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Monday, June 26, 2017

403 - 405 Caroline Street, Key West

Yesterday, instead of hosting an open house to showcase one of my listings, I decided to go to see other open houses.  I want to share with you the incredible property located at 403 - 405 Caroline Street in Key West. I knew I had been inside about 25 years ago or so when my first real estate broker listed this property. I saw it then but had no present recollection of what it used to look like.  As soon as I entered the owner's unit I knew i had to share this place with my loyal readers. The current owners bought this place in 1999 and did an incredible job in re-creating a wonderful living space unlike anything else in Key West.
The listing broker describes the property this way:
"One-of-a-kind historic property dating back to the late 1800's. Two buildings consisting of three legal units with high ceilings, colossal multi-paned windows, mahogony railings and shutters, cuban tile and wood floors, and large tropical courtyard with ample room for a pool. HRO zoning permits many uses including, but not limited to residential dwellings, professional offices, medical services, and places of worship. Property is configured with a two bedroom and two bathroom main house, a one bed and one bath apartment, and a large studio, perfect for an artist, extended family, or guests. Both structures are connected by over 1500 sq. ft. of decks and porches. There is also a coveted off-street parking space with a unique entry point."
 I looked inside my old shoebox for some photos of the property as it used to look and also found photos of the area which is pretty special in its own right. You see, the houses sit opposite the Presidential Gates on the opposite side of Whitehead Street. President Harry S. Truman used to pass these gates on an almost daily basis when he vacationed at the Little White House a block or so further west.  As I stood on the second floor balcony that wraps three sides of this property, I snapped a photo of the old gates that connect our historic past to the present day.
I cropped the black and white photo two above. If you are familiar with the location, you probably recognize the proximity to Mallory Square, the boat basis across the street, and nearby Duval Street. But back in the day, before the tourists took over, this location was an easy five minute walk to the very active seaport where fishermen, spongers, merchants, and the US NAVY lived and worked.

circa 1980
I searched the Historic Sanborn Fire maps seeking more information on the age of the buildings. I found a different history than I had pee-conceived.  The 1889 Map showed a much larger L-shaped building that extended east on Caroline Street. The map says the building was a photo gallery back then and remained such until the 1899 map. There was a bookstore (of all things) located directly across Caroline Street.  The Odd Fellows Hall was located about fifty feet or so to the east. I found a photo of that once magnificent building that workers from the WPA took down in the 1930s. Thank God they did not dismantle the entire town in the name of progress.  The maps showed numerous changes in use of neighboring properties over the years. The 1912 Map shows 403 - 405 Caroline Street which means these two buildings were built sometime between 1899 and 1912.
The Monroe County Property Appraiser shows the two buildings as having finished interior living spaces totaling 2,688 sq ft plus an additional 2909 sq ft of decking much of which is covered in some fashion. The lot measures 66' X 70.16' or 4620 sq ft. The buildings are in superior condition in my opinion. The current owners renovated the properties after their purchase and did a masterful job in re-imagining the usage. It has to be seen in person to appreciate the creativity they brought to the project. There is nothing like it in Key West. 
The property as currently configured is three units which could be legally be re-purposed in any means as outlined above by the listing broker. Today there are two apartments in the west building - a one bedroom on the ground floor and a "studio" on the second floor. 
The first and second floor units are the same size but configured differently. Both have front and rear porches and use of the rear garden area.  The second floor studio is unlike any I have ever seen in Key West. I am pretty certain the original ceiling was flat wood construction typical throughout the area. I think the current owners removed that ceiling as well as interior walls and created the new curved ceiling, added the expansive glass windows at the rear and created this wonderful open living space. CLICK HERE to view more photos of this wonderful property.
The east building is configured a bit different from most houses in Key West as the main living area is located on the upper level and the bedrooms are on the first floor. The owners removed interior walls and the original flat ceiling and opened the living and dining areas into one open space. The efficient kitchen is attached. There is window which looks out at the trees and historic old building across the street. What at first appears to be a wood closed located on the east side of the living room is actually the stairway to the main floor. When I entered the space I was awed by the rich wood and old copper fittings.  How cool is this, I thought. The guest bedroom is located at the front of the property. The door was open. It was about 1:00 PM. Trolley cars were passing by every five to ten minutes. I listened for clamor. I really didn't hear anything that was annoying to me and I get annoyed by tourists very easily. The master bedroom is located at the rear. It is huge. A door opens out to the rear deck and garden. What a lovely place that would be for morning or a late night drink before bed.
There are two covered off street parking spaces located between the two old houses. This place is totally civilized. And I think there is room for a pool.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and to veiw 47 listing photos of this wonderful property. The please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

