Are you planning to buy a home in Hawaii to use as a primary residence? Or perhaps, you may be looking for an investment property to generate rental income in this world-famous tourist destination. Regardless of your reasons, proper communication is essential in finding the best deals when buying a home in Aloha State. However, it can be quite tricky if you are investing in a place where a foreign language is spoken.

Because of its unique geographical context and its distinctive tradition in real estate transactions, Hawaii has its own set of terminologies.

Before you start looking for a home on the islands, take some time to become familiar with the widely used Hawaii real estate terms. This basic knowledge will help you understand what the sellers, as well as other parties involved in buying and selling homes, are saying and ensure that your home-hunting experience is as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Local Real Estate Terms in Hawaii

When buying real estate in Hawaii, understanding the local terms is essential. We have gathered some of the most commonly used terminology so that you can sound like a pro and communicate effectively during your transactions.


This term dates back to the early times of Hawaii when the islands were divided into sections called Ahupua’a. This system was designed to ensure that each community had access to all the resources it needed from the mountains all the way down to the sea.


This is an old Hawaiian term used to refer to common people or members of a particular community who are responsible for cultivating and managing the land.


Basically meaning “family”, this term is used by Hawaiians to refer to a larger group of people who are not necessarily related but are nevertheless considered part of the same family. Ohana units are self-contained and usually consist of multiple households.


This term is used to refer to litter or waste that can be found on a property. It is important to address any opala when looking at buying a home in Hawaii as it can be considered a health hazard.


If you own Hawaii real estate (vacant land or home), you also own the kuleana, which is basically a set of rights and responsibilities associated with the property. As an owner, you are required to take care of the property and use it responsibly. This term also relates to the right to access resources, such as water, wood, and fish, which are found on or near a particular piece of land.


Kona is a location-specific term used to refer to the western and leeward sides of the Big Island. It is also commonly used when referring to land or properties found on this side of the island.


This term is used to refer to the western or leeward side of any island in Hawaii. It can also be used when referring to land, homes, or properties found on this island region.


You will commonly hear this term when referring to properties that are located on the mountainside. It is also used to describe any location or property that is situated toward the mountains.


While mauka means toward the mountain, makai means toward the ocean. This term is commonly used when referring to Hawaii properties on the ocean side or near the shore.


This basically means patio, balcony, or porch. If you are looking for homes with these outdoor living spaces, then you should keep an eye out for lanai as this term is commonly used when referring to these areas.


This English word is specifically used on Oahu to refer to the less-developed North Shore. So, make sure not to confuse it with the mainland’s definition of “country”, as this can mean something entirely different when you are looking for Hawaii real estate.


This word also has another meaning on Oahu. “Town” sometimes refers to any area in Honolulu.

Commonly Used English Real Estate Terms in Hawaii

Of course, there are also some English terms that are commonly used in Hawaii real estate transactions. Here is a quick list of some of the most widely used words to help you understand what sellers and agents are saying when discussing homes, properties, or contracts.


This refers to the “condominium property regime“. A CPR number is a unique identifier that identifies one condominium unit from another in a building. This number is used for tax and sales purposes. You can find the CPR number on a condominium’s title.


An escrow is an arrangement wherein money, property, or documents are held by a third party until certain conditions in the transaction have been met. This helps ensure that both parties involved are fully protected during the process of transferring real estate ownership.


This term refers to the process of estimating a property’s market value. It is usually done by a licensed appraiser or real estate agent who is knowledgeable in this area.

Fee Simple

This describes a property owner’s complete ownership of a land or home, in which the owner holds the right to use, possess, and dispose of a property. This type of ownership entitles an individual or group of people to rights over their property without any restrictions or limitations.

Condo Hotel

As the name suggests, this is a hybrid option that combines the features of a condominium and a hotel. It allows owners to purchase units in a building while taking advantage of all the services offered by hotels, such as housekeeping, concierge services, etc.


In Honolulu and other parts of Hawaii, this customarily means a two-story residence with two separate living units. Each unit has its own entrance, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and other amenities.


This is an acronym for “general excise tax”. This tax is imposed on any transaction involving the sale of goods and services in Hawaii. It is important to keep this in mind when buying Hawaii homes for sale.


This is a type of property ownership in which an individual or group of people is given the right to use a particular land or property for a specific period of time. The owner of a leasehold property does not have full ownership rights, but they can enjoy certain benefits while occupying it.

Post and Pier

This is a traditional way of building a house in Hawaii where its foundation is elevated on a stilt-like structure to effectively make use of the ocean breeze to ventilate the home’s interiors.


This term refers to “tradewinds”, which is used to describe the direction of the wind that comes off the ocean. This can be helpful in determining where you should place your windows, doors, and other features on your property.


This area covers the higher-elevation region that surrounds the East Maui Volcano and is characterized by green hills, ranches, and cooler temperatures.


This term is used as a direction for properties toward the eastern side of an island, where the tradewinds are stronger.

By familiarizing yourself with the local terms, you will be able to communicate more effectively and confidently when buying a home in this state. This knowledge will also help you understand Hawaii real estate laws and regulations better.

Tips for Successful Communication in Real Estate Transactions in Hawaii

Apart from learning the widely used Hawaii real estate terms, there are also other tips to communicate more effectively when buying a home in Aloha State. Here are five pieces of advice that you can pick up.

1. Update Yourself with the Latest Hawaii Real Estate Market Trends

Being updated on the current Hawaii real estate market trends will help you understand where prices are heading and what areas have the greatest potential for growth. Learning these new developments can give you an edge when negotiating a purchase of a home in this state.

There are many online resources available that provide up-to-date information on the market. You can also read the local news and attend seminars conducted by experienced agents to get a better understanding of current market conditions.

2. Prepare Beforehand to Avoid Delays During Negotiations

When negotiating a Hawaii real estate transaction, it is important to be prepared beforehand. Being organized will help avoid delays in negotiations due to misunderstandings or lack of information. Make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork and documents ready before beginning your talks with other parties involved in the deal.

It would also be wise to consult an experienced lawyer who understands the state’s real estate laws and regulations.

3. Be Clear About Your Expectations and Needs

It is important to know exactly what kind of property you are looking for. Whether it’s a condo hotel in Maui or an upcountry residence in Hana, make sure to express your needs and expectations clearly. Doing so will help the other parties involved understand what you want and eliminate any confusion during negotiations.

It is also important to set a budget that fits within your means. Knowing the right price range for what you are looking for can greatly reduce the risk of overspending on a home or investment property.

4. Do Your Research Before Signing Any Contracts or Agreements

Make sure that you are familiar with all the terms and conditions of the deal, as well as any implications it may have on you in the future. If you do not understand something, ask questions until it is clear.

5. Work with a Real Estate Agent for Successful Real Estate Negotiations!

Having an experienced local real estate agent by your side can help you better understand the process of buying a home in Hawaii. They can provide invaluable advice and guidance throughout the entire transaction, from understanding real estate laws to navigating negotiations.

Working with an experienced professional will help ensure that your needs are properly communicated and that you make the best decision possible.


Buying a home in Aloha State can be an exciting experience, but there are also many terminologies and laws involved that you need to know about. By being aware of all the important Hawaii real estate terms and understanding market trends, you will be able to communicate more effectively during transactions to find your dream home in this beautiful archipelago.

If you are looking for more tips and information that you can use in buying a home, you can check out the other articles on our site!