Japanese buyers,” says Bruhl. “Kahala’s special appeal for the international market, particularly Japanese, is well-known and will likely continue for the same reasons that locals are vying for these properties … location, beach, golf, large lots, great egress and ingress.

“As international buyers’ personal wealth increases, Hawaii is destined to be their No. 1 choice for personal investment with Kahala as their neighborhood gem.”

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