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Friday, September 22, 2017

3312 Northside Drive #401, Key West, Florida

Readers up north may not appreciate how expensive it has become to live down here in Key West. Key West used to be a bargain. But popularity of our island paradise has caused housing costs to rise far greater than wages for most full time residents.  Finding a place where you would actually like to live and can also afford is often difficult  As a result many people must rent or share their living space - often with people they barely know. Or maybe they decide to rent a place with a person they know, but learn to despise because of their roommate's habits. A few years ago I took the photo below of an actual rental in Old Town. The tenants had to use the bathtub as the place they cleaned their dishes. I kid you not.
The new Preferred Properties Key West listing at the Santa Clara Condominiums is an affordably priced alternative to roommate living. And after Hurricane Irma the place may become more desirable than before simply because of the existence of such an affordable unit.

The listing broker describes 3312 Northside Drive Unit 401, Key West this way:
"Affordable Key West living. This large studio apartment at Santa Clara has a full kitchen, living room and full bath plus an alcove. The balcony looks out over the tennis courts and pool side of the property. Santa Clara is a secure building which had recent upgrades and is well maintained. There is ample parking, a gated entrance and beautiful amenities including the large pool and two tennis courts. Very convenient location in Key West. Pets are not allowed at Santa Clara. This is a great value."
The asking price on this 408 square foot unit is just $195,000. The monthly condo fees are $358 which cover building maintenance and insurance, pool and common area maintenance, and sewer. This is a large condominium development which is professionally managed. A qualified new buyer may get 90% financing and could potentially own this place for a price cheaper than paying rent.  I found several loan products of $800 +/- per month.  Real property taxes will be about 1% of purchase price or $1950.00 per year. That would equate to a total monthly payment of $1320.  I urge readers to checkout monthly rentals in the Key West Citizen or Craigslist. Compare the price and consider the possibility of owning a place without sharing space with a roommate.  I have not been inside this unit myself (yet) but I am familiar with the building.
If you work in the hospitality business or at the hospital, you can ride a bus or ride your scooter to work.  You can be almost anywhere in about 15 minutes any either means of transportation.  The building has a large pool and tennis courts. You can actually layout by your own pool, get some rays,  relax and enjoy your life in Key West and not have a second job (or third job).

Alternatively, if you are simply looking for a Key West getaway place that won't break your bank account, this property may be the one you have been hoping to find. Too many buyers think that being near Duval Street is the answer to all their needs. Houses and condos across the island get to share the same sunshine and great weather. 

CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet on  3312 Northside Drive #401, Key West, Florida. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 306-766-2642, to set up a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane Irma - Key West - Part One

Higg's Beach Key West Florida looking south toward Cuba the day before Hurricane Irma
About four weeks ago newscasters started to talk about Hurricane Irma forming the waters of the Atlantic. Initial announcements of hurricanes forming catch my attention but do not alarm me as they typically die off or meander through the Caribbean and head north in the Atlantic Ocean.

I have lived in the Key West for 23 years and have been here for every hurricane except Georges in 1998. I was in Miami attending refresher real estate school when that hurricane was announced.
That storm slammed the Florida Keys. I spoke to friends on the phone who stayed in Key West during that storm and was told the flood and wind damage was extensive.  Locals who evacuated were not allowed to return for several days. It took me nearly twelve hours to drive the 120 miles from Miami to Key West. The next day I drove the streets and learned that only certain areas flooded and that while the wind damage was widespread, it was did not cause houses to fly up into the sky like in the Wizard of Oz. Instead, there was massive loss of palm trees and what I call tropical foliage. (In the following years Key West experienced the same type loss of tree damage - mostly to palm and poorly maintained trees.) I decided as a rule it made more sense for me to stay in Key West than to drive 120 miles to Miami or beyond. I don't have children and would not risk the lives of anyone else. I do not believe staying in Key West is life threatening to anyone. 

