Let’s Talk About Buying Land on Hawaii Island

County of Hawaii Land Use Map

With the persistent lack of new homes being built on Hawai’i Island, single family home prices have shot up in the wake of lack of available homes for sale and continued demand. Most municipalities in the country would simply mow down more land, build high density homes and widen the roads. You know what all THAT leads to.

So, the County of Hawai’i has a land use plan in place that will make it almost impossible for our island to build neighborhood after neighborhood of single family homes or create zoning for mobile home parks, tiny home communities and other high density housing to make homes more abundant and affordable, but there IS a “2040 Plan” that maps out the future of the island if you want to review it here.

I bring this up for those of you considering buying land and building a home or developing your own subdivision. You may think, “There is plenty of land on the island!” and there is, but much of it is spoken for in terms of conservation land, state owned and privately held trusts and ranches. But there ARE large land tracts available if you think agricultural farming is something you have an interest in, or building a single family home on one to ten acres, as much of the zoning was created to keep a buffer zone around the homes. Land prices are higher as you look to buy lots in Kailua Kona or Hilo, but access to infrastructure is bonus if you are not looking to use catchment and septic tanks.

SO! Let’s talk about buying land on Hawaii Island

To get more insights and information from a real estate professional who can give you the low down on the realities of buying land and building a home, I sat down with Kyle Nishiyama, Knutson and Associates in Kailua Kona. Currently, he is selling a home on 28 acres south of Milolii on the northernmost edge of South Kona. He helped answer all the questions below!


Here is what we covered in the “Buying Land on Hawaii Island” video:

  • Leasehold Vs fee
  • How hard is it to subdivide land?
  • Where is land available? 
  • What can you build?
  • Can you build a tiny home community? 
  • What do you need to do for financing? 
  • What are the state taxes on land?
  • Are there tax breaks for ag land and what do you need to get them?
  • What IS the maintenance on open land and farm land?
  • What does it take to be a gentleman farmer? 
  • What are the costs to build? 
  • Considerations: Location of land Vs city center for labor to do work
  • Costs to clear or “grub” land 
  • Do you need an archeological study? 

What are the goals of the County for land use?

The principle land use strategy for design and implementation will focus on achieving a sense of place by protecting and enhancing community character through natural systems planning, smart growth strategies, and compatible land use planning that incorporates culture and equity into the planning and decision-making process.

  1. Direct growth and increase density towards urban and village centers;
  2. Prioritize infill of the underutilized areas within existing urban and village centers;
  3. Focus and prioritize future investments in new infrastructure that will facilitate the opportunity to direct growth to the designated urban areas;
  4. Discourage sprawl outside of designated urban centers;
  5. Provide multimodal transportation to and within urban and village centers;
  6. Encourage a mix of uses to build livable communities that provide residents with opportunities for employment near affordable housing, together with access to commercial and recreational opportunities.

Urban Sustainability Objectives

  • Increase residential density within Urban areas to an average density of 10 units per acre and increase the mixed use development pattern.

The best part of this plan is the County’s goals of keeping open space available for future generations to enjoy and to keep an eye on developing agriculture as a strong economic driver and as a way to assist with the food security issue on the island. All good things for those of us who have children whom we would like to see stay on the island. (Including SOME plans for new developments in Waikoloa Village and Kona,)

If you are looking for land to purchase around the island, we have Realtors who specialize in land deals and development. Please know that having the expertise of a Realtor who understands the SPECIFIC land you are looking for is very important due to the various lava zones, zoning and permitting issues, neighborhood characteristics and more. It is a VERY diverse island and we know the experts! Contact Eric Ziemelis at Eric@Ziemelis.com for more information and a connection!

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