The Definitive Maui Vacation Condo Buyers + Owners Guide

Buying a Vacation Condo on Maui

Owning a vacation rental on Maui is a dream of many and it's a dream come true for those that have already made the leap. In this article, I will discuss the aspects of purchasing these types of properties as well as cover some of the most desirable complexes and I will also address many aspects of ownership.

I will also provide a few things I've learned about how to get the most out of your vacation unit once you have it.  After all, a vacation condo is the most fun you'll ever have with an investment!

Reasons to Consider Purchasing a Vacation Rentable Property on Maui

South Maui Beaches

You Love It!

You love Maui, you’ve been coming here for years, and have started to wonder what it would look like to own a second home or investment property in the Aloha state. The number one reason most people purchase a vacation property on Maui is that they love it here and want to spend more time on the island with family and friends.

You’re a Savvy Investor    

Once you’ve decided in your heart this is where you’d like to be, it has to make sense financially. This is typically the second reason why most people choose Maui to own a short-term rentable condo, the investment opportunity. Not many resort destinations provide 12 months of steady traffic and income for a rental property quite like Maui does.

If you’ve rented an Airbnb at one of Maui's luxury condo complexes like the Wailea Beach Villas in Wailea or the Honua Kai Resort and Spa in Kaanapali, you’ll know just how high the nightly rates are and just how hard it is to book a room. 

Buy a Condo on Maui

As a Maui realtor, I’m not a financial advisor, but speaking from my experience, with 30% down on a good vacation rentable condo you can often cover all of your costs(including HOA, electric, property taxes, mortgage) and then some with the revenue from doing nightly and weekly rentals.

Allowing others to build the equity in your appreciating asset is one of the most powerful combinations in the investing world. If you're not financing and need to place your cash somewhere safe that can also provide income, the Maui real estate market is the place to do it. 

You’re Heading Towards Retirement

Many of my clients have a long-term vision for their retirement and purchase a short-term rentable condo 5 to 7 years before retirement with plans of taking occupancy for larger periods of time in the future. Using your current income before retirement can make getting approved for the loan easier and give you some time to build further equity in the unit.

Just because a complex is zoned for short-term rentals doesn't mean you have to rent it or can't make it your primary residence, in fact, many short-term rentable complexes on Maui have owner-occupancy rates above 10%.

What to Know Before Purchasing a Maui Vacation Condo

Condos for sale in Wailea

If you already own a vacation rentable property on Maui, you can skip this section and go down to the maximizing ownership section. If you’ve decided that you’re ready to get serious about condo ownership this section is for you. 

One of the more common misconceptions about short-term rentals on Maui is that you can do this with a single-family residence or any property. That is not true anymore. In recent years, the County of Maui has restricted transient accommodation operations to condo associations that explicitly approve short-term rentals. You can apply for a BNB permit on a residential property, but the process takes a minimum of 5 years and doesn't always work out, so I typically don't steer people in that direction.

There are many condo complexes that do not allow short-term rentals and most listings online don’t indicate if the complex is or is not approved for short-term rentals, this is where working with an experienced realtor will save you a lot of time.

Narrow Down Your Options

Early in the search, you’ll want to narrow down which side of the island you’d like to be on along with your budget. There are only two areas that have short-term rentable condos, West Maui and South Maui. Once you know which side you prefer, then it's about narrowing down to a couple of complexes based on budget. Knowing good or bad units in a particular complex is the job of the realtor. 

Get Pre-Approved and Consider Costs

Pre Approval

Once options are narrowed down it's time to see some units, but before doing that, if you’re going to be financed, you’ll need to get pre-approved with a local lender. We always recommend using a local lender for these types of properties because mainland banks will rarely if ever get underwriter approval for an investment property zoned for short-term rentals. Local banks and lenders are familiar with the complexes and will have no issues while having the same rates. A couple of lenders I recommend for short-term rentable condos.

Lenders on Maui

  • Dan Bardenhagen with Wells Fargo 808-280-6168
  • David Browne with Makai Mortgage 808-344-3414
  • Brady Spangler with Guaranteed Rate 808-264-3798

These three lenders have a great record of low rates and happy clients. 

There are a few different costs of owning a short-term rentable Maui condo that you won’t incur on other types of properties. First of all, the Maui property tax is higher for short-term rentable units, about 4 times higher than an owner-occupied property. You will charge your renters the transient accommodation tax and the cleaning fees, but you will need them on your balance sheet. You’ll have HOA of course and any regular maintenance the unit might require. If you need space for your furry friend, you'll find some Maui condos that are pet-friendly, but not too many.

Getting an Accepted Offer

Maui accepted offer

This is still the hardest part, even after the real estate market surged and has since returned to a more balanced market, short term condos are still in very high demand and in very low supply. Getting an accepted offer on a short-term rentable condo right now is like winning Olympic gold. It takes preparation, talent, and the perfect performance on a purchase contract. There are a myriad of buyers in this current market with only a handful of sellers. This creates multiple offer situations as well as many broken hearts. Being patient and not getting too attached to one property or another will pay dividends for the foreseeable future. 

