Buying Land on the Big Island? Valuable Advice Ahead

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coffee farm aerial picture hawaii islandIs one of your lifelong dreams include buying a piece of land in Hawaii and building your own home? LUVA Real Estate sells land parcels all over the island to people looking to build an affordable home and others wishing to build their own personal retreats. We have found that the most successful buyers who go on to actually complete building their home have one thing in common: they did copious amounts of research before they started building.

We asked local architect John Hetherington, AIA, Hetherington Architecture LLC for helpful information in shedding some light onto what does it really take to get a home built in Hawaii.

John suggests before you even consider purchasing the land, set your budget, know where you want to live on the island and research the best way to handle financing. Having an architect early on can help you make a smart choice on purchasing the land and they will balance your wants and needs to help you match your budget, as your level of upgrades and finishes will have an impact on the price of the home, as well.

Here are a few elements to consider:

What will influence the cost to build a home the most?

The aspects with the largest financial impacts are how close your lot is to the ocean, proximity to a historical site, the need to excavate the land, available infrastructure, (County water or electricity), and accessibility of the land to construction vehicles. Obviously, personal touches and material upgrades will add to the bottom line, but know that building near the ocean will influence materials as the salt air is extremely corrosive.

How long will it take to get built?

Normally, you would allow 3 months for planning if you meet with an architect. Submitting the building permit and waiting for approval can take 2 months. Depending upon the size of the project, it will take another 8 months to a year after you get your permits to build an average sized home.

What are the average building costs in West Hawaii?

Mid level home, 1600 sq ft, developed pad, $220 a sq ft

Owner Builder range; $123-$180 sq ft for small home (800-1200 sq ft)

Contractor built home: $200-350 sq ft

The mid level homes can be bought as kit homes from HPM Building Supply or Honsador lumber, which are great if you are looking to build an “affordable” basic level home. Shopping carefully, and buying and delivery in bulk can save you money.

Tip: In order to get the kit pricing for an HPM home, you need to order a certain percentage of the items needed to complete your home, such as faucets, sinks, etc from the store.

For actual pricing of kit homes, you may find that the sales people will have a difficult time telling you what the cost of the home will be until you get a piece of land and a foundation. The cost can vary based on a variety of factors such is it a developer lot with leveled land? How much excavating will it need to install plumbing and waste water, etc.?

Financing Facts:

If you are getting a loan you need to understand bonding. A job has to be bonded for a residential project by either a bulk builder or a general contractor. Banks are hesitant right now to lend for owner builder construction loans, so the job has to be bonded to get financing. Both HPM and Honsador can do bonds.

Tip: In order to obtain the bonding you need from HPM or Honsodor, you will be required to order a certain percentage of the construction and finishing items you need from them to complete your home.

If you are looking to buy land and build a home, and if you don’t have construction skills, keep in mind that this is not necessarily the least expensive way to own a home in Hawaii. You may be better off purchasing an existing home. Remodeling an existing home may be a better option for those who want to put their own stamp of creativity on their home, but are not in a position to build from the ground up.

We asked John for some final advice, “Plan carefully and do your due diligence before buying land or building in Hawaii”, he said. A local architect familiar with the land and permitting, and connections to people who can help you will be a key to your success.

Here are lots that are currently available:
Puulani Ranch hawaii island land lotKailua Kona $369,000

Holualoa – $700,000

South Kona/Capt Cook $339,000

Puulani Ranch $688,000


Have questions or just need help with navigating the building code and permitting processes? Contact the local building department of Hawaii County:


General Contractors Association (GCA) of Hawaii

The General Contractors Association of Hawaii (GCA) was formed in 1932 by general contractors from the four major islands of Hawaii. The GCA is a full service construction association serving General Contractors, Subcontractors, Equipment/Material Suppliers and Associate Members. The GCA of Hawaii is the industry leader dedicated to skill, integrity and responsibility.


Find an architect who is a member of the state association of AIA


American Savings Bank

Bank of Hawaii

First Hawaiian Bank

HFS Federal Credit Union

Central Pacific Bank

LUVA Real Estate has a list of available land for sale and we can email you the information with all the details and can answer questions you may have. Contact us today if you would like to learn more or be placed on our “new listing” email list to obtain new properties as they enter the market.