Fixer Upper in Kaimuki – One of Honolulu’s Trendiest Neighborhoods
Kaimuki is similar to what Brooklyn is to Manhattan and what Mar Vista is to Beverly Hills or Malibu. It’s a spillover neighborhood for those who want to live in Diamond Head or Kahala without the same price tag and with a little more of a rooted feel. Kaimuki is an older, established neighborhood responsible for precious kid time memories among the lower end of Baby Boomers and the top end of Gen X’ers. Some of the greatest Hawaiian musicians were raised in Kaimuki (or Palolo Valley, rather) like Ernie Cruz, Jr., Chino Montero, Ben Vegas, Troy Fernandez, Greg Sardinha, and everyone’s favorite – the Hawaiian Supah Man – Bruddah IZ.
Homes in Kaimuki were built as far back as the 1930’s. The proximity to the the freeway and main surface streets as well as Waikiki and Diamond Head is unbeatable. Waialae Avenue and Kokohead Avenue presents a truly walkable block of quirky, fun shops and restaurants. Many trendy eateries have popped up like Pipeline Bakeshop, Via Gelato, Coffee Talk, and Kokohead Café. You can grab a nice bottle of wine from Tamura’s and a super cute charcuterie tray from Bubbly & Bleu. A local favorite, Fort Ruger Market is on the Diamond Head side and offers one of the best poke bowls in town.
Fixer uppers are common as homes have been passed down through generations. Many buyers these days are looking to preserve the old charm rather than knocking them down and building monster houses. Although, you’ll find your fair share of those monstrosities in Kaimuki too.
The streets are lined with mature trees. It’s definitely a townie neighborhood, but what a treat to have a house with a yard within the hustle and bustle. It’s classic, yet trendy; old, but new; evolving, yet familiar.
Check out the following blog from Dwell Hawaii for additional and valuable information.
Buying a home in Hawaii is a dream. It can also be HUGE disappointment, not only because of the cost, but because anything around the median price of a million dollars is going to be small compared to what you can get on the mainland. It will be 40-50 years old, won’t come with an acre or more of land, it won’t have a basement, is on post and pier foundation, might be on a hillside if your priority is an ocean view, or might be on sand if you want to be by the beach. All of this means, it will more than likely need renovating and on going maintenance. Don’t forget we are a tropical climate all year long with rain, wind, and sun beating down on the roof and paint. It’s often not until we get the home inspection report that the disappointment is realized and then we’re at a crossroads. Will the seller repair the things that have been deferred? What’s an actual safety or structural concern that the seller really should fix? But in a seller’s market, good luck having them do anything. Ohhh! But I really want this house! Now what?
First, it takes skillful negotiation on your real estate agent’s part, but sometimes no matter how good they are at negotiating, some sellers simply won’t budge, especially if they accepted your offer before a higher offer came in or if they have a comparable offer in back up position (which they almost always do on Oahu). Very rarely, some sellers are hoping you cancel so they can move on to the next buyer, although that is never encouraged by a real estate agent as it automatically places a stigma on the property. But if there’s a backup offer waiting in the wings, they are more than likely calling the Seller’s Agent daily asking, “How’s your escrow going? Do my buyers still have a chance?” In the case of buying my house, the negotiation was won by me up front. We didn’t pay too much over asking and the terms in our contract were too good to pass up. That also meant there wasn’t much room left for them to fix or credit anything.
Our home inspection was disappointing revealing foundation settlement, unevenness in the floors, leaks in the roof, and wood rot in the siding and beams. The number one issue: water. No surprise. As a matter of fact, that is the number one issue owning a home in Hawaii with the amount of rain and moisture we have.
Sounds pretty simple right? It actually is, as long as you educate yourself, prioritize, set a budget, and find the right team to do the work. Home renovations will always take longer and cost more than you think. It’s not a perfect process.
If I had a dollar for every burned out buyer trying to buy a turn key, move in ready home who said, “What about a fixer upper? That could be fun,” I could buy myself a nice pair of shoes. My question: fun? In what way exactly? If you think buying a home is stressful, buckle up during renovations.