Winning an offer in a seller’s market like this will require offering at least the asking price and often requires offering over-asking or at least adding an escalation clause and a short appraisal clause. I won’t go into too much detail about these here, but if you contact me directly I’m happy to go over all of our purchase contract strategies to win contracts.

Cash or Financed

That being said, how you will pay for the property is the biggest consideration for sellers along with what contingencies you are willing to waive. A cash offer with no inspection at full asking price might beat a financed offer with an inspection that is 30-50k higher. A couple of reasons a seller might accept a lower offer in cash or with a large amount down is the certainty of closing and the ability to close quickly. Cash deals can close in a couple of weeks where a financed offer can take 60-80 days depending on the situation.

If you have the cash to offer all cash it may be your best chance to secure the property, many use this strategy and then refinance the property after closing to recoup the cash. 

If you have any questions about this or want to learn more about preparing to purchase a condo on Maui and how to win in a multiple-offer situation, give me a call at 808-214-4799.

My Favorite Condo Complexes

Kapalua Condos For Sale

Here are a few of my favorite short-term rentable complexes for your consideration with links to pages with more information about each. I like these complexes because they are proven winners as investments(high occupancy/steady rates/good associations) and are just as loved by those spending their precious island time there. 

Browse South Maui Short Term Condos For Sale

For Current Owners: Ways to Maximize

We all want to get the extra mileage out of our investments and your Maui condo is no different. Many owners may not be as concerned about maximizing revenue and choose to manage their own units so they can keep it relatively open to come and go as they please and that’s definitely one way to go.

However, if you’re looking to hit 80 or 90% plus occupancy levels and really maximize the revenue, I would recommend working with a property management company like Vacassa or Coldwell Banker Island Vacations. 

Property Management

Property Management on Maui

These companies will typically charge a 20-25% management fee but will take all of the work out of it for you. Having dozens of check-ins and checkouts a year is a lot of work. Coordinating cleanings, coordinating repairs, managing the calendar, and the other required tasks can add up and become time-consuming.

These property management companies work on a percentage basis so you know they are motivated to fill in the empty nights, change rates according to the season to get the highest amount per night possible and address all client issues so they have a great experience and leave you a great review online. That being said, in my experience, these companies pay for themselves.  Call me at 808-214-4799 for a reference.

Include a Rental Car with Your Condo

As you’re probably aware, the rental car business has struggled to accommodate the return of visitors to Maui. Many individuals have begun renting their own cars. One way to separate yourself from the competition as a rental unit is to offer a guaranteed hassle-free rental car for an extra cost.

You can purchase a car and then leave it at the complex or even better, rent a monthly parking space at Kahului airport for $160/month and always have a car ready for you or your guests when you arrive. I can’t take credit for this idea though, I have to give that to my clients/friends from Arizona who own a gorgeous unit in Kapalua

Make Upgrades and Offer Small Extras

Vacation Rentals on Mauipc: Airbnb

Units that have been recently upgraded have better curb appeal online and lend themselves to higher nightly rates and occupancy percentages. You'll also capitalize on your gains when you sell your property. When remodeling, look for materials that endure and won’t show wear over time. As for decorations, the days of making your unit look as ‘Hawaii’ as possible have passed. Going neutral is the way to go and it’s better to keep things simple and easy to maintain. 

If you have the old-school coffee maker, upgrade to a Keurig or include a French Press and coffee grinder. Don’t go for the basic spices in the kitchen or basic toiletries in the bathroom. Get rid of the old iPod dock/Cd player combo and keep a nice Bluetooth speaker in the unit. Small upgrades in those areas make guests feel just a little more comfortable.

Maui is looking to ban the cheap little boogie boards you always see, so don’t include those, just a couple of Tommy Bahama chairs from Costco and an extremely functional cooler backpack like this Titan Deep Freeze on Amazon is a good idea. Including a couple of the fun large pineapple or swan, inflatable floats are a fun idea also. For more ideas check out the 47 Must-Have Vacation Rental Amenities.

Comment cards are also a great way to get feedback and look for ways to enhance the guest experience. Many property management companies will handle things like that for you as well, but they won’t always make the suggestions to add the little extras that make a particular unit stand out. The best way to fill the calendar is to have guests fall in love with your unit so much they come back and stay every year!

Make Your Next Deal on Maui A Breeze

Maui Real Estate

Whether you’re a potential buyer or current owner on Maui, I hope you’ve found something valuable in this article that you can put to use. Owning a vacation condo on Maui is certainly a dream come true and if you’ve been through the process, I’m sure you know that having a dedicated professional you can trust is a critical component.

If you ever have any questions about buying or selling a property on Maui, I’d be honored to be of service to you on the path to achieving your dreams.

Get In Touch!

Evan Harlow Maui

Evan Harlow is a Realtor on Maui who has the expertise, experience, and work ethic to help you achieve all of your real estate buying or selling goals. We promise exceptional service and support from the beginning of the process through closing and beyond.

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