1717 Rose Street, Key West

The home located at 1717 Rose Street, Key West is commonly referred to as a CBS (concrete block construction) home built in 1958. It is typical in many ways to other homes built in this midtown Key West neighborhood located east of the White Street Pier which ends at Bertha Street just as it bends on Atlantic Boulevard at the beginning of world famous Smathers Beach. Think about what I just wrote. This house is located near two of the best beaches in Key West.  People save all year long to come to Key West to have fun. If you bought this house, you could walk to fun any day of the year. And the good thing about this listing is you don't have to fix anything because this house is in really good shape. But if you want to add a pool or expand the house, you could.
The house itself has been updated and looks sharp. The 1080 sq ft house has two bedrooms and one bath which was typical for the construction of the 1950s. The lot is a generous 5285 sq ft lot (52.85' X 100').  Most of the other lots in this area are 5000 sq ft and some are as large as 10,000 sq ft. Many homes now have privacy fences in front. This home does not. Many of the neighboring homes have pools. This does not. Most of the neighboring homes are more valuable because they have been expanded and have more amenities than this home.
The first thing I noticed when I entered this home was how clean and bright the interior was. There is a carport located adjacent to the living room where two large windows allow a lot of light to enter. I think but do not know to be a fact that a former patio was enclosed to create a family room located at the rear. The family room has lots of windows which look out to the large back yard. Each of the two bedrooms has been updated as has the single bathroom.
This home is in move-in condition. A new owner would not need to do anything. I can imagine all kinds of things a new owner could do to this home and this incredible lot. The home is offered at $527,000 which is in the lower price range for homes currently for sale in Key West. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing. I'll drive you by nearby Higg's Beach and Smathers Beach. You'll soon understand why I view this home as a buying opportunity. Old Town is a quick five minute drive to the north and west. Our three shopping centers are also located nearby. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Home Egonomics - Key West Real Estate at Work

An article in The Washington Post discussed the role emotions play in buying and selling real estate. People think they make calculated decisions when buying or selling a house. The article says research shows emotions play as big a role as intellect.

The article stated that evidence is mounting that people set prices on real estate (especially as applied to homes) as much on ego and self-image as on an objective analysis of the market. This is where the term "sticky prices" comes from -- sellers who won't budge from their price demands or other contract terms to make a deal happen. 

Research economists formerly believed that people made important economic decisions like robots by applying simple logic. But research over the past 20 years has shown otherwise.“These studies have illuminated a few key concepts: Many people will pass up sure profits for illusory ones. Some will turn down profits if they believe someone else is unfairly profiting more. Some will even refuse to sell if they believe they may come to regret it, because fear of future regret can be as powerful a motivator as money in the pocket today.” “In other words, people will cling to prices they recall from a brighter day, even when market conditions have changed; they will walk away from a sale if they feel the buyer is getting too good a deal at their expense; and they are terrified that [if they sell now] the market will rebound and they will feel like fools.”

The article went on to discuss the role of “loss aversion” -– the concept that people deny reality as it applies to something they greatly value when it declines in value, such as stock. They tend to hope that if they wait long enough that the value will return and that the loss they would incur will in fact never happen. 

The article rightly pointed out that most people make rational dollars and cents decisions when buying routine items such as milk and eggs, but let their emotions get involved in potentially life-changing decisions such as buying or selling a home.
Hoping for a positive market gain will not make one happen. Changing Realtors will not create any new universe of buyers if the asking price is not competitive or the house is located in the wrong part of town. 

I tend to represent more buyers than sellers because my blog attracts a good number of buyers who read my comments on the market in general and who seek more information about specific homes. When I represent a seller I suggest a list price close to the target sales price. Some sellers prefer to list higher avail themselves of the opportunity to negotiate to a lower and more acceptable price. They think that by setting the bar at a lower level they might miss the chance to sell at a higher price. (Go back and read paragraph 3 above.) The Key West real estate market is the most active between late December until Memorial Day. This is the time period most buyers who are seeking a second home located in Key West will be in town and theoretically making offers to buy. 
One of the first questions that comes out of the mouth of most serious buyers is "How long has the house been on the market?"  If the house has been on the market in Key West for more than 60 days many buyers will assume the house is either over-priced or that there is something wrong with the house or the location. When buyers ask this question they are guarding against buying something that has something wrong with it. Houses priced correctly in Key West tend to sell very quickly because of the serious demand for homes here. This is buyer risk aversion - buying now before some other buyer gets the property.
I firmly believe sellers should not let their egos get in front of their rational thought processes when it comes to setting the asking price. Twenty-seven years ago I worked for the Resolution Trust Corporation, the federal government agency set up to dispose of billions of dollars of assets from failed savings and loan associations. I worked in the Colorado regional office where my department was tasked with managing the sale and disposition of numerous multi-million dollar assets located primarily in the western United States but also in Louisiana, Tennessee, Washington DC, and New York. We went trough an ardent decision making process to determine asking prices on assets and then to evaluate offers. Out job was to sell assets, not to admire our portfolio. We had to write "Cases" to justify the marketing plan and the approval of offers when received. These were government owned assets. Ego-nomics had nothing to do with these assets.  Decisions had to be justified by sound business practices. My former boss would invariably comment: "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered!" That phrase ought to be posted to every would-be home seller's refrigerator door. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

