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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bewitched in Key West

Just Listed by Preferred Properties Christies Great Estates (that's where I work these days) 927 and 929 United Street Key West. These enchanting houses are located on the cusp of Old Town and the Casa Marina Area. Both are brand spanking new.

927 United Street is a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bath 1800 sq ft home that was built in 2007 complete with top of the line finishes. The 9350 sq ft lot is huge by Key West standards. Upon entrance you are greeted with a wonderful open living space featuring hand crafted moldings, cherry wood floors, French doors leading to the pool and veranda. The front, side and rear yards are beautiful. The kitchen has beautiful wood cabinetry with granite counter-tops and Viking stainless steel appliances. The master bedroom suite has its own private courtyard. The master bath is a jewel. This house is surrounded by lush tropical landscaping complete with an irrigation system and landscape lighting. Off street parking for two cars. This house is offered at $1,450,000 or $806 per sq ft. CLICK HERE for more detailed information and photos of this property.

929 United Street is a newly built Key West Conch House just blocks from the beach and Duval Street. The attention to detail goes beyond one usually sees in new homes with marble and wood flooring, state of the art bathrooms with mosaic tiles, European style finishes throughout and perfect lighting both inside and out. The ample kitchen has designer cabinets, granite counter-tops and Viking Appliances. There is an adjacent butler's pantry-laundry room. The three bedrooms share the second floor. The master bedroom is very large and has vaulted ceilings and a large California closet system. The pool is located in a tropical setting surrounded by rare plants, irrigation system and exterior lighting. Off Street parking. This two story 1900 sq ft house sits on a huge 9350 sq ft lot and is offered at $1,495,000 or $787 per sq ft. CLICK HERE for more detailed information and additional photos.

Both houses were just recently completed. They are sitting empty waiting for somebody to turn them from houses into homes. I see both houses as being buying opportunities for buyers who want a Key West house (a) that is new and does not need a lick of work, (2) that looks old but that is really up to the minute with architectural detail and custom finishes, (3) that is located near Old Town and all the attractions Old Town has to offer,(4) that has a large lot and pool area so that the owner can appreciate Key West's wonderful outdoor living, (5) and that is a real value for the asking price. Both of these houses meet that criteria. Neither house is a short sale, but both are being offered for sale at a price than is less than the developer has in either property. That is a buying opportunity.

If you are looking to buy a Key West house or condo and can't twitch your nose to make it happen, please checkout all of the Key West homes currently listed for sale in the Key West MLS database. CLICK HERE to search for the property of your dream. If you see something you like, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at
You don't have to be a witch to turn either house into your home, but it would help if you had a bunch of cash in the bank, a rich Uncle Arthur, or good credit.

Friday, September 26, 2008

537 Caroline Street Old Town Key West

Just Listed (but not by me) 537 Caroline Street Key West, Florida. Those in the know recall this prime location as the former Banana's Foster Guesthouse.

This is how the listing Realtor describes this property: "Built in 1888 by William Curry...A rare combination of a Classic two-story conch with five transient licenses plus 1 licensed Manager's unit located on a prime Old Town corner. Built as a single family home & later converted to a guest house this property features an impressive 8 bedrooms, 7 1/2 bathrooms in two structures with a small dip pool and 4 off street parking spots, just waiting for you to restore to its' original grandeur. Fantastic architectural details including double porches, high ceilings, hardwood floors & heavy moldings. Truly in the heart of it all just 1 block off Duval Street. Tenant occupied, needs 24 hour notice. Formerly known as Bananas Foster's guesthouse and is currently being used as a Single Family home." CLICK HERE for additional information and photos of the property.

I have mentioned before that I used to own a guest house in Key West (Eaton Lodge at 511 Eaton Street). I learned very early that having a great location was critical to staying busy during down times for town. Many tourists drive to Key West without room reservations. Some opt for a motel on the Boulevard but most head towards Old Town to find a nice room at a cute little inn. This particular property is located one block off Duval at the corner of Simonton and Caroline Streets. The famous Curry Mansion is at the opposite end of the street and the equally famous Cypress House is just across the street on the east corner. Both Caroline and Simonton are feeder streets that tourists use to move about Old Town. So the location is superb for many reasons. Most of the neighboring homes are mansions or at least close to it!

