Courtesy of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
Housing: Shoppers will find quaint Craftsman-style homes in old neighborhoods such as Manoa and Nuuanu, sprawling oceanfront mansions in Kahala, and new luxury condominiums in Waikiki, Kakaako, and Downtown. Fortunately for owners, many single-family properties include separate rental units that can provide income to offset mortgage costs.
Taxes: Hawaii’s taxes inspired Forbes magazine to dub the Aloha State “the People’s Republic of Hawaii.” So don't move to Honolulu if you're looking for a tax haven. Property taxes are just $3.29 per $1,000 of assessed value, with homestead exemptions as high as $120,000 for people over 65. The result: A retiree with a home valued at the median $600,000 would pay about $1,580 annually. But income tax rates start at nearly 7 percent for people earning more than $28,000 and rise above 8 percent for incomes in the high five figures. A general excise tax tacks on as much as 4.5 percent to the cost of all business activities.
Employers: Like most big cities, Honolulu has plentiful jobs in the government, medical, and education sectors, as well as a robust base of professional and business services jobs. But one of the biggest employers is the leisure and hospitality sector. Among Honolulu's largest private employers are Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels, Hawaiian Electric Company Inc., and hospital operator Hawaii Pacific Health.
Incomes: According to the most recent data for the Honolulu metro area, which includes the whole island of Oahu, annual average personal per capita income was $39,653 in 2006, which was almost $3,000 higher than the national average. Recent cost-of-living estimates, provided by the Council for Community and Economic Research, rank Honolulu at 161.7, nearly 62 percent higher than the national average.