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Saturday, December 29, 2007

627 Elizabeth Street in Old Town Key West

627 Elizabeth Street might be the vacation home you have been waiting to find.

Classic Old Town Conch house in prime neighborhood that is more than 85% completed. Completely renovated with second floor addition for more living space. Fantastic opportunity to pick out the final touches or wait for completion in approximately 60 days.

The main living area and kitchen are located at the rear of the property and overlook the new pool. There are two bedrooms on the first floor and the master bed and bath are on the second floor and have a view of the pool. The ceilings in the entry hall and main living area are vaulted.

The house sits at just about the highest point on Solares Hill so you will not need to pay for flood insurance (or worry about flooding). The neighborhood has a mix of homes most of which have been renovated over the past several years. There house at 620 Elizabeth sold for $2,999,999 in 2005. A similar house next door at 625 Elizabeth sold in 2005 for $1,295,000. The house at 600 Elizabeth sold in March 2005 for $2,680,000. Several other high dollar sales were made in the immediate area over the past three years.

I think this property is well suited for a second home buyer who wants a house with everything "new" and nothing to be done. It works well for a buyer who wants to move in "tomorrow" so he can enjoy his life. The house is divided so that guests or children sleep in the bedrooms at the front of the house while the owner sleeps in the master bedroom area located at the second floor rear. Imagine being able to actually move in to a new house in Old Town with a pool and off street parking sometime in the next couple of months. Oh and did I mention everything is new. So you won't have to go out and hire a plumber or carpenter or electrician to fix things. The work has already been done.

So many first time buyers see old houses that are a little run down and think they can buy the house and re-do it and save a bunch of money. The time frame to do that is well over a year from start to finish. You can't enjoy your home for that time period. But you will be able to have fights with your contractor and subcontractors over a variety of issues. Saving money is illusionary. Let somebody else do the work for you and enjoy your vacation home in Paradise immediately.

If this house or any other Key West home CLICK HERE to perform your own search of the Key West mls database and then call me, Gary Thomas, at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Half Price Sale on a Single Family House in Old Town

The little house at 1119 Olivia Street in Old Town Key West has just been reduced to $635,000 from its original price of $1,275,000 in March 2007. Half Price! Too bad it wasn't worth the original asking price, however. The property is owned and listed by a Realtor--not me. Thank God. But he must disclose that to the public. Please don't take these comments on my part as being negative. But you need to know the facts when you invest your money in property. Especially now!

This is an excellent opportunity to own your own Conch home located in Old Town. The home at 1119 Olivia Street was completely renovated in 2005. The property is Located in the X flood zone and sustained no damage in any of the hurricanes. A true high and dry property. Some of the features include: 2 licensed residential units, 2 off-street bricked parking spots, separate electric meters, granite counters in kitchens, and central A/C, and room for a pool. The property consists of a 1 bed/1 bath apt above rented at $1,200, and a 2 bed/1 bath below rented at $1,700 Per month. Owners will have flexibility of occupying entire home as a 3bed/2bath or renting out a portion as a lock out unit. Building was termite tented in July, 2006. As I mentioned the house is now priced at $649,000 or $550 per sq ft. That price makes it very competitive in the market since it is well located in Old Town, has off street parking, and is legally licensed as two living units. The present owner purchased the house in April 2005 and paid $785,000. He then did the renovation which had to cost a minimum of $100 per sq ft rounded to $150,000. So I would increase the capital investment in the property to be in excess of $$935,000. Some smart shopper is going to buy this house on its Half Price Sale quite soon. Mark my words.

A couple of weeks back I wrote an item about the house directly across the street at 1118 Olivia which is priced at $485,000 or $700 per sq ft for a 2 bed 1 bath home that is in a compound. I think both properties have their individual attributes. The two units at 1119 Olivia is a potential Short Sale. I think that any sale of 1119 property will necessarily require the approval of the current lender.

CLICK HERE for more info, additional photos, and a map to help you locate 1119 Olivia Street.

CLICK HERE to perform your own personal search of all Key West mls listings. Then give me (Gary Thomas) a call to schedule a personal showing. My number is 1-305-766-2642 or you can send me an e-mail at

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is it a good time to Buy or Sell in Key West?

Is it a good time to buy or sell real property in Key West?

In a market of volatile prices take advantage of other peoples misfortunes. A couple of weeks ago I listed numerous properties that are in the process of foreclosure or already bank owned. These are buying opportunities. The bank owned properties are routinely reduced in asking price because the reluctant bank owners want out ASAP.

