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Bob Cartwright, shaper of West Maui, does more than sell

By Staff | Nov 11, 2010


KAANAPALI — Ask realtors what they do for a living, and the answer is usually, “We sell real estate,” Wrong, said influential Whalers Realty Inc. owner Bob Cartwright.

Bob’s interesting take is that selling is only a byproduct. “The first thing we do is help people through transitions in their lives,” he said.

Cartwright’s thoughtful views on the dynamics of an industry so important to West Maui and his analysis of today’s unique real estate market are well worth reading because of his long track record.

He runs one of the few big firms that has decided to remain independent when so many are now part of national chains.

Helping with people’s transitions starts with what this principal broker calls “the thrill of helping the first-time buyer.” It then moves on to helping find a larger home when a new baby arrives and finally putting a retired couple into a retirement dream home. Or, in less pleasant circumstances in between, helping a relocated divorcee.

For one of his clients, Cartwright has bought and sold a whopping 25 purchases — some transitional, some for investment.

The most pleasurable achievement for Maui brokers, he said, is helping people realize the benefits of living on Maui.

“I’ve watched people’s health improve when they move here,” he said.

Cartwright’s top five benefits: better health, learning aloha, enjoying natural beauty, pursuing of the intellectual and spiritual, and the happiness of owning a home in paradise.

“Research has shown that due to our weather and lifestyle, people live longer and happier lives on Maui than anywhere else on Earth. Learning the meaning and then living in the sprit of aloha by honoring the noblest attributes of our host Hawaiian culture is one of our greatest benefits, he said.

“There is also the ability every day to appreciate and enjoy nature, and the ability to grow and mature through a plethora of opportunities available through community groups and organizations. And finally the happiness that springs from the security of owning a home in this beautiful and special place,” he added.

Cartwright’s analysis might seem to be hyperbole, but come to think of it, he’s absolutely right. Even relationships improve, he said.

The nature of Maui is that husbands and wives get away from hassles like long commutes and spend more time together.

Responds this columnist’s wife of 42 years with a smile: “Really?

Moving on, another distinctive facet about Cartwright is his influence on developers. Whalers Realty — in addition to buying and selling properties and running a vacation rental business — also wholesales land.

A dozen years ago, for Kaanapali Land Management Corp., Cartwright sold a slice of former Amfac/JMB Hawaii Inc. holdings across Honoapiilani Highway (above Whalers Village along Kaanapali Golf Course) to developer Bob Johnson to build what became the Vintage.

Cartwright did a survey and found the biggest item on potential buyers’ wish lists was for a condominium property with freestanding homes and attached garages. It was almost like this was more important to people than a pool, he said.

The developer built only four models of three- and four-bedroom homes, putting them close together and omitting fences.

“It created a real sense of community,” the Realtor observed. “It is hard in a resort community because people come and go. Meeting people is tough.

At the Vintage, you were almost forced to get to know your neighbors, instead of the California mentality where you open your garage, you drive in and your whole place is enclosed.

The approach to create a true neighborhood freed up additional acreage used for open green space.

Cartwright’s thinking shaped land planning for the upscale Summit and Pinnacle built above the Vintage and the ultra-luxury Lanikeha, where he suggested a mix of quarter-, half- and full-acre lots to create diversity. Whalers Realty also became the exclusive agent for beginning land sales at each property in which custom homes would be built.

Further up the mountain, Cartwright one day foresees a kind of Upcountry — swatches of land similar to Kaanapali Coffee Estates with a lot of agriculture.

There will be a development line up there that won’t be crossed, since the land is state protected and a watershed.

Assessing the current market, Cartwright said “this is a time for bargains. There are screaming deals. We have a better supply this time around than past recessions and very low interest rates But it’s is not going to stay down forever.

“If you really look at it realistically, we are not that deep in inventory. It will not take that much of a pickup to things turn around. We are still a year or two away from changing from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market.”