The former owner that operated the property as a guest house had a great sense of style and decorated the rooms with pizazz. (The pics in the listing look like he took much of his furniture and antiques when he sold the property). As the listing Realtor points out the property has 8 bedrooms, 7 1/2 bathrooms, and only 5 transient licenses plus a "manager's license". That means any bank will only consider the number of licensed rooms to evaluate any loan to purchase the property.

When I bought Eaton Lodge in 1993 it had been foreclosed by the SBA and shut down for two years. The business went away. But as soon as I opened the doors in early 1994 former guests and tourists new to Key West immediately became heads in beds. I think any new owner of the Banana's Foster property will not have any difficulty getting the property up and running. If a buyer purchased and closed this property before the end of December, he or she would have time to redecorate the rooms and paint the exterior (it's looking a little sad!). But come the day after Christmas, the rooms at the inn should be filled until Easter. That is what a great location offers: opportunity to stay full and make money.

The property has four off street parking spaces and there is nearby paid parking within 150 feet. So tourists who drive to Key West will not experience separation anxiety about being too far from their cars.

This property is listed at $1,900,000. There are other guest houses for sale in Key West. CLICK HERE to see all of those listed for sale at this time. I have said before that people who have property listed for sale right now want to sell. One of the properties shown in the link is a short sale. There may be a bargain in your future. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at for more information on any of the guest houses listed for sale.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Done Deal for Sure!

Way back on May 14th I wrote about a new Short Sale that I thought looked interesting. It was a recently remodeled home at 917 United Street in Key West near the Casa Marina area. CLICK HERE to read what I wrote then.

That nifty house just sold (closed). The original asking price was $1,749,000 or $1,242 per sq ft. That was in January 2007. The property was re-listed with a new Realtor in April 2008 at $995,000. It was offered as a short sale and the property went under contract on June 13th. It sold/closed today for the price of $650,000 or $387 per sq ft. That is a great price for a nicely redone 3 bed 2 bath house with a pool.

Short Sales do occur and actually close. It takes time and perseverance on the part of the seller, the buyer, and usually two sets of Realtors that are willing to make the extra effort to get a deal done. Congratulations to both listing and selling Realtors and to the lucky buyer. He or She got a good deal in my opinion.

If you are looking to purchase a home, second home or investment property in Key West, CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls in real time. If you see a property that you like, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Other People's Money

I don't like the idea of a bank bailout one bit. It will reward incompetence and greed. It will not teach anyone anything other than that Big Brother will come to the rescue of those who have power and influence. It will cost taxpayers an unimaginable amount of money and lost opportunities.

The Wall Street mavens created this mess by screwing with private home ownership and turning it into investment vehicles that could be bought, sold and traded at a profit (or a loss). The mavens got rich and earned incredible salaries, bonuses and stock options based on the their production. The mavens got theirs. And now the taxpayer is being told we have to make everything better for the common good. Hooey!

Now the Bush Administration is asking the public to go into tremendous debt so that our large financial institutions do not fail. The Administration is raising the specter of mass financial ruin if we do not act now.

What if several real big banks and a lot of small ones were to fail? What if the remaining investment banks were to fail? I know three things would happen for sure. One: the assets would be marshaled and sold to pay creditors.
Two: the stockholders equity would be wiped out. Three: the unsecured or under-secured might get nothing. But the insiders in the banks who created the mess for the institutions would lose all the equity they had in the companies by virtue of stock ownership.

Let's get up close and personal and look at the mess from Key West. Without naming names let me relate a couple of tales that may cause you to question the rationale of a bailout.

Local bank "A" was an aggressive local lender in the Key West market. It made residential and commercial loans. Since it is not a large bank, it had to participate a portion of some loans to larger upstream lenders. That is a common practice among banks to spread the risk. Bank "A" made no qualification loans based on cash down and appraised value upon build-out of the finished property. The assumption was that the market would continue to grow and that the new structure could be sold at a profit. The bank would fund the cost of acquisition, construction, and provide interim financing until the building was completed and sold. The front end and completed appraisals would be used to justify the loans. That scenario does sometimes work in a perfect world.

