What's an Ohana?

Posted Thursday, January 30, 2020 by

What's an Ohana?


When searching for property on the Big Island, you might notice the term “Ohana” pop up every now and then. Hawaiian properties are unique and have special features not typically found on mainland properties, or at least, they aren’t called by the same names.


If you’re not sure what an Ohana is, you should probably brush up on your Hawaiian Disney movies. “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind.” An Ohana, when used as a real estate term, is a place to put your friends and family when they come to visit. It’s a guest house!



Once you move to Hawaii, you’re going to have people come visit all the time. Afterall, you’re now living in the most beautiful place on Earth! An Ohana, can offer guests their own space, while keeping them out of yours.


Ohanas typically have their own full kitchen, living space and bedrooms, separate from the ones in the primary residence. They’re perfect for everything from a long-term rental, mother-in-law suite or a quick vacation for friends and family.



If you’re looking to build your own home in Hawaii, there are some rules for building an Ohana. The laws vary depending on the island you’re building on. On the Big Island of Hawaii, to build an Ohana on your lot, you need to get a permit and make sure that all building plans are up to county code.


An Ohana is classified as any dwelling with a kitchen (stove) that’s separate from the original single-family home. A separate suite in the main house doesn’t count as an Ohana if it doesn’t have a stove or double-basin sink. The second you add a stove, it’s technically an Ohana and needs to have a permit.


·        They can only be attached to single-family homes.

·        One Ohana per single-family lot.

·        Can’t be taller than 25-feet.

·        Minimum lot size of 10,000-square-feet.

·        Must have at least two off-street parking spaces.



For people who think they’re tricky, it’s not uncommon to convert a garage or backyard “art studio” into a living space without getting the necessary permits to make it an official Ohana. When the inspectors come knocking, there’s no-Ohana or a Nohana.


Although Nohanas are common throughout the Islands, they’re technically illegal. When purchasing property with an Ohana, make sure that everything is permitted and official; otherwise, you might be liable if it’s discovered by the friendly county inspectors. You won’t go to jail or anything, but they might make you bring the property up to code, get the necessary permits or remove the structure all together.



In the Islands, the word “Ohana” extends beyond just your core family to include anyone dear to you, and it’s an important part of Hawaiian culture. To keep your Ohana close, make sure you have a place for them to stay when they come visit you in Hawaii!


If you’re ready to start searching for your personal tropical getaway, I’m only a phone call or email away. I have years of experience buying and selling homes on the Big Island and can help you find the perfect property to fulfill all your dreams. Give me a call at 808.209.6244, or contact me by email at RandyRipley808@gmail.com. I look forward to working with you!


Aloha, and welcome to Hawaii.

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