REALTORS® Give $1.5M to Aid Maui Wildfire Recovery

“Unity and community spirit are invaluable, especially when facing such trying circumstances,” says the president of the REALTORS® Relief Foundation.

Dozens of real estate professionals are among the thousands of Maui residents who lost everything after the deadliest U.S. wildfires in more than a century torched the Hawaiian island last week. One Maui practitioner reportedly is still missing.

The REALTORS® Relief Foundation announced Monday that it is donating $1.5 million in disaster aid to the Hawaii REALTORS® association to help devastated communities. The funds will go toward housing assistance for displaced victims. RRF also is asking NAR members to donate toward relief efforts in Maui.

“Maui’s recent wildfires have deeply impacted its residents, and we stand by them during this challenging time,” says RRF President Mike McGrew. “RRF grants aim to ease the path toward recovery, offering tangible aid to those rebuilding their lives. As real estate agents, we recognize that unity and community spirit are invaluable, especially when facing such trying circumstances.”

The wildfires were stirred by powerful winds from Hurricane Dora, which did not make a direct impact on Hawaii, and swept through Maui’s western coast last Tuesday. Entire towns, including the tourist haven of Lahaina, were shrouded in clouds of billowing smoke and flames. The wildfires charred historic landmarks and destroyed about 2,700 structures in Lahaina, a town of about 13,000 people. Front Street in Lahaina—Maui’s main economic hub—also was destroyed in the fires.

At least 99 people were killed, but officials say that number is likely to climb as recovery efforts continue. Damage has been estimated at about $6 billion, the Hawaii governor’s office announced over the weekend.

Real Estate Groups Vow Support

As the once-tropical landscape along Maui’s western shores have been turned into piles of ash, real estate groups are rushing to aid victims and help meet the housing needs of those who have no home to return to. The REALTORS® Association of Maui has been collecting donations and working to find housing options for those displaced victims. Local agents are leveraging their networks to help the housing efforts. “We are heartbroken and devastated for our Maui community; it is difficult to put into words,” the association posted on its Facebook page.

Keller Williams says 14 of its more than 220 agents in Maui lost their homes or had family members who lost homes in the fires. KW Cares, the brokerage’s philanthropic arm, is providing emergency aid to support housing, food and other needs of Keller Williams agents and their immediate families.

“KW Cares is on a mission to support our agents who have been impacted,” says Alexia Rodriguez, CEO of KW Cares. “Our team remains in touch with our agents and leaders on the ground to offer support. We’re here to make a difference from emergency assistance to long-term recovery.”

Coldwell Banker Island Properties launched a website in the aftermath of the fires, providing a list of local organizations accepting donations and information on how to support its agents, staff and families. Steve Baker, principal broker of Coldwell Banker Island Properties, launched a GoFundMe for the 14 agents and staff whose homes were destroyed in Lahaina.

Baker, who lived on Maui for 30 years but now lives in Las Vegas, says he’s been watching the news in disbelief. “I’ve sat and cried many mornings,” he says. “These are my friends. There is still a REALTOR® who isn’t accounted for—not with our company, but it doesn’t matter. Many brokerages have real estate professionals in Maui who have lost everything down to the ground.”

Prior to the wildfires, Maui’s housing inventory was at historically low levels—less than a two-month supply at the current sales pace. “Many of the homes lost are likely multigenerational homes where people had lived for 30 or 40 years,” Baker says. “They may not have the money to buy at the current prices. My biggest fear is that many will be underinsured. If they’ve been in the home a long time, the cost of construction and replacement has increased. Their coverage may be lacking.”

Baker is encouraged by the outpouring of support from the REALTOR® community to aid Maui.

He says he hopes that people will remember Maui as it begins to rebuild homes, businesses and lives over the coming months. “Often, there’s immediate support the first week after [a disaster], when people often mobilize,” he says. “But we will need help three weeks or three or four months after, too. That’s when the need really kicks in. When Maui is no longer in the headlines, that’s when the needs are the greatest.”