Here is a "for instance" of a non-bank seller that wants out now. I suspect something is amiss. Today there is a new listing of what is an attached two story condo 202-1 Southard (Shipyard). It is the only unit of its kind. This unit was purchased in June 2005 for $1,170,000 and is now being offered at $1,095,000 or $75,000 less than the price paid two years ago. The present asking price is too high on a price per sq ft basis, and I think the seller will probably have to accept a much lower price. But the uniqueness of this particular unit make it a good deal for a buyer who buys at the right price. It looks to me like the seller has to sell and it just a matter of determining how much of a loss he (or maybe his lender) can absorb.

Here is another "for instance". Our office has a customer who owns a mixed use property that she wants to sell. She bought it many years ago, and it is debt free. She gets a good rental income on it so she is not losing money. But the tenants are not triple net, so she does have ongoing property management and maintenance expenses. The property is located on a major street near Duval. The property was originally a two story Greek revival (Conch) house that has been converted to a small retail use and there also two licensed transient guest rooms. It is really not suitable to going back to single family use because of its location. And because it lacks any meaningful off street parking, it is not really suited to a full commercial use. The owner has left the area and would like to sell. She obtained market value opinions from two commercial brokers, a "star" residential Realtor, and from an agent in our office. The two commercial brokers told her $2.5 million. The "star" said $1.6 million. The agent in our office told her $1.7 to $1.8 million if she could wait a few years. I think the real price is around $1.4 to $1.5 million today.

Should she sell? Is it worth sitting on for 5 or 10 years to maybe get the $2.5 million. I say "maybe" because we cannot predict exactly when, if ever, the property will reach that price. Should she sell it now and forgo the possible gain of a million dollars or more at some future date? I told the Realtor in our office that she ought to sell it now and get out. She should convert an asset of determinable present value into an asset capable of earning a defined income.

I did a present value analysis of the $1.5 million invested at 5% over 5 years. The future value of that amount is $1,914,422.34 or growth of $414,422.34. If she could earn a 6% return the future value would be $2,007,338.37 or growth of $507,338.37. That is what she could earn from no risk certificate of deposits.

Maybe she could use her $1.5 million to purchase a replacement(triple net commercial property) where she now lives. If she established an 8% rate of return her $1,500,000 would become $2,203,992 in five years. She could determine exactly what the future value of her non-earning asset would be simply by acting prudently now. And she could also enjoy the upside of rising property values in a market where she resides.

The owner is in her fifties so there is a good likelihood that she will be around for several years. But in the event she should pass away, what do you think her estate will do with the property? Sell it, of course. And estates are notorious for selling short. Or maybe she just sits tight and waits for the market to rise, but it doesn't. Or maybe it even declines more. Anything is possible.

You cannot predict what the future will be, but you can make prudent business decisions to reasonably insure that your assets will be worth more in the future than they are today.

CLICK HERE to checkout all Key West mls properties.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Make Your Friends and Neighbors Green with Envy

Just Listed: 719 Fleming Street Key West, Fl. $2,595,000 or $1042 per sq ft for this 2490 sq. ft. home on a large 6420 sq ft lot.

The Grande Dame on Fleming is a stunning and elegant historic home in highly desirable Old Town location. Meticulously restored this 1859 home is one of the most exquisite properties in Old Town. CLICK HERE for more detailed info and more photos of 719 Fleming Street in the heart of Old Town Key West.

This home is just shy of 2,500 square feet under air and has an expansive 1,100 square foot of Brazilian Ipe' terrace. There is a Chef's kitchen with stainless steel appliances, slate counter tops. Four bedrooms, custom spa bathrooms, European Kable Lighting systems, original glass pane windows, and high quality finishes throughout. Off-street parking, prime location steps from the best of Key West's beaches, marinas and nightlife. Large yard, beautiful pool with travertine stone decking, lush landscaping, and balconies perfect this ideal haven for sophisticated island living.

The home is located midway between William and Elizabeth on Fleming Street and sits directly across the street from the garden CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO adjacent to the Monroe County Library. It is a short walk to all major Key West attractions. A few doors to the east you will find the house that PBS "This Old House" restored a couple of years back. And a few doors to the west you will find two homes that Broadway emprasario Jerry Herman renovated in the early 1980s. So you won't need a car to get to your yacht or your favorite restaurant or other Old Town attraction.

The off street parking is exceptional. The lot is over sized and will make your automobile ventures non-troubling which is unusual for being located in the heart of Old Town.

Not everyone can afford a home like this. If you can, give me (Gary Thomas) a call at 1-305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. If you are looking for a place less expensive, don't fret. There are a lot of well priced homes and condos available in Old Town and throughout our little city. CLICK HERE for a quick peek, select a few properties that you think may meet your interest, and then give me a call. Who knows, you may make your friends and neighbors green with envy by buying now before the prices rise.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Terrific Island Location, but you can't Escape

1516 Laird Street was just reduced from $949,000 to only $789,000 or $439 per sq ft for this 3 bed, 2 bath home with 1796 sq ft of living space on a 5547 sq ft lot.

