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How to Maximize your ADU

If you’re ready to take advantage of the newly expediting permitting process for building an Accessory Dwelling Unit, there’s a few guidelines to be aware of before you start designing the perfect ADU.  To help, here’s Home Planning Hawaii’s handy checklist for determining your eligibility for ADU construction…


  1. Your property is not “landlocked,” meaning the land meets with the road directly or via a driveway or easement.
  1. An additional parking space is available for the ADU resident.
  1. A single-family dwelling must already exist on the property, and the owner, or direct family member of the owner, lives on the premises.
  1. Your property is not under a private covenant that forbids the construction of an ADU, and you have recorded a covenant with the State of Hawaii promising not to sell the ADU separately from the original dwelling on the property.
  1. Your lot is zoned in a residential or country district that permits ADUs, and is at least 3,500 square feet.
  1. Lastly, you must abide by the floor space limitations for new Accessory Dwelling Units:
  • 400 square foot structures for lots between 3,500 and 4,999 square feet.
  • 800 square foot structure for lots 5,000 square feet and above.

Wondering how to maximize the utility of a 400-800 square foot living space? Fortunately, good design elements work for homes of every size, especially with a little creativity.

Make sure to include room for both built-in and portable storage: think additional shelving in kitchen and closet spaces, and wardrobes or bed frames with storage included in the design.

Consider raising ceiling heights to increase potential storage spaces in pantries and closets, while also creating the illusion of a larger sized home.

Go with oversize windows that provide lots of natural light, and open up otherwise small spaces. An added bonus? Relying on natural light can help reduce utility costs long-term.

Accessory Dwelling Units can add extra income and value to your property, or can provide a comfortable space for family members who want to live nearby but retain a degree of independence. (ADUS are a great fit for multigenerational families.) And in areas like Hawaii where finding an affordable residence can be a challenge, an increase in ADUs can help address housing shortages throughout the island.

With the help of Home Planning Hawaii, you can find the perfect designers, builders, and architects who specialize in building for Hawaii’s unique circumstances. Contact us today for help with project estimates, locating the right professionals, and navigating the permitting process with ease.

Three Tips for Building a New Home in Hawaii

With Hawaii’s housing market continuing to see rising costs and limited availability, homeowners and builders are getting creative when it comes to new construction. And with Oahu Mayor Kirk Caldwell encouraging both residents and builders to explore affordable housing options like Accessory Dwelling Units and multigenerational housing, issues like sustainability and longevity are more important than ever.

Hoping to build a new home on the islands this year? Here’s three simple tips to consider when designing your new space, each one guaranteed to help make your dream home affordable, beautiful, and carefully personalized to fit your unique needs.

  1. Focus on Flexibility: With square footage sold at a premium cost, good home design will focus on providing a space with the potential to evolve over time. From loft bedrooms that can convert from a playroom to a mother-in-law suite, to indoor/outdoor dining spaces that expand kitchen size, building a new home means building for both the present and the future. Look for designs that easily allow for growth— from creating open concept layouts in common areas, to utilizing land in a way that makes future additions feasible.
  1. Support Sustainability: Not only is “green” construction good for the environment, it’s good for your budget, and helps support local economies. Construction firms are partnering with small businesses for ethically produced materials like reclaimed wood, stone, and recycled metals, all of which gives your home a one-of-a-kind look without the high cost of importing materials from the mainland. And when it comes to new materials, new homes are increasingly solar powered, energy-efficient, and water-conscious. From tankless water heaters to geothermal heat pumps, the homes of 2019 will save both natural resources and homeowner money.
  1. Invest in Income: Oahu’s City Council and the Department of Planning and Permitting recently expedited the permitting process for ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units while simultaneously offering tax-relief plans for new ADU construction. This means your new home could possibly generate a secondary income via a long-term tenant, or could help reduce the cost of living for multigenerational households. Even if an ADU is not in your immediate housing plans, work with your architect and contractor to ensure that a secondary residence is possible in the future.

When it comes to building your future dream home, you need the best in the business. From innovative architects to reliable builders and contractors, we can help you find your 2019 dream team and get you one step closer to creating a space that’s perfect for you. Contact us today, and check out our free online estimator to get a head-start on budgeting.



Three Next-Level Tips for a Successful Home Remodel

You’re finally ready to remodel, and you’re doing everything right: checking out references for your architect, making a budget, extending your timeline to account for setbacks, and being careful to avoid overspending on unnecessary upgrades. When it comes to a large-scale remodeling project, a little extra preparation goes a long way.

Want to take your remodel preparations to the next level? Keep your construction project stress-free and within your budget with these unexpected tips.