The goal is not to scare anyone, but rather, to acknowledge the fear. The most courageous and experienced home owners, builders, flippers, and renovators will tell you, “Everything is correctable. No house is perfect. Every house needs maintenance.” When buying a home, your home inspector will likely not find things that you’ll find after living in the home for a few months. He or she is there for half a day. Don’t blame them if something isn’t discovered. It’s also easy to blame the previous owner. Don’t do it. Sometimes they really didn’t know there was wood rot on the siding by the exterior stairs because they never used that entrance. They went through the garage. But they left you with a really nice kitchen! Not everyone’s priorities are the same.
If you own a house in Hawaii, maintain it. In the very least in Hawaii, keep water and termites away. If you’re buying a house…just buy the house. It’s scary. It’s courageous. You’re going to be ok. Prioritize, set the budget, and let the professionals do their thing. You got this! And when you wake up in the morning to birds singing and chirping, the smell of fresh coffee, and another 72 degree day, you’ll be so glad you did.
Me (realtor): Congratulations on getting pre-approved for $550,000! Tell me your wishlist.
Buyer: We’d like 3 bedrooms (minimum), a 2 car garage, 2 bathrooms or more, a yard, split level, no jalousie windows (we hate those), no popcorn ceilings, preferably ground level, no one above or below us, pet friendly (our sweet boy Bailey is a slobbery 50 lb pit bull mix), and no HOA fees.
Me: (thinking…how do I tell them this just doesn’t exist on Oahu and how many more realtors will they talk to before they believe me and if they do wind up believing me, will they be back or will some other agent have them sign a Buyer’s agreement which they will because they needed to hear it 3 times to believe it).
So, yeah. That’s pretty much what it means, but not really. For the buyers who know next to nothing about Oahu real estate, it’s my job to educate and inform them of how little land we have on our beautiful island. When supply and demand are in an inverse relationship, that affects pricing (economics 101). Face masks are currently super cheap because they’re everywhere and no one’s using them anymore (except here in Hawaii…grrr). Oahu real estate is expensive because only 6% of it is fee simple to begin with. Add to that agriculture land, leasehold land that can only be leased to those who are 50% Hawaiian, golf courses, hotels & resorts, commercial space, nature reserves, military land, or land that is simply undevelopable/uninhabitable and you’ve got a supply issue. And don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to get building permits while the state of Hawaii has the highest number of state employees per capita…but I shall pump my brakes and swerve back into my lane. I am a real estate agent. An opinionated, sometimes unapologetic real estate agent who might also be startled awake in the middle of the night by the opinions I’ve shared out loud. Perhaps that will make you, as a client, a little more compelled to work with me as I enthusiastically stand by and communicate what I believe in.
Inventory is low. Here’s a solid example and hopefully I don’t need to say much more. I have a buyer right now who qualifies for $550,000. They’ve lived here almost all their lives so they understand the scarcity. Their needs:
2 bathrooms (but they’ll settle for 1.5 baths. They have 2 boys and mom simply can’t share a bathroom with 3 men anymore)
2 parking stalls – MUST. None of this “But you can find parking on the street.” Yeah. Right.
Preferred areas: Kaneohe, Kailua, Salt Lake in Honolulu, might go as far as Aiea, but probably not.
Must be pet friendly. Pets are family! And they’re not willing to lie and say their pets are therapy animals.
In preparation for the weekend, I had my eyes on the MLS all week. It yielded 2 listings. TWO. That’s it. They went to see them. One was a little too small. They loved the other one and were ready to make an offer! The listing agent had 4 offers in hand before the weekend was over and offers were due by Tuesday at noon. She was expecting more and already had offers over the asking price. Prior listings in the building said “pet friendly,” but I verified with resident manager it is not – therapy animals only. Ugh!!!
Inventory is low. Do I need to go on? Okay. Here’s one more example. Economists like to say things like, “There is 1.5 months of remaining inventory.” Translation: if nothing else came on the market today, it would take 1.5 months for everything to sell. Anything less than 6 months is considered a seller’s market. Beyond 6 months shifts to a buyer’s market.
Inventory is low.
