How long have you lived in Maka Kilo? What brought you there?
I’ve been here about a year-and-a-half. I came here to visit friends of mine in the military. They were moving to Hawaii and I’m not sure I could’ve found it on a map, but I said, “Sure let’s do it.” I went back and forth to visit a few times till I finally got married (my wife is in the Coast Guard), and that’s how it went. We really love it here.
Where is Maka Kilo, and what’s it like as a community?
Maka Kilo is on the west side, but not on the west coast. It’s on the windward side of Oahu, on the southern end of the western slopes of Waianae. Truly beautiful. Not crowded, either. You don’t have too many big stores. It’s on a hill, so pretty much all the houses have a great view of Pearl Harbor. Some people can see the farms of the highlands. It’s windy, but the temperatures are great up here. You don’t even need AC. It’s a little cooler than down the hill.
How’s the weather?
The weather here is good. It’s warm during the day, and a little chilly at night. There’s a little wind. We open the windows most of the year. The weather here is the best thing about this place. You can go to the beach every day if you want, or go hiking, wear T-shirts and short every day. That’s pretty nice.
Did you have your heart set on Maka Kilo or did you consider buying in other neighborhoods in and around Honolulu?
We were looking to buy a house for two-and-a-half years, just browsing, basically. Then we found this one and fell in love with the place. The view is fantastic, and it’s so quiet—we have some great neighbors. We said, “This is the house we want.” Adrienne told us it would be a tough one to get, but I said, “I can wait 10 more years, I don’t care. Don’t show me any other houses.” And somehow Adrienne made it happen.
How was it starting your own business?
I moved first with a tourist visa to see how it was—those last three months. When I started looking at colleges I applied for student visa to allow me to stay longer. But by then I was running low on money, and I didn’t have time to work while going to college. So I went back to Italy. My previous boss hired me the day after I landed, doing landscaping work.
My friends called and invited me back to visit in Honolulu. I quit my job again and came here. I met my future wife, who was living next door to my friends. We eventually got married. After the wedding you have to wait five or six months for green card. As soon as I got my green card I started working at Home Depot. I saved up for a small truck and small lawn mower. In the beginning I was happy to get one new customer every other month, and now the phone’s ringing all day. America is great; if you work hard you’ll see results.
Is your area small-business friendly?
Yeah, I think so. I had previous experience in a country where they taxed you 60%. Gas in Hawaii may seem expensive at $6 a gallon, but in Italy it’s $11. I mean, Italy is a nice country, but the taxes kill you. Retail taxes are 23%. Here they really make stuff easier for business. You can actually get permits right away.
Was it hard to meet people when you moved to Maka Kilo?
No. My wife’s from Boston—she said the mainland is different, that they don’t like people from other countries. But Hawaii is a multiethnic island. You have people from all continents and everybody here is welcoming and nice. You hear about the Aloha spirit, but you have to see it to really appreciate it and how friendly everybody is.
Is it hard to get to know the island natives?
I’ve got black hair and brown eyes. If I get a tan I can blend in a little. As long as I don’t talk, I’m good. Depending on what area you go to, I think if you respect the locals and respect the places, everybody will be cool. Like most places, if you don’t act stupid, you’ll get along just fine.
Would you have any advice for newcomers regarding transportation or traffic in Maka Kilo and the city of Honolulu?
The traffic here is horrible. Even if you leave at 5 a.m. it will take you an hour to get to work on account of the traffic. I suppose if you’re from California you’d like it because it seems like the Autobahn compared to Bay Area traffic, but it’s still a mess. Definitely try to buy a house near where you work or you’ll waste three hours a day stuck in traffic. My wife has to leave at 3:30 every morning to make her 5:30 shift. Without traffic it’d be 25 minutes. Even coming back it could be an hour, an hour and 20. I guess people don’t mind because they take life a little slower around here.
How has the real estate market changed since you’ve been on the island?
My house went up at least $100,000. If I wanted to sell it now, it’d easily sell for $100,000 more than what I paid for it. In Oahu there are more buyers than sellers; it’s the only place where the value just doesn’t drop. The houses keep their value because the land is so limited.
Do you like the quality of life in Maka Kilo?
I love it. Like an example, when you’re driving and you need to merge, everybody waves you in. It’s a very easy going place, I think. Over here, everybody says hi to you, even people you don’t know.
What surprised you most about moving to and living in Maka Kilo?
There’s so many things. Like I said before, coming from Italy, America is just a happier place. You can save money and do what you want to do. In Italy everyone drives small cars. Over here I can afford to drive a V8 truck and still pay less than what I’d pay in Italy. There’s so many things. Hawaii is a beautiful place—even driving to a job is like being on vacation. The ocean is so blue, the mountains are so green. We just really love living in Maka Kilo.
What would you say is the one “can’t miss” event or place that a family living in Maka Kilo and Hawaii should be sure to experience?
I would tell them to go to the windward-side beaches. Waimanalo Beach is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s not crowded, and the water is so blue. The little ocean waves, all the palm trees, the snow-white sand. It’s stunning.
How do you cope with the higher cost of living?
