‘Developing a healthy community’

For nearly 30 years, Kauai Board of Realtor’s President Hannah Sirois has been a fixture in the real estate community.

Growing up on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, the Punahou School graduate immersed herself in the business in the mid-1980s and continues work with the Kauai community on issues such as the Rice Street revitalization plan, the additional rental units measure, and the rental housing crisis.

“When you’re in a career for 30 years, particularly in real estate, you find there are opportunities every day where you can serve your community, bring forth new ideas,” Sirois said. “You can be a problem solver, you can identify issues that are on the horizon and participate in a meaningful way in developing a healthy community.”

Sirois was exposed to real estate at a young age, but said she didn’t have an eye for it as a youngster.

“Real estate as a career is an incredible challenge,” Sirois said. “It exposes you from the get-go to every professional industry practically in the island — from legal to survey to land management. There aren’t many careers where you have the opportunity to work with so many professionals.”

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, she had a brief stint in New York and later moved to Kauai in the mid-‘80s.

“I immediately started working here on Kauai in property management,” she said. “Those were in the days when Poipu Shopping Village was known as Kiahuna Shopping Village.”

Not long after, she transitioned into real estate sales.

“At the time … I had my first child and I needed a career that would allow me to grow, that would challenge and would give me flexible hours,” she said. “I began working with a company, Pacific Ocean Properties, on the South Shore of Kauai. From 1987 until today, I’ve been doing the same thing. It’s pretty plain vanilla.”

Sirois became a member of the Kauai Board of Realtors in 1987. She is this year’s president of the board of directors. The KBR currently has 550 members.

“Our primary goals are two-pronged: to educate and advance the professionalism of our members (and) to advocate on behalf of private property rights,” she said. “We have a duty to report to our members and we have a duty to inform the community on matters of real estate.”

The majority of residential sales, as well as condominium sales, involve island residents, she said.

“Our residential sales are roughly 70 percent of … Hawaii residents and slightly below that, in the high 60s, are condominium sales to Hawaii residents,” she said.

She credits those sales to residents taking advantage of historically low interest rates and loan programs.

“Going back to my childhood, you couldn’t buy real estate without putting 20 percent down,” she said. “Today, you find there are loan programs that are available where buyers can put 0 percent down, 3 percent down, 5 percent down, and get into a home at an interest rate that’s below 4 percent.”

KBR also works with the county, giving input on projects such as the Rice Street revitalization plan and a county bill aimed at adding 10,000 units to the Lihue District.

Recently, the additional rental unit measure was deferred to include language that would apply the bill islandwide and not just to Lihue, Puhi and Hanamaulu.

“I think we as a board would be hard-pressed to dictate the planning or the County Council to begin by applying the concept on an islandwide basis,” she said. “Personally, I strongly believe in good planning rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

With the plan to revitalize Rice Street, Sirois said KBR’s consultants will go door-to-door and gather feedback from residents.

“We want our consultants to listen to what the community wants,” she said.

Through public and private partnerships, she said Kauai will be able to bring forth housing in a sensible fashion without compounding other issues such as traffic and infrastructure.

“We do have a rental housing crisis. The long-term rents on Kauai have moved not in line with real estate recovery numbers. They’re disproportionate,” she said. “The County of Kauai and private entities are working judiciously in bringing public and private partnerships that will bring forth housing opportunities.”

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