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Friday, March 30, 2007

New & Affordable Casa Marina Estates




There is a group of nine brand new 2 1/2 story townhomes nearing completion named the Casa Marina Estates, and 811 Washington Street #103 is the only one available for sale. This 1876 sq.ft. home is located at the east end of the development and has bright sunny views from the south, east, and north.

The homes look like a traditional Key West two story conch home complete with first and second floor front and rear porches. The main floor has nine foot ceilings and has a custom kitchen with Viking appliances and granite countertops. French doors open from the living area onto the rear deck and the swiming pool and garden. There are two full bedrooms on the second level and the entire third floor is another bedroom and full bath.

The front and rear of the home is completely landscaped and has paved off-street parking. 811 Washington #103 is affordably priced at $1,700,000.

The Casa Marina Estates are located just 3 blocks from the Casa Marina Hotel and its beautiful private beach. Key West residents have been able to join the beach club to have access to the beach and spa facilities at the hotel. But the public beach is located just east of the hotel and it is absolutely free. The Casa Marina area is undergoing a tremendous rebirth and property values are destined to rise once the various projects in place near completion.

CLICK HERE to see all current mls listings in the Key West and lower Florida Keys. And then please consider calling me to provide further information. 1-305-766-2642.

Atlantic Shores to be No More this Summer




Atlantic Shores to be no more this summer That was the title in the March 25th edition of the Citizen. End of an Era. Another part of Key West is giving way to big development. CLICK HERE to read the full story in The Key West Citizen.

On my virgin trip to Key West learned much of the folk lore about this tiny town. I remember learning about tea dance at La Te Da followed by tea by the sea at Atlantic Shores. I didn't drink tea. I was from Colorado where we didn't drink tea. So I had no idea what the fuss was about. Twenty-three years ago it was about hundreds of gyrating bodies dancing (mostly gay men) on the deck and pier at Atlantic Shores with music so loud that it could be heard for blocks and blocks. Dancing under the stars and on top of the water. Wow!

Then I learned that Atlantic Shores was a daytime hangout as well. There is a huge (unheated) pool surrounded by concrete and wood decks, the tiki bar, the cook shack, and the infamous pier. And there are the hotel guests, tourists, and locals that worship the sun in various degrees of undress. Most people wear bathing suits, but clothing is optional. For some it ought to be required.

I've seen lots of unforgettable spectacles there. So many fond memories such as laying out almost all day on Christmas Day a few years back. The temperature was near 80 as I remember. And the weather up north was frightful, and that was so delightful.

The photo to the right shows just a portion of the property--mainly the pool and deck area. The attraction for the developer is the ocean front location. Just to the right is the Reach Resort and the Casa Marina Resort is to its right. Both are undergoing massive renovations. The Santa Maria Condominiums are just above the Reach Resort and share that resorts amenities.

The other photo shows some prop set up for Fantasy Fest in 2005. It got blown away along with the deck during Hurricane Wilma. They never really put the shores back together after that.

But the Shores is coming down. Never more, never more.

If you want to buy a home or business in Key West, please CLICK HERE to checkout all current mls listings. And then consider giving me a call to help you find your home or business in Paradise 1-877-778-7092.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

HARC





When tourists walk or drive around Key West and see a big old house like the one to the right they often think they could buy it and fix it up. Yesterday I discussed the cost of renovation. One of the hidden costs is governmental compliance. And with houses in Old Town, that is cost that affects just about everybody because the entire Old Town area has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

The primary government body that oversees the renovation of old properties and the construction of new properties is called HARC (Historic Architectural Review Commission). CLICK HERE to read the HARC Rules (Adobe Format). The commission is made up of Key West citizens and a local architect. They review all building permit requests for structures in the historic area. Not every structure is covered, but most are. And is this group of citizens that decide the proposed change or new structure complies with the HARC guidelines.