  • When interviewing potential architects or contractors, ask for a tour of a current building site. Established companies maintain a clean construction site, don’t disrupt the surrounding neighborhood, and are safely maintained, so it’s a great way to go beyond checking references and ensure a successful project. Taking a tour also gives builders and architects a way to introduce you to their building style and can help you visualize their proposals.
  • Make decisions in advance. After choosing a building plan, touring a spec home and an active building site, you should have a pretty good idea about your preferred color schemes, fixtures, and appliance upgrades. Make these decisions early on to prevent delays in your project in the future, when you’ll be dealing with last-minute decisions or unexpected design changes. It’s almost a guarantee that some part of your project will need to be changed or re-evaluated, so making any possible decisions upfront will keep the project on schedule. 
  • Discuss worst-case scenarios with your architect and/or contractor, and make a plan for how to solve potential problems. Ideally, the weather will always cooperate, the permitting process will be efficient and painless, and the building materials will arrive on time. Unfortunately, complications are often part of the remodeling process, but experienced construction professionals should be able to anticipate common problems, and provide possible solutions. Building in a wet climate with frequent heavy storms? How will your construction team protect your property? Is your home in an area suspect to erosion or foundation sinkage? What’s the contingency plan when building an addition? Discussing worst-case scenarios allows you to plan your timeline and budget more accurately, so it’s worth it to discuss both best and worst-case outcomes.

Want to find a construction team as prepared as you are? Contact us today and we’ll help you match with a team that shares your next-level passion for high-quality design and construction.

6 Must-Ask Questions for Your Architect

You’ve been imagining your dream house for months, (or even years!) and you’re finally ready to design and build the perfect home. Now all you need to do is find an architect capable of making your dreams a reality. Finding the right architect can be challenging, but asking good questions can simplify the process and save you time and money long-term. Here’s six questions that will help you develop a positive working relationship with your architect.

  1. Can I see your portfolio?

Even highly skilled architects gravitate towards projects that match a personal aesthetic. Looking at portfolio of someone’s best work will help you determine compatibly. If the majority of their work includes a series of commercial offices, or even residential work that doesn’t match your personal style, they might not be the best fit. Find and architect with a body of work that shows a passion for the style of home you hope to build.

  1. Can you provide references?

Established and reliable architects or architectural firms should be able to provide multiple references, from past clients and homeowners, to contractors and builders. Make sure to actually follow through and contact each reference, and ask them to describe their experience with the architect. Here’s what to focus on:

  • What did you like about working with this architect?
  • What went well during the project?
  • Did the architect stay on budget and was work completed on time?
  • What concerns, if any, arose during this project? How did this architect address those challenges or concerns?
  1. Are we financially compatible?

When it comes to establishing a budget, transparency is key. Be honest with your architect about your budget, and recognize that your budget may not fit with a particular firm’s expectations. If the architect can work within your budget, invest time in discussing the upfront deposits, fee schedule, hourly rate for additional work, and most importantly, any costs that may be excluded in an initial estimate. “Hidden” costs may include building permits, upgrades, or environmental impact surveys that aren’t directly connected to the cost of building. Before you sign a contract with an architect, make sure your estimate is as comprehensive as possible. Lastly, check back with the provided references to ensure that the architect has a reputation for staying on budget.

  1. Can I meet the team?

Most architecture firms work closely with builders and contractors on a regular basis, and will recommend one to you after reviewing your project. If you choose to work with the professionals suggested by the architect, interview them as well to get an idea of how they intend to work with you on building your home. After your plans are approved, the contractor is the person most responsible for the success of your project, so getting to know them (and asking them for references as well,) is an important part of the building process.

  1. How will we work together?

Does your architect expect weekly input on progress reports, or only for major design choices? Do you want the team to make the majority of choices, or are you a detail-oriented person invested in each aspect of your home’s construction? There’s no right answer, but transparency between you and your architect and the construction team will help expedite progress and reduce stress. Make sure you develop a clear communication plan with both your architect and your contractor, and have a plan for how to resolve the challenges that inevitably come with building a home.

  1. How environmentally sustainable is your work?

With the variety of new materials, building techniques, and technology now available in residential construction, building an environmentally friendly home is more affordable than ever. Not only will green building potentially save you money while building your home, it’s also an investment in long-term energy savings. Ask your architect how they’ve incorporated sustainability into recent projects. With all the resources now available, experienced designers should be well-versed in reducing the environmental impact of your home.

Building a home is an exciting life stage, which ideally ends with you enjoying your dream home. Let us make the process as enjoyable as possible by helping you find the perfect team for your next project. Whether you’re renovating an older home or starting with an empty lot, we’re here to connect you with the best architects, designers, builders, and contractors in the business.


