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Buying power of gays fuels real estate boom

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Buying power of gays fuels real estate boom



Source: Honolulu Star Bulletin

*This is a pretty interesting article, I've heard in the past that there was a gay community out in this mostly rural area but I never knew just how big or popular it was, so its kind of a surprise.

Gay buying power has led to the creation of a substantial niche real estate market, which has helped turn Puna into something of a boom town.

Regions like Puna that appeal to the GLBT community have been spotlighted in advertising that targets GLBT buyers. NGLCC also has crafted a real estate section for its Web site, www.nglcc.org, that caters to the growing demand for property in the GLBT community


The Other Puna

Part of the transformation of the Big Island's 'Wild West' district has been driven by an influx of gay residents in recent years

Rural Puna, once known for its outlaw atmosphere, is gentrifying. Many say that a growing community of gay residents is part of the reason.

While 2000 census data indicates that same-sex couples are more likely to live in cities than rural areas, Puna has become one of the most popular gay enclaves in the United States. The phenomenon has become the most-whispered discussion in local real estate circles

Signs of gentrification are everywhere in Puna. There are $1 million plus Southeast Asian and modernist homes emerging in an area once known for hippie buses, beach shacks and tract homes. Even Pahoa town now boasts gourmet restaurants.

Those who cater to Puna's emerging gay real estate market say the region offers many selling points. The district boasts some of the most affordable real estate in Hawaii, and it is one of the few places where paradise hasn't been paved.

All of these factors have made Puna desirable to the gay community, but many who have moved there say it's the district's well-established penchant for tolerance makes them feel at home there.

A sense of tolerance

Part of Puna's growth stems from the district's increasing popularity with the gay community


When Denis Fuster was contemplating in 2001 moving to Puna, a rural district on the southeastern side of the Big Island, he took a day trip to see Kilauea volcano, had dinner in Pahoa and than went for an evening dip in the Kapoho tide pools and geothermal ponds.

As he and a same-sex friend swam in the warm waters, someone torched their car. After the firefighters had done their work, the police set up a meeting with the community.

"Everyone was shocked. This was a real standout occurrence," said Fuster, who was so impressed with the community's response to his plight and the wild beauty of Puna that he ended up relocating to the region despite his initial experience.

Today, Fuster sells Puna real estate and specializes in the predominantly gay market, which many say has turned Puna into one of the most popular second-home real estate markets in the United States. While 2000 census data indicated that same-sex couples are more likely to live in major metropolitan areas than rural regions, Puna has become something of a gay enclave. The New York Times has hinted in several articles that the volcanic region is a draw for gay tourists as well as second-home buyers, and the phenomenon has become the most-whispered discussion in real estate circles.

"Five years ago, I would have laughed if you had said that I would become a Realtor in 2005," said Fuster, who hails from France and was once vice president of a high-tech company. "But it's been amazing."

Fuster and the many others like him who cater mainly to the gay real estate market have found plenty to capitalize on in Puna. The district boasts some of the most affordable real estate in Hawaii, and because of restrictions due to active lava flows, it is one of the few places in the islands where paradise hasn't been paved. There's also enough room for gay and lesbian buyers to create a strong community. And then, there is Puna's well-established tolerance.

Puna used to have a Wild West atmosphere, but droves of green, gay and mainland buyers have turned it into a more genteel frontier. Pahoa town boasts gourmet restaurants, and you don't have to travel far to find any of the trappings of the yuppie lifestyle. Interior decorators, therapists, botanical styling products and new-age advisers are plentiful. You can even find a good cup of coffee at the Aloha Outpost Internet Caf

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