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Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Walls Came Tumbling Down

I don't claim to be an "expert" like some people in real estate. If you have read parts of this blog you know that I have admitted to some big screw-ups in the Key West real estate market--most of which dealt with opportunities I lost in buying property that I wanted. The bad thing about lost opportunities in real estate is that you get to drive by and see what someone else got that you missed. And it can gnaw on you for years.

Today I am talking about two properties that I did buy and what I learned from them. This will be continued through a few more updates as time progresses. I bought a large late 1940's home in the Casa Marina area in late 1995. My Realtor was the owner-broker of a very prominent real estate company. He sold a commercial property that I owned and made a huge commission on the deal. So I relied on his judgment and integrity in helping me find a new home. Bad decision on my part. I ended up suing him, his partner, his company, and the seller over allegations of fraud and misrepresentation. I settled the lawsuit after five years of litigation. And I cannot discuss the terms of the settlement or infer any outcome.

The house I bought had flooded in 1994 and the seller allegedly misrepresented in writing that the house had not flooded and had no settling or foundation problems. Since I paid cash for the property and needed a quick close, I was not required to have an inspection or appraisal. Bad idea folks because an inspection would have revealed the previous flooding and the lingering problems associated with it. It would have also disclosed that the site is prone to flood during any large rain event--not just a hurricane.

GO HERE to read my previous blog on the home inspection and the requirement of a seller to disclose material defects.

In 1998 I got the opportunity to buy the adjacent two story duplex for the price of a song. I bought it instantly because I feel any time you have the opportunity to control your property you should do so. The property was run down and looked even worse. So my initial idea was to buy it and fix it up and collect rent on two units. I did have it inspected and appraised. It appraised for more than the purchase price. I started to renovate the property and decided to stop because the cost of repair was greater than the value I expected to receive. So it sat vacant for 8 years.

A couple of months ago I decided to take down the house. The house is located in a part of the Casa Marina area that is included in HARC so I had to get HARC approval before I could get the house raised. The house was not a contributing structure (a building on a historic map noted for its construction or some other significance). So I got permission to tear it down. The approval process was actually not all that difficult and getting the demolition permit from the building department was not that difficult either.

Last Thursday this big ass monster machine arrived at the property around 10:00 AM and starteg to munch away on the house. Within four hours most of the building had been demolished. The crew returned the next day and took down the rest of the building and a series of trucks hauled the debris away. The lot is now barren and now I get to figure out what to do with it.

The owners of the house next door to the east are renovating that property. They have their house listed at $3.8 million and are happy as hell to have my eyesore gone. In fact I think all of my neighbors will probably nominate me for some award for getting rid of the ugly thing.

I am not going to build anything on the lot but rather plan to landscape it. The total lot size for my house and the vacant lot is just under 9,000 square feet. That is huge for Key West. My property taxes will go down because I won't be taxed for an unproductive building. And I anticipate that the value to my residence will appreciate significantly because of the value of the extra large lot in an area of more estate type properties. Time will tell if I am right.

Later I will talk about what I am going to do with my residence located next door.

I think there are some real buying opportunities in Key West. We are in the worst selling time of the year and some sellers have to sell. So if you are thinking of buying CLICK HERE to preview all current mls listings in Key West. Then give me a call at 305-766-2642. Thanks.

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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.