From the formal living room the home flows into an open kitchen with skylight and a Florida room area that is flooded with natural light. The split bedroom allows for a private master suite at the rear of the home with its own double French doors providing access to the tropically landscaped pool and garden area. Another set of double French doors lead from the Florida room to a Mexican tiled patio surrounding the 12' x 30' pool.

Home has a new metal V crimp roof, new air handler and ductless AC system in master bedroom, freshly painted inside & out, new soffit and fascia, fumigated within the last year, new pool equipment and more.

Now you have to look at the photos to appreciate the enormity of what you would be getting if you bought this home. CLICK HERE for the pics and more info. Then call me, Gary Thomas, at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing of this home. This is a lot of house for the price. Business is starting to pick up and a smart buyer is going to snap up a house like this when it is priced this competitively.

However, if your heart is set on Old Town and your budget is set lower than the Laird Street home, consider 5 Hunts Lane. It was also just reduced in price from $499,000 t0 $409,000. Hunts Lane is located midway between Margaret and Grinnell on Southard Street. The lane has no vehicle access: it is only a walking lane. So life there is a little more challenging, but you still have all the benefits of a quiet and convenient Old Town location.

The house is ripe for renovation (meaning it needs it). But it is priced at only $338 per sq ft which makes renovation economically doable. The house has 3 bedrooms and one bath and is 1210 sq ft. The home has been in the ownership of one family since it was constructed. CLICK HERE for more info and photos.

The house on Laird is ready to dare. And the house on Hunts Lane is ready for flair. So if you want to lay back by the pool you can do that. If you want to wield a hammer and redo a historic home, you can do that. You can do either at an affordable price as well. Give me a call.

P.S. The town was invaded mid-day. There are thousands of new faces everywhere. I kid you not. And it only gets worse the day after Christmas. It is like the 1950's horror movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". They are everywhere. And there is no escape.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Listing Whores--You Know Who They are

For the life of me I have never understood why someone would want to use the same Realtor as everyone else. There are about seven listings whores in Key West whose names are well known and who get the majority of the real estate listings. (I'll make nice and call them "stars" instead of whores, but you get the point.) Hence, they get a very good percentage of all the real estate sales in Key West. Success begets success.

But what goes into a seller's mental process that makes him think his star Realtor will be more likely to find a buyer for the old homestead than someone else?

Ask yourself how many listings a star Realtor can effectively service at any one time. After all it takes more than getting a listing agreement signed, placing a sign on the property, entering the listing information onto the mls website, taking photos of the property or arranging to have them taken, creating ad layouts for the newspaper and magazines, and showing the property to "service" a listing. You may agree with that premise, but you may still think that star Realtors have assistants to take care of all the "busy" work, so that all the star has to do is show your property to his buyers and the deal is done.

It doesn't happen like that. It did not happen that way when the market rocked, and it certainly does not work that way now that we are in decline. Realtors have to work at selling a listing. They contact prospects and market property to people who have expressed interest in a specific type of property. They conduct Open Houses. (Schedule it with the owner and maybe tenants; run an ad; place signs around the area; sit and show the home; discuss the results with the owner. That is probably 4-5 hours of time. A Realtor will also put the property on Realtor Caravan (showings just for other Realtors). That doesn't sound so onerous you say. Well, it isn't. But if you multiply all those individual tasks by lets say 20 or 30 or more, you can see how the time of a star Realtor and all of his assistants is spread a little thin. Maybe a lot thin.

I checked to see the number of residential listings a couple of the "star" Realtors had. One person had 77 and most were high-end listings. Other Realtors in the same office had 30 to 60 residential listings each. Again, most of those listings were high-end properties.

I can tell you by experience that if you go to a very good lawyer's office with a case that is dear to you and that may take his or her time to handle that the lawyer will either turn your case over to an associate or refer you to some other attorney. It is professionally irresponsible to take on a case when you do not have the time to devote to it or the expertise to handle it. Realtors like to say that they are "professionals". Shouldn't your Realtor be held to a similar standard and handle only the number of listings that he or she can effectively service at one time.

A lot of people may know a star Realtor by name. They think the star Realtor has a lot of "buyers" in his pocket. Heck, he has pocket listings so he must have pocket buyers as well. That is why he is such a success, a star. Some buyers think that their particular property is so special that only a star Realtor can list their special property. I wrote an item on Home Ego-Nomics CLICK HERE. Read it. It is fun and so true.

If a star Realtor has lots of buyers, why would he steer his buyers towards one particular property over another? Let's say that star Realtor has has 20 single family homes in Old Town in good locations that are priced between $1.5 to $2 million. If you are the Seller what makes you think a star Realtor is going to bring you a buyer over any other similarly priced and located listing?

