Real-estate firm leads all other businesses atop sales list of leading Kaua‘i companies

There is real conflict in the voice of Michael R. Schmidt, principal broker of Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty, Inc. of Hanalei.

On the one hand, he is justifiably proud of the fact that his firm is on top of all other Kaua‘i companies in terms of 2002 sales as recorded by Hawaii Business magazine’s annual Top 250 list of the state’s top businesses.

On the other hand, he worries aloud about local people being priced out of the island house-buying market by folks who have been coming here, largely from the Mainland, finding as real values vacant lands, estates and beach homes going for seven digits.

“It’s disappointing to us to see how far the price has gone, which we never would have imagined, and how much despair there is with folks who don’t own property, as it gets more and more untouchable and unreachable,” he said.

“We can’t change the dynamics of the real-estate market, which is dictated by supply and demand and the desirability of the island we live on. I think a lot of what we’re seeing today is based on factors that are beyond our control: the world getting smaller, it’s not getting safer; Kaua‘i is looking better and better all the time; people are flocking here,” he said.

“We focus on second homes, not typically the local residential market,” Schmidt said. “And the real estate market that we are involved with is really driven by Mainland folks, the visitors’ desire, to own on Kaua‘i.”

Still, he expressed a concern for local families who find the current real-estate market impenetrable, and concern for not letting development turn Kaua‘i into something less desirable than it is today.

“I think the biggest challenge we have as an island is, we have to preserve our aloha even though we’re getting strained. We have to preserve our beauty and the things that make us so desirable in this planet,” he said.

“If we were to lose those by way of too much development, or too many people, and too much like O‘ahu or Maui, then there’s no turning back. Protecting the lifestyle that we all enjoy is as critical as anything.

“And I sincerely believe that.”

For its part, Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty’s parent company, Coldwell Banker, is active nationally with Habitat for Humanity. Locally, agents and others with Bali Hai have donated time and money to Habitat projects, Schmidt said.

“We do more than any other company as far as contributing back to the community.”

Coldwell Banker Bali Hai Realty, Inc. is number 92 on the Hawaii Business Top 250 list, up from 115 last year, with $72.3 million in 2002 sales, up 23.6 percent from $58.5 million in 2001. The company has 20 full-time employees.

The company’s 2002 sales were better than two other Kaua‘i Top 250 companies combined, including ITT Industries Systems Division, the top civilian employer at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, and Yukimura’s, Inc., a food wholesaler and retailer.

Combined, the sales of ITT and Yukimura’s last year were $54.9 million, placing those entities 161st (fifth among Kaua‘i companies) and 210th (sixth), respectively, on the Top 250.

Last year, Bali Hai’s largest sale was $4.7 million, for acreage in Kilauea, near a beach known locally as Rock Quarries.

“We’ve been in the Top 250 for years now, and to break the top 100 was something we found an achievement. And the fact that now we’re top on Kaua‘i based on sales as reported by Hawaii Business kind of blew us away a little bit,” said Schmidt.

“We didn’t think we’d gotten that far. It’s quite an achievement,” he added. “We’ve been in real estate for 25 years on Kaua‘i now, and based on the North Shore, so we’re feeling like all our work’s paying off.”

And 2003 is on pace to be even better than last year, he said. “Yeah, this looks like another record-breaking year for us,” paced in part by the sale to actor Ben Stiller of a home at Kalihiwai Point for $9 million.

A scan of the company’s Web site, www.balihai.com, reveals no homes for sale under $600,000, though many on the market for well over $1 million, including one property near ‘Anini going for over $11 million.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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