A smart homeowner will hire a good architect to design a structure that meets the guidelines in the first place. But the architect must then sheperd the proposal through HARC and the building department to get building permits issued. Sounds reasonable enough. But it isn't easy. At a recent HARC meeting one of the new commissioner's stated that the HARC guidelines are the commission's bible and that adherence is mandatory. That is the rub.

Rules are rules because we need a fair and understandable system of dealing with issues in how structures are to be remodeled. But it is the interpretation of those rules that can make construction costs rise. Each meeting an architect must attend and each revision of a plan costs money. And repeated changes repeatedly cost more money.

Most of Old Town Key West was built before there were any building codes. And there are many buildings in Old Town that encroach is some way upon a neighbor's property. It is this haphazard construction that HARC seeks to protect with the enforcement of the HARC Guidelines. I don't know if anyone has ever challenged the legality of the City passing this responsibility off to a non-elected board. (Meaning I think the commission may be an unconstitutional body and may be acting without legal authority. While I am an attorney, I am not licenses in Florida so my thoughts don't matter.)

HARC is not going to go away. Potential buyers must assume that they will have to go through the process of getting HARC approval on any project in the Old Town area. Just don't assume that because you are going to improve an existing building that you will get instant approval. This is Key West, you know.

If after reading that you are still considering buying a property in Key West, please CLICK HERE to checkout the entire mls database of current real estate listings and please consider giving me a call 1-305-766-2642 to help you find your next home or business in Paradise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cents & Centsibility




Did you ever see the Cary Grant classic "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream house"? Photo above. It's the charming, funny, and disturbingly true story of a couple who decide to do a quick little fix-up of a house in Connecticut. The couple learns how expensive cheap can be. Before you decide to buy and re-build a dreamhouse or a "flipper" I suggest that you watch the mover--until you learn your lesson.

Last week I was working with a potential buyer of a vacation home in Key West. We looked at a variety of homes in the Old Town area and opted to see both fixers and homes that are perfectly liveable as is. One of the houses we considered looking at was located on Mickens Lane CLICK HERE. This little charmer is listed for only $525,000 or just shy of $700 per square foot for this 753 sq. ft. abode. We did look at an equally appealing cottage on a Key West lane that had a larger piece of ground and an out building that could be rebuilt using the footprint of the existing building.

My potential buyer is sophisticated in buying and selling properties up north. But is not experienced with the ways fo Key West. I explained the cost of a rennnovation of either cottage would be the same as if she were to renovate a larger property in a better location--at least on a price per square foot basis. As I have said before, renovation costs in Key West can go between $200 to $400 per square foot. And the low end is almost non-existent unless the owner acts as his own general contractor.

There are a lot of qualified general contractors in Key West. And they charge a premium for their services. So my feeling and recommendation to potential buyers who want to renovate their "dream house" is not to do it, but rather is to buy a property that is already done and liveable as is. Tomorrow I'm going to write about HARC and how it can impact on what a homeowner can do with his/her "castle".

My recommendation makes more sense today than ever before because so many properties are on the market and the asking prices are more reasonable. (Save for the house on Mickens Lane and other ridiculously priced properties.) Don't let your dreams of owning a perfect little vacation home turn into a nightmare of dealing with building officials, contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc.

Rely on a professional Realtor to help you find your vacation home. It's as easy as pie to get a real estate license in Florida. Be careful who you work with. Ask lots of questions and make sure that the person you select is knowledgeable and honest. That's for starters. And listen to what your Realtor tells you. It's perfectly reasonable to question what someone tells you, but if you are buying in an unfamiliar market (such as Key West) listen to what someone familiar with the market tells you.

CLICK HERE to preview all Key West mls listings. And give me a call if I can provide any further information 1-877-778-7092.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Say Goodnight Gracie"



Before I moved to Key West I did the Duval Drag. That is the practice of walking up and down Duval Street every morning, afternoon, and evening. I guess I thought that the only things that ever happen in Key West occur on Duval Street. When I decided to buy here, I wondered how in the world I could go to Duval Street every evening to sustain my existence. It sincerely bothered me.