I have mentioned that I am a licensed Colorado attorney but not licensed in Florida. I remember when I was practicing law and had a case against some young lawyer with one case. Lawyers with one client can make your life hell if you have two or more clients. Or 60. They have nothing better to do than be really good at that one case. Maybe even "win" it. I think that analogy can transfer over to listing and selling real estate. Of course, the Realtor with only a few listings has to really work the listings to be effective.

Here is another real life example: There is a large Old Town property in a good location that has been on the market for over 2.5 years. It was listed with 3 different Realtors until another agent in our office got the listing a couple of months back. He did the drill that I mentioned above. Then he went out and found a buyer for it. He had the property under contract to a local buyer within the first month. He listed the property at the same price they had it listed. He sold it. Within the first month.

If you are thinking of selling your home or business please consider using a Realtor that can devote the time and attention to selling your individual property.

Florida Keys Dream House

You know how you don't listen to commercials until something strikes your interest, and then you scramble to remember what you heard. That happened yesterday as I was watching HGTV. There was a brief announcement about New Year's Day and the Florida Keys Dream House. To the computer I flew. Sure enough, HGTC built a dream house down here and I didn't even know about it. Of course, they built it in the wrong place.

Islamorda, Florida is located about 80 miles north of Key West (Paradise)on U.S.1. Former President Bush and lots of rich folk go there to fish. Big fishing place. Not much else to do, however. Lots of very expensive homes located directly on the water, however. And lots of houses with their pools and outdoor dining areas covered with screens to prevent being eaten alive by mosquitoes. That's a problem in lots of parts of Florida, but not Key West. We have an army and an air force (no exaggeration) that keeps the little creeps at bay.

CLICK HERE to see more pics of the really nice dream house that HGTV built. Watch the show. Enter to win. Be careful, you may win and get to pay taxes on it. And be stuck owning a very expensive home in the wrong location.

There is nothing to do anywhere between Key West and South Beach. Nothing. Everybody comes here to live. People may sleep and eat up the Keys, but they come down here to live. So don't make a $2 million mistake or even a $300,000 mistake. Key West is where you want to live your life. You know it.

Every week I create a flyer of homes priced under $899,000 that I place outside our office. There are a lot of very creative people in Key West and I will be you that you could buy a nice house in a good Old Town location priced under $899,000 and create your own Dream House that would out-do the one located up Islamorda way. Location is one of the most important things to consider when buying real estate. HGTV got it wrong. You could get it right. By the way, the photo to the right is of the HGTV Dream House. The other photo is in Key West. Just so you don't think that scene is up there. It isn't.

CLICK HERE for the list of "affordable" single family homes in Key West priced under $899,000. Then give me a call to schedule your own personal showing 1-305-766-2642. Your house may not end up being as pricey or as prissy as the HGTV Dream House, but it can be your Dream Come True.

Monday, December 17, 2007

1418 Leon Street

Just Listed: 1418 Leon Street, Key West, Fl. Offered at only $3.6 million or $1,161 per sq ft.

If you aren't familiar with Key West, and maybe even if you are, you may not know where Leon Street is located. So CLICK HERE. The house is located one block east of White and one block north of Flagler. So it is near the Casa Marina area, but not quite there. The area homes are predominantly mid century and have been renovated into larger and more usable living spaces for today's lifestyles. The streets are broad and tree lined, and most of the yards are fenced and gated in the front, sides, and rear for privacy.

The house boasts outstanding architecture and has spectacular garden views from the widows walk of this elegant four bedroom home. Marble floored entry, 30' living room, 10' ceilings, and connecting dining/living porch that overlooks tropical gardens, flagstone terraces, pool and waterfall. State of the art kitchen including wine cooler and walk in pantry. There is a charming dormered room that may be suitable for another bedroom/bath, office or gym. The master suite has 12' vaulted ceilings, walk in closet and glorious master bath. Car parking for two. The house is very large by Key West standards (3100 sq ft) and sits on a 6335 sq ft lot. CLICK HERE for more info and additional photos.

This is not my listing, but I was in the house in mid October. The owner is a local architect who has done several notable projects in Key West. One of the workmen told me that the owner is a stickler for perfection. He actually put in another way, but I'll not repeat what he said.

If this particular home is outside of your present residential requirements but you are looking for a place to live in Paradise, CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. Then give me a call so I can help you find your new pad. 1-305-766-2642 or email me at

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Won't You be My Neighbor?

I have used that title so many times it is beginning to sound like a record. Wait a minute, it is.Image and video hosting by TinyPic

There is a beautiful two-story double galleried home at 1127 Von Phister that is one of the prettiest properties in the Casa Marina area. It has great curb appeal and splendid gardens. There is a master suite downstairs. Upstairs there are two guest rooms with a balcony on the front and a deep sun deck on the rear that overlooks the heated swimming pool. The recent renovation includes a beautiful new kitchen inside and an outdoor kitchen. There is also a half bath and an outdoor shower poolside. CLICK HERE for more pics and details on this home.