Local Bank "B" made aggressive loans including one development loan that was used to convert a group of apartment buildings into condos. I'll call this development "Howard's End". I used to work for a couple of big banks in Denver and did commercial loan workouts. One of the first things I'd do when I got a new credit (problem loan) was to read the Credit File and the Collateral File. The Credit File tells you the story of who the borrower is and the purpose of the loan.

The Collateral File contains the documents (loan commitment sheet, deeds, mortgages, notes, security agreements, assignments of rents, UCC filings, etc.) that secure the lender's position on the property (the "collateral"). Most banks have a loan administration department or loan review department that reviews collateral files to make sure that every required document was properly executed and recorded to insure the bank's position is perfected in the event legal action or foreclosure becomes necessary.

I personally did not like the location of Howard's End, and I thought that the workmanship was marginal. When I saw the project two years ago it was about 70% complete. The entire project flooded during Hurricane Wilma and a lot of the work that had been done needed to be repaired. Local Bank "B" had turned off the money supply to complete the project and used the loan reserves to continue paying interest on the construction loan. By so doing Bank "B" did not have to recognize a potential bank loss by writing down a portion of the loan. In essence the bank was advancing new money to hide the eventual loan loss. (I base this on what the developer told me personally. I have no independent verifiable knowledge.)

The developer somehow deeded one unit a new owner and got a title company to insure title. It is my recollection that Local Bank "B" did not get any money from the sale of that unit but that the developer got the cash.

The deal is more complicated because Local Bank "B" did not properly collateralize its loan. It did not have a first mortgage on all of the buildings or ground that makes up the complex. As a result there were competing parties with conflicting legal priorities on different buildings that make up the project. The result was that even if Bank "B" were to foreclose its mortgage, it would not end up owning all of the buildings and all of the ground. At least two different parties owned individual units or a portion of the underlying ground that prevented access to other parts of the property.

As I recall Local Bank "B" had about a $2 million loan to the developer. A private party had a second mortgage of around $500,000 and then there was that buyer who somehow got to purchase a unit inside the complex before a certificate of occupancy was issued or the condominium documents were recorded. Do you see the problem here dear reader? If you do, would you agree with me that such incompetence should not be rewarded by bailout? Shouldn't the bank fire the moron that created this mess. Shouldn't the shareholders in Bank "B" suffer a dilution of their investment for hiring such incompetent people? Where is the responsibility and accountability for management if managers let bankers hide problem loans and let collateral clerks fail to properly secure a loan? Maybe small banks should not exist if they cannot perform the required functions correctly.

Local Bank "A" doesn't get off any easier. That bank profited by charging huge fees for originating and booking its loans in the Go-Go years before 2005. Local Bank "A" and its officers and its directors made calculated bets that they could grow the bank by making aggressive loans. They bet wrong in several notable instances. Local Bank "A" has had to foreclose on mortgages it held and now must try to sell its foreclosures in a declining market. And it has more foreclosures in the pipeline. Neither management personnel nor style has changed.

I know my rants and raves won't stop anything in Washington. But if you are old enough to remember the Junk Bond fiasco of the 1980's and the S&L collapse in the 1990s you may share my disdain for what is being proposed today. Once again the public is being asked to reward the Wall Street players (and small hometown banks like the two I mentioned in Key West) that took huge risks with other people's money. I could care less if the Wall Street players lose their homes in the Hamptons, Aspen, Boca or anyplace else. They did not earn that wealth. They took it. It's time for payback.

Monday, September 22, 2008

408 William Street - Old Town - Key West

Just Listed (but not by me) 408 William Street, Old Town, Key West,Florida. This historically important home known as the Richard Roberts House was brought to Key West from Green Turtle Cay in 1847, and settled into its current home on one of the best streets in Old Town. It has received numerous Local and State historic preservation awards. Currently it is configured with 3 Bedrooms 3 Baths, 2 offices, large living and dining rooms, and FOUR covered porches, two on each side of the house and on both floors. Interior walls are wood and the floors are heart pine. The kitchen cabinets are gorgeous Dade pine and the kitchen has new appliances. Most of the interior rooms open onto shady porches, and the living room has a wall of glass doors that lead to the deck and spa. CLICK HERE for more discussion of the house when it was located in the Bahamas.