I had a couple from Great Britain back out of a deal to buy a cute-as-can-be condo on Peacon Lane because she feared Duval Street would not be enough for her. I tried to assure her that there is more to Key West than Duval. We have a real symphony, three theatres (Tennessee Williams Theatre, Waterfront Theatre, and Red Barn Theatre), the Regal Cinema (mainstream movies) and Tropic Cinema (first run and "art house" movies), the San Carlos Theatre, and many venues where concerts are performed. Then there is a plethora of seminars and events to honor notable cultural icons. During Season there is a party a night somewhere in town--usually more than one.

So last night I attended the final performance at the Tennessee Williams Theatre and the Florida Keys Community College (yep, we've got a college too!). The program was "Say Goodnight Gracie" and was performed by Don McArt who portrayed George Burns in a one man show about the late comedian's life with Gracie Allen. I'm not a critic so what I say doesn't matter. But he did mess up on a few of his lines. And then he corrected himself. He could have kept on going and nobody would have been wiser. But the audience gave him a standing ovation at the end.

Say Goodnight Gracie is a multimedia presentation that features music, images, movie clips and some sketches from the old Burn's and Allen TV program. The audience howled at some of Gracie's lines. I'll bet that half the audience was too young to know anything about her. But I'm sure they want more of Gracie now.

Going to the theatre or other cultural events in Key West is really fun, too. You always get to see old friends. And that makes going to the theatre much more enjoyable.

If you would like to know more about Key West cultural events CLICK HERE. And if you are interested in buying a home or business in Key West of the lower Keys, please CLICK HERE to checkout all mls listings and then please give me a call toll free at 1.877.778.7092.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Island Fever




I received an email this morning from Guillermo Orozco my friend and Key West residential designer that referred me to an article in Coastal Living Magazine. CLICK HERE to read the article. The article is only a couple of paragraphs long. Read it.

The house is located on a quiet little lane off Fleming Street. You'd miss it if you were not looking for it. In another blog CLICK HERE I wrote about the joys of living on one of Key West's lanes. And even though I did not talk to Guillermo about the owners (and I do not know them) I have a pretty good idea why they chose this particular house and location. I think it was the seclusion and quietness of the location.

The owners hired Guillermo to re-design the home and gardens and enlisted New York interior designer Zina Glazebrook to help. Guillermo added special touches such as the outdoor shower and poolside bath and laundry that are unique to Key West. And he designed the custom made kitchen cabinets and created the inviting master bath shown in the article.

The above pics show two shots of the home and pool areas. More photos are found in the article.

If you are looking for a place to get away from the noise of New York (or anywhere else), CLICK HERE to checkout all of the residential properties currently for sale in the Key West area. And please give me a call if you see something that interests you. 1-305-766-2642.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon




No I didn't rob a bank. And that is not a picture of me.

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Key West. I just came inside from the pool and decided I wanted to share a couple more thoughts about the joy of living in Key West.

First, we have the best dogs anywhere. They can belly up to the bar in almost any drinking establishment in town. And many of them can even ride a bike or scooter. When I first came to visit Key West back in 1984 dogs could even take a nap in the streets. Those days are gone, I'm afraid. But the afternoons still belong to the dogs.

Second, we have cats. We have more cats per capita than anywhere in the United States--I'm sure of that. People that don't own cats have cats. There are everywhere. The Hemingway House is famous for its cats. My street is famous for its number of cats. And I don't live anywhere near the Hemingway House.

Third, we have chickens. CBS News and other media have reported on our chickens. They are famous by now. We even have a chicken store on upper Duval Street. Yesterday around 10 AM I saw a tourist heading out of town. I'll put this mildly, he had chicken**** all over his rental car. He must have parked his car under a tree. (Chickens spend the nights in trees to avoid the cats.)

Fourth, I have never seen a dead chicken. But I have seen many fat cats.