The house is a five minute walk or take a bike ride to the Atlantic Ocean and the beach. This is the real deal my friend. And the good thing is you won't have any sand in your feet by the time you walk back home. Of course you can ride your bike or drive your car or scooter.

You can also walk or bike over to Duval Street(5 minutes); or go down to the shops on White Street like Faustos or go to the Island Gym and watch me lift weights in the early morning (2 minutes): or you can grab a cafe con leche at any of the several neighborhood joints. You can be at the Historic Key West Seaport as fast on your bike as in your car (if you consider parking in your travel time) (5 minutes). And you can be in the Key West suburbs at the shopping centers or leave on a jet plane (we got 'em) at the Key West International Airport, all within a 5 minute drive from 1127 Von Phister.

The house is priced at $1,595,000 or $1,045 per sq ft. It has just about everything going for it (including having me as your neighbor--I live 4 doors to the west). And the location is not only convenient, but also very quiet. We don't have a lot of tourists on our little street. And we don't have lots of apartments or guest houses or other things that attract locals from all parts of town. You kind of have to want to go to Von Phister to go there. You don't just end up there on your way to someplace else.

This is not my listing, but don't let that stop you from calling me to show you this house. I won't steer you wrong because we could end up being neighbors. 1-305-766-2642. Or email at

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This Old House

The key requirement when purchasing an historic Key West home is that it be constructed of Dade County Pine. You can't buy Dade County Pine anymore, because it all got used. There is no "new" Dade County Pine because almost all the trees were cut down years ago. New pine comes from other areas now and are inherently soft and fast growing wood. Dade County Pine, on the other hand, is native to South Florida and is an aged wood of superior strength.

So what?, you say. This is what. Dade County Pine that is found in almost every old house in Key West is apt to be over 150 years old or older. Key West still has a few homes built in the early 1800s and many built soon after the Civil War. The Dade County Pine used to construct those homes was "old" when it was used, and by the passage of time that wood has become extremely hardened and resistant to termites. Many of the larger historic Key West homes were built by ship chandlers (builders or out-fitters). So the historic homes became desirable because of their character and the materials used in their construction.

I have mentioned several times that I used to own the Eaton Lodge guest house at 511 Eaton. That property is one of the great Key West homes. I learned first hand how damned strong Dade County Pine is when I did a little remodeling to a room in 1994. I removed one interior wall constructed of Dade County Pine. Big deal, you say. Yes it was, I say. The wall had Dade Pine on both sides and the 2x4's were also Dade Pine. And they were so strong that the Mikita reciprocating saw I used was almost useless. I remember swinging a huge sledge hammer at the wall that did nothing except exhaust myself. I think it took over two days to get the wall removed.

Here are some some photos of interior walls in a Key West home. Photo #1, Photo #2, Photo #3, Photo #4, Photo #5. CLICK each "Photo" to see the pictures. The pics demonstrate my reference to the construction method. This particular house is not a historic home other than it is old. I had one "fancy" Realtor get just damned irritated at me one time when he was showing his listing to me and my client and said the house was "historic". The house was a dog in a crappy location. I asked what historic event or what historic owner used to live there. He got real snippy after that...

If you think about how the big houses were constructed years ago they were made of Dade County Pine on the outside walls, the inside portion of the outside walls, the interior walls (both sides), the ceilings, and the floors. That is a lot of wood, and the houses are very strong because of it. Since the wood is native, it works well in this climate and environment. Homes that have been remodeled and homes that have been preserved and restored (as the case may be) are very sought after. Unfortunately, they are also very expensive. Even in today's market. CLICK HERE to checkout such a house located at 406 United Street in Old Town. I encourage you to checkout all of the photos in the link as they show several rooms where the Dade County Pine walls have been masterfully restored and put to excellent modern use. The house is actually a bargain by Key West standards. It is priced at $2,495,000 or $689 per sq ft. It was remodeled only a couple of years ago and many of the homes of that same time are being marketed around $200 per sq ft or higher.
CLICK HERE to perform your own search of Key West homes to see if you can find a house with Dade County Pine construction that you want to transform into your dream home in Paradise. It can happen. It just takes work. Then call me, Gary Thomas, at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. Who knows, you may end up owning a This Old House.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pre-Sale Marketing Tools You should Use

During the time I have been writing this blog I have mentioned the variety of homes (style, age, value) on any one street or in any particular neighborhood. Up north in America there are blocks after blocks of very similar buildings or homes, mostly built contemporaneously with each other and in a style and scale as to not be dissimilar. The suburbs that developed after World War II are filled with "cookie cutter" homes. So the buyer can easily shop for the best value by comparing similar homes in similar areas.

