September 2016 E-Mail Update
Here is our 9/9/2016 e-mail update. It is sent after the statistics for the preceding month have been posted on the Board of Realtors website. You can find previous newsletters by visiting www.stott.com/news.
The median price for single family homes in August was $747,500 (6.9% higher than August 2015) and for condos was $398,000 (12.4% higher than August 2015) as demand remains strong and the supply of available homes continues to be constrained. There is only 3.1 months of remaining inventory for single family homes and 3.0 months of remaining inventory for condos.
Tim sent an e-mail to Stott Property Management’s clients in April 2015 about seeing signs of a slowing rental market. Apartment website, Zumper, just confirmed that rents appear to have peaked for one and two bedroom condos in July and August of 2015. Stott Property Management has noticed that some tenants have reacted to the higher rents by finding roommates to help make ends meet. The trend is not unique to Hawaii. Zumper reports that median rents for one and two bedroom apartments fell nationwide.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority announced that visitor arrivals set a record in July. 835,417 people visited the state, which represents a 2.1 percent increase over the previous record recorded last July.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority launched a free app on August 8th named GoHawaii. The app offers travel and safety tips for Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai. The free app can be downloaded in the Google Play Store and the Apple iTunes Store and is offered in a number of languages. The apps destination screens allow users to see various Hawaii sites, activities, and special events. One feature provides users with Hawaii-styled emojis that users can share with family and friends.
Hawaii recorded the lowest voter turnout since statehood with only approximately 96,000 voters casting ballots. The poor turnout is a symptom of Hawaii’s single party system dominated by Democrats and a troubling sign for democracy in the state. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will face challenger Charles Djou in the general election after each failed to secure more than 50% of the votes in the primary.
The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed 168 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A since June and has traced the source of the outbreak to imported frozen scallops that were served raw at Genki Sushi. The Department of Health has ordered ten restaurants on Oahu and one restaurant on Kauai closed until further notice. The outbreak has spread to workers at a number of restaurants, Costco, and Hawaiian Airlines. Two individuals sickened are currently scheduled to have liver transplants. Tim & Tracey recently received their Hepatitis A vaccination from their healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, who has encouraged their members to get vaccinated.
The state and the Hawaii United Public Workers union announced that they have come to an agreement allowing Kaiser Permanente to take over management of Maui’s cash strapped state-run hospitals. The state’s union employees will work under their existing collective bargaining agreements until June 30, 2017, and then Kaiser will offer the employees positions at Kaiser for a period of six months. Kaiser expects to take over management of the Maui hospitals on November 6th.
The Honolulu StarAdvertiser and the state Division of Consumer Advocacy have documented concerns with the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority’s management of the GEMS funding. The funding, paid for by Hawaiian Electric customers to the tune of $1.30 per month, was intended to provide underserved customers loans to finance sustainable energy projects like photo-voltaic solar. As of June 30th, the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority has spent $1.7 million to approve a total of $388,800 in loans. Instead of recognizing that there really is not a need for this program as evidenced by the state’s rooftop solar penetration, the authority is looking to change the eligibility requirements to allow more loan approvals. A novel concept would be to recognize failure and return the money to Hawaiian Electric’s customer base. The program currently has collected $144.6 million from the monthly fees.
Hawaii Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company announced that the arbitrary caps for the grid-supply program that services roof-top solar were reached. The program that replaced net metering, allowed customers to sell excess solar energy generated during the day back to the utilities at wholesale prices. Customers must now pay for battery storage systems due to the grid-supply caps. Oahu is 22% away from reaching Hawaiian Electric Company’s cap of 25-megawatts.
HECO has signed a lease with the Secretary of the Army for a planned power plant in Central Oahu for $10.8 million over 35 years. The 50-megawatt power plant officially broke ground in August and is expected to be operational in 2018. Hawaiian Electric has contracted with a Finland company to supply six internal combustion engines that will run on bio-diesel fuel that will enable the generating station to help HECO integrate more solar energy on the grid.
Oahu’s fear of traffic gridlock created a self-fulfilling prophecy on August 31st in anticipation of President Obama’s arrival. Most businesses and government agencies in Honolulu let their employees out early in anticipation of the shutdown of H-1 so that the presidential motorcade could travel from the airport to the University of Hawaii. The early commuters joined parents taking their kids home from school and quickly overloaded Honolulu’s already overtaxed roads. Stott Property Management had to reschedule showings of vacant properties because both the staff and tenant prospects got stuck going nowhere fast. To add to motorists’ frustration, some feral pigs were wandering the Pali Highway and slowing down motorists trying to escape Honolulu for the Windward Side of the island.
The Vog Dashboard website has confirmed what many Hawaiian residents have experienced and suspected regarding Kilauea’s emissions. Kilauea has been erupting for the past 34 years. However, when the Halemaumau vent erupted in 2008, volcanic emissions rose to 10,000 tons per day from 2,000 tons per day. The large change in volcanic pollution caused flower farms to close and created more respiratory problems throughout the state. The volcano’s emissions are currently measured at 4,000 to 5,000 tons per day. The Vog Dashboard can be found on ivhhn.org/vog and offers tips on dealing with those voggy days when the trade winds stop and Kona winds blanket the state with volcanic haze.