Building a New Home? What Bill 64 Means for New Homebuilders

Building a new home in Oahu means living near the world’s most beautiful beaches and scenic state parks, while enjoying a vibrant local community rich in diversity and culture. There’s a reason it’s the dream living destination for people from around the world, but the journey from dream to reality is certainly not for the faint of heart when it comes to building on the island. From the backlog of building permit applications and months-long waiting periods, to navigating the complex building code, it’s no wonder both residents and industry experts are eager for solutions in residential permitting.

On November 28 2018, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced his decision to allow Bill 64 to become a law— without his signature. Supporters of the new law hope it will expedite the permit process for new construction, while detractors fear that the strict regulations may actually increase delays. As for Caldwell, he wants to wait and see how the proposed resolutions impact residential construction, adapting procedures along the way in order to best serve the community.

What do these new resolutions mean for prospective homebuilders? Bill 64 included seven resolutions hoping intended to streamline the approval process for new building permits. Here’s what’s new, and what you need to know in order to take advantage of the new regulations.

  • Permits for one- and two- family residences will be issued within 60 days of their application through the One-Time Review process, eliminating a wait process that has previously taken several months.
  • Applicants submitted through a third-party reviewer will be approved without being re-checked by the in-house reviewers at the Department of Planning and Permitting.
  • The DPP will hire four new full-time plan reviewers, and two-temporary workers to address Oahu’s increasingly high demand for residential building permits.
  • Once a week, the DPP will close all one-stop permitting locations for a “Malama Mondays” pilot program, in which reviewers will focus solely on clearing the backlog of current permit applications.
  • The number of online permits issued for home improvements and renovations, such as electric, plumbing, and solar-panel installation will be increased by 10 percent.
  • The DPP will approve permits for retrofitting fire sprinklers on existing structures within 120 days.

While all of these resolutions hope to expedite the permitting process, the new guidelines also increase the level of quality required for building plans submitting for approval. Incomplete plans will be rejected immediately, and any plan reviewed and rejected more than three times will be barred from reapplication for twelve months. Since reviewing and correcting incomplete plans several times increases the workload for DPP reviewers, the new regulations hope to motivate builders and architects to only apply for permits if their plans are complete and ready for immediate approval.

With the help of qualified professionals and experts, creating plans that take advantage of the new streamlined permit resolutions means homeowners can expect to begin construction faster than ever before. Let Home Planning Honolulu connect you with the island’s best builders, contractors, architects, and third-party reviewers, and get one step closer to making your dream home a reality.

FAQ: Getting a Building Permit

From building an ADU to the benefits of hiring a third-party to review your building plans, we’ve got answers to your frequently asked permitting questions.

How Do I Apply for a Building Permit?

 Online! In 2013, the Department of Planning and Permitting required that all plans for new builds be submitted electronically. But before you apply for a permit online, make sure you check out the DPP recommended permit checklist (link), a preliminary guide for the basic information required for permit approval.

Do I need a permit to build an ADU?

Yes. In order to build an “Accessory Dwelling Unit,” or secondary living space on property zoned for a single-family residence, you must obtain a building permit. The Department of Planning and Permitting provides another useful checklist (link)for determining what documentation you need to provide in order to be eligible for a permit. The good news? If your existing property meets all zoning, water, and building codes, approval for an ADU building permit should be granted quickly.

Is the OTR Process Right for Me?

Possibly! The One-Time Review process helps expedite the permitting process, so long as the plans submitted are complete, high-quality, and compliant with existing building ordinances.

In Oahu, the One-Time Review process entails submitting completed plans to a plan reviewer at the DPP, who provides a one-time review with comments regarding any required changes to the building plans. The architect or designer then resubmits corrected plans, and if they are accepted by the reviewer, a building permit is issued.

If additional corrections are discovered during the course of construction by the owner or an inspector, the owner must ask the architect to revise and resubmit plans to the DPP for approval, and property owners are liable for any losses or damage incurred if corrections are not made after the permit is issued.

If you are working with a residential development company to build your new home, your architectural design plans are most likely part of a design series, and should already be in compliance with most building codes, and require few, if any, corrections. However, even one-of-a-kind home design plans can benefit from the OTR process, so long as you are using licensed professionals to design and build your home. Furthermore, proposed changes to Honolulu’s permitting laws hope to streamline this process further by mandating that all OTR applications be processed within 60 days.

Can a Third-Party Review Expedite the Permit Process?