Speaking of fat cats, if you are one and want to buy a vacation home in Key West, you can CLICK HERE to search all of the homes available in Key West. And then call me at 1-305-766-2642 to get more information or to set up a showing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Windstorm Insurance Rate Reduction?



According to the Key West Citizen article on March 21st the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will cut wind premiums for Monroe County customers, even beyond what the state had mandated, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation. CLICK HERE to read the article.

One of the factors that has been depressing the real estate market in the Keys has been the unprecedented explosion in windstorm insurance rates. People in the Keys felt that they were being unfairly targeted by the windstorm insurance provider because the rates here were disproportionately higher. Various groups throughout the state petitioned the Florida legislature and politicians from both sides of the aisle listened. Windstorm insurance reform was the hottest topic in the 2006 Florida elections.

So it looks like there is some progress. At a recent Key West Association of Realtors luncheon there was discussion regarding rate decrease, but the lobbyist for FIRM pledged not to stop with this slight victory. The fight is not over. More reform is being called for.

Some local banks have taken action to help provide some relief from the high price of wind insurance. You may be able to negotiate the amount of insurance required which in turn could reduce the rate charged. So it is a good idea to meet with several local lenders if you are in the market to purchase real property in the Keys in the near future. The interest rate a lender charges is not the only factor you should consider when purchasing financing a piece of real estate.

If you do buy a home from me, you could have a cute little mailbox like the one pictured above to signal your arrival in Paradise. Not even the mail is dull in Key West.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Casa Marina Redux




I wrote a blog in February comparing prices on some large homes in the Casa Marina Area . CLICK HERE My faith in my perception amazes even me sometimes.

Yesterday one of the houses I mentioned in that blog, the one previously owned by author Philip Caputo, was just listed for sale at the offering price of $5.75 million--CLICK HERE for more details. You will recall that the present owner purchased this home in July 2006 for the price of $3.4 miilion. The new price is $5.75 million. The house has been undergoing a major renovation of the buildings and grounds including cosmetic, structural and landscaping. The home has 5748 square feet of living space according to the official tax records. So the house is priced at $1,000.35 per square foot. The house occupies one-half of a large city block just a short distance from the Atlantic Ocean. I went by the property again this morning. It looks just beautiful. And for that price it should.

The listing broker made this comment about the house in the mls "This magnificent property brings Palm Beach to Key West." It does. This house is not a typical Key West "conch house". It is anything but. It is grand and magnificent. And I think the price is a steel.

But if you are looking for a home that is a tad bit more affordable, please CLICK HERE to use our mls search feature to see all current homes and condos for sale in the Key West area. And if you find something that really interests you, please give me a call for more information. 1-305-766-2642.














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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Harpoon Harry's--On the Waterfront




Harpoon Harry's is to be Auctioned on March 31st.

One way to sell real estate is to auction it. In some auctions, the seller places a "reserved price" or a price below which he will not sell. Other auctions are absolute, meaning the seller will sell to the highest bidder without reservation.

There are two things that make this particular auction interesting to me. First, the property has an excellent location and an excellent reputation. All kidding aside about the flood pic above showing the property right after Hurricane Wilma, the property is located right at the foot of the historic Key West Seaport. Turtle Krals and The Half-Shell Raw Bar are located just across the street and really on the waterfront. The entire waterfront area is undergoing a massive renovation. CLICK HERE to see my post regarding the Harbor House Condominiums just one block to the west. So I view this property as a Prime Real Estate Investment. CLICK HERE for full auction details.

Second, the seller is not only attempting to sell the restaurant, but also 4 beautiful new single family homes located in the Bahama Village area of Key West. The houses are on Terry Lane and have views of the Key West Lighthouse. I think they were priced too high per square foot and that the price has deterred price conscious buyers.

So it will be interesting to see how the auction goes.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Is the glass half full or half empty?



I had two conversations last Friday regarding Key West's current real estate market. One was positive and the other negative. I thought I would share those perspectives with you.

