And it’s no wonder. Hurricane Lane did a great deal of damage last year – but long-time Hawaii residents who remember Hurricanes Iwa (1982) and Iniki (1992) will tell you that it could have easily been worse. The devastation Iniki caused in Lihue and on Kauai was particularly savage. The storm cost $3.1 billion in damage (in 1992 dollars!) and killed six people.
Hurricane preparedness is a fact of life in Hawaii. And so is the need for hurricane/windstorm insurance. In fact, mortgages in Hawaii typically require this insurance as a condition of the loan.
Note that there is no such thing as a truly “hurricane-proof” house. Any home can be vulnerable. But there are ways to strengthen even existing homes substantially against both wind and rain.
On average, there are four or five tropical cyclones in the central Pacific Ocean basin each year, according to Dr. Rick Knabb, Hurricane Expert at The Weather Channel and past director of the National Hurricane Center.
The Great Construction Code Upgrade
Newer homes in Hawaii tend to be much more wind and rain resistant than the older homes. In part, this was a reaction to lessons learned from damage from Iwa and Iniki.
All Hawaiian counties began updating their building codes in the late 80s and early 90s: Oahu led the way, first requiring roof-to-wall wind uplift ties in 1988. Kauai County followed suit in 1990, just two years before Iniki. Maui County adopted the standard in that same year, and Hawaii County adopted the standard for homes built in 1994.
But after Iniki hit, it was Kauai County leading the way: Kauai first required newly-built homes to have a complete load path from roof to foundation in 1993 – the year after the most devastating storm in Kauai’s history. Hawaii County followed suit in 1995, and Honolulu County (Oahu) and Maui Counties imposed the standard in in 1995.
Meanwhile, there have been some important innovations in home construction over the years, and a number of construction techniques have become all but standard.
- Tie-down straps
- Expansion bolts
- Hurricane clips and plates
- Impact-resistant windows and doors
- Laminated windows
- Pull-down PVC shutter systems
Hurricane and Windstorm Insurance
Your basic homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover windstorm and hurricane damage. Like flood insurance, hurricane and windstorm insurance must be purchased separately. Premiums vary based on construction type, the roof shape and type, materials and techniques used, the deductible, and any wind mitigation techniques employed. Many Hawaii insurance carriers will discount your hurricane insurance premiums for specific construction techniques, materials and retrofits, including:
- Hurricane clips
- Foundation anchors
- Deployable window coverings and storm panels
Hurricane Insurance Deductibles
All Hawaii homeowners should be aware of their hurricane insurance deductible percentage and how it works. Most ‘off-the-shelf’ hurricane insurance policies have a deductible of 1 to 5 percent of the insured value of the home.
This is important to understand, as Hawaii’s high house prices also translate into high deductibles. If your home is worth $500,000, a 5 percent deductible would equal $25,000. That’s your out-of-pocket risk in the event of a hurricane, before the insurance company will pay out the first dollar.
Hawaii insurers commonly offer discounts (called ‘premium credits’) for modern hurricane-proofing construction techniques. Check with your insurance professional for specifics.
It’s easiest, of course, to take care of these things at the construction stage. But it is possible to retrofit homes with many of these features – and many effective techniques are easy and cost-effective modifications.
So even if you buy an older home that was built prior to the tougher building codes, you can meaningfully improve the home’s survivability in tropical storm and hurricane conditions.
For more information, see this excellent resource from those seasoned hurricane veterans over in Florida. And if you want more technical, detailed information, the State of Hawaii recently published this extensive Guide to Hurricane Strengthening for Single-Family Homes. The site and home assessment material begins on Page 25.
Whether you are looking to buy a brand new Hawaii home with all the modern wind mitigation technology and construction techniques, or an older home that you may need to retrofit in order to maximize its survivability in the next storm, we can help you find the financing.
Contact us at Pacific Home Loans today at (808) 891-0415, and we will start the process to get you pre-qualified and then pre-approved for the best home for you. (Being pre-approved helps you maximize your buying power.)
Or better yet, gather your documents and start filling out our online application here. We will be in touch to help you complete the process and get you into your Hawaii dream home.
Mahalo from all of us at Pacific Home Loans.