I had the good fortune to show this house on Sunday and I was taken by the delicate splendor of this painted lady. It is just beautiful. There is a newer addition at the rear of the house where the living room and a bathroom are located on the ground floor. But the original house is just so precious. I have written before about houses that have everything "up to the minute". This house is the antithesis. The treads on the exterior stairway between the first and second floors are not rickety but strong and worn. The show decades of use. Today treads would be replaced to look new. But the treads here ares a testament to the "soles" of those who climbed these stairs for years and years.

The house is divided into living areas on three levels. The spacious new living room is located at the rear of the house on the main level. It has French doors that look out onto the deck. The updated kitchen sits in the middle of the house and one of two offices is located at the front. The second floor has two bedrooms and a bath, and the third floor has a third bedroom and another office. All rooms have windows and or doors to provide natural ventilation (there were no air conditioners in the mid 1800s). But the house is air conditioned today. 408 William Street is offered at $1,075,000 or $573 per sq ft. That is a modest price for such a beautiful property. It will not last long.

There are two drawbacks that will affect certain buyers. First, there is no off street parking. So if you absolutely positively must have off street parking, look elsewhere. Second, there is a spa located on the good sized deck area just off the living room. There may be room for a small pool. But there is not room for a medium sized pool. That's not going to happen. But if you are a buyer that does not require either a pool and parking, you must see this house.

You could not ask for a better location. The house is a five minute walk to Duval Street or the Historic Key West Seaport.

CLICK HERE for more information and photos of 408 William Street. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at for more information on this house or any other Key West listing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

716 Southard Street Old Town Key West

Just Listed (but not by me) 716 Southard Street in the heart of Old Town Key West.

This is the one you have been waiting for. Adorable sawtooth, two bedroom, two bath home in the most desirable area of Old Town Key West on the top of Solares Hill between William and Elizabeth Streets. The property was renovated in 1999 and has an open floor plan with vaulted ceilings in the living areas and bedrooms that creates a very bright and airy feeling. Master bedroom with bath en-suite. Custom lighting and gorgeous hardwood floors. French doors open to your covered outdoor sitting area, pool and lush tropical garden. This island retreat is priced to sell so don't wait too long!

716 Southard Street is a petite 752 sq ft and sits on a 1776 sq ft lot. It is offered at $599,000 or $797 per sq. ft.

The house is a short five minute or less walk to Duval Street and five minutes to the Historic Key West Seaport. If you walk east about two minutes you can get your morning con leche at Five Brothers or eat the best steak in Key West at Michael's Restaurant or dine affordably at Managia Mangia. Nancy's Secret Garden, the Cafe Marquesa, Sarabeth's, Faustos Grocery, and Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. are all located about four minutes from the front door. What more could you want?

CLICK HERE for more photos and information on 716 Southard Street. If you are coming to Key West this weekend for Poker Run, call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at to schedule a showing on your behalf. Better yet, lets also look at 529 Margaret that I wrote about earlier this month. Both properties are well located and priced the same. Do some real comparison shopping.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Key West Dreamin' - But Not Make Believin'

I was looking at one of those slick destination magazines last night. You know the kind I'm talking about. Magazines that promote destinations like Aspen, Vail, La Jolla, Palm Beach, Savannah or Charleston. Magazines that feature photos of designer show homes, fancy restaurants, hot spots, trendy fashions, and society types. There was a full page ad for new homes that were built to look old. The ad read "FRONT PORCH FUN At Hibbben, we're reintroducing the front porch. A place to laugh and have fun with the whole family. A place to cool down after a hot summer's day. A place where the biggest worry is if there are enough Popsicles to go around." The ad showed three new houses with front porches and a few scraggly palm trees. The houses are located in a newly manufactured town where new houses try to replicate the old town look.

