Erika Engle

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Who are these
deep-pocket home buyers?

The real estate market is crazy. Oahu's median home price keeps setting records. Rental rates are radical.

Distant from the realm of regular residents, individuals of high net worth are snapping up multimillion dollar neighbor island estates like hot cakes off a griddle.

Who are these people?

High-profile buyers have included computer magnate Michael Dell and actor Kelsey Grammer.

Since the mid-1990s, buyers largely have been tech-industry connected, from San Francisco or Seattle, according to Bob Rediske, principal broker for Pauoa Beach at Mauna Lani. Rediske has been involved in Hawaii's resort-connected residential real estate scene since the late 1960s.

Bob and Fran Davidson are from Seattle, but their assets grew from food wholesaling, advertising and boom-market apartment development.

Owners of a Maui condo, they were shopping for a second for their children and grandchildren, but wound up at Maluhia at Wailea.

"We walked into it and said 'We'll take it," Bob said.

They moved into the $6 million, 6,500-square foot home about a year ago.

Their main home is in Seattle. Their second is in Sun Valley Idaho, where 64-year-old Bob enjoys fly-fishing in the summer and where the family often spends Christmas. They are here for Easter.

"We like Wailea because everything is so close by," he said. The Davidsons spend time upcountry, enjoy the Makawao arts scene and frequent the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.

Another home in the 'hood just went for $17 million. Pending an upcoming issue of Coastal Living magazine, pictures can be seen at

Randy Lynn owns Real Estate Industries, a diversified real estate investment consulting firm in Sacramento, Calif. A self-described real estate junkie, he's been a Hawaii regular for 20 years, the last two as an owner.

"There are various levels of entry, dollarwise," up to $25 million, he said. At those prices, "You don't see much mortgage financing."

Lynn, 64, soon will move into his home at Pauoa Beach at Mauna Lani. "I think it's absolutely the best site ... it's a marvelous chunk of dirt," he said. Chunks start at $1.6 million, according to

Maluhia and Pauoa, like many upscale resort communities, are gated, have a private club and a resident concierge.

Part-time Lanai resident Peter Mills has to get along without a concierge. His custom-built, multimillion-dollar Manele Bay home is not in a gated community. He can't just run to the gourmet grocer for foie gras.

"I'm not a foie gras guy. I drink Bud Light and snack on pretzels and popcorn," said the 52-year-old Mills. He is the West Coast partner of @Ventures LLC, a venture capital firm specializing in technology companies.

Mills' first second-home was purchased in Kihei, Maui, 15 years ago. Increasing population and commercialization sent them searching for more privacy, but the right deal eluded him. His son suggested Lanai.

Mills, his wife, son and Realtor Jim Wagner eventually visited Lanai and, after an estimated two minutes, Mills was sold.

In the last three years the Mills have enjoyed a "genuine sense of community which we frankly never got on Maui," and which they don't see in San Francisco.

Mills can do much of his work from his Lanai office, shirtless, looking out at the ocean. Speaking to TheBuzz, his thoughts were interrupted by dolphins. In that instant, your columnist became the interruption.

He spends about a third of the year on Lanai. "I'd actually like it to be the inverse of that. Maybe if I work hard enough, I can accomplish that," Mills said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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