But Key West is different. On any one block you can find a cigar maker's cottage of 1000 square feet next door to a two story 2200 square foot grand conch house (Greek Revival). So pricing and comparing properties is a bit more difficult. And since the current real estate market in Key West is in such a flux, I suggest that potential sellers get their property appraised before we place it on the market. Now most Realtors can do a Comparative Market Analysis and give a seller an opinion of the current value based on recent sales. I view the impartiality of an independent appraiser (who is not going to list the property) as being more beneficial. Then the seller can use the appraisal as an additional marketing tool to sell the property.

Another tool that should be considered is to obtain a Pre-Sale Home Inspection by a Certified Home Inspector. Recently, the Fine Living Network aired a an excellent 30 minute program t about Pre-Sale Home Inspections. It showed one would-be seller who obtained such a report and discovered several problems that any post contract inspection would have found. This gave the seller time to get the items repaired or obtain estimates to determine the cost of repair. The seller opted to spend the money and remediate the problems. The house was listed and went under contract 27 days after being listed.

The nice thing about a Pre-Sale Home Inspection is that it helps reduce the uncertainty of contingencies in a real estate contract. Most contracts have financing and inspection contingencies. (Most Key West contracts are "As Is", meaning the buyer can have the home inspected and walk away from the deal if the inspection discloses some problem with the property.) But the Pre-Sale Inspection, like the appraisal, can be used as a marketing tool to reduce the uncertainty in the buyer's mind about the condition of the property. If the inspection is done by a certified home inspector, it is usually transferable to the buyer without any additional cost. The inspection reduces the likelihood of a subsequent lawsuit by the buyer against the seller for failing to disclose material defects with the property since the pre-sale inspection is done by an independent, certified inspector who will not benefit from the sale.

Here is a great article to read about the benefits of a pre-sale inspection report.

If you live in the Key West area and are considering selling you property, contact Kevin Barlow at Islandview Associates. Go to for more information on fees and services they provide. I know Kevin. He is a real professional. He is very knowledgeable and will work hard to make your sale in this difficult market a little easier. It is worth a call to him. He can be reached at 305-304-9196. Mention that Gary Thomas sent you. I won't get a nickle, but I would like to know that someone heeded by advice.

I was talking with Kevin Barlow and he told me the true story of two recent inspection he performed. One at Key West By The Sea. He found a very antiquated electric system that was a fire hazard. He had to denote what he saw in the report and the deal unfortunately failed. Had the seller addressed the problem earlier and had the electric updated or obtained a pre-sale inspection and an estimate on the costs to repair the problem, the deal might have had a chance of succeeding.

Another recent inspection occurred on Sunset Key, just off the Key West "mainland". The house was priced over $3 million. The buyer's primary concern was to avoid any mold. None was found--except one pocket door. The inside of the door was a mass of mold. Had somebody cleaned the home earlier or had a pre-sale inspection been obtained the potential problem could have been found found and averted.

In both instances mentioned an ounce of prevention (and the expenditure of a few dollars) could have eliminated the potential for upsetting a potential sale.

And if you accept my premise about using a certified appraisal as an additional marketing tool to aid in the sale of your property, call Matt Zintsmaster at Bone Island Appraisal.
Bone Island Appraisal Company 925 White Street Key West, FL 33040
Phone: 305-295-8336.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Short Sales and Other Devices to Sell Distressed Homes

There's a new term that is appearing with more and more regularity in the Key West mls database: Short Sale. The concept is pretty simple. A home owner needs to sell his house quickly because of some impending situation such as a potential foreclosure, illness, marital conflict, etc. You get the idea.

So Seller lists the property at a price he hopes will attract a potential buyer. In turn, the Seller hopes his lender will agree to accept a payoff of his mortgage at an amount less than what is owed. If this occurs, the seller theoretically walks away from his problems and resumes the Life of Riley.

There are numerous discussions of Short Sales on the internet, so I won't bother to try to re-write what has already been artfully written. Here are two well articulated items well worth reading because they discuss the basics both the seller (borrower) and the buyer need to understand. BUSINESS WEEK article is a must read. Also read SHORT SALES IN REAL ESTATE.

I did a quick search of single family homes for sale in Key West priced under $600,000 that were either shown as "short sale" or possible short sale, bank owned, or houses that I knew were bank owned even though not listed that way in the mls database. CLICK HERE to see the entire list. It is possible, no probably highly likely, that I missed some, especially since some Realtors are notorious for not obeying the rules when it comes to info they place in mls listings. But there are enough homes listed that anyone looking to make a deal on buying a distressed property has a good list of homes to consider.