Bob Cardenas is a realtor with a company that sells many of the homes on Sunset Key including this one CLICK HERE. That is the island just west of Mallory Square where the nightly sunset celebration occurs in Key West. Most of the homes there are priced in excess of $2 million. And Bob usually represents the buy or seller of every property out there. He was the realtor who sold the $5.8 million home referenced above.

He said his buyers held back a bit last year thinking that the market would take a dip and that they would then buy at a lower price. They got it wrong, he said. Bob said his niche market has actually increased since last year. Bob mentioned that he had just put another doozy under contract that day. CLICK HERE to see the house that is under contract for very close to the asking price. Bob wasn't boasting about the sale and said his activity has been very brisk all season. I pointed out that his niche market is different from the rest of Key West. He agreed to some extent, but he said he felt too many Realtors are bemoaning the current market and that the negative comments abut the market are helping to keep it down.

Bob said if Key West gets through the summer hurricane season without any serious storms that he thinks the market will vigorously rebound this coming fall. Let's hope he is right.

That same day I talked with a local real estate investor who owns about 20 properties (mostly single family homes) in Key West--most of which are listed for sale at ridiculously high prices. He owns most of the properties in partnership with other investors. And he acquired most of the properties over the past four years or so--at the height of the Key West real estate boom.

Surprisingly none of his properties has sold during the past 18 months. One of his houses is a single family that he has not made a mortgage payment on since Hurricane Wilma (October 2005). The house is rented so he is getting income from the property, but he is not servicing the debt. He said he called the out of state lender and asked to speak to someone about a workout. He said the lender told him not to worry, that the lender was not going to foreclose. The lender offered to restructure the loan and add all arrearages to the loan which could be paid in a lump sum when the house sells.

That reminded me of two similar situations that I had heard of. Another investor bought two different properties. One was a single family home in Old Town and financed it through one of the national lenders that does lots of television advertising. When his world turned upside down, he tried to do a workout with the lender. Impossible. The company is so big, they lost him in the mix. He hasn't made a payment in over a year. And the lender still has not started to foreclose.

He also bought a commercial development project which he proceeded to royally mess up. (I could use more colorful language on this deal!) He had a first mortgage on part of the property from a national bank and a first mortgage on another part of the property from the prior owner (purchase money mortgage on a part of the project, but not all). He had some retained un-mortgaged interest in an additional parcel that was integral to the entire development. The banker responsible for the project has continued to fund interest payments out of the loan reserve established to pay construction costs. So the lender has avoided declaring the loan in default. Then the purchase money lender foreclosed it's mortgage on its collateral. The borrower walked away, but the property is a mess.

Getting money to buy property is Key West has never been difficult. Maybe it was too easy. And I think maybe too many lenders have yet to recognize the extent of the mess that is out there. I used to do commercial loan workouts and I know how bankers operate. They are great at making loans and terrible at collecting them.

I guess the answer to the question posed in the title to today's blog depends on who you talk to. If you are an optimist like Bob the realtor, you see good things heading your way. And if you are like the real estate investor who can't sell his over-priced homes or if you are like the banker who refuses to acknowledge an impending loss, the end is near.

As for me, I think this is a buying opportunity. CLICK HERE to preview all current MLS Listings in the Lower Florida Keys.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Casa Marina Residences




I have mentioned the Casa Marina area several times in my blog. It is the neighborhood near the historic Casa Marina Hotel. Many of the homes in the area were built post World War II, but there are several large old homes that are over a hundred years old as well. The streets are wider and less busy than Old Town. Some of the streets have paved sidewalks and others do not. The building lots are generally much larger than most of the lots in Old Town. There seems to be a greater variety and more trees than Old Town as well. And there certainly are not as many businesses or tourists.