So what does this mean for you? If you have property to sell, it’s time. How does lack of inventory help you? It’s not only about timing the market and getting the most money for your property. After all, statistics show that real estate on Oahu only goes up over time. So yes, you can wait and probably still make more money in the long run, but as interest rates increase, the amount of buyers willing to jump in now, hard, and aggressively will be less. With inventory so low, you’ll have the choice of cherry picking the buyer who will close fast and easy and with a grateful, cooperative heart. As a buyer, you could wait until the market cools a little and hope prices will come down in this increasing interest rate environment, but the real question is, will you end up paying more anyway? Maybe you won’t have to bid up the price as much to beat out 19 other buyers, but you’ll pay a higher interest rate, higher payment, or will have to settle for less because the interest rate prices you out over the home price itself.
My bottom line will always be this, however: the most important timing is your own. If it’s time for you to let go of a property, do it now. If you want to own a property and you’re in position to do so, do it now. This chick in her mid-40s is finally starting to understand how fast the clock is ticking. Lack of land and inventory has always made Oahu, Hawaii different from other markets like California or Las Vegas. As a buyer, you just have to get in and most only wish they did it sooner and bought more. As a seller, you can’t look back. Real estate on Oahu only goes up, some years more than others, but over time, it just does.
I write this from a flight over the Pacific back from Seattle in early March. When the pilot announced after take off that the weather is 80 degrees in Honolulu with northeast tradewinds at 15 mph, how do you think most people on this fully packed (fully masked) flight reacted? People love Hawaii. Politics aside, there is much to love about it. Demand is high. It always has been. It always will be. And I suppose that while I’m obviously mad we’re still wearing masks while the rest of the country is not, I’d rather wear a mask living in Hawaii than no mask somewhere else and clearly I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Welcome to 2020 too. You almost can’t unsee that. Sorry. Rewind!
WELCOME TO 2022!
2020 and 2021 created so much shift – in money, in business, in lifestyle, in mindset. 2022 seems to be the year we’ll actually plant ourselves in those shifts. For me, personally, I’m realizing I’m turning 40 freaking five! When the heck did that happen? I swear I’ll be 37 forever, but only if my metabolism and hair color would agree. Darn you JLo for raising that bar so freaking high and for having way more money than the rest of us to make a perpetual 37 years old a reality.
Who am I? Why am I here? I’m Maila Gibson-Bandmann (pronounced My-La not Mali-a). Much like “2020 too,” some of you all refuse to unsee and unsay Mali-a. I was a singer for the first 20 years of my adult life doing a little bit of real estate. Now that I’m in the next 20 years of my adult life, I’m a realtor on Oahu who does a little bit of singing. I wasn’t blessed with children, but I am crazy about my fur kids and I’M FORTY FREAKING FIVE!!! I might be in a midlife crisis. I’m not leaving my husband for a younger man or anything like that. I love him to life. My midlife crisis is more along the lines of realizing my generation needs a voice. I hope to be one of them who speaks truth, finds community, and as a bonus, if I get to help you with your real estate in Hawaii…YAY!
What happened in real estate on Oahu in 2021? The same thing the rest of the United States experienced: historically low inventory, historically low interest rates, tons of buyers, not enough homes to sell, people working from home therefore abandoning their condos in the city and moving further away and into the homes of their dreams. The media likes to tell it this way: “Home prices escalated to unaffordable levels due to wealthy mainland buyers buying every single house for sale and pushing locals to the streets or Las Vegas.” Here’s the truth and you can look it up in public records. The number one buyers of real estate in Hawaii were Hawaii residents. Where did the rest of them come from? Second place goes to California buyers with less than a thousand purchases on Oahu out of 15,741 homes sold. They accounted for only 6% of all home sales on Oahu. Next was Japan and then Washington for less than 400 sales combined. What makes California buyers love Hawaii so much? Other than similar lifestyles and a salad bowl of cultures, our property taxes are the lowest in the country. For every $1000 of assessed value, it’s only $3.50. On a home assessed at $1 million, that’s only $3500 per year. Cost of living in Hawaii is expensive (let’s not beat that dead horse), but property taxes are low. Now there’s a win!