Remember,I used to work in banks and I know how bankers think and act when it comes to walking away from money on the table. But since I used to sit on the other side of the table, I think I can help you negotiate the right deal and actually buy the property you want for a fair price--fair for you, fair for the bank, and acceptable to the Seller. My number is 305-766-2642. Call me before somebody else gets the deal you could have had.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Before I moved to Key West I imagined what it would be like to be here for Christmas. I even came down one time two weeks before just to get a sense of what being here would feel like. I'll tell you: it is magical.

This town gets excited about all kinds of things. We have bed races, and bartender contests, and boat races, and funny looking pet contests. We have a different events every week of the year. But Christmas is really special here.

I know most towns get all decked out for the holidays, but Key West really shines. There is much whimsy in the decorations here. But locals like to take their decorations to extremes. Some decorate their cars, and others their bikes.

And I know most towns have celebrations of various sorts, but the Key West celebrations are just a little bit better, and perhaps a little more odd. The Key West Women's' Club has its annual free cocktail party the week before Christmas, the Messiah is performed at the Old Stone Church, and the week before Christmas the annual Christmas Concert is performed at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The St. Paul's concert is one not to be missed. Key West has lots and lots of very talented people that perform regularly at many different venues. But this one night they all get together and sing to high heaven. And it brings tears to your eyes every year.

Atlantic Shores is gone now, but I remember spending Christmas Day there a few years back. There I was getting a tan on Christmas Day and thinking about those poor folk up north in America freezing their butts off. Ain't life great. It is if you are fortunate enough to live here. Of course, you could live in Buffalo, N.Y., of Nutley, N.J., or Wisconsin....

CLICK HERE to checkout all Key West mls listings. The practice in Key West is different than most places. The listing Realtor usually shows his/her listing to the Buyer's Realtor and the Buyer. So give me a call and let me be your agent and help you make the right choice in purchasing a new home, a second home, or an investment property. Unlike those fortunate enough to be born here, we were all novices once. 305.766.2642.

Monday, December 10, 2007

News You can Use

Fresh off the Press. FLASH. Actually, it isn't even public knowledge yet. But it is now I guess. Last week a realtor at Prudential Knight Keyside Properties let the cat out of the bag when she started telling folks that Ed Knight (the former owner of Knight Realty which he sold in the mid 1990s that became Prudential Knight-Keyside Properties) and Claude Gardner had re-purchased the real estate company back from the current owner. I called a friend at Prudential who confirmed that the deal is going through and that things are going to change--soon. First, there will be local ownership. Second, there will be hands on management by the owner. Third, the present management will not stay. Sounds positive to me.

Ten years ago Knight Realty was the top real estate firm in Key West. It was the place to work. Ownership and management changed hands and things deteriorated--big time. I worked there and witnessed several exits that were not nice. I won't say any more.

The top sales people that left Prudential moved on to other offices including the Real Estate Company of Key West. That company was purchased and renamed a couple of years ago and the new management there had a bad time. Most of the former Prudential Knight agents that had moved there left and formed Truman and Company. The old RECKW building and parking lot is now deserted.

Now for some good news: A week ago I reported the sales up-tick for Key West during the month of November. I have been meaning to give you an update on Contingent Sales--that is contracts that have been signed by both buyer and seller that are proceeding along towards an eventual closing date but that are contingent upon certain conditions occurring. There are 36 such residential contracts pending in Key West as of this morning. CLICK HERE to see the properties that are contingent. They are in all price ranges and locations from Key West up to Shark Key. I deleted all of the developer contracts for condo sales down on the Key West Seaport.

CLICK HERE to checkout all of the real estate listings from Key West to Key Largo. I'd be pleased to schedule a showing of any property between Key West to Sugarloaf and I can even arrange to help you find a good Realtor up yonder. Call me at 305-766-2642.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Key West Cottage--Only $10,500

A Key West Cottage for only $10,500. There must be a catch, you say.

Every once in a while a deal comes along that just makes doggone good sense. This may be the time for you to expand your horizons by shrinking your expectations.

This lovely little cottage is painted in island colors and even has air conditioning. Granted, it is a bit smaller than most cottages (it is only six-by-eight foot). But it is truly a hand-crafted, Key West-style pastel blue cottage and is perfect for the fun-loving with a whimsical side. It comes fully furnished with a turquoise, yellow and white d├ęcor—complete with artwork, area rugs, a brushed suede couch, pillows, TV/DVD player, toys, front porch, electricity, air-conditioning, operable windows and a hand-built door that locks and features a shingled roof, designer ceramic tile floors, and custom-trim work. There is also a flat-screen TV with canine-friendly DVD collection, and designer toys by Hot Diggity Dog and Chewy Vuitton.

The Cottage that will have your neighbors howling at your real estate acumen. The price is subject to change, so act quickly. CLICK HERE and scroll down to get more info. Land not included, however.