Casa Marina Residences is a new and ultra-exclusive intimate enclave of only 12 new luxury villas nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Casa Marina Resort & Beach Club. Each of the 3 bedroom 3 bath home will enjoy luxury amenities including individual elevators, private plunge pools, garden patio, spacious balconies, covered parking & wired for state of the art technology. Owners will enjoy a state of the art fitness club, tranquil destination spa, tennis, private beach access, tropical pools, onsite water sports & multiple dining opportunities. Water front units available ranging from $2.5 million - $3.5 million. (Pre-Construction Prices.) CLICK HERE for information and photos of the new ocean front development.

I think this development will be just right for a second home owner who wants all the comfort of living in an exclusive resort type atmosphere with amenities galore but also with the privacy of individual home ownership. Only four units have been released for pre-sales. Look for the prices to escalate as construction continues. This will be a winner. Mark my words. Call me at 1-305-766-2642 for more information.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

HARBOR HOUSE -- KEY WEST



There was a coming out party last night at the San Carlos Theatre. The elite of Key West turned out for the event which featured a private concert by Cuban jazz legend Arturo Sandoval. But the real star of the evening was the unveiling of the plans for the much awaited Harbor House--the newest incarnation of the previously troubled Watermark Project.

Harbor House is a new development of 32 three story private residences located at the historic Key West Seaport. Each unit is over 2000 square feet and has every amenity you would expect. The exteriors are graced by two-story porches both in front and back, with features characteristic of past historic homes of Old Key West. The interiors are classic spaces with period-inspired design elements such as viewing towers and Queen Anne turrets that add authentic flavor. There are 12 floor plans to choose from along with premium options. The units are priced between $1,965,000 to $3,120,000 depending upon size and location. CLICK HERE for a down loadable/printable brochure.

Harbor House is to be located on the site of the old Jabour Trailer Park. It is about a three block walk to the STEAM PLANT CONDOS currently being constructed at the foot of Caroline and Grinnell Streets--also at the easternmost edge of the historic seaport.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Apples and Oranges



I just received my April 2007 issue of Architectural Digest. On Page 140 of my issue (South Florida) there is a picture of a current listing of a Key West water view home priced at $5.995 million. The house was featured in AD in October 2001.

I mention this property because it is referenced in a paid advertising section disguised as an "Editorial Feature" of fine estates around the world. Realtors pay a fee to show their listings in this section. Nothing wrong with it. But the way it is presented is misleading in my opinion.

Other fine homes and estates are similarly featured each month. So the reader can do some comparison shopping in various price ranges around the globe. Other magazines have similar features and I think it is very interesting to compare what you can buck can buy in Key West as opposed to some other destination.

I will bet you dollars to donuts that you could almost buy an entire town in some area of Alabama for $5.995 million. But then who would want that? You may be able to buy tony townhouse in Manhattan for the price, but the price you pay to live in Manhattan is more dear considering all the people and all the pressure.

CLICK HERE to see a similarly priced home in Palm Springs, California. And CLICH HERE to see the Key West home in the current issue of Architectural Digest. Or CLICK HERE to do your own search of all Key West homes.

For the life of me I can't imagine why anyone would want to live in Manhattan, Alabama, of the desert. But I can give you tons of reasons why you should consider living in Key West.

One final point of note: something is going on in town. All of a sudden there is a flourish of real estate activity in Key West. There are 24 days left of prime selling time before the serious buyers go away until next season. The number of price reductions on existing listings has picked up. Sellers are getting serious about setting rational asking prices. And some buyers are responding by writing contracts. Properties in all price ranges are going under contract each day. The number of of listings still exceeds the demand, but the good news is that some properties are starting to sell.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gorilla My Dream




Remember the Connie Frances movie Where the Boys Are? They are in Key West this month for Spring Break. Town is divided into four distinct categories: typical tourists that take up lots of space on sidewalks, people with money who tend to hang together, the breakers, and the locals --we tend to avoid Duval and all other tourist places like the plague (there so many people here right now!!!).

