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First-time homeowners now living their dream


Adonis Buttel, left, son Colt Buttel and fiancee Julie Lunas.

It’s been five months since Adonis Buttel and fiancee Julie Lunas closed on their Pearl City dream home, and Buttel hasn’t stopped pinching himself.

“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” he says with chuckling incredulity. “Every day I come home, and I have to pinch myself and tell myself that this is real.”

Cut the man some slack. In a market where the median sale price for a single-family home is already sprouting north of $750,000, even people with steady, gainful employment — Adonis works at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, and Julie is a nurse at The Queen’s Medical Center — too often despair at the foot of a seemingly insurmountable financial climb.

Like so many local couples, Buttel and Lunas had a dream of homeownership colored by the lucid awareness that what once was a reasonable expectation for earlier generations of middle-­class families now required much more than just hard work and sacrifice.

“We were hopeful but realistic,” Buttel said. “We knew that real estate inventory was low, and that meant that we were going to have to live way out on the west side or overpay. It was gloomy.”

The couple, both in their 30s, could have continued living with Buttel’s family in Hauula. However, they were uniquely motivated to do whatever was necessary to secure a more permanent home.

Buttel has a son from a previous relationship. Colt, who will turn 7 this week, is on the autism spectrum and undergoes rigorous one-on-one applied behavioral analysis therapy five days a week to improve his ability to function in social settings.

While the couple was living with Buttel’s family, Buttel’s sister would leave early in the morning to drop off Colt at ABC Group in Halawa, and either Buttel or Lunas would pick him up at the end of the day. They made it work, as families do, but the long commutes were wearying and left them with precious little quality time together.

The break came when Buttel and Lunas applied for the Hawaii State Federal Credit Union’s program for first-time homebuyers and worked with a mortgage officer who guided them through the process of getting approved and determining how much they could afford.

Then, working with Realtor Joshua Horita, the couple located a property in Pearl City, where Lunas grew up.

The three-bedroom house was “older,” as Buttel politely described, and hadn’t been renovated. But the location was ideal, and the couple saw raw potential that Buttel, who has an extensive background in construction, could help realize.

The house listed for $650,000, but the couple knew they’d need to bid high to have a shot. Alas, despite a competitive offer, they were outbid.

It proved a temporary setback. In disconcertingly quick fashion, the deal fell through, and the couple was invited to pick up the pieces.

“We closed on Oct. 25, our two-year anniversary,” Lunas said. “We signed the papers and got the keys, and I thought, ‘Wow, we’re actually homeowners!’”

Lunas said having a home in close proximity to Colt’s doctors and therapists is “a godsend,” and so is the extra time that the family has to be together in a home of their own.

“We’re kind of homebodies,” she said. “We have movie night. We have barbecues. We like to get together with friends and family. And we try to spend as much time as we can with Colt.”

Buttel has already renovated the kitchen and, as a special gift to his soon-to-be bride, built a walk-in pantry. And Colt, that growing boy, has his own room.

The couple say they are thrilled to have a special place for what they hope is a still-growing family, as surreal as that sometimes seems.

And so every day Buttel pinches himself. Pinches and pinches until it sinks in.

It’s real.


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