This Is What It Takes to Be the WSJ House of the Year

Tuesday through Thursday each week, WSJ editors choose a distinctive property for sale to feature as the House of the Day at WSJ.com/News/RealEstate. On Fridays, readers vote for their favorite. From Dec. 14 to Jan. 4, readers voted among the winners from the last two weeks of 2019 and the first 50 weeks of 2020 in a series of head-to-head matchups. In total, 293,180 votes were cast.

The winning house, shown above, is located on the coast of the Hawaiin island of Kauai, and was originally asking $18.75 million in February, 2020. The price was reduced to $12.85 million in December and sold this month for $10.5 million.

The previous house on the property sat on a scenic point overlooking the ocean—until it was destroyed by Hurricane Iwa in 1982. The saltwater pool that juts into the Pacific Ocean is the only original feature left. For almost 20 years, the roughly 2-acre plot remained empty while the family considered what to do with it. The owner reimagined it in the late 1990s after selling off portions to raise construction funds. Today, the house sits on roughly 0.75 acre and has about 500 feet of ocean frontage.

Here is an aerial view of the property today:

The 3,324-square-foot home was completed in 1999 and complies with updated hurricane standards. The foundation was raised to 13 feet above sea level, and 92 caissons—which are concrete columns—support the structure. The corners of the house are reinforced with steel columns and hurricane tie-downs attached to the roof. The property has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and one half-bathroom. There is no air conditioning in the house; ceiling fans enhance ocean breezes.

It’s quite a house, but I don’t think I could live or stay in Hawai for an extended period of time. We have been fortunate to visit Hawaii several times since one of our sons lived there for several years, and we loved every trip we made there. But it seems like the island would get small after a while, although our son just loved living there. Now I guess you could go island hopping, but if I was going to get on a plane, I would want to go somewhere different than where I currently was. While I am sure each Hawaiian island is unique, they are still Hawaiin islands, and so have a lot in common.

I wish the new owner the best with their house in Paradise…

37 thoughts on “This Is What It Takes to Be the WSJ House of the Year

  1. OOH my house! LOL! No, I wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii, too far away from everyone, but I would love to visit sometime! My sister in law and I made a pact that we are going to go, not sure when, but sometime before we are old! 🙂

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  2. I get the attraction of living close to the beach (we’re only a couple of miles from a bay of the Pacific), but understanding the destruction that hurricanes can have, I would have a hard time living there. I understand it’s top-notch structurally-speaking, but who wants to take that gamble. Come to think of it, we’re gambling where we live near a fault. No shortage of earthquakes here.

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    1. I’m with you, I don’t think the risk is worth the reward. And speaking of natural disasters, somehow Philadelphia region was ranked as being at greater risk for tornadoes than tornado alley!

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  3. I lived on the Big Island for a short while. But even with that much larger amount of geography, compared with the other islands, I still became claustrophobic. I missed the wide-open spaces of the continent, so I returned to California. But if you love the ocean, and going out to sea, it’s probably a great place to live.

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    1. that’s the island my son lived on; it is an amazing place to visit. we loved every part of the island, and there is a lot of diversity there in terms of climate and habitat. But I felt the same way after a couple of weeks. And if you love the ocean, Hawaii is not your only option…

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        1. My son lived in Hilo for a few years, we loved the town and the farmers’ market. But we were never there during rainy season. But a trip to the other side of the island would get you out of the rain…

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  4. Hi Jim, that is exactly how I felt about New Zealand. I thought if I lived there I would find it small after a while and it to far away from everything to just hop on a plane and go elsewhere. Of course, lots of people love it there and it is very beautiful. I just like theatre, museums and places of historical interest to much to live in such a remote place.

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    1. My thoughts exactly; as much as I love nature and the ocean, I think I may be more of a city person at heart for the reasons you note. That’s why I think living in a decent-sized city close to the ocean would suit me ideally…

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  5. I’d have to see the competition because this house doesn’t seem to be in the house of the year category other than maybe price. The pool looks a little lonely out there by itself. Kauai is a beautiful island. Had a time share there for a few years. Now if someone wanted to give me the house…😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it’s a somewhat limited sample size, since they are only including houses that were listed for sale during the year. a vineyard estate in the heart of Napa Valley came in second and a wildlife sanctuary in Wyoming came in third…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Can’t argue the beauty of the home or its location. Assuming I could afford the price tag, I think I could handle the remote location or sense of closeness from island living. But to be honest, I just could not pay that kind of money for .75 acres of land. For that kind of money, I should have to call my neighbors if I want to talk to them, not see them next door mowing the lawn. Just saying…

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  7. i’d love to visit that house, not live there, and i’ve never been to the islands, but i imagine them to be amazing. i’d worry about future hurricanes, and the yard seems small for that house, but maybe not by hawaiian land standards. listen how picky i’m being, but i can afford to be knowing it is highly unlikely it will ever be a choice i have to make )

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  8. Thanks for this. It is always interesting to see how the other half (or 1%) lives. If the new owner can afford that house, I’m not sure they need my best wishes, unless it meant I got an invite. Then I may be enticed to say something but probably not. The flight from here to there is likely way out of my budget. I’ll stay content with my relatively little house on the lake.

    Liked by 1 person

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