Our weather is so fair that the breakers have to dress for the beach all the time: meaning they hardly dress at all. If you are a father or mother with a son or daughter in Key West rest assured that your kid will return home with an all over tan. Without exception!

Tyler who works the morning shift at my gym arrived at work this morning at 6:00 AM. He just got off his other real job at one of the Duval Street bars. He said the breakers were fairly nice last night. He didn't have to 86 anybody. But, he said, they didn't leave until closing time which is 4:00 AM.

So you can see why I included the pics above. The breakers memories of Key West may be somewhat flawed. But they will surely recall that they had a great time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Affordable Housing--in Key West. Are you kidding?



Key West is going to hold semi-annual elections later this year for City Commission and Mayor. The candidates are already calling for More Affordable Housing. The problem isn't getting politicians to agree on meeting the demand for affordable housing, but rather deciding on where to build it and how to pay for it.

Construction costs and land costs in Key West are so high and and building code and building restrictions so onerous that the construction of new affordable housing has become nearly impossible. When the city built the new Roosevelt Annex a few years back, it took longer and cost more to build than it should have. Pritim Singh developed an adjacent parcel within half of the time. (Singh developed the Truman Annex and other very successful projects throughout the Keys.)

One of the current topics on the county government level is for the school system to provide affordable housing for new teachers. And there are stories of doctors leaving town because they cannot afford to own a home here either. In fact, those are not stories. They are real life statements.

Key West is not alone in needing to find a solution to its housing dilemma. CLICK HERE to read an article on Affordable Housing For The Upper Middle Class presented in Matrix.

I have an idea for a quick and affordable partial solution to the affordable housing crunch: buy this 5 unit building at 1110 Eaton Street in Key West. It is listed by our office at the affordable price of $997,000. There are three studio units on the main floor and two studios with loft bedrooms on the second and third floors. Four of the five units have been remodeled. And there are three off-street parking spaces.
These units should rent for $1100 per month or more in today's market. Please call me toll free 1-877-778-7092 for more information on this great little housing opportunity or CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Buy KEY WEST Real Estate in Your IRA



I learned a couple of years ago that you can use your IRA to purchase real estate investments. There is an article you can read on line by KELLI L. CLICK entitled Buy Real Estate in Your IRA. CLICK HERE to read the ARTICLE. Or do as I did and do a GOOGLE search to search for additional articles that explain the process.

I view the process as being somewhat akin to the IRS Section 1031 rules. There are specific rules regarding how the property must be acquired, held, financed, etc. If you follow the rules, you get to use your IRA to potentially make a huge investment gain in today's fumbling real estate market.

Today is March 13th and the website BEST MORTGE RATE is quoting 30 year fixed mortgages at 5.375%. That rate is not for a non-recourse loan such as would be required to purchase real estate for your IRA. But the rate is indicative of the current low market rates that should be encouraging real estate investment.

There are many properties in Key West that may qualify for a self directed IRA real estate investment. Do your own search of the current inventory of properties by CLICKING HERE

If you see something you like, please call me at 1.877.778.7092 for more information.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda!



I Could Have. I Should Have. I Wish I Would Have!

Everybody has to have made a comment like that. But lots of folks make those comments all the time when they talk about buying property in Key West. Me included.

A couple of weeks ago some former customers who make at least one annual trek to Key West visited me at an Open House I was hosting at the Sea Isla Townhomes. They live in Connecticut and have four children that are matriculating through college. Their goal has been to get the kids through school, sell an investment property that they own in Connecticut and buy a second home in Key West.

About six years ago we looked at two adjacent houses in the 1000 block of Fleming Street. (One of the best blocks in town.) The houses had been hideously and cheaply redone a few years earlier, and needed some revamping. Her father had been a builder, so she was familiar with construction and saw the potential in the location and the properties in particular. But the money issues prevented them from investing in the project. Somebody else bought the properties and did an "over-the-top" redesign of the property. CLICK HERE to see what the property looks like today. It is offered at $4,395,000. In 2001 it sold for $660,000. The present owner did not put $3.8 million into improvements. But he did create real value by designing a very special property.