My wife is in the military so she’s making the money and paying the mortgage. I have juice money. Without the military salary there’s no way we could afford it. We’d have to rent a room. Some people here work three jobs to afford living here. They don’t really—they take it easy, but you still have to work so many hours, it wears you out. We have a house that has four bedrooms. We don’t have any kids yet so we rent rooms out—we have three people renting from us. And a bedroom here costs $800 bucks. The people in our neighborhood who can afford to buy a house are all either older or in the military.
Do you travel between the islands much?
I went to Maui a few times to buy vehicles. In Hawaii the trucks are beat up a little bit from work or they have a lot of mileage. But I went two times to Maui. It was worth it to fly there and have the truck shipped here. The whole process only took twenty minutes. I would like to go back for an actual visit and really see the island, though.
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Maka Kilo or in other parts of Honolulu?
I like this new restaurant called Le Nonne. It’s an Italian place. It just opened and the owner is this guy from Tuscany—he’s really doing his best to make Italian food as authentic as possible even if you don’t have fresh produce.
Is there anything that you don’t like about living in Maka Kilo or living in Hawaii?
The traffic probably. That’s about it. We only have one freeway and if there’s an accident you are talking about hours. If there’s a big crash, the freeway will shut down for four or five hours. There’s just no moving.
What advice would you give people who are house hunting in Honolulu and especially in Maka Kilo?
There’s some areas you can afford, some condos or small houses. Some other areas you have to take your time and take a look. It depends on your budget. Some houses are so close to each other you could high five your neighbor from your window.
For house hunting, after spending so much money you want to make sure to take your time and pick out the one you really like, and to find a Realtor who really cares about your decision. Adrienne and Attillio are good people. I usually don’t recommend people, but those two take pride in their work—they really care and do everything they can to make you happy. They will tell it to you straight and not let you make a mistake.
“My husband and I worked with Cherie Fikani. Amazing customer service. She was always available to answer questions in person, emails, texts and phonecalls. My husband and I never had to wait on a response or ask for an update. She was always well prepared.I like that she was patient… understanding even. She listens to the specifics and works with us on it without rushing us through. This experience could have been a scary ride but Cherie made sure nothing takes away the excitement of buying a home.Mahalo Nui Mrs. Fikani I would most definitely recommend TEAM LALLY to family and friends.”
“First conversation with Attilio Leonardi was a no pressure sales call. He was patient with all my questions, not hurried, and very knowledgeable about the short sale process. That helped establish trust and confidence in hiring their team. Other members of the team, with special mention to Howard Nett, all contributed to the successful negotiation. The short sale process was all together long and tedious; but as long as you commit to your part as a seller (i.e. providing necessary paperwork in a timely manner), team Lally will make the process as smooth and painless as possible with their professionalism.”
“Team Lally are great. I have not had the chance to buy a house yet but I know that whenever we walk in the office we are considered not only a valued customer but as family. I am lucky to have them on my side.”
“Adrienne and her team helped tremendously with the sale of our home. I had relocated to the mainland on short notice due to a job and my wife was left with the daunting task to prep and sell our home before she could follow. Adrienne helped her get the property ready and advised her along the way. The sale closed pretty close to the schedule that Adrienne estimated and soon after my wife was able to join me on the mainland. Thanks Adrienne and Team Lally.”
“Team Lally was very professional throughout the entire process of selling my house. They got it on the market quickly, and within a week it had sold!”
“Team Lally sold a condo-hotel unit for us in Hawaii. We live in California and did not actually know or observe what was happening with the sale. They took care of the showings, finding buyers (3) and negotiating with the bank. They took care of all of the paperwork – sending us what we needed and arranging for docusign whenever possible. We were kept in the loop as much as possible and as much as we needed to be. It was a very stressful time for us and they (patiently) explained procedures to us, since we often did not know what was necessary or what the next step was. Team Lally was very professional in all dealings with us and we are very grateful for their consideration of us as stressed absentee sellers and for negotiating a great deal for us.”
“Working with Team Lally was fantastic! Celeste helped us to buy a new home and Adrienne and Atillio helped us to sell a home. Team Lally was responsive to all of our needs and questions. Team Lally exceeded our expectations!”
“Adrienne, Attilio, and Howard worked hard and patiently to get my condo sold. Despite working through hours where it was difficult to reach me in Boston. Their phone calls, emails, and use of the docusign system set the stage for the sale in a tough market. Thanks once again for your helpfulness and professionalism.”
“I walked away from my property three years ago and assumed that it would get foreclosed upon or just disappear….Three years later I was contacted by a tenant that was being rented the condo from a company that was operating illegally and claimed to have ownership of it….I contacted Team Lally and they were able to navigate these very difficult waters: me not having paid my mortgage for three years, a company claiming ownership, the condo association not happy because they were not paid for three years…Team Lally worked through all of this to complete a short sale of the property and I paid virtually nothing…I worked with other real estate companies in the past and Team Lally blows them away, I would highly recommend them for all your real estate needs”
“When my husband and I got transferred here with the Coast Guard we were interested in purchasing our first home. We found Adrianne through other military members that she had helped. Adrianne and her team went above and beyond to help us find our first home. She took out all the stress and helped us every step of the way, from finding a home to finding a lender to get a loan. We found a short sell and she helped us get into our house and close within a month! Adrianne and her team has made us feel like family the way they take the time to call and check on us throughout the years and through their client appreciation events. Thanks again Adrianne and Team Lally!”