Wondering what life is like on Maui these days, with tourism down 99% and a 14-day quarantine still looming over the few visitors who have trickled through? Statistically, we had 2,341 visitors in August compared to 273,638 in August of 2019.
With a resident population of about 160,000 on Maui, this means that most months of the year our visitor count is double that of residents—2 visitors for every 1 resident. The difference now is 120 residents per every visitor. Needless to say, our fleet of 20,000 rental cars has been sitting dormant for 8 months now, parked bumper-to-bumper on vacant acreage out by the airport with dead and dying batteries and crankcases with oil and gas that should be drained and refilled before these cars are started again. Imagine the enormity of that job alone:
The economy of the island, of course, is taking a tremendous hit. No visitors means our hotels and roughly 16,000 privately owned vacation rental condos are sitting empty. When I leave my home in Kihei and drive the two blocks to Piilani Highway to head north or south, oftentimes there are no cars visible in either direction. Many times during peak visitor traffic days, cars are backed up to where it’s difficult to even merge onto the highway.
Depending on one’s demographic, the new isolation can be viewed as a curse or a welcome respite. I must admit, I’m more in the latter category. Maui residents, as a whole, are a cooperative, respectful, and responsible bunch. When my girlfriend and I walk the nearly vacant beach in the morning, other singles and couples (hardly ever more than 3 or 4 people together) are careful to observe social distancing and greet passersby with a discreet wave of the hand or a friendly “aloha”. We do have state and county mandates to wear masks in enclosed and public places. Costco, of course, is part of just about everybody’s weekly “outing” list and masks and social distancing is practiced without exception. All retail and grocery stores the same. Restaurants with indoor seating (tables removed to accommodate social distancing) require masks when entering and being seated, but of course can be removed while eating. Oh, sure, you get the occasional mask wearer whose mask is down below his nose, or one who thinks a handkerchief is an adequate mask, but they are easy enough to avoid.
Early on, with both of us wearing masks, a local gal approached me in a grocery store, kept her distance, but noted she could see by my eyes that I was smiling at her. What a nice way to learn to smile at others.
The Housing report for Maui is much the same as last month and the three or four months prior. Although I am writing this before the release of September statistics, by the time you receive it in your mailbox they will be linked. You’ll be able to check the specific numbers for yourself then, but I feel safe in saying that single family homes continue to be in high demand. Residential condos (condos that are not zoned for vacation rentals) remain strong as well while the mostly-vacant vacation rental units are moving slowly.
I mentioned in the September Newsletter that August saw a 50% increase in listings for vacation rental condos (from 500 to 750) but that trend did not continue at nearly that pace through September. Until sellers start to see some of those units moving, they may be inclined to hold on a bit longer to see if the visitor market is stimulated by the implementation (finally…maybe) of the pre-test program for visitors coming to Maui after October 15 More on that below.
On a national scale, the housing market
is experiencing no less than a boom. Sales of new homes are at a 14-year high with a whopping 43% year over year increase from last August. The only thing holding the re-sale market back a bit (compared to new sales) is lack of inventory—median prices are nearly identical at $312,000 and $310,000 respectively. Who would have thought that we’d be seeing numbers like these during a pandemic? Is it the desire to move to safe havens, away from fires, hurricanes, and high contagion numbers? Or the instability of the stock market? Your thoughts?
Since single-family homes are hot, hot, hot you’ll want to take a close look at this recently upgraded south Kihei home with panoramic ocean views and plenty of outdoor space for you to soak in all the beautiful sunny days Maui has to offer. Located in a highly desirable neighborhood–with easy access to beaches, golf, tennis, restaurants, shopping, and yes, even a dry cleaner or two—you’ll appreciate the short 20-minute drive to and from the airport. Add in the 1BR/1BA attached ohana (mother-in-law) unit for extra income or guests and you’ve got a winning package here.
Most assuredly, this charming home will be in escrow by the time you get my next Newsletter, so the time to act is NOW!!!
The news across the board in the state (except for possibly the Big Island of Hawaii) is actually moving in the right direction. After several weeks of spikes affecting mostly Oahu (averaging 200+ new cases per day) additional lockdown procedures were put in place and things have calmed down considerably.
Primarily as a result of spikes on Oahu, even with limited inter-island travel, Maui was feeling the brunt with frequent double-digit new cases for several days. And even then, double digits really meant 10 or 12 per day. Mayor Victorino drew a line in the sand and set a date when stiffer restrictions would be put back into place if new cases didn’t drop down below double digits, but they did.
Clearly, the source of most new cases resulted from large gatherings of sometimes 100 or more people mostly in drum circles out on our remote beaches. Once gatherings were limited to 10 or less, our numbers normalized once again. Over the past few weeks, we have had several consecutive days with no new cases in Maui, and no more than 2 or 3 on days with new cases. You can see from the chart above there are only 21 active cases in Maui at this time, and just a total of 396 cases since the beginning of March when our first case was reported.
Well, the “big day” is approaching when the state will finally start the pre-test program for visitors coming to Hawaii. As currently defined, visitors will require a Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to their departure from a certified provider showing a “negative” result. Even though the program is scheduled to begin October i5, the details are still a bit sketchy and the skeptics are not convinced.
News keeps coming in from different directions, with United Airlines being the first to announce they would make testing available at select West Coast airports (San Francisco specifically mentioned) on day of departure with results in 15 minutes at a cost of $250 per person. Hawaiian Airlines chimed in shortly after offering tests for $120-$140 per person (based on the size of your nose?). Then, Oakland Airport, if you will, beat the competition by offering pre-travel Covid tests for free if you fly out of Oakland.
All this has been happening while the State of Hawaii continues to plod along setting up relationships with CVS stores and Kaiser Permanente facilities to administer the tests, unmindful of the Airlines’ plans.
In any event, the fatal flaw to the plan in the minds of many is that the Pre-test idea is designed simply as an option—not a requirement–to the 14-day quarantines that are still in place for the state, with no talk of removing them any time soon. That would mean that some passengers on a given flight would have been pre-tested, and others not. If you’ve been following the news (and how can you not) you know that Covid-19 is often asymptomatic but yet still contagious. So by the time the plane lands, passengers who had been tested 6-hours prior at the airport could be infected by then.
The Mayors of most counties, including our Mayor Victorino, are insisting a second testing needs to be done upon arrival in Hawaii. So far, the state has not expressed any interest in considering that plan.
I’ve had discussions with many friends and associates regarding how quickly the economy in Hawaii–and particularly Maui since it is the most visitor-driven of the four counties—will start seeing droves of visitors heading to the Islands. Most of them, I think primarily out of their own desire to grab a bathing suit and get over here again, insist that flights will be packed and visitor counts increasing at a rapid pace. As a long-time resident and cautious septuagenarian, I’m betting on the slow Road to Recovery. See above article
If you take nothing else from this Newsletter, take my advice to wait at least a month after the October 15th re-opening date (if it happens) to book a trip to Maui. There will be many, many wrinkles to iron out before the dust settles on this one.
Stay safe, be well–make lemonade out of lemons. We shall overcome! If it’s time to take the plunge and make Maui part of your portfolio or even your home, I will donate $500 to the Maui Humane Society in your name!
Mahalo nui loa and a hui hou!
Maui Realty Associates
(808) 283-9093 cell
(808) 879-5510 fax