BATMAN - an Homage

Longtime loyal readers of my little blog know my life story which is very much alike to most people my age. I turned seventy on January 1 this year. I was among the first of the baby boomer generation. Life was so much simpler back in the later 1940's and 1950's and the game changing 1960s.  My generation was born just after the United States had saved the world from the Nazi's and Imperial Japan.  Good had triumphed over evil. The United States was on the march again - rebuilding the country and re-imagining who we are as a people.
I grew up in a little suburban town called Mountain View, Colorado.  The town was exactly two blocks long and six blocks wide. You could see the outline of the front range of the Rocky Mountains located about ten miles from my school. My school and my little town were typical of most of America at that moment in history. There was a population explosion as returning servicemen moved to newly created suburbs. I remember kids in my class sharing stories of what their dads did in the war. Television was introduced across America at the same time and quickly replaced radio as the principal means of mass communication.  My generation grew up watching shows like The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and SUPERMAN where the principal characters fought and defeated evil each week. We also watched shows like Leave It to Beaver which portrayed an idealized version of middle class family life in mid-century America. Since television was new and there weren't re-runs like we do now, local stations would supplement network programing with old movies from the 1930s and 1940s where the American way of life was extolled. We grew up believing America was great and Americans could do no wrong.
John F. Kennedy became the President of the United States and inspired my generation (identified as baby boomers) to set new goals and to achieve great accomplishments for the good of all people. At the same America was becoming divided over civil rights but particularly in the South.   I did not realize it as I was growing up, but my lily white community (and in fact all of Jefferson County) was segregated. There were no black families and only a hand full of Hispanics. At the beginning of the seventh grade the Russians launched Sputnik and then orbited a man in space. Later the Russians built a wall around East Berlin to keep the locals locked inside the city - forever. And then the Russians placed missiles capable of reaching the mainland US in Cuba. Kennedy ordered air defense missiles set up on South Roosevelt Blvd in Key West, Florida just a few blocks from where I now live.  I still lived in Colorado and went to first period English the morning after Kennedy addressed the nation and warned us about what was going on. We were all on edge. One kid didn't think anything would happen, but others thought we could all be dead by the next day. Class began. The one kid was correct.  The US and Russia managed to avoid war. We lived.

A year later Kennedy was killed and our baby boomer innocence was taken. Evil had prevailed. Lyndon Johnson became President.  While Johnson pushed for civil rights and voting rights, he got the United States stuck in an unpopular war in Viet Nam. We watched the nightly news and saw some American soldiers doing bad things in Viet Nam, The war over there became the war at home.
Generations of families were torn apart. The view we had of ourselves derived from what we watched on television and the movies was not true. We were flawed. Not evil. But we were not who we thought we were.

During my teenage years a lot television programs had lead characters who were other worldly - characters on shows like Bewitched, The Adams Family, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeanie, and BATMAN. I remember when BATMAN first appeared on network tv in early 1966. I was a college freshman and lived in a coed dormitory which had a single color tv in the lounge, For some reason BATMAN became an instant hit across America and in my dorm. Few students ever watched anything on tv but dozens showed up twice a week to watch Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin the boy wonder. Batman was a moral exemplar - he was a good guy who fought the super villains. While it often seemed their fate was doomed, Batman and Robin always prevailed in the end. Good triumphed over evil. The morality of our common youth was restored.

Adam West died this week.  The City of Los Angeles illuminated the Bat Signal across the LA skyline to acknowledge his passing.
We are living in a much different age today than fifty years ago when BATMAN took our minds off the political wars at home and the real war in Viet Nam.  For my generation there was a JFK to give us hope about a better tomorrow and a Batman to give us a break from reality. While there have been many Presidents and many actors who portrayed Batman, there will never be another JFK nor another Adam West.


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.