Not all stories play out like this one. Most people have fairly simple goals. They lay in a hammock on their guest house porch and dream about what it would be like to own a home or business in Key West. They may even go talk with a Realtor and pretend they intend to buy a house. They may even go so far as to write an offer to buy a house. But so many potential buyers find a reason to not do the deal.

Three years ago houses were selling like hot cakes in Key West. The demand was insatiable. Today, it is the exact reverse. Prices are down. Demand is down even more. I am even thinking of buying another property because I know that if I don't, some day I will say I Coulda, Shoulda,Woulda!

It's official: Now's the time to buy

CLICK HERE to read the full text of a just released study from the University of Florida advising hopeful homebuyers in Florida should act now: The price is right as the state’s single-family residential housing market bottoms out, according to a University of Florida study released March 9th.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

SAW 3 -- Revenge of the Nerds


I am not a tree hugger by nature, but I do love trees. I grew up in Colorado and there are millions and millions of pine trees there.

So when I made my first trip to Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park at the southwestern end of Key West I was surprised to see Australian Pines. Lots of them. They were clustered near the beach. There were old fashioned wood burning fire pits and picnic tables that reminded me public campgrounds in the Colorado Rockies. But 30 feet fro the pines there was the Atlantic Ocean. The juxtaposition was mind boggling.

I just took the existence of the pines as a forever thing. Not so. The Key West Citizen reported today (March 10th)"Crews began toppling 88 Australian pines at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park early Friday, to the dismay of tree advocates. The state expects to complete this stage of the tree-removal project by the end of the weekend. Some of the felled trees will be chipped, others will be burned..."

The State of Florida oversees so much of what we do in the Keys. This is ridiculous. We are in an area of critical concern, so they say. So the state has to look out for our best interest. Some bureaucrat (NERD) made a decision that since Australian Pines are not indigenous to the Keys that they should be eliminated. News Flash: most of the vegetation on the Island of Key West is not indigenous either.

It took so long for those trees to grow and mature. It took minutes to destroy something so beautiful. For no damned good reason.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Room with a View




3 Sunset Key Drive is the exception, not the rule, in Key West real estate sales today. Click the address and you can see what this ocean front home priced at $6.5 million has to offer. But the catch is: it SOLD in mid February 2007 for $5.8 million.

We have had several big sales on big houses during the past year. But the market on low-end and mid-range properties is stagnant. Very little is moving. The properties that are selling are either priced "to sell" or are special, such as the house on Sunset Key. There are several homes on Sunset Key currently available, but they are not waterfront and do not have the allure of the aforementioned home. It is unique.

The aerial photo at the upper right shows Sunset Key--just to the west of Mallory Square in Key West. The house that sold is just below the pier on the left side of the photo.


There are 26 days of prime selling time between today and Easter Sunday. The day after Easter most hotels and guest houses reduce their rates. The budget minded traveler's start their annual treks to Key West in search of sun and fun. They make toy with the idea of buying a home in the Keys, but my experience has been that people that are too cheap to pay full fare to come here during season are also too cheap to buy a house--no matter how deep the discount.

There are some very nice properties with great views available at reasonable prices. Why not plan a trip to Key West to check buy your dream home in Paradise.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Psst! Wanna Buy a Condo?




1402 Olivia Street is a heck-of-a-deal if you are looking for a condo in the Old Town area.

It is the entire first floor (1600 square feet)of a great older home that was converted into 4 condo units. It has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a newer kitchen, laundry, and private (exclusive) use of the pool and grounds.

The present owners must sell, and the price had just been reduced from $719,000 to $549,000 or $343 per square foot. The owners paid $590,000 in 2004 and must sell now.

The place needs a little tlc, but at the asking price, it is a real bargain. Call me if you would like more info on this property: 305-766-2642.

Disclaimer

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.