So if Hawaii residents really bought all this property, how did they afford it? Low interest rates coupled with appreciation. Interest rates were in the 2’s and 3’s all year. Many sold and bought something else or they refinanced and cashed out. Single family homes ended around a median price of $1M. Condos ended up around $500K. Condo sales surged as new construction in Kakaako (such as ‘A’ali’i) became available.
What’s going on in 2022? Is the market going to crash? Probably not, but I’m not psychic. We still have a supply problem. We just don’t have enough homes. Interest rates have shot up into the 4’s, but that’s still low! If you’re a child of the 80’s, you’ll remember that interest rates hit 18%. However, interest rates follow the rule of 10x. For every 1% increase, you can expect a 10% decrease in borrowing power or a 10% increase in your monthly mortgage payment. That’s huge. For example, if you take out a mortgage for 1 million dollars, you can expect a monthly payment to be somewhere around $5000 at today’s rates. If the interest rate goes up a point, that payment for the same amount is now $5500. Or, if you need to stay at a $5000 payment, now your purchasing power is only $900,000. The difference between a $900,000 home and a million dollar home is vast. Will this affect the market? Of course. Perhaps we’ll see less buyers competing for homes and less bidding up the price like we saw in 2021. Will there be a crash? Probably not. Prices may not even drop. They just won’t increase as much or as quickly and quite frankly, I’m ready for a more balanced market. Presenting 23 offers on a single family home is a lot of work and rejecting 22 broken hearts shatters my heart too.
It’s important to talk about legislation. Bill 41 is a big one. It seeks to extend the minimum time for short term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO, etc) from 30 days to 180 days! The government is hoping this will solve our housing shortage crisis. It won’t. Most short term rentals are studios or 1 bedroom condos in Waikiki with no parking or luxury homes along Lanikai Beach that cost $3M or more. Bill 7 is an important one too. It allows for 3-4 times the number of units allowed on the same lot size. Think: all those old houses in urban Honolulu next to 3 story walk up apartments on teeny lots. Those are the ones this bill targets and developers are foaming at the mouth for these little nuggets. The caveat, however, is that they are to be priced at affordable rents. What we really need are more homes like Ho’opili and Koa Ridge, but where are we gonna get the land? This is why Hawaii has and always will be expensive. Land is precious and no one’s making more of it.
What should you do in 2022? Owning a principal residence is a long game. Timing the market shouldn’t be your goal as a buyer. Buy when the time is right for you. If you’re an investor, that’s a different story. If you’re a seller, your timing is also most important, but with our housing crisis, you’ll almost never go wrong selling in Hawaii. And watch when Japan opens up again for travel. They’ll be back and they looooove Hawaii real estate.
2022…I’m here for you. I like that much better than 2020 too.
I’ve had several people contact me recently saying, “I hear Oahu home sales are down! Are prices dropping? Find me a deal!” Headlines are tricky aren’t they? Click bait is all the rage. So sorry, but this is NOT what this means in the slightest. The state of the Oahu housing market is right in line with what’s going on all over the United States – low supply, high demand. For those who took an economics class in high school or college, what’s the one thing you remember? When supply is low and demand is high, prices only go up.
Are we in a bubble? Many sitting on the sidelines are doing the Dr. Evil pinky in the corner of the mouth with the snicker just waiting for prices to come crashing down. I can’t say I know for sure and I tread lightly with my answer to this question, but I had an epiphany yesterday while talking to my husband. We recalled the last crash of 2008 and discussed why that happened. Money was incredibly easy to borrow. Anyone could buy a home with little to no money down and stated income loans were kryptonite. You could basically say you make $10,000 a month with no documentation to prove it and the bank would say, “Booya! Go buy a house.” People were buying property like crazy and prices went up, up, up. Sounds similar to what we’re experiencing now, right? Yes and no. The difference now is supply is so low, buyers are having to compete to win. Who are the winners? Those with the most cash. So, whether you’re paying all cash or financing, even those who are financing are putting a significant amount of money down therefore, allowing for built in equity as soon as they get their keys. In 2008, many did 100% financing at inflated prices. They were so upside down on their homes, it was easy to walk away and let the bank foreclose.
