On Monday, the real estate community on the Big Island of Hawaii were digesting the news that 26 homes had been destroyed by lava flow in the Leilani Estates subdivision.
The loss is the latest outcome of a series of earthquakes on beginning Friday afternoon, including a magnitude 6.9 on the Richter scale of 5.5 to 8.9, and the eruption of the island’s most active volcano, Kilauea. Over 1,700 people have been forced to evacuate, according to USA Today.
Shannon Takabayashi, an agent with Hilo Bay Realty, who had her first couple of homes in Leilani Estates, said she was in a restaurant in Hilo on Friday when the big earthquake struck. “The whole restaurant was silent, everyone just froze, there was rumbling, all the buildings shook.” The restaurant quickly closed.
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As Inman went to press, Hawaii News Now was saying lava had claimed at least 35 structures on the Big Island.
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, with roughly 700 homes and 1,800 residents, remained under mandatory evacuation orders due to the ongoing lava eruption and its dangerous volcanic gases.
Residents from Leilani Estates were anticipating being allowed to return to homes at 7 a.m. local time to pick up urgent items such as medication and important documents, but they were sent away again with the news that more fissures had opened up on the main Highway 130, leading to the road’s closure.
Bill Parecki, a Realtor with Elite Pacific Properties based in nearby Kapoho, five miles south east of Leilani, meanwhile said a number of his neighbors had already evacuated, fearful of the lava flow coming their way. The water supply had also reportedly been cut off.
Coughing as he spoke to Inman by telephone, Parecki said he suffered from bronchitis and asthma and that he too was relocating to a second home in a Lava zone 3 (Leilani Estates is in a Lava zone 1 area).
“A lot of people have already vacated — that 6.9 earthquake scared a lot of people not rationally but emotionally,” he said.
Parecki told Inman he has one listing in Leilani Estates, a higher-end one in the $560,000 price range on Kaupili Street.
“I don’t know if that house is still standing,” he said. “Everything for sale in Leilani might be on the market, but I can’t imagine anything selling. You’d have to be a real risk taker to purchase anything.”
The sad thing is that the Leilani Estates subdivision was developed to provide a place for families who lost their homes in a previous eruption in the 1980s from another community, said Kehaulani Costa, executive officer of local trade association Hawaii Island Realtors (HIR).
Exploding lava in Hawaii has destroyed 26 homes and shows no sign of slowing down pic.twitter.com/LNDqjUjuOU
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) May 7, 2018
HIR swung into action on Friday, issuing advice on the insurance moratorium and helping agents and their clients with resources for emergency pet shelters. Today, the group is reaching out to members who live in the area and down slope to see what housing and storage needs there are.
For the real estate community watching on, Costa said any immediate donations at this point should go to the American Red Cross.
Costa was spreading the word about a central Facebook group, the Big Island Lava Flow Housing Network, which was acting as a bulletin board for those offering shelter and those seeking it.
She was concerned about the rehousing situation, describing the housing market as very restricted with not a lot of inventory, neither as rentals or homes for sale.
She added: “For those residents and Realtors on our island not in an evacuation zone, the best things we can do is prepare our own homes, make our homes ready so we can best help others.”
uploading this here so you guys actually understand how insane this whole thing in hawai’i is pic.twitter.com/RmZY4cJdSo
— nahloo | nalu (@OGNahloo) May 5, 2018
She stressed that the areas experiencing the lava flow were still an isolated area and did not represent the whole state or the whole island.
There is a worry about the future for the Leilani Estates subdivision, she said. The agents who work there, work really hard to sell those $250,000 properties, and there is real concern for their livelihoods, she said.
“We have amazing Realtors with a fantastic work ethic and community spirit. We have agents evacuating themselves who are (at the same time) helping their clients who have bought recently.”