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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.

Is a Contemporary-Style Home Right for You?

Ready to build the perfect dream house?

Discovering the ideal architecture style for your new space is one of the first important steps in designing a home. But with design trends that change almost daily and a multitude of architectural styles available, finding a design that’s best for you can be a bit of a challenge.

We’re here to help. From creating a budget and hiring the right architect to connecting with the best builders in Hawaii, we’re dedicated to making the process of building a home as simple and stress-free as possible. And it all starts with identifying a building style that truly reflects your lifestyle and personality.

One of our favorite architecture models for ideal island living? Contemporary-style homes that effortlessly blend midcentury design with traditional elements and eco-friendly materials. As stylish and timeless as their modern/minimalist predecessors, but with all the warmth and personality of a craftsman-style bungalow, contemporary homes offer the perfect fusion of past and present, and is easily customizable.

You’ll know a contemporary home is the right fit for you if you’re interested in open-concept floor plans with mixed-use rooms and plenty of room for entertaining. This style draws heavily on modern architecture— which prioritized lots of unrestricted space, fluid connections between the indoors and outdoors, and minimalist design elements.

But while many people find a truly modern home too impersonal or “cold” for residential living, contemporary homes infuse personality and warmth into the design by adding natural building materials (think wood, rough-cut stone, and even plant-life,) and pragmatic floor plans that include extra storage space, private master-suites, and guest rooms. The end result is a beautiful and timeless home with plenty of space, personality, and amenities.

A final benefit of the contemporary style? Contemporary styles often incorporate the best in green building practices as well as the latest technology to make a home both sustainable and unique. By utilizing natural light to decrees heating and cooling costs, to using local materials like bamboo flooring, a contemporary home style is truly adaptable to both the needs of the owner and the environment.

If you’re ready to explore contemporary building styles as part of the process of building a new home, contact us today for a free online estimate or to connect with experienced builders and designers that specialize in building one-of-a-kind homes.



How To: Make Your New Home Feel Like a Resort

Bring the vacation vibes home by stealing a few design hacks from pros in the luxury resort industry. Whether you’re going for old-school glamour or sleek boutique hotel, designing a new staycation-worthy home is easier than you’d think.

  • Curate a theme throughout the home: Surprisingly enough, when it comes to making a space look extra-luxe less truly is more. While an expensive modern kitchen, colonial-style entry way, and traditional dining room may look stunning individually, trying to combine each individual style within one home often ends up looking cluttered, not creative. Work with your architect and designer to identify a theme and general style to carry throughout the home: from common colorways to recurring structural patterns like arched doorways or rounded windows. Whatever you choose, a coherent style guide is the first step to taking a new home from builder-grade to resort worthy.
  • Create welcoming and unique outdoor living spaces: forgo the traditional patio or deck scenario for an outdoor living space that feels just as luxurious as their indoor counterparts. From open-air living rooms complete with daybeds and ottomans around the fire-pit to restaurant-worthy outdoor kitchens perfect for dining al fresco, channel the all-inclusive feel of a resort by making friends and family feel comfortable anywhere in the house.
  • Include unique landscaping features in your home design (and budget!): Mimic the look of a high-end hotel with water features and installations, (think meditation fountains and koi ponds) and choose a monochrome color palette when it comes to designing a garden—coordinating colors makes your garden look unique and intentional, and will trick neighbors into thinking you’ve got an entire staff of gardeners keeping things fresh.
  • Emphasize both form and function: Resort spaces are well-organized, functional, and capable of making each space feel like its own private oasis. How do they do it? Careful planning with lots of beautifully functional storage spaces. From walk-in closets to clutter-hiding bathroom armoires, replicate the hotel feel by including plenty of built-ins and storage spaces in your new home.

Want to make your new home a relaxing oasis, or transform an older space into a modern retreat? Contact us today for an all-inclusive approach to building a home, from instant project estimates online to a guided tour of all the best local architects, builders, and designers.




Building a Kid-Friendly Home

When building a new home for you and your family, it’s important to create a space that’s child-friendly and beautiful. And even if you plan on making your new place your “forever home,” you definitely want your space to function even after the kids grow up. Fortunately, good architects and builders can help you design a home that works now and in the coming decades. Talk with your home-design team about incorporating the following elements into your home, and enjoy building a dream space that meets everyone’s needs.