Most people aren’t gonna walk away from a home with equity. Also, those who have stayed in the homes they purchased in 2008 have experienced an incredible run in the market. Maybe their homes are paid off? Maybe they’ve refinanced to 2.75% and have very affordable monthly mortgage payments. So, for those of you wishing, waiting, and snickering for deals in the near future, my hyper positive Pollyanna logic says you might be waiting for a while. And while there may be deals in the future, who’s to say that a deal 5 years from now wasn’t today’s highest price?
I’m not psychic and I can’t see into the future. I may wind of eating a big bowl of these very words. I don’t want to see a crash not just for my interests as a real estate agent, but for families, couples, people who are living the dream of owning real estate. But history is one of our best teachers and one thing’s been true for decades: real estate is cyclical. This market will shift. How and how much? We’ll see.
140 Niuiki Circle is located at Niu Peninsula in East Honolulu. It’s my first multi-million dollar listing and the property is unreal. Every agent desires luxury listings. Typically, it’s why we drive the luxury cars and carry the luxury purse. If we didn’t grow up with this lifestyle, we figure out how to belong until we do. We make it our own so we can sell it to another with ease. That’s how I like to roll, anyway.
A couple of years into my real estate career, I realized I had to trade in my Prius and get a more “realtor like car”. It’s not just a status symbol, but I needed something I could comfortably drive clients around in, would feel comfortable showing up to a listing appointment in, and one that would be safe and functional for the long drives all over the island. And whatever…I love my Lexus. Plus, I ran an IG poll to see if it matters what kind of a car a realtor drives and at least 75% of people admitted that it does. Gotta love the anonymous honesty.
The moment arrived. I got the biggest listing of my life and prepped it to hit the market. I had lunch with another realtor just 3 weeks earlier and I did the one thing I think we all do at some point in our lives: I side swiped the wall in a parking garage. My poor car, but worse, my poor spirit. Suddenly, pre-teen Maila who moved between states having to make new friends creeped up saying, “You don’t belong here. You don’t deserve nice things. You’re not good enough and even your car knows it.”
The listing wasn’t the defining moment. THIS was the defining moment. It was an opportunity to get the ding out my head and to get over the ding in my car. Here’s what I concluded: it’s not the car you drive or the bag you carry or the watch you wear. It’s the feeling. It’s understanding what others feel. It’s finding some sort of connection to convey to the next buyer so they appreciate what they are buying. It’s not bricks and sticks. It’s finding and selling the feeling and it’s constantly selling yourself on how awesome you are too.
It depends where in Hawaii, but a house on the beach? You can pretty much count on it being at least $2 million or more just for the land itself. This one got multiple offers in under a week. Check back to see what price it closes at in a couple of months. For now, go on a virtual tour below:
It’s an emotionally charged subject in Hawaii, both for ocean lovers (surfers, fisherman, and people who just plain love the beach) and those who own beach front homes. Good news for beach lovers: NOBODY gets to own the beach in Hawaii. There are NO private beaches. Bad news is, if your only way of getting to it by land is to cross someone else’s property, forget it trespasser. You can certainly boat in, swim, standup paddle, or walk from a public access point, but not if you wind up on vegetation. Step on anything green and again, you will get nabbed for trespassing and believe me, ocean front homeowners are incredibly territorial. Look for hidden cameras in the trees. They are watching and often times, they are totally unafraid to be confrontational. These are not the type of people who will passively call the cops. They will get in your face and ruin your day. They own luxury homes and a whole lot of other stuff. Even though the law tells them they don’t own the beach, they still think they do.
What does the law officially have to say about this? By definition, Hawaii Supreme Court law states the following: “any land below the highest wave line is considered state property and open to the public.” Here’s where it got tricky in the past, however – property owners were watering the vegetation and fertilizing it so it would grow further giving them more manipulated ownership of the beach. DLNR wised up to this and made it a misdemeanor if they catch you manipulating your boundary line. (Nice try people). You can read more about this below:
So how do you access the beach without facing off with a property owner in places like Kailua, Portlock, Diamond Head, Paiko, and Niu Peninsula? Like I said above, you either access by sea or use a public access right of way, but this still won’t guarantee you won’t get the, “What are YOU doing here” attitude. A wise person actually pinned these access points on Google. Notice how Waimanalo has a TON of access points. Paiko all the way through Niu Beach and Aina Haina has just one.