 Yes. Hiring a licensed third-party reviewer to facilitate the permitting process helps ensure that all required documents and plans are in compliance with state code before they are submitted to the Department of Planning and Permitting. In another attempt to expedite the permitting process, Honolulu is considering a law that would allow permits utilizing third-party reviewers to be approved without spot-checking by the DPP.

Hiring the right professionals can make the permitting process significantly easier. Let Home Planning Hawaii connect you with qualified third-party reviewers, architects, contractors, and designers capable of making the home-building process efficient and stress-free.





Can You Afford to Build Without a Permit?

Despite previous attempts to regulate and maintain key safety regulations found in Honolulu’s residential building codes, recent findings from Honolulu’s City Council revealed a steady increase in permit violations by homeowner’s utilizing owner-builder exemptions to avoid increased regulation from the Department of Planning and Permitting.

Since owner-builders do not need a contractor’s license in order to receive a permit for residential structures, unlicensed contractors often construct new homes in direct violation of residential building codes—including the construction of large-scale “monster homes” intended as illegal rental properties, while simultaneously disregarding safety, wage, and tax standards designed to protect their workers.

As a result, the Honolulu City Council adopted Bill 53, which created Building Ordinance 18-33 and orders the demolition of non-permitted construction projects and increases the non-negotiable fees for companies that disregard building codes and regulations. The Bill was approved by Mayor Caldwell on September 27th, and is considered effective immediately.

Key items in the new ordinance include:

  • Requirements that owner-builders be provided with instructions on complying with all employment, safety, tax, and environmental regulations in order to prevent the construction of homes and buildings under the claim that owner-builders were unaware of existing permit requirements.
  • Individuals or companies served with a notice of violation must correct their violations before resuming work and pay a $2,000 fine by the specified date. Failure to comply and/or pay the fine will result in an additional fine of $2,000 per day for each day in which the violations continue.
  • If a building is constructed without a permit, a fine of $10,000 or fine of ten-times the cost of a building permit will be issued daily until work on an illegal construction project is halted. This fine is non-negotiable and must be paid. Furthermore, an additional $10,000 fine will be issued each day in which a permit is not acquired by the individual or company responsible.
  • Buildings constructed without a permit and without payment of the fine will be demolished.

Finding a licensed, credible, and safe contractor is a key part of building a long-lasting home. And with new building ordinances and fines in effect, it is no longer less expensive to risk hiring an unlicensed contractor to build your home. Let us help you find an honest, experienced, and skilled building team and rest assured that your budget won’t be impacted by unnecessary fines and building violations.






What Homeowner’s Wish They’d Known Before Building

You’ve finally decided to build your dream home, and you’re ready to start drawing up plans and deliberating over types of molding and window size. Congratulations! Building a home is exciting, but even the most prepared first-time builder can overlook important details when making the hundreds of decisions that come with creating a new home. Fortunately, we’ve got tips and important reminders from people who’ve done it before, making it easier for you to end up in a home you love. From finding the right architect to deciding on upgrades, here’s what homeowner’s wish they’d known before building…

Interview your Team: From your architect to your contractor, choosing the right professionals is a vital part of a successful build. Make sure to do your homework before you put down a deposit with an individual or company, and spend some time learning everything you can about the people building your home. Ask to see completed projects, talk to previous clients about their experiences, and look to trusted friends and colleagues for referrals. Experienced and reliable professionals will be happy to answer address your concerns and show you their results, so don’t be afraid to ask questions before hiring.

Go green now. Making room in the budget for environmentally friendly upgrades may seem like an unnecessary expense when you’re eyeing beautiful light fixtures or pouring over paint samples. But these behind-the-scenes decisions can either save or cost you significant amounts of money—it all depends on when you make them. Energy efficient heating and cooling systems, temperature regulating insulation, solar panels, automated electrical systems: all of these upgrades are significantly cheaper to do while building a home, and a lot more expensive to do afterwards. And while the upfront cost might be more than the standard alternatives, going green will save you money in energy bills long-term.

Think ahead: Building a home implies a significant time commitment to your new space, so make sure to plan a home that works now and into the future. With multigenerational living on the rise everywhere in Hawaii, this may mean altering your building plans to accommodate for elderly parents who can’t access the stairs, or adding additional bedrooms for future children. And when it comes to building for a growing family, remember that the space that works for an infant or toddler might not work for teenagers or young adults (especially ones with a tendency to monopolize the bathroom and need lots of extra closet space.)