Storage, storage, and more storage: The key to keeping kid-centered spaces neat and functional is providing plenty of storage that can contain a variety of kid memorabilia— from the trains and blocks of toddlerhood to hockey sticks and high school art projects. Built-in shelving and closet space is key for keeping your home timeless and organized, and still looks beautiful long after the kids leave the nest.

Create flexible bonus spaces: While open-concept building plans are great for creating functional common areas, it’s important to designate some square footage as “kid only”
spaces that can change in purpose over time. Playrooms can transition into study spaces or multimedia rooms, and kids thrive in homes with specially allocated spaces for play and relaxation. And when kid-friendly spaces are no longer needed, the former playroom can easily become a guest room, home office, or gym.

Invest in indoor-outdoor living spaces: No matter how cool the playroom is, kids still like spending time wherever the grown-ups are. This makes indoor-outdoor living spaces ideal: kids feel free to play outside and explore since adults and older siblings are always nearby. Talk with your architect about designing an outdoor kitchen and dining area, or an open-concept sunroom that offers a great view your kid’s backyard adventures.

Bathrooms that actually increase home value: From double-sink vanities to a Jack-and-Jill bathroom between bedrooms, spending a little extra time and money to create kid-friendly bathrooms not only gives everyone enough space to get ready in the morning, it actually increases the value of your home. The double vanity in your kid’s bedroom might become the perfect his-and-her vanity for future owners living with aging parents, or future owners with kids of their own. Adding an additional pocket bathroom or a three-quarter bath is another great way to make your home functional kid-friendly.

Ready to start building the perfect family home? Check out our online estimator for a free cost analysis of your project, and contact us today for help finding the architects, contractors, and builders with the experience and expertise you need to make your next home truly special.

Making a Master Bedroom Santuary

It’s easy to overlook the master bedroom when designing a new home, especially when communal living spaces (think kitchens and living rooms,) require lots of space and detail-oriented planning. But given how much time is spent in a master bedroom, it’s important to work with your architect or designer to create a sanctuary worth escaping to at the end of each day.

Whether you’re working with personalized designs or building in a planned residential community, following a few simple tips can take master suite from standard build to relaxing sanctuary without compromising your budget. Here’s to creating a beautiful and unique escape within your home…

Give yourself some space: Whenever possible, orient the master bedroom away from central living spaces and other bedrooms. Whether this gives you some needed distance you’re your (otherwise well-loved) kiddos or just away from a busy kitchen or home office, physically distancing the master bedroom from the rest of the home creates the illusion of a private retreat where you can truly relax and unwind. An otherwise unused loft space is perfect for a master suite that exists on its very own level, and using necessary but less-utilized rooms (like a laundry room or home gym) can insulate your bedroom from noise while simultaneously providing privacy.

Create versatility with smart lighting: Ask your contractor to enlarge the windows in your master bedroom to increase the available natural light and add visual interest to your room. Of course, while natural light might be welcomed in the morning or early evening, don’t forget to invest in light and heat absorbing window treatments to keep your space sleep-friendly. Beyond windows, a variety of light sources—including those that can be adjusted for brightness—can help keep your space feeling warm and welcoming or cool and calming depending on your mood.

Make it yours: Personalizing your master suite helps make your bedroom a place you’ll want to spend time in, making it worth the initial investment. Whether it’s adding a little extra space to the en-suite bathroom to accommodate the spa-worthy tub and shower you’ll use every day after a long run, or building a comfortable reading nook to enjoy each evening, find a way to bring a little bit of your own unique personality to your master bedroom.

Creating a sanctuary-style master bedroom takes time and careful consideration, but you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us today for help finding an architect to design your dream space, and for assistance finding a contractor or builder capable of making that dream a reality.





How to Spot a Lemon of a Fixer-Upper

Our last post covered the characteristics of a good fixer-upper: older homes that can be transformed into dream homes and potentially resold at a profit. But even if you find a competitively priced home in a great area, a home inspection can uncover structural issues extending far beyond cosmetic repairs—a “lemon,” or home with flaws that far outweigh the potential benefits of ownership.