Speaking of Niu Peninsula, it seems they found a major loophole around this. Niu Peninsula is an incredibly charming street of less than 50 houses, but you wanna talk territorial? Ohhhh boy. Perhaps it’s all in love because they love their beloved little nook, but let’s have a moment of silence and remember what was once a Native Hawaiian Fish Pond given to Alexander Adams by King Kamehameha I.
Who’s to say whether or not the king knew what Alex’s intent was, but brother man filled that fishpond in, built homes, and blocked the beach. Then, an association was formed and gates were put up where the beach access is. Even smarter, the Niu Peninsula Association owns those little parcels of beach access. So, if you don’t belong to the association and you happen to have a code to the gate or wander through it somehow, count on getting tattled on, yelled at, made to feel very small, and kicked out in no time. One could argue the enforcement is needed due to pollution, homelessness, and overcrowding while others could argue that such a special place should be shared and enjoyed by all.
This post comes on the heels of an emotional day at my listing on Niuiki Circle. It has beach frontage. It’s in original 1950s condition, but I could feel the mana (Hawaiian for spiritual energy, power, and strength) standing on that lawn. As curious neighbors tracked in and out giving their strong willed opinions about the home, I quieted their noise with visions of that fishpond and thought of Bruce Lee saying, “Be like water.” Check out the listing here:
Gosh, just seeing the title of this post makes me realize it could be its own website, hashtag, blog, or brand. That’s how a true side hustler’s brain works. Opportunity is everywhere! Maybe I need to park this domain and get it trending. It has a nice ring doesn’t it? #thesidehustlelife
What is a “side hustle?” Is it a hobby? A passion? A side job? Look to Uber and GrubHub as the poster children for the ultimate, legit side hustle. At its core, it’s a means of making money while fulfilling a need. Wait? Isn’t that the same as a job? Technically, yes, but a true side hustle is in a category all its own. If you Google “side hustle meaning,” this definition by The Balanced Careers comes up:
“A side hustle is a job that you can work on top of your full-time job. It is a flexible second job that brings in money, but it is also typically something that you are passionate about, that you don’t get to pursue in your main job.“
I feel like I’ve been a side hustler my entire working life and in the current landscape of our economy, I couldn’t be more grateful. While I was in college, my first job was at the Kaua’i Athletic Club as a front desk attendant. I like fitness. Was I passionate about checking ID cards and ringing up random logo leotards and the occasional sweatshirt? Not really, but it paid $6.00 an hour. Whoa! A whopping $6.00! It was a huge jump from the $4.50 I made at my high school job at Blockbuster Video. (I am dating myself, but whatever. If you must know, it was 1995).
OK, let’s go back to before my first official job at Blockbuster Video. My mom joined a group of local people from Hawaii when we lived in Oregon. I was 13 years old and somehow, we put together a hula show and got hired to perform at company parties (Christmas parties to be exact. Don’t get weird). I probably made fifty bucks a show. I don’t really remember. I did it because my mom told me to. In this moment, I realize my side hustle was born when I was in the 8th grade. (Can you say “Child labor?”). I loved it, though. I got to be on stage and make people happy and in return for their happiness, I’d go home with fifty bucks cold hard cash in my wallet. Cha-ching! That’s a lot of money for an 8th grader. Trips to the mall were a blast. When that new Mariah Carey “Love Takes Time” single came out, I was one of the first to have it and I bought with my own money!
Fast forward back to college. Kauai Athletic Club required those same stupid khaki pants I wore at Blockbuster. Ugh! Why? Whatever passion there might be in a job, leave it to khaki pants to suck it right out like an airplane toilet.