I've written before about my falling in love with Key West my first trip here. I had always lived in Colorado and while I wanted to move to Key West in my mind, my mind told me I needed to be more rational. I used to travel to California a lot. I fell in love with the Laguna Beach area. I considered moving to Palm Springs, La Jolla, Santa Barbara, Carmel, and San Francisco in addition to Laguna. But each one of those places requires a mindset and a car. The mindset is to be really into yourself and in to what other people think about you. Everything in California is image in my opinion. And you need a car to go everywhere because everything is so far away.

One time I looked at real estate in Savannah and Charleston. Both places are just beautiful. The historic districts are rich in architecture. But after a couple of weeks in both places I knew I did not belong in either. Charleston had snob appeal, but not to me. And Savannah had that awful odor and the oppressive summer heat that I knew I could not endure.

During my first trip to Key West I would take my morning walk around Old Town and look at houses like the ones Jerry Herman had just renovated in 700 block of Fleming Street or the Calvin Klein house on Eaton Street. I'd compare those houses to some nearby house desperately in need of a paint job. I dreamed of what my life in Key West could be like and what I could do to a desperate house. I imagined sitting on the front porch of my house in Old Town and watching the world walk.

There is a difference between manufactured communities like the one I mentioned. The houses are beautiful no doubt. But they don't have the character that comes from people actually living in the community. The trees and shrubs are too pristine. Everything is too planned. Too perfect.

Key West on the other hand is a real city with real people who lead real lives. Our front porches bear the scars of years of use. The streets in Old Town are lined with trees of all types and sizes. The white picket fences serve a genuine purpose and are not just for show. The crazy cats, dogs, chickens, iguanas, herons, and other animals that inhabit our island make Key West a real town where the front porch never went away so it needs no reintroduction.

Real houses and real people living lives not consumed by consumption, that is what Key West is made of. I have been here for 15 years, and I have learned that so many of the things I could not live without are not even necessary. You can have your make believe towns and suburbs with houses that look old but are only imitations of the real thing. I'll take a Conch house with a real wood floor over a salt box with a new laminated floor. I prefer the Key West version of the shotgun house (we call it a Cigar Maker's Cottage) to the ranch style house so prevalent across the US. The old structures were built in a time when things were built to last. And they did. Many have been updated with either plain or fancy kitchens and baths added. Some have pools and are gentrified. Others are still plain and utilitarian. But they all seem to work.

If you consider all of the panicked selling in the in the stock market over the past three days you will see that for every seller there was also a buyer. On July 14th I wrote about the demise of IndyMac Bank and my experience in working for the RTC during the S&L crisis in the early 1990s. Bank of America grew itself by buying a lot of the assets (and some liabilities) of many failed thrifts. It recently acquired Countrywide Mortgage. And this week it bought Merrill Lynch. The acquisition of the S&Ls helped foster the huge growth of Bank of America. I'm betting that the Countrywide and Merrill Lynch acquisitions will prove equally valuable.

And I think that even though the economy is in turmoil for the near term, there really are some good deals to be had if you happen to be a buyer.

CLICK HERE to perform your own search of the Key West mls database in real time. If you see a house or condo that looks interesting please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or e-mail me at Don't let today's pessimism stop you from full filling your dream of owning a home in Paradise.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Key West Beach Club Condos

Not everybody wants to own a place directly on the ocean where you can wake up in the morning to the sound of gentle surf rolling ashore just below your bedroom window. But a whole lot of people would love the opportunity to own such a property. Especially if it were affordably priced and located in Key West, Florida. Well this is your opportunity.

I have written before about the desirability of the Shipyard Condos in Old Town and the much larger units at 1800 Atlantic Blvd. to second home owners. The location, size, and creature comforts of each has made both projects very popular second home choices.

Until the market decline over the past three years the units at the Key West Beach Club have been an even more popular choice to the few who had the opportunity to even buy a unit. Historically, very few units at Key West Beach Club went on the market and when a unit was offered for sale, it would sell very quickly. If you have ever been to the Key West Beach Club you know the reason why. Each unit is located directly on the Atlantic Ocean. Each unit has a spectacular right-in-your-face ocean view. Most of the units are two bedroom and two baths, but there are a few three bedroom units and a couple of spectacular penthouses. As with other projects of similar age, there is some price variation among units based on remodels and upgrades and floor level. But all units share the same view, the same tennis courts, the use of the gym, the pools, the covered parking. And most of all they share the distinction of being the only condos located directly on the ocean in Key West.

