Aug 20, 2023
The wildfires on Maui have created a situation that is both catastrophic and awe-inspiring. The losses are unfathomable, but the sheer volume of support and aloha coming in just takes our breath away.
Our industry has banded together across the state to form MauiKokua.com, a service that matches housing needs with available units (homes, condos, vacation rentals, air B&B’s, etc.). This kind of work is a proud example of Hawai‘i real estate professionals uniting to help our community in the best way we know how: by connecting people and property.
At the same time, other real estate agents—most likely from other areas—are already marketing aggressively to the displaced souls who have lost their homes. Under the guise of wanting to help the victims, these predatory companies generally make low-ball offers, using quick cash as a tempting incentive to make a decision too quickly. Especially during stressful times like these, this type of behavior is unconscionable.
An Aug. 17 press release from the Hawai‘i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs states, “Prospective buyers may or may not be licensed professionals and may withhold or misrepresent vital information and details during a transaction.”
Derrick Yamane, Hawai‘i Real Estate Commission Chairperson, has said, “The Commission is here for the people of Hawaiʻi… Any exploitative acts taken by Hawai‘i licensed or non-licensed individuals will be firmly handled to the full extent of the law. A’OLE!”
In fact, the Hawai‘i Administrative Rules require all of us who carry a license to not only abide by this rule, but to report the conduct of unscrupulous individuals. Essentially, we as real estate professionals have a kuleana (responsibility) to help protect the public against unethical practices in our field. To preserve the dignity and integrity of our profession, we take this practice very seriously.
Hawai‘i Governor Josh Green announced he is working with State Attorney General Annie Lopez to institute a moratorium on real estate transactions in the Lahaina area. “My intention from start to finish is to make sure that no one is victimized from a land grab, that we do not suffer predation against those who are suffering,” Gov. Green said in a press conference on August 14.
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t want people to come and invest in Hawai‘i and travel to Hawai‘i away from the impact zone,” he continued. “What it means is people are right now traumatized. Please don’t approach them with an offer to buy land. Please don’t approach their families to tell them that they’re going to be better off if they make a deal. Because we’re not going to allow it.”
Anyone who receives this kind of unethical offer needs to get their name, place of business, telephone number, and address to the RICO Consumer Resource Center at 808-587-4272, [email protected], or the Commission office at 808-586-2643, [email protected].
Again, the outpouring of aloha has been incredible. Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund has raised almost $52 million as of the time of this writing. There are specific funds set up for hotel and restaurant workers, teachers, farmers, babies, and of course animals–and they are all growing by the hour. Phenomenal grassroots forces on Maui began taking care of people instantly, and the work continues in churches, shelters, hotels and on the streets.
Around the state, scores of musicians have signed up to perform in fundraising concerts. Dozens of Federal agencies and possibly billions of dollars have been committed to the recovery and rebuild effort. Celebrities, professional athletes, and major corporations are rushing goods and funds to the island–including Hormel, who shipped a million dollars worth of Spam. On the national news and talk shows, reporters are spreading words like kuleana, ‘ohana, and kokua.
Of course there are difficult days, even years, ahead. But at the end of the day, here in Hawai’i perhaps more than anywhere else, we know that after the rain comes the rainbow.