I sang in a couple local competitions. I lost them; didn’t even place. I was devastated, but the opportunist in me tried one more time. A little voice in the back of my head said, “You never know who might be there. Just keep putting yourself out there.” I lost the third one with flying colors and cried myself to sleep that night. That evil voice in my head said, “Why on earth have people told me I’m a good singer? Liars! Every last one of them, especially my mom!” That week, I got a call from a man asking me if I’d like to record a song in Glenn Medeiros’ old recording studio in Lihue. My confidence was shot, but what the heck? The people seemed nice enough. I went. The demo I made that night fell into the hands of a producer in Japan and I recorded a full length album a couple months later.
Upon my return from Japan, there were little media blitzes in the local newspaper. Those little blurbs led to me modeling for Red Earth Clothing (remember the t-shirts dipped in red mud that were oh so on trend in the 90s?). I do not consider myself a model by any means, but I got paid to do it and it was easy. Meanwhile, my mom was screen printing t-shirts with hand drawn Hawaii images by my step dad. Soon, hundreds of people were wearing dresses and t-shirts with their designs picked up at local craft fairs. Dad was a cop. Mom worked the front dest at the Marriott. On the weekends, they hustled.
As a singer, I pretty much always had a day job while music was always my passion. There were times that I questioned which was the side hustle and which was the actual career. Once I figured out how to make music a sustainable career by carving a niche in the wedding industry, the day job was toast. My side hustle turned into a full blown career! I have realized, however, that a music career is really a whole lot of side hustle repeated over and over again. Some gigs are steady – set days of the week for example at a restaurant, bar, or hotel, and some gigs are concerts, weddings, graduation parties, retirement parties, etc. Hustle, hustle, hustle. There was also a time that I was teaching voice lessons. I had 30 students a week with a wait list! It was kinda nuts. Although it was another side hustle, it still afforded me the ability to boast, “I’m a full time musician.”
Full time musician turned into “entertainer.” Not only was I singing at events, I was emceeing. And then I was a spokesperson for Napa Auto Parts and a jingle writer for Hawaii VA Loans. Here’s who I feel like sometimes:
Then, one day I was casually asked, “Have you ever thought about officiating weddings? You’d be really good at it.”
“Noooo. No way,” I replied, thinking nobody should be allowed to do so many different things. Then, a totally different person in the wedding industry asked if I would officiate weddings. What? Why does this keep coming up, I thought? For the first time, I was running away from opportunity. Usually, I say, “Yes to all!” Well, I did it and all it took was one for it to turn into two and then four and then now where I’m doing at least 2 per month.
I do have a point. When I decided to be a full time real estate agent in 2016, I actually kept one foot plus my big toe on my other foot in my music career. The side hustle life has been awesome and really brings to life the saying, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” I really do believe that. At the same time, it can prevent a person from going all the way at anything.
2020 left musicians without gigs. It put what was once a major industry in Hawaii in ruins (the wedding industry, among others). The real estate industry, however, is booming. As for being a wedding officiant? People aren’t gonna stop getting married. They can’t have the big event, but they can still say, “I do.” Remember what I said at the beginning about a side hustle being something that fills a basic need while making money? BINGO. So there it is. I am a wedding officiant. I can marry you and then help you buy a house. How freaking perfect and opportunist is that? I wish I could take credit for crafting that, but I can’t. The truth is, I love both careers and didn’t even consider the thought of the two feeding each other. I love weddings and take it very seriously when asked to be the one who gets to usher a couple into marriage. I actually don’t even hound my couples about buying a house. Most of them know and I’ll casually bring it up, but I am hired to be their officiant. If they choose to let me be their realtor too, bonus!
In closing, here are my 3 tips to living a fulfilling side hustle life:
If you see a true, repeatable, need that you can fill with a product or service that you’re passionate about, you’ve identified a side hustle!
A hobby is not necessarily a side hustle unless you are fulfilling a need and identify a true demand for that need.
Do it with excellence, but invest your resources wisely. When a side hustle seems like a side hustle, people know it. This is where it looks more like a hobby and you’ll see your friends and family buying from you or hiring you just to be supportive. That feels good until it doesn’t. Start too big, and your living room is filled with tchotchkes. Again, focus on fulfilling a need, solving a problem, helping people out, making them happy and if it puts a few bucks in your pocket, win-win!