Unit 104 is a 2/2 built in 1985 and is priced at $775,000 or $553 per sq ft. And it has a valuable Transient License which means you can rent it on a daily basis to help defray the cost of purchase. You are not required to rent it, but it is a valuable option to possess. CLICK HERE for more info on Unit104.

Unit 105 is also a 2/2 and is offered at $875,000 or $625 per sq ft. This unit is located at the end of the building and has the most privacy going. CLICK HERE for more info on Unit 105.

Unit 107 is a two bed / 2 bath unit that was built in 1987. This unit is priced at #1,375,000 or $962 per sq ft. CLICK HERE for more photos and info on Unit 107.

Unit 115 is the largest unit offered. It has three bedrooms and two baths. It is located at the far east end of the east building. It is offered at the price of $1,200,000 or $766 per sq. ft. The home is being sold furnished and currently is the only one of this type floor plan on the market. CLICK HERE for more photos and info on Unit115.

Unit 210 is a two bed / two bath unit that was just recently listed. It is offered at the price of $999,000 or $699 per sq. ft for this 1430 Sq. ft. unit in the east building. CLICK HERE for photos and info on Unit 210.

Penthouse Unit 406Very rare offering of a top floor 2 level end unit home at the Key West Beach Club. This beautiful luxury condominium main level includes 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, large living/dining room and a separate den. Upstairs is an enormous 3rd bedroom/loft and bath. Recent upgrades include 24" x 24" marble tile floors, crown molding, designer lighting and hurricane wind impact resistant doors and windows. This unit is offered at $2,500,000 or $892 per sq.ft. CLICK HERE for additional photos and information on Unit 406.

Luxury amenities at the Key West Beach Club include two oceanfront pools, tennis court, gym, outdoor entertaining areas with cooking facilities, covered parking, additional storage, and gated entry. Condo fees of $2500 are paid quarterly and include Cable, Exterminating, Building Exterior Maintenance, Building Insurance, Common Area Maintenance, Pool Maintenance, and Security.

If you would like to see any unit at the Key West Beach Club or any other Key West real estate listing, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

Saturday, September 13, 2008

1800 Atlantic Condominiums --Key West

"When you finally feel like you are really there. Warm sand." CLICK HERE to see why so many people travel so far to enjoy Key West.

Most people in the United States work 50 weeks a year just to make enough money to have a vacation. For many people it isn't even the cost of a vacation, it is their jobs that prevent them from taking more vacations. I used to live in the real 9-to-5 world, but I was smart enough to plan trips around three day weekends to stretch my vacation days. And I always looked forward to my trips to Key West.

On December 31, 1986 I was stuck at the American Airlines terminal in Miami waiting to catch a plane to Key West. There was a horrible rainstorm and all flights were delayed or cancelled. American finally let one plane leave somewhere around 9:00 PM and I got on it. I arrived at the funky Key West International Airport without any baggage. It was late and there were only a couple of cabs at the airport. I shared a cab with 3 or 4 locals and I told the driver to "Take me to the Copa." Where else would you go without food or clothes on New Years Eve in Key West?

There is an over-supply of condos for sale just about everywhere these days. As a buyer you can buy a place at any destination you please and get a pretty good deal. But the point of buying a place ought not to be just buying to get a good deal. It ought to be about dream fulfillment. It took me about 8 years to finally buy my first place in Key West even though I made up my mind the first week I came here I wanted to live here. I just had to make certain that I got the very best price. And that stubbornness cost me so much money because of all the opportunities I missed.

During the past two decades two different condominium developments have helped buyers fulfill their dreams of owning a place in Key West. One is Shipyard in Truman Annex and the other is 1800 Atlantic. The Shipyard units are all basically 680 sq ft, 2 bedrooms and one bath condos in a quaint setting within walking distance to everything in Old Town. The price per sq ft was cheap when first built, but the amenities and location made the units very popular and that caused the prices to rise.

