6 Essential Steps to Finding the Perfect Kauai Property

The dream of owning a piece of paradise on Kauai is not unique to any one person, but what constitutes a “perfect” property certainly is. Depending on where on the island you would like to spend your time, what type of property you want to own, whether you want to operate the property as a vacation rental, and how much money you have to spend, your idea of a perfect property may differ greatly from another’s. In order to help you find the perfect Kauai property for you, we've put together the following step-by-step guide. Hopefully, by the time you work through each of the steps, you will not only have a clear sense of what you are looking for on Kauai, but you will also be well on your way to finding the right property.

1 – Know the Island

While the island of Kauai is a relatively small place, overall, there are very distinct differences between each of the different regions of the island, and even between the towns within each region. The majestic North Shore is a tropical paradise but it does receive significantly more rainfall than all other shores, and average home and condo prices are among the highest on the island. The South Shore is sunny on a much more consistent basis, and has beaches you can walk out your door to, but again it is a more expensive part of the island. The East Side is a nice balance of sunshine and mountainous beauty while offering more affordable homes and condos that are all in relatively close proximity to the beach. And the West Side is much more remote and quieter, and greatly appeals to those looking for a little more solitude and long stretches of white sandy beaches without too many others around. Ranking how the different regions of the island appeal to you, specifically, is a great place to start in your property search, then take the steps that follow to see whether you may be able to find and afford the ideal Kauai property in your most desired areas. If you need some help learning more about all of the different regions of Kauai, visit the Explore Kauai Page.

2 – Know the Type of Property You Want

The residential real estate landscape here on Kauai consists primarily of condominiums and detached homes, but the detached homes may be located either in typical residential neighborhoods (smaller lots, homes closer together) or in agricultural neighborhoods (2+ acre lots, low-density neighborhoods). Condominiums can provide buyers a much more affordable means to get closer to the beach than they could with a detached home of any kind, but they often come with a monthly association fee ranging anywhere from $600 – $1,500+. Detached homes in typical residential neighborhoods can offer buyers a chance to own their own property without having neighbors sharing any walls, but because of the land area they are generally more expensive to purchase than condominiums. And detached homes in agricultural neighborhoods can offer buyers extreme peace and quiet in a beautiful country setting, but they will generally get less house for their money due to the added cost of 2+ acres of land. Also, depending on the region of the island you are most interested in, certain types of homes may simply not exist. In the North Shore, Hanalei and Kilauea Regions, for example, there are virtually no existing condominium projects, so all properties would be detached homes in residential or agricultural neighborhoods. 

3 – Know if You Want Vacation Rental Income

As we explain in detail in the article, “Transient Vacation Rentals: What you Need to Know,” not all properties on Kauai can legally be operated as a vacation rental. Generally speaking, a property only has built-in approval to be used as a vacation rental if it is located in a Visitor Destination Area (VDA), and there are only a few such designated areas on the island – most notably all of Princeville, Poipu and parts of Kapaa. If a property is not located in a VDA, it must have a special use permit, called a Transient Vacation Rental (TVR) permit, already in place (no new TVR permits are being issued going forward). As long as you are legally authorized to operate your property as a vacation rental, you can do so to your heart’s delight and rake in as much rental income as you can manage. If you cannot legally operate your property as a vacation rental, you will be restricted to only considering long-term renters (6+ months) in order to generate some additional income from the property. As your Kauai real estate agents, we can help you sort through these issues and identify the best vacation rental properties in the areas that interest you most.

4 – Know Your Budget

Unless you are a cash buyer, when considering what the budget should be for your property search on Kauai, the best place to start is speaking with a lender. A lender will be able to tell you relatively quickly how much of a loan you will qualify for in today’s market, based solely upon your income and personal qualifications. Then, with that number in hand, you can decide how much of that amount you are willing to spend, and you can also then compare the amount of the monthly payment they quote to an estimation of the potential vacation rental income that can be generated by a property (if you are interested in owning a vacation rental). Simply put, having a clear understanding of your budget from the beginning will set you up to make more informed and efficient decisions all throughout the searching and negotiating process. If you do not yet have a relationship with a lender and would like to obtain a referral for active lenders on the island of Kauai, simply contact us via the link at the top of this page.

5 – Start Your Search

Now that you have a pretty good sense of which parts of the island are of greatest interest to you, whether you are interested in detached homes or condominiums (or both), whether you want a vacation rental property or not, as well as a how much money you have to spend on a property, you are ready to familiarize yourself with what specific properties are out there on the market which fit your desired parameters. 

CLICK HERE to start your search now.

6 – Set Up Email Alerts for New Listings & Price Changes

The absolute best way to keep an eye out for the perfect property ongoing is to set yourself up to automatically receive email alerts from the Kauai MLS whenever there is either a new listing that fits your criteria, or a price change to an existing listing that fits your criteria. If you would like to set up automatic email alerts like these, simply contact us via the form above. 
Note that all of the above steps are an essential part of the process of finding the perfect Kauai property, but the single-most helpful step you could take is aligning yourself with proven, experienced, knowledgeable and networked agents to guide you through all of the moving parts and make sure all relative opportunities are being uncovered. Aside from making your life easier, buying smart generally makes selling easier later. Give us a call, we're here to help:
Jim Karlovsky & Sean Ahearn
[email protected]
(800) 808-6373


Our team of professionals is among the most active, experienced and respected on the island of Kauai. We’d value the opportunity to work with you on your purchase or sale of Kauai real estate. Please reach out any anytime with comments, questions, suggestions or concerns. Mahalo – The Team

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