Dan Grabauskas, executive director and CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) resigned on August 18, 2016. Grabauskas took much of the heat for being unable to meet unrealistic budget forecasts set by then Mayor Mufi Hanneman and current Mayor Kirk Caldwell. 2016 has been seen all of HART’s senior leadership turn over as fiscal reality struck and the city and state politicians starting looking for scapegoats. Grabaskaus gratiously stated, “It has been an honor and pleasure to have worked on this transformational project for nearly four-and-a-half years.” While Dan is moving on, Oahu residents will get to find out what transformation will mean to them in the years to come.
The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) shot down the delegation of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, HART Chairperson Colleen Hanabusa, and acting HART Executive Director Michael Formby who flew to San Francisco to request additional federal dollars for the financially strapped rail project. They also made it clear that stopping at Middle Street was not an option and if the project stopped short, the $1.55 billion already committed would be in jeopardy. Caldwell and Martin plan on coming back to ask the legislator for an additional extension to the General Excise Tax surcharge beyond the additional five years granted by the legislature two years ago. State lawmakers are already getting geared up for a fight this winter claiming that the City and County of Honolulu administration and HART provided false information to the state legislature when the original extension to the GET surcharge was approved.
Ulupono Initiative, a Honolulu investment firm founded by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, has committed to provide $3 million to Kailua-Kona based Blue Ocean Mariculture, which produces sushi-grade yellowtail tuna in off-shore fish farms off the Kona Coast. The company currently produces about 800 pounds of fish each year. Hawaii currently consumes roughly 40 million pounds of fish per year and roughly 63% of that fish is imported. The investment aligns with Ulupono’s mission to increase local food production, renewable energy, and waste reduction. Other investments include BioEnergy Hawaii, Hawaii Dairy Farms, Honolulu Seawater Air-Conditioning, and Paniolo Cattle Company.
A group of six volunteers recently emerged from a small dome on the slopes of Mauna Kea after living 365 days in isolation. The study was one of four completed by the NASA funded Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS). HI-SEAS has compiled data from four simulated missions to study food choices and its effect on morale, water usage, and crew cohesion. The latest study was the longest simulated mission that included 40-minute communication delays with the outside world to mimic the delays experienced with a manned expedition to Mars. The crew consisted of people of different nationalities and personalities with sharing one common trait, low drama. Astronauts tend to be positive and stoic and one goal of the study was to detect conflicts between easy-going people before they become real problems. The dome was equipped with composting toilets and showers and relied on solar power for electricity. The only fresh things to eat were what the crew could grow inside the dome.
Ten new restaurants celebrated their grand openings at the newly renovated International Market Place. The Queen Emma Land Company invested about $350 million to renovate the iconic Waikiki shopping center. The restaurants offer steak, sushi, pizza, Japanese cuisine, seafood, Hawaiian inspired cuisine, coffee, and pastry. Tracey remembers honing her sales skills in the 80’s selling fresh squeezed orange juice to tourists at the International Market Place.
Maui Brewing company has announced that it will open a new restaurant on the ground floor of Kailua’s recently announced Lau Hala Shops project where Macy’s was previously located. The 6,500 square foot establishment will serve island-inspired cuisine, dozens of craft beer taps, handcrafted sodas, and cocktails. Tim recently enjoyed a burger that was 50% ground beef and 50% ground bacon at Maui Brewery Company’s restaurant on Maui and washed it down with their Coconut Hiwa Porter earlier this spring. Tim is looking forward to the new Kailua restaurant scheduled to open in early 2018. Maui Brewery Company’s new Waikiki location is scheduled to open this winter.
A new entertainment venue, Lucky Strike, will open in Ala Moana Mall next summer. The company will offer four upscale bowling alleys, live entertainment, more than 120 arcade games, and a restaurant. There are currently more than 200 locations across the United States.
First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii’s oldest and largest bank, completed its initial public offering on August 9th and started operating as an independent, publically traded company once again. BNP Paribas, a worldwide banking giant, had previously owned First Hawaiian Bank as a subsidiary before selling shares to investors.
Honolulu Resident, Shelby Baron, will represent the United States in the 2016 Paralympic Games on the wheelchair tennis team. Tim & Tracey’s daughter, Ashley, played against Shelby several times while growing up in Hawaii’s Junior Team Tennis league. Two bounces are allowed in wheelchair tennis. Therefore, Ashley, who was not in a wheelchair, would get one bounce and Shelby would get two. The matches were very competitive and fun to watch. Shelby was, and clearly still is, an amazing athlete.
Hawaii Fun Fact: One of only two commercial milk dairies in the state, is named Mauna Kea Moo. Mauna Kea Moo will soon be the only dairy because it is buying out its local competitor, Cloverleaf Dairy.
A family-run Windward Oahu pig farm will close after 75-years in business. Age has caught up with some of the aging siblings that ran Shinsato Farm and the funds from the sale of the business will help provide care for the family. The Kaneohe property consisted of a pig farm, a USDA certified slaughter facility, and 11 rental homes. The buyers will be moving their flooring business to the farm, and keep the slaughterhouse and rentals going. Shinsato farms had supplied six local restaurants with pork and hope that a Waianae farm can fill the void.
One lucky Oahu woman won over $10 million playing the slots in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it was not Tracey. We will be back at work tomorrow.