A mile or so to the south and east you will find the 1800 Atlantic Condominiums. Unlike Shipyard, they ain't quaint. The three buildings have a very modern facade made of reinforced concrete and glass. But once you go inside you understand why so many people have chosen 1800 Atlantic as a second home. Many of the units have a valuable transient rental license that permits owners to rent the units on a daily basis much like a hotel room. In reality the condos are typically rented on a weekly basis but not always for just one week. But it is the ability to rent the unit multiple times during the month that makes transient rental units very appealing to the buyer who wants the condo to help pay for itself.

It is legal to rent a condo at 1800 Atlantic as a vacation rental without a transient license, but the rental rules are different. Owners can only rent the unit once per month for a period of 28 days or less. Only one rental per month. That's it.

There are sixteen units available for purchase at this time. All of the units at 1800 Atlantic are about twice as large as those at Shipyard. The 1800 Atlantic units are all 1357 sq ft and have two bedrooms and two baths. The bedrooms are large. The living rooms and kitchens are large. Many have transient licenses. CLICK HERE to checkout the properties available. Look carefully because some units are actually located next door to each other so you can see a marked variation in pricing on some units. "Why is this?" you ask. The property is 20 years old and many of the units have not been updated with new kitchens or baths. Others have been. Look at the photos of the units and determine which looks better to you.

And of course there is the location issue. The complex looks like a big "U" with all units facing the Atlantic Ocean. The east side of Building "C" has units with view of Bertha Street and the ocean beyond. Units across the hall have courtyard views and the ocean. All units in the "B" building have straight one ocean views but those units sit furthest away from the ocean. Half the units in the "A" building have courtyard views and the other half view the mangroves and nature preserve on the west side of the building. And then there is the other issue of floor level. The higher floor, the more expensive the unit. The lower floors offer the same amenities and square footage as the upper floors, but the upper floors generally offer better views or more privacy.

Several of the units currently for sale CLICK HERE are Short Sales meaning that a short sale occurs when a property is sold and the lender agrees to accept a discounted payoff, meaning the lender will release the lien that is secured to the property upon receipt of less money than is actually owed. Some of the properties may be priced at about half of what they were sold for a few years ago during the market bubble. I doubt if any of the condos anywhere actually totally pay for themselves. But units that are properly managed and correctly priced ought to generate enough income to help make the purchase of a second home in Key West a possibility. If you do a Google search of 1800 Atlantic rentals you will see many companies and individuals with websites offering units. Prices for rentals vary somewhat based on unit location and condition and time of the year. I think many people return to the same location(and often the same unit) year after year because they know exactly what they are going to get. The best surprise is no surprise.

The photos show 1800 Atlantic at night with the ocean and full moon. Imagine, that could be your view. You could walk your dog or take your kids down to Smathers' Beach just east of the condo or down to the private beach at the condo itself. You could play tennis, go for a Jacuzzi, take a dip in the pool, get a tan, and have a bar-b-que without ever leaving your property. Some people like the tranquility of the ocean and save Old Town for limited visits. To each his own.

Remember I just changed offices. I am now at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. If you would like to see any of the units at 1800 Atlantic or get more information on them, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hidden Treasure - 529 Margaret St. Old Town Key West

My favorite Realtor (not me) just listed a very cute, clean, and well priced two bedroom / one bath home in Old Town that was totally updated in the last two years. The asking price is only $599,000 or $922 per sq ft. The two story home is located at 529 Margaret Street and is tucked away down a bricked and nicely landscaped path away from the street. Michael's Restaurant is located across the street as a quick reference point.

The house was built in 1978 so it is not old and creaky. The recent remodel spiffed up the place just right. When you walk into the property from the bricked path you immediately see the beautiful pool to the left. And then you look to your far left and see an amazing giant tree with an outdoor shower tucked inside the tree. OMG! I forgot to mention there is also a separate spa.

The house is pretty simple, really. And that is what makes it so attractive in my opinion. It is not fussy. It is clean and neat and to the point. The downstairs consists of the living room and the kitchen. CLICK HERE for more photos and information provided by the listing Realtor. And CLICK HERE for more photos that I took when I previewed the house on Friday. There are french doors in the living room and kitchen that open onto the deck and pool area. So the downstairs living space is open and inviting and yet tucked secretly away from the rest of the world.

