A New Day in Hawaiian Real Estate

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Photo: Minoo Ellison

By Minoo Elison

With half of all Hawaiians in the US residing outside of Hawaiʻi due to escalating housing prices and cost of living, the effort to increase Hawaiian homeownership was never more urgent. Luckily, the tide is turning as more Hawaiians in real estate collaborate to help other Hawaiians become homeowners. As owners and empowered stakeholders, our voices and impact are magnified to help shape Hawaiʻi’s future.

We’re in the midst of a major shift. For the first time in my 17-year real estate career assisting clients on Maui, Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island I recorded an all Hawaiian real estate transaction! Everyone involved, from the developer/sellers, to the home inspector, loan officer, broker and buyers were Native Hawaiians.

It started with Tre and Kalei Spencer, long-time Waimea residents, reaching out to me for representation. They chose a Kamuela Meadows home, newly built by Nā Koa Development in 2020. Owners/builders Guyton Galdera and Kahanu Noa founded Nā Koa in 2018. These Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaiʻi graduates are helping clients build legacies and supporting Hawaiʻi’s economy in the process. “We were able to employ over 20 people with this one project,” said Galdera. “For us, building legacies through real estate means creating an opportunity for local families to stay home in the islands.”

Lohea Merola, an experienced loan officer with HomeBridge Financial Services, made the process smooth and closed the loan in 30 days despite the global pandemic. Born in Kona and raised in Utah, Merola returned home as an adult to be close to family. “For me, it’s not about closing as many loans as I can. It’s about coaching my clients through the borrowing process,” said Merola.

Leon Victorino, owner of Kīnāʻole Home Inspections, inspected the home and helped to make sure the project was well constructed. He started his business in 2015 after identifying the need for more home inspectors on Hawaiʻi Island. Kīnāʻole means “flawless,” and is a mandate to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, in the right place, for the right individual, for the right reason.

Hawaiʻi’s real estate industry needs more Native Hawaiians. We understand each other’s needs and can best serve one-another. For young people considering a career in real estate, talk to a realtor, home inspector or mortgage broker; find a mentor who can help you get started and grow your career.

Each Hawaiian family who becomes a homeowner is an inspiration to their family, friends and community. Becoming a homeowner is possible. With more collaboration between Hawaiian housing professionals across the state, we can leverage resources and find solutions to Hawaiʻi’s challenges. Just as in ancient times, we understand that Hawaiian independence is based on our reliance on each other. And today is a new day for Hawaiians to unite, envision and own our future.


Minoo Elison is Principal Broker/Owner of Connect Hawaiʻi. For more information visit www.connecthawaiinow.com.