As a kid growing up, I moved a lot. We owned our own home briefly, just long enough for my parents to put my sister and I to work removing all the terrible floral wallpaper.
Since coming to Hawaii, I’ve kept up that trend, moving 12 times in the last six years. Coffee shacks jerry-rigged with extension cords, tiny bedrooms for $800 dollars a month, someone’s garage. I’ve planted so many pineapples, but never tasted the fruit.
Everyone knows, it’s tough to find a place to call home in Kona, let alone to realize the dream of home ownership. Just thinking about it is enough to romanticize “living in a van down by the river” — or beach — which an increasing number of people are doing out of necessity on the Big Island.
Yet, there is one person I’ve gotten to know recently that gives me some hope when it comes to Kona’s housing situation. Her name is Minoo Elison and she opened her own real estate brokerage, Connect Hawaii, in 2018. This is her story.
Born and raised on Oahu in Kailua, Oahu, Elison, an Iolani grad, saw firsthand the need for a better approach in the Hawaii real estate industry. She noticed the disconnect between many local families being able to attain home ownership while mainland transplants bought homes in Hawaii and often remained totally disconnected from the culture and community they lived in. Elison is out to help bridge this gap in several ways through her new brokerage.
“Being a native Hawaiian in real estate, I have a responsibility to continue the legacy of aloha spirit and culture, preserving the continuity of Hawaii,” said Elison. (Elison is part Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, German, and Iranian and has roots in Honaunau on her mom’s Thompson side of the family.)
As exclusive relocation broker for Kaiser Permanente West Hawaii and Alii Health Center, she has the opportunity to connect new arrivals with local business owners and give them insights into the island lifestyle and Hawaiian culture. On the other side of the issue, Elison gives local residents a competitive edge in the buyer’s market by arming them with information on the process and writing personal offer letters to the sellers on behalf of her clients.
Through her 16 years of experience in real estate, Elison has come to realize how deeply personal buying and selling a home is. Many times, sellers have lived in and invested both financial and emotional capital into their home for years. They want to feel good about the new owners and their intentions for the home. Will it be instantly converted to a vacation rental with transient residents, or will it house a family in need?
In a transaction last year, Elison wrote a letter on behalf of an adult daughter and her siblings — first time homebuyers who work at McDonald’s. They wanted to buy a home for their parents, so they could retire and move from Samoa and live with their children in Kona.
The competition for the home, which was priced around $450,000 and included a large yard for family BBQs, was steep. After reading the letter with their story, the seller accepted their offer and they got the house. As she does with each buyers transaction, Elison walked the siblings through the process from the beginning, providing insight into what actions could be taken to increase their chances for loan pre-approval, like improving their debt to income ratio by paying down certain debts first.
“Information empowers people,” Elison said.
Education is another key part of Elison’s work.
Her website provides a point by point process for buyers, who often jump the gun and start looking for homes before being pre-approved for a loan. For sellers, she emphasizes the importance of understanding the real value of your home, and getting a home inspection before you put it on the market.
In 2014, Elison founded Hawaii Home Buying Seminars, free community workshops on home buying and selling. She’s hosted workshops in Kona, Waimea, and Honolulu and plans to host another Kona home buyers workshop in January. You can sign up for her monthly Hawaii Real Estate News on her website www.minooelison.com to be notified of future workshop dates.
Giving back is central to Elison’s mission at Connect Hawaii.
Last year, she gave over $8,000 to charities, including the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Kona Historical Society, Habitat for Humanity and the Legacy Reef Foundation. She serves on the Hawaii County Housing Coalition, which is working to amend the county charter to dedicate more funds for county infrastructure to increase affordable housing development.
Elison credits her success to people.
“Never underestimate the power of relationships,” she said.
In an age where people are looking increasingly to online leads and shopping for homes on Zillow, Elison’s business is powered entirely on referrals generated from a growing network of clients, vendors, and mortgage brokers across the state.
She utilizes a CRM client tracking system by Buffini &Co. to develop relationships — staying in contact long after the transaction is over. Elison said she gets invited to so many family events by clients, from house warming to retirement parties. She claims it’s just the nature of her work as a real estate broker, that you get close to people when you help them buy or sell a home, but I also think it has a lot to do with her personality. Minoo is just one of those people who inspires you and gets you fired up about life.
What’s next for Elison and Connect Hawaii?
She’s expanded the property management division of Connect Hawaii serving clients in Kona, Waikoloa, and Waimea. This month, she was nominated for the Kupono West Hawaii Realtors Award, which recognizes the core values of service, ethics, and integrity in a real estate transaction and is based on client nominations. A full listing of Kupono awardees will be published in a special West Hawaii Today insert later this week.
To connect with Minoo Elison and learn more about the home buying and selling process, visit her website www.minooelison.com.
Emily Gleason is business writer who can be found at https://mthewriter.com/ She contributes a monthly business feature, Imua in Business, to West Hawaii Today.