The year 2005 brought four named storms to Key West including the infamous Hurricane Wilma which caused significant flood damage from a storm surge.  Key West is located at the tail end of the Florida Keys. It is four miles long and about one mile wide. The island is surrounded by a reef which minimizes damages from large waves – they just do not occur. The historic Old Town area is located at the westernmost side of the island.  The Newtown area is located on the eastern side of the island and Midtown is in the middle. Both areas were developed in the 1950s and 1960s when former low-lying areas and former salt ponds were filled and raised to create building lots. Those areas were impacted the most by the storm surge that occurred as a result of Wilma’s devastating impact on Miami. There was no “wall of water”. Instead, water quickly rose from the ground and soon filled the streets and homes with up to four feet of water above grade. Several storms threatened us in the following years following Hurricane Wilma which caused local and state officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders. Schools and businesses closed and families headed north. The police do not enforce the evacuation. People who do stay are warned that if they stay, they are on their own in the event of an emergency. In the twelves since Wilma, none of the named storms ever reached Key West.

I watched CNN and the other networks for several days as Hurricane Irma churned through the Atlantic. I listened to Chad Meyers and others warn of catastrophic winds and tidal surges of ten feet or higher. Irma moved very slowly. There was ample time to leave, but the potential path was so wide it was difficult to decide whether  to go east to Miami or north toward Orlando.
Maarquesa 4-1-4 Hotel
New Addition to the Marquesa 4-1-4 built to Florida's tough building code
I decided to stay in Key West with a friend at the soon to open Marquesa 4-1-4 Hotel on Simonton Street.  The new building is located behind the historic Kerr House and the former Pilot House guesthouse which are the focal point of the development. The new building was built to Florida’s tough building codes to withstand winds up to 200 MPH. I would stay in a second floor junior suite just in case the highly improbably ten foot tidal surge Chad Myers predicted were to come true.

Two days before the storm I drove along Truman Avenue and North Roosevelt Boulevard to take photos of a few “landmarks” just to note what they looked like before the storm. I guesstimate that seventy percent or more of town had evacuated by that point. We have a lot of single people who do not have cars or funds to go someplace else. Others, like me, find it more convenient to stay and cope with the discomforts of heat and no electricity than to deal with the discomforts of evacuation and re-entry. If you followed the news after the storm, you are aware the authorities restricted re-entry for several days to persons with re-entry passes and Key West identification. 
Duncan Auto Sales ferried most of its car inventory out of harm’s way. The lot was empty except for two kiosks and a few pickup trucks. Both kiosks were downed by the hurricane. Within a couple of days after the storm passed, the vehicles were returned.
I noticed two dredgers were tethered to a dock opposite the Burger King on North Roosevelt. I had not seen any vessel docked at this location before. I got out of my car to take photos including the Burger King. The Burger King store experienced some signage damage which is typical of many businesses on this roadway.  I do not recall seeing any structural damage to any building except for some scattered roof damages. I did not see any lost roofs. 
We have three shopping centers in Key West. I took photos of the Searstown Center because it is the largest. In addition to Sears, there is a PUBLIX grocery, Outback Steak House, Regal Cinema, and Royal Furniture, our number one furniture store. All of the stores and eateries were boarded up.
The days after the storm have melded together. About three or four days after Irma hit, I heard that food, water, and ice were being given out at Searstown. I only needed ice. The first day the lines were so long that I turned my car around and went home. The second day I parked my car and walked up to a local police woman who told me there was no more ice. When I asked her when it might be available, she said when it gets here. So I went home - frustrated. The third day I parked my car a block away. I found a red shopping cart and walked from the far west side of Sears to the east side where I found a massive assemblage of the US military personnel, Florida National Guard, FEMA, and other government and charitable groups. The east side of the parking lot was full of cars and trucks of locals who were waiting in line to get food, water, and ice. I passed through a sea what looked like high school kids in military uniforms, young men and women of every color and race, each cleanly scrubbed with short haircuts and spiffy clean uniforms. I felt so damned old and so damned proud. One young man gave me two cases of bottled water. I moved forward where I was offered ready-to-eat meals which I declined. A muscular 6'2" or taller Marine placed two bags of ice in my cart. I heard a "God Bless You!" My body lunged forward and I grasped the bar with both hands. I was over whelmed with emotion. At that point I had not seen any television and had not heard that much about the damage to the other Keys. But I could sense the magnitude of the event by the number of people who were there.
The day before the storm I went over to the White Street Pier, Higgs Beach, and the Casa Marina Resort to memorialize those sites.  The streets were empty. A murder of crows or some other big band of black birds ominously were perched on electic power lines as if they were aware a big storm was headed our way.
Old Town Fire Station commend center after the storm
Our real estate office is located about 125 feet away from the newly constructed Old Town Fire Station where the City of Key West assembled its battery of service vehicles that would become useful in dealing with the aftermath of the storm. The bottom photo just above shows the same area thirteen days later. FEMA has set up camp here to take claims from persons impacted by Irma. 
I took the above photo of 414 Simonton Street yesterday, the place I stayed at during the hurricane, on September 19, 2017 - 10 days after Irma hit Key West.  I post this photo to let you know that not only this business but most businesses and homes in Key West were not damaged. My next blog will take readers on a photo tour of Old Town and the Casa Marina Area immediately after the storm ended.