Yep. It happened to me. That objection I spent years selling against backfired.
Tourist: I hear timeshare is the worst investment ever.
Me: Well, if you believe renting your vacation isn’t the worst investment ever, keep on renting.
WHAT. THE. HELL? I didn’t get my real estate license to fight with people like this all day long or to convince or force them to drop a butt load of money in 90 minutes while they’re on vacation!!! So yep. That’s my short lived career as a timeshare salesperson in a nutshell. I’m way too nice for that job.
Fast forward to today. It’s 2021 and I’ve been a full time real estate agent on O’ahu for 5 years and I have found my home (pun intended). Little did I know that in addition to helping people buy and sell the most valuable (a nicer way of saying “expensive”) real estate in the world, I would also need to be tech savvy and mailagibson.com would come in very handy. Makes sense right? Well, it didn’t make much sense a few years ago when I let the stupid thing lapse only so someone else could park it and charge me $1500 and a whole lot of grief to get it back. Yep. I stopped paying for my domain because I thought I wouldn’t need it anymore. Benandmaila.com was the only website that mattered. No one searches for Maila Gibson. HELLOOOO!!!!?????
Okay, so we’re all good now. I spent the ENTIRE day working on this thing. My face is oily, I smell like a dirty towel, and I’ve had at least 4 cups of Nespresso. I was feeling so accomplished half way through the day until my husband said, “Hey, check our timeshare. We should hit the snow.”
Oh that’s right. We have a timeshare. 2020 was such a blur and with no traveling in sight for who knew how long, I forgot all about it! Wahoo! We have a timeshare! Let’s go somewhere!
So, I tried to log in to my account. I reset my password at least 6 times and for some reason, it’s like I didn’t exist to Mr. Marriott anymore. I called owner services (of course, they’re in Florida which is 6 hours ahead and it was 10:45am when Kelii got me all excited). I knew I had to endure the 20 minute wait on the phone to talk to a real person. Finally, an accented voice greeted me.
Owner Services Guy: Marriott Vacation Club, how may I assist you today?
Me: Hi, I’m trying to log in to my account and it keeps making me reset my password and says my email isn’t connected to my account.
Owner Services Guy: Ok ma’am I’d be glad to help you with that. What’s your account number and email?
(I gave it to him).
Owner Services Guy: I’m sorry for the inconvenience Ms. Gibson. Mind if I keep you on the line while I talk to someone at IT?
Me: No problem. Thank you so much!
(Me thinking: These Marriott people are so nice. I love Marriott!).
Owner Services Guy: Hello Ms. Gibson? You are no longer an owner with us. You didn’t pay your maintenance fees in 2020 and we took back your week.
Me: You just took it back?
Owner Services Guy: Yes ma’am. That’s what happens when you don’t pay.
(Suddenly he wasn’t that nice. He took on the tone of a mean bill collector or scammer from the IRS, but even worse, my husband was siting right next to me and he was gonna lose his number 2 once I told him the news).
Me: Wow. Uh…ok.
Owner Services Guy: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Me: I guess that’s it.
Owner Services Guy: Thank you for calling Marriott Vacation Club (click).
Ohhhhh sheet. Kelii says, “What happened?” And like ripping off a Band-Aid, I just blurt it out, “We don’t have a timeshare anymore, but I’m super stoked! No more maintenance fees. No more worrying about losing our week. No more, ‘Oh my gosh! Look at this week that’s available! Can we leave tomorrow?’”
Clearly I was doing the typical Maila thing being uber positive during trauma. This is one of the things I pride myself on as a real estate agent – being like the calm flight attendant in the midst of heavy turbulence who keeps you calm, but I suppose in this case, it was just annoying. I could see his chest rising up and down faster and faster and his face turned red. He was upset. But oh well. I got my website back! Yipeeee!!!
Welcome to post number one. HA!
Update on 3/19/2021: Please don’t judge my real estate agent skills based on this snafu. I really am good at my job and I freaking love it! Check the testimonials HERE. 🙂