Structural issues put an enormous strain on your budget, and should make you think twice before investing in the home. Want to know the top budget-busters of residential renovations? We’ve got you covered. Here’s how to avoid choosing a lemon of a fixer-upper…

Watch out for:

*Water Damage: Long-term expose to leaks and flooding can lead to dangerous mold, degraded wood and insulation, and eventual foundation issues. Older homes are particularly susceptible to water issues, since poorly placed drainage systems, tilted driveways, and eroded pipes cause gradual but significant damage to the structural integrity of a home. Be wary of a home requiring extensive repairs due to water damage, as these issues are often ongoing and costly.

*Electrical Issues: Another issue common in older homes, rewiring or replacing the electrical system is rarely a DIY project, and hiring a professional will drive up the cost of your renovation quickly. Before buying a fixer-upper, make sure the home inspection doesn’t reveal excessive electrical hazards that make a home dangerous to live in and expensive to repair.

*A Damaged Foundation: Often the result of extensive water damage, foundational issues impact the entire home— causing cracks in the walls, uneven floors, and sinking window and door frames. Fixer-uppers with a bad foundation are a risky investment since many problems require you to raise and replace the foundation, a process that can cost several thousand dollars and is only sometimes effective.

By avoiding the “lemons” of the real-estate market, you’re better equipped to spot the true fixer-uppers, homes that with a little TLC can return your financial investment and provide you with a unique and personalized dream home. If you need help bringing an older home into the present, we are here to help. Contact us today for resources on finding the best contractors and architects in your area, and be sure to check out our free online-estimator for an initial cost assessment of your next project.



Four Questions to Ask About that Fixer-Upper

Ready for a new-to-you home? We all know that a fixer-upper is sometimes just a dream home in disguise. But we also know that purchasing the wrong property can lead to nightmare levels of expensive stress. Wondering how you can tell if the older home in your neighborhood is a real-estate Cinderella story waiting to happen? Here’s four questions to ask before investing in a fixer-upper.

*Is the price competitive? An ideal fixer-upper should cost significantly less than nearby comparatives, freeing up some of your budget for the necessary renovations. After all, why spend money on a home that requires extra work when you could buy a turn-key alternative for the same amount? Furthermore, a fixer-upper is almost always guaranteed to go over budget, even with careful planning, so securing your home for a low price guarantees you’ll be able to afford the inevitable surprise project.

*What’s the floorplan? Open layouts and floorplans still reign supreme in real-estate, and some older homes simply cannot be renovated to fit the ideal, at least not without extensive changes that may not be worth your money or your time. While some home repairs and alterations are to be expected when working with a fixer-upper, be wary of homes that will only “work” if you remove several walls or build a new addition. When touring potential homes, look for ones with “good bones,” homes that can easily be updated to modern standards without major changes to the original layout.

*What condition is it in? Major flood, termite, or fire damage may render a home too expensive to save, and any potential repairs may necessitate special (and difficult to obtain,) permits. Avoid homes that require you to replace entire systems: think plumbing, ventilation, electrical and stick with the homes that require cosmetic updates that won’t blow the budget: paint, minor landscaping, updated appliances. Of course, be sure to include an inspection clause in your purchasing offer, so you’re free to keep searching for the perfect fixer-upper if an in-depth inspection reveals excessive structural damage.

*Where is it? The age-old real-estate adage—location, location, location—is still very true, and a useful barometer for determining the long-term resale value of your potential home. Homes in desirable areas consistently sell for high prices, so a fixer-upper in a good neighborhood might be worth the risk. If you’re house-hunting in an unfamiliar area, take the time to check out nearby homes and businesses. Are neighboring homes in good repair? Are the nearby businesses established partners in the community? Well-maintained homes and businesses are indicators of high-value real-estate and an important question to consider before investing in a home that requires expensive repairs.

Despite the inherent risks to buying a fixer-upper, carefully considering the above questions can help you mitigate potential problems and find the fixer-upper destined to become your new home. The next step? Hiring the best professionals to help you plan, design, and transform your fixer-upper into something beautiful. Contact us today and let us help you find the best fixer-upper dream team on the islands.