And on that rare occasion you and your mate are on the outs and are fighting like dogs and cats, you could take refuge in your Key West Cottage. Or maybe you might just want to rent it out on the sly (I am sure you won't be able to obtain a non-transient residential occupancy license form the city). You could probably get $800 or $900 per month in rent. But you'll have to figure out something about the bathroom facilities.

If you are looking for a cottage that is a little larger than the one shown above, checkout the Key West mls CLICK HERE then give me a call to set up a showing. 305-766-2642.

1800 Atlantic Condo -- Let's Make a Deal

Just Listed: 1800 Atlantic Unit C129. These are the basics: List price is $469,900 or $358 per sq ft. It is the lowest priced unit at 1800 Atlantic with a transient license which means you can legally rent the unit on a nightly basis to help cover your mortgage cost. CLICK HERE for more info and photos.

The unit has 1357 sq ft of space so it is identical to about 90% of the other units there. A couple are larger because they are located directly on the ocean; one is a 3 bedroom, and there is a smaller unit with one bedroom. Otherwise, the units are the same. The difference is the location and whether the unit has an ocean view, street view, or mangrove view. But the units basically rent for the same price.

The unit is not furnished and the kitchen has not been updated since the unit was built. If you are not buying the unit to live in, that is not a big deal and it certainly is not going to effect the average daily rate you charge renters.

1800 Atlantic is located directly on the ocean and has a private beach, huge pool, spa, covered parking, and tennis courts. There is a good solid base of people who return to 1800 Atlantic year after year because it offers them value. Click the following links to checkout a few comparable units that are rented nightly to see their pricing and availability. Rent Key West has a couple of units: Unit 228 and Unit 435. I sold unit 435 a couple of years ago. The buyer paid just under $1million for it. At Home in Key West has several units are varying price points. Papaya Place is the cheapest. Or go to 1800 Atlantic webpage to watch a virtual tour and checkout a variety of units, availability, and pricing. I think you will see that the unit mentioned here has some real upside to it as a long term investment.

This particular unit is Bank Owned. The prior owner purchased it in April 2005 and paid $742,000. The unit is priced today at $469,900 and reflects the new reality. I have sold and listed & sold units there and I tell my customers that they must treat their investment as an investment to make money. They need to hire the right management company and keep the unit rented as much as possible. A lot of people buy a property like this and then spend valuable prime season time in the unit or let their friends or family use the unit for free. Wrong idea. The unit is there to pay for itself, not to give your friends a free Key West vacation.

So if you think you might be interested in buying a nice unit at 1800 Atlantic give me a call at 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. Don't wait. I really think this unit will sell fairly quickly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

You have be an unsentimental and crotchy old curmudgeon not to remember the lyrics and more importantly the message of Mr. Rogers' opening song to his daily program: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?". If you have forgotten, however, CLICK HERE to jog your memory.

The message to me was that as a neighbor you belong to a place, a special place, that you share with people with common values. And when Mr. Rogers sang "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,A beautiful day for a neighbor" you just knew that he was singing to you.

I have written many times about the Casa Marina Neighborhood as an attractive alternative to the Old Town area of Key West. And each time I wrote about houses or condos for sale in the area. But today I am suggesting that you consider buying a vacant lot and build your own dream home in a great neighborhood. My neighborhood. The Casa Marina area.

The 1000 block of Washington is probably the best single lot in Key West. Look at the photo at the top right to see for yourself. It is the corner of Washington and Whalton and looks like a park. The lot is 12,700 sq ft and is priced at $3,000,000. There ain't another one like it on the island. CLICK HERE for more info and beautiful photos. I live across the street. So if you buy, please don't make too much noise when you build your new dream home.

Property number two is located at 1426 Reynolds just a stone's through from the famous Casa Marina Hotel and the Atlantic Ocean. The historic R.J. Reynold's home is across the street to the east and there are numerous multi-million dollar homes in the surrounding blocks. This property has HARC (Historic Architectural Review Commission) approval for a new residence to be built on the 11,500 sq ft lot that is priced at $1,350,000. A second ROGO building permit is available at additional cost. (This property was previously a legal duplex, so the lot can be subdivided into 2 parcels or a second home (guest unit) could be built together with the main residence.) Since a good part of the building approval process has already been completed, this lot could make the construction of your dream home even speedier. CLICK HERE for more info and photos on this property.

Finally, there is an opportunity to buy a 5376 sq ft lot with approved plans for the construction of a 2572 sq ft home at 906 South Street. This property is now listed at $595,000. The owner bought this property in May 2004 and paid $1,200,000. So this property is on sale. CLICK HERE for more info and pics.

I love this neighborhood. I am close to the beach and Old Town. I can be at the shopping centers in about 5 minutes--even when the tourists are in town. The area has big streets, big skies, beautiful yards and mature, lush trees. And it is quiet. Won't you be my neighbor. Give me a call for more info on any of these properties. 305-766-2642 or email at .


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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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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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.