Keep to tradition (when it comes to the big stuff.) There’s always new trends when it comes to home design, and while you want your new home to feel personal and unique, it’s important to balance out the latest trends with function and sustainability. After all, there’s a reason why kitchens are traditionally on the main floor of the home and why master suites are situated away from communal spaces. It works! Tradition doesn’t mean sticking to one architecture type or style, (even a completely modern minimalist home can maintain a traditional floor plan,) it just means expressing your creative side in ways that can evolve and change over time. Maybe this means choosing a neutral color palette in the main living areas and going bold in smaller spaces, or using furniture, art, and personal items to make your space feel like home.

Need help finding a contractor that specialized in energy efficient homes? Or an interior designer who can blend tradition with personality? We can help. Contact us today for a complete guide to finding the best residential construction experts in Hawaii. They’ll help make your dream home a reality, and give you a little more time to find the perfect paint colors, light fixtures, and the perfect choice of crown moldings.



Perfecting the Outdoor Living Space

Want an open-air oasis that’s perfect for gathering loved ones together and entertaining all year long? Our go-to list of simple outdoor improvements not only increases the value of your home, but maximizes your usable living space and can even reduce future energy bills. Whether you’re starting fresh after building a home, or simply want to beautify your existing yard, these simple upgrades can take any space from basic to beautiful.

*Treat your deck or patio like an extension of your home: This means choosing high-quality materials that are weather resistant, furnishing your outdoor space, and adding unique touches that reflect your personality and style. Using natural wood? Make sure to oil and seal your deck regularly, and only build with pressure-treated wood that can withstand common outdoor pests like termites. Add furniture that can double as both dining and lounge seats, create options for shade with canopies and umbrellas, and include accent pieces like throw pillows or potted plants. Remember, a good patio or deck feels like a second living room and a natural gathering place.

*Go green and natural: Smart landscaping choices are the quickest and most cost-effective way to a lush and beautiful yard. Start with adding trees and bushes that are indigenous to Hawaii and grow quickly in a tropical climate. From native Acacia Koa trees that provide shade and require minimal water to using Bacopa Monnieri plants for easy and verdant ground cover, using plants that thrive in Hawaii’s climate means your yard always looks fresh and inviting. Want to up your curb-appeal and save on energy bills? Plant shade trees near the large windows of your home to help keep rooms naturally cool.

*Keep things cool (or warm) regardless of the temperature: Hoping to enjoy time on the patio on cooler evenings? Consider installing a permanent fire pit as a focal point for outdoor entertaining. Want to stay outdoors when temperatures rise or during evening sunsets? Install retractable screens or shade canopies that can be adjusted based on the weather and time of day. While you can’t avoid every weather scenario, planning for changes in temperature means more time spent outdoors and more time enjoying your new space.

Need a hand designing and building a perfect deck or patio? Need more information on permitting when adding a larger addition to your home? Home Planning Hawaii is here to help. Check out our free online estimator and determine the cost of your next project, or contact us directly to find the skilled professionals you need in order to make your backyard your new favorite room in the house.

Customize Your Home Without Breaking Your Budget

Ever find yourself correctly guessing the year a home was built solely on the design choices made by the owner and the designer? From oft-repeated paint colors to ubiquitous materials, spotting the same design trends over and over can make building or remodeling a home feel a little boring. Find ways to personalize your home and infuse creativity into your design in three simple steps that don’t hurt your budget.


*Start from the beginning: Communicate closely with your architect or designer before starting construction and make your home unique before building even begins. Vision boards, (whether created online or by collecting images that reflect your style,) can help architects, builders, and designers identify the architecture types and color schemes that take a vision boards from inspiration to reality. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to collect ideas from a variety of styles or themes. It’s your job to discover what you love, and a good designer will help you incorporate your finds cohesively.

*Incorporate your passions: Make your new home yours by focusing your budget and square-footage on areas that reflect the things that make you happiest. Love cooking? Work with your architect to create a dream kitchen with plenty of room to experiment. Feel inspired by your new home’s abundance of natural light? Turn a loft space into an airy art studio. Whether you make space for an in-house gym or fill the living room with built-in book shelves, personalizing your home means making space for things that bring you joy.

*Add color and texture: If you’re working with pre-made home plans, you can still find inexpensive ways to make your new place feel like you. Painting accent walls in your favorite colors is a great start, but get creative and add paint to a few unorthodox accents spots as well— like interior doors, kitchen cabinets, or bedroom window panes. Use bold wallpaper with unique patterns in small doses (think bathrooms, laundry rooms, or hallways,) and you’ll take your home from builder-grade to boutique design without breaking the budget.

Need help customizing and personalizing your home? Contact us today and we’ll help you meet the perfect architect, builder, interior designer, or contractor that can help ensure that your new house truly feels like home. From custom-made architectural plans to interior design consulting, let Home Planning Hawaii be your guide to all things home.

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