Upstairs there are two cocoon bedrooms. They are not really large, but they are not tiny either. They are cozy. They share one bath and it is very up to date and very nicely appointed.

The washer and dryer are in a separate enclosure near the pool and there is another enclosure near the front of the house that houses the pool equipment and provides additional storage. Everything has a place and everything is in its place.

There is no off street parking. So you second home owners don't have to pay to have a gas guzzler in Key West. Rent a car when you are in Key West if you must have one. Think of all the money you will save not owning another car you rarely drive. Be like another client of mine that bought a cute little house on Nassau Lane a few years back: buy a scooter and ride together.

The listing Realtor told me the seller had the property appraised before listing it. The asking price is below the appraised price. This is not a forced sale.

I like this home a lot and I would love to help someone looking for a secret treasure right in the heart of Old Town. If you would like to see 529 Margaret or any other house, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. If you see something you like, give me a call. Unlike a lot of real estate websites, our database is maintained in real time so the information you see there is current.

One additional note: I am now at Preferred Properties, 520 Southard Street. Our office is located midway between Duval and Simonton Streets. Stop by and say "Hey!".

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

upside downside

It's that time again to report on real estate sales in Key West. During the month of August 2008 there were 13 single family (and duplex) sales in Key West. The least expensive house sold for only $325,000. The median sale was $530,000. And the top sale was the old Thompson Estate at 1411 South Street. It has been on the market for several years and has been listed by several different Realtors. It was once priced at over $7,000,000. It sold for $3,312,500. That house was a hard sell because of the asking price and its location (not near Old Town and in an area that flooded during Wilma). The lot was huge and the house was "eclectic".

The interesting thing about the August sales was the continued strength of Old Town and Casa Marina areas as the place to buy real value. The lower end sales continued to be the Mid Town and New Town areas. For buyers looking to buy an inexpensive house, the Mid Town and New Town areas offer some deals. But the value deals (quality, location, upside potential when the market returns) continues to be Old Town followed by Casa Marina. CLICK HERE to see each single family house sale for yourself.

For you readers that pay attention to what I wrote and how some sales actually panned out, the bank foreclosure at 1310 Olivia Street that started out at $699,000 sold for $530,000. That house is in the Meadows area, has a pool and off-street parking. It looked a little dingy or forlorn, but elbow grease and paint will make it all nice again I am sure. A couple of weeks ago I remarked about 1117 Royal Street. I liked that house at that price but not that location. Very good price for the house in my opinion. I wrote about 1307 Royal Street a couple of months back. It is a very nice house with a full guest cottage and a valuable transient license. It was listed at $1,200,000 and sold for $967,500. The location is near Old Town, but definitely not in Old Town. That hurt the price I think. I drove several prospective buyers by the property and nobody wanted to set up a showing. And then there is 1113 Watson. My little listing from hell. It was supposed to be an easy sale, but turned into a difficult deal indeed. It finally sold and everyone lived happily ever after.

There were just ten condo and townhome sales during August. The cheapest unit went for only $210,500. The median sold for $302,500. And the most expensive sold for a mere $700,000. The most expensive sale was a two story unit at Gulfside. It was originally priced at $1,270,000 when listed on January 4, 2007. Ouch!

As of today there are 122 residential (single family, condo, town home, duplex) listed as contingent or pending. Most of these properties are in the short sale process. Short sales rule in Key West. They do not necessarily take a short time to close. Some take a near eternity: case in point a closing that occured last week has been under short sale approval process since September 2007. Ouch again!

For you non-believers here is a New Listing of a True Key West Landmark. 616 Eaton Street in the very heart of the historic district was just listed for $5,500,000. SEE PHOTO TO THE RIGHT. The house is noted for its simple but eloquent architecture and its lack of paint. I've heard many people say something to the effect that the house could look good if the owner would only paint it. Yeah, but would it look better? CLICK HERE for more detailed information and two photos. The owner has very strict rules about showings, so unless you can show proof of ability to purchase this place, your only looks are from the Internet or the street. By the way 616 Eaton is priced at $2,266 per sq ft.


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.