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Building a Home in Hawaii – Buy or Build?


One of the most common questions we get is, “How much does it take to build a home in Hawaii? Is it more expensive to build or buy?”

Should you find land and build from scratch, find an older one and remodel that one, or just buy a new one?

This answer has a lot of factors, and it will vary depending on who you ask. Vary rarely will  you get an actual straight answer.  So we decided to break it down and actually give you one.

It depends on the following factors:

  • Where do you want to live?
  • How big of a home are you building?
  • What is your budget for building?
  • Do you have a time constraint?

Not knowing those things makes it impossible to give you exact numbers. But here is an example formula that allows you to work it out yourself.

Currently the median price to buy a home on Oahu is about $650,000. It depends on the area, but that will most likely not be a newer home and will need work.

The reality is a nicer newer home is going to be more like $800,000 and up. That would be a move in ready home that needs little to no work.

Now if you want to build from the ground up, you need to find property. This is not easy. While there are vacant lots available, your options are limited.

If you are lucky and have the time and patience you might be able to get a distressed property in a short sale. The lowest we have seen recently is $400,000 and the home was a tear down.

Next you need someone to do the work. Someone you can trust. This is essential and can make or break your whole project. Finding a Design Build Contractor (see this link to learn about DBC) with an established history is key to making sure you get what you asked for and don’t go over your budget.

If you are thinking of doing it yourself be prepared for a lot of headaches, the system is not an easy one, permits for one are a process even most contractors struggle with. The people that work at the DPPA have a hard time even. Also if you do not have experience locating materials or a relationships with vendors, you may be getting substandard materials or paying more than necessary.

Now you’ve found someone to build, what is it going to cost you?

To build a home in Hawaii it costs about $180-250 a square foot if you go with reputable licensed contractors using safe quality materials. If you do the work yourself, you might be able to get the cost down to about $150/ft.

If you build a 2000 sqft house in Oahu, you are going to spend at least $400k on the construction. If your property cost $400k, you are looking at $800k.

So there is your answer.

In short, to buy new or build it is about the same!

So the real question is, “Should I build or buy?”

The answer is obvious.


One main reason is you get what YOU want. Why pay for another persons vision or problem when you can build your own dream home? It may take more time then buying a move in ready house, but getting what you want from the beginning with a reputable contractor who can look at your long term needs like ohana living and Aging in Place, will pay off much more in the long run. Not only monetarily, but for your happiness as well.

Attend our FREE Monthly Home Building Seminar

Find out everything you need to know about what it takes to build a home in Hawaii.

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