The Home Team

Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

Power couple Tristyn and Kamohai Kalama are transforming both homes and lives thanks to their new HGTV series Renovation Aloha.

For married home renovators Tristyn and Kamohai Kalama, attending a real estate seminar in 2018 was the key to being able to call Hawai‘i their forever home, while also helping other local families, businesses and the larger community.

And you can see how they’re doing it on their new HGTV series Renovation Aloha, which premiered Feb. 20. On the show, cameras follow the couple as they transform some of the most rundown, dilapidated properties on O‘ahu into beautiful family homes, while putting a refreshing, authentic and heartfelt twist on the real estate scene in Hawai‘i.

“This is our true passion,” says Tristyn. “It’s how people can actually utilize real estate and the power of it to create wealth for themselves. We’re proof of that.

“When we started flipping (homes) and we started investing in real estate, we were renting and we were still struggling. We started buying, renovating and selling in order to get out of debt and then to start creating money for ourselves because we didn’t have money — we were $80,000 in debt.”

A 2008 graduate of Kalāheo High School, Tristyn was born and raised in Kailua and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling psychology from Chaminade University. A licensed mental health counselor by trade, she was CEO of the nonprofit Kōkua Support Services, where she continues to serve on its board of directors.

“My first passion was the nonprofit sector and really counseling and helping people,” says Tristyn. “Both my parents were counselors, it was all I knew growing up.”

Kamohai, whose hometown is also Kailua, graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1999, and owned a clothing store, Aloha Beach Club.

“My brother and I had three retail locations, but brick and mortar was just getting so hard,” he explains. “We were able to pay the bills and pay our employees, but we weren’t able to survive. We had our first child and my wife looked at me and she said, ‘Hey, I think it’s time we figure something out if we’re going to stay here in Hawai‘i.’ She said, ‘We’re going to this real estate seminar that I saw on TV and you have no choice.’

“The rest is history. Real estate it was.”

Prior to getting into real estate, Kamohai was already gearing up for a career change and even went back to school, earning a degree in political science from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, before going to that first seminar. Now, he calls himself a full-time real estate redeveloper. He’s also a landscape photographer, which he describes as more of a passion project.

“We actually use a lot of my photography in our houses when we stage them, which is pretty cool because I showcase a very unique perspective on Hawai‘i and the special places we have here,” he shares. “I like to bring that into the finished product of our houses.”

In the last six years, the Kalamas say they’ve renovated more than 70 homes, including homes that they’ve turned into rentals and a home in Kailua that they now call their own, and where they live with their two children: 7-year-old daughter Yasiel “Yasi” and 5-year-old son Corbett “Vale.”

Along the way, they’ve been able to not only build a profitable business for themselves, but also created job opportunities for countless local vendors and companies, including escrow and real estate agents, contractors and surveyors.

They’ve also relied on a helping hand from their large family, which includes 87 first cousins, many of whom are in the construction industry. Viewers may also recognize Kamohai’s dad, business and community leader Corbett Kalama, who blesses every home upon completion.

“The main thing that opened up a whole new world for us was getting financially educated and understanding loan products and how you find distressed properties,” Tristyn says. “The properties that we’re buying don’t qualify for traditional financing. We’re buying the worst of the worst that are unsafe and unlivable, but we’re able to take that vacant distressed property, breathe new life back into it and put local families back into them, or refinance and keep them and provide affordable housing for another local family while creating wealth for our own family at the same time.”

In addition to their real estate investment company, TK Property Solutions, the Kalamas also have a podcast (Deals and Aloha) and a YouTube channel where they highlight other investors and business owners, and educate others on how to invest in real estate. They also hold a free monthly meetup where they break down their latest projects, and a quarterly speaker series. Follow @kamohaiandtristyn and @dealsandaloha on Instagram for dates, times and locations.

“Getting financially educated, that was a game changer,” says Tristyn. “You just don’t know what you don’t know. We just needed a piece of information that was the key to unlock another door and once that door was opened, then you’re like, wow, now I have all these opportunities because now I know it’s actually possible, and that’s what the local community needs.”

Next, the Kalamas plan to start a construction company that will offer design-and-build services to retail clients. Ultimately, their mission is to give back to the community, raise awareness on being financially educated and help as many local people as possible not only stay in Hawai‘i, but thrive here as well.

“The long-term goal is to figure out how real estate can be combined into the nonprofit and how we can provide vulnerable populations with more housing options,” Tristyn says. “It’s something we’re looking forward to being able to do.”