Monday, September 4, 2017

1105 Washington Street, Key West - New Casa Marina Renovation

More than thirty years ago someone told me one of the best lessons about Key West real estate: you can't tell what a house is like from the front! Look up at the photo of the pool at this freshly renovated Casa Marina Area home. I live a block away and have seen the front of this house for more than twenty-two years. I have written about it a couple of times over the years and even remarked that a new owner could add a pool. I never expected to see a view like this. It is stunning.
The listing Realtor describes 1105 Washington Street in Key West this way:
"Remarkable Renovation, resulting in a stunning restful retreat. An easy stroll to the Ocean, this One Level Gem is located in heart of Casa Marina District. The combination of finishes and design creates a beach house ambiance, from Stunning wood finished walls, Sparkling Quartz Kitchen and Gorgeous tiled floors. Each of the three bedrooms feature ensuite bathrooms, finished with soft hues of gray and white tile and quartz. Two sets of French doors open out from the living room to stunning Keystone Paved Deck and New pool with cascading waterfalls. Metal roof, Impact Glass windows and Doors and concrete structure will contribute to low insurance costs while providing high energy efficiency and protection. Plenty of room for parking, with one off street spot and additional street parking."
The design is very efficient and pragmatic. It is sort of akin to what you might expect in Scandinavia. It is cool, modern, and sleek. Two of the three bedrooms are located at the front. Both have large en-suite bathrooms and walk-in closets. The porcelain tile floors look like wood but are much easier to clean and maintain. The quartz counter-tops in the bathrooms are plain elegant. I was especially taken by the front right bathroom with a built-in linen closet of sorts that reminds me of houses back in the 1950s.  New wood walls were added to various rooms in the house including the bedrooms. This design element offers a change of pace from typical drywall. Other design elements used throughout the house include recessed ceiling lights, large baseboards, trim, crown molding, and matte black hardware. Each bedroom has windows which look out to the front porch and fenced front yard.  The new owner will get to landscape the house with as much or as little vegetation as desired. I am a firm believer that less is more because everything grows in Key West except hair. (I have all of mine.) I would keep tropical plantings to a minimum because they will grow, but it you add too much or too tall plants, you won't be able to see the house or the street.
The renovation added another design element that did not previously exist. The house was sort of bisected and a center hall added. The hall also has wood walls and a couple of doors. One leads to the laundry area. But it is the hall itself that adds to the drama of arrival at the open great great room at the rear of the house and the cool pool view beyond. Then the guest cottage (or third bedroom) appears.
The great room is designed for Key West laid back living. It you use this house as a full time home or a part time getaway place, you will spend a lot of time outdoors. That is what we all do. That is why we moved here - to enjoy the wonderful Key West weather. The French doors will be open throughout most of the year and family members and guests will be inside and outside all the time.
The bathroom for the rear bedroom does double duty as the guest bath for the main house. A door off the living room provides easy access.  The third bedroom could easily be a home office or a painter's cottage or writer's studio for most of the time until the grand kids show up.  
White Street Pier in the 1970s
Higg's Beach 2003
Sandy's Cafe 2016
 The Casa Marina Area has been my home for the past twenty-two years. The ocean is nearby. It never changes, but it is always different. The skies, the breezes, the smells - they change. They always change and draw my attention as I drive by.  Faustos Grocery is a couple of blocks away. It is the primary grocer for many and a quick stop for someone like me who goes there for milk, bread, or a lottery ticket. There are several gyms and yoga studios in the area as well. Yesterday I was driving home from my open house just after 2:00 PM and there had to be 20 people in line across the street at Sandy's waiting to get something to eat. These are things you can expect and will enjoy to be a part of your future no matter where you buy in Key West. They are just closer if you live in the Casa Marina Area.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and then please give me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, a phone call to set up a showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Let me take you around the neighborhood and you may just fall in love with another part of Key West that you never thought of.


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.