It was exactly one month ago today that fires swept through Lahaina killing 97 people, leaving 22 people missing and destroying over 2,000 homes and structures. Also destroyed were numerous priceless historical sites and artifacts from the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. At the same time as the Lahaina fire, two separate fires burned in Upcountry Maui destroying 19 homes in Olinda and Kula. We feel fortunate that none of our agents lost homes in the fire. That said, we all have friends, clients or relatives who lost homes or were displaced by the fires.
To say it’s been a challenging month would be an understatement. Grief over the loss of people and homes lingers over the island. Maui is still at the very initial phases of what will be a multi-year recovery process.
If there has been one positive throughout the month, it’s been the response of the local community. Members of the community stepped up for their neighbors in a big way. Island residents led the charge in providing food, shelter, comfort and more to their neighbors who lost everything over in Lahaina. Upcountry, residents joined firefighters in putting out hotspots. As the fires came under control energy shifted to helping to clear storm debris.
We would be remiss if we did not give special mention to the firefighters and other first responders. Four separate fires on the island stretched the fire department beyond the point of exhaustion. The island owes them a debt of gratitude for their valiant efforts to protect life and property.
It’s been far from business as usual when it comes to real estate on Maui. While most existing transactions moved forward, there were a higher than usual number of cancellations. Several active listings were pulled from the market. Some due to the general circumstances and other homes and condos were quickly converted to short term shelter or longer-term rentals for people displaced by the fire.
There was a somewhat unofficial pause in marketing activities observed by most of the real estate community through the end of the month of August. Some of that was agents taking time to grieve, some of that was due to agents immersing themselves in volunteerism and most of all it was a question of appropriateness. Stylized photos of beautiful homes and the Maui lifestyle are a stark contrast to the immediate aftermath of the fire.
I alluded to this in a paragraph above, but there is also a recognition that the fires exacerbated what was already an acute housing shortage on the island. A lot of the fire victims are currently being housed in hotels and Airbnbs. Those are only short-term refuges. Finding longer term residences for what will be a prolonged rebuild remains a monumental challenge. Many fire victims fear short term and long-term displacement from their homes.
We’ve been quiet on our blog and in our social media channels over the last month. For all the reasons above, it’s been a struggle to figure out when the time is right to get back to working and operating as a real estate brokerage in a “normal manner”. We feel our own pain and we recognize that of our colleagues, friends and neighbors. That said, we do have a fiduciary responsibility to our sellers and our buyers.
We recognize that we are moving forward in a Maui that has changed a lot over the last month. We understand that the sense of loss and grief on Maui remains raw. We know that housing shortage provokes its own set of frustrations and other emotions. With that in mind, we plan to choose our words and actions carefully in the hope that we can continue to be of service to our clients and the community. The Maui Real Estate Team invites your questions, comments and feedback.