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Friday, November 28, 2008

Memorable Moments in the Theater

My introduction to the theater perhaps should go unmentioned. But I'll throw political correctness aside to share a very innocent little boy's first appearance on the stage. I think I was in the second grade at Mountain View Elementary in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. (That's the lily white suburb I previously wrote about.) The year would have been around 1955. If I recall correctly I was playing an orphan at Christmas. I remember the play took place at Christmas because Santa was the main character and he was played by an adult.

My part required intensive practice on my dialect. I'm not sure who taught me the phraseology, and I cannot remember the line. I think I had only one line. But it brought down the house as I recall.

I also remember one of the teachers taking the time to apply my makeup. Yep, an eight year old boy wearing makeup.

The play took place right after school and the audience was filled with kids from each grade along with their parents. The play was short. My part was shorter. The teacher had applied burnt cork all over my hands, neck, and face. I was supposed to be a little black boy. I got my line out and the audience roared.

Key West has a very active theater crowd. There is always something going on at The Red Barn Theater, The Waterfront Playhouse, or The Tennessee Williams Theater. And there are occasional performances at The San Carlos Institute and the Key West High School. I just received a pamphlet in the mail announcing the 2008-2009 schedule at The Tennessee Williams Theater and was reminded of another memorable moment in the theater.

Like most towns and cities that have active theaters, The Nutcracker is a annual tradition in Key West. I remember a very special performance that will never fade from my memory. What I write is true. You can't make up a performance like this. It was 1994 or 1995 as I recall. The performance was the first night at The Tennessee Williams Theater and the Founders' Society party took place afterward. The Nutcracker's production company was from Miami.

The music began, the curtain went up, and several ballerina maids with feather dusters started "dusting" a sofa in the middle of the stage. They dusted and dusted for eons and eons. Tedium set they dusted so long. Finally, some other character appeared on the stage and the performance got started. But after a few minutes the music started to roll out as if in slow motion. You see, the music was on tape. And the tape recorder was not playing properly. The music eventually stopped and someone wearing a suit walked onto the stage and announced there was a mechanical malfunction that would require some time to repair. There was a break of maybe fifteen minutes or so.

The tape was repaired and the performance started anew, right from the very tedious beginning with all that feather dusting. Everything went like clockwork for the rest of the performance. That is until the very end. In the last scene the handsome prince lifts the principal ballerina up above his head. Well, he did. But he was standing on a piece of her costume. It ripped. And that brought down the house. It was like something in the movies, except it was not scripted or intended. It was just a most excellent end to a mediocre production of a Christmas tradition.

This has absolutely nothing to do with real estate other than the fact that if you live in Key West you can see great community theater and some wonderful road shows at The Tennessee Williams Theater all year long. CLICK HERE to see what's happening in Key West this season.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

After Thanksgiving - Open House Saturday - 4:00 to 6:00 PM

Preferred Properties CRI is hosting an Open House on Saturday between 4:00 P.M. and 6:00 P.M. Stop by 416 Elizabeth Street and 712 Southard Street and 1110 Curry Lane to view four beautiful Conch homes with great Old Town locations.

416 Elizabeth Street is a rather unassuming property consisting of two houses and one cottage with six en suite bedrooms and seven baths. Built circa 1873, the historic main house features a peerless restoration, with details such as polished hardwood floors, with the original windows and doors restored. A veranda overlooking the swimming pool and lush grounds is carefully built around an ancient Spanish lime tree. A galley kitchen includes stainless-steel counter tops and appliances and custom cabinets. This historic gem is a classic example of the casual, yet elegant, indoor and outdoor living lifestyle for which Key West is famous. Thomas McGuane, known for his "92 in the Shade" and "Panama", resided at 416 Elizabeth St. CLICK HERE for more photos and info on this elegant property.

712 Southard Street is a beautifully appointed shotgun style Conch Cottage on the best block in Key West. The house has two nice size bedrooms and bathrooms, a great new kitchen with cathedral ceiling that opens onto the glass tiled kidney shaped heated pool surrounded by tropical landscaping. And it is located only two blocks from world famous Duval Street. CLICK HERE for more info and photos of 712 Southard Street.

804 Elizabeth Street is a classic Eyebrow house with sawtooth additions has two driveways. It has been recently renovated with new kitchen, baths, ac/heating systems, and upgraded plumbing and electrical systems. The ceilings have been vaulted in the dining room and den and there is a new heated swimming pool. And there are two off street parking spots. CLICK HERE for more info and photos of this beautiful home.

1110 Curry Lane is located on one of Key West's hidden lanes between Fleming and Southard Streets and sandwiched between White and Frances Streets. The lane is only one block long and it has several ultra sweet homes like this one.

Please join me, Gary Thomas, at 712 Southard Street and my fellow Realtors at 416 Elizabeth Street to view both of these charming Key West homes just before the sun sets and the evening begins. You will get a chance to see how wonderful life can be in your own Key West Conch House, whether it is a cottage or a great house.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another Missed Boat in Key West

I don't want to be an "I told you so!" Wait a minute, that's exactly what I want to be.

Back on August 28th I notified my dear readers about one heck of a house at 1601 Patricia Street that had been previously listed for $1,195,000 whose owner dropped the price to only $695,000 and was offering the house as a short sale. I showed the house the same day to two different potential buyers both of whom loved the house and the price. But they could not decide that day. READ what I wrote then.

Good deals do not last long in Key West. The house went under contract a couple of days later. Something went astray and the property went back on the market On September 29th. I notified everyone again that this particular house was a genuine buying opportunity. That was two weeks after the Wall Street "bailout" was the "crisis" du jour. However, there was one smart shopper who anted up and made an offer that the seller accepted. The beautiful house at 1601 Patricia closed yesterday for $650,000 or $378 per sq ft for a super clean 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, livingroom, dining room, office, new kitchen, separate pantry, beautiful landscaped yard, pool, spa, storm shutters, and a real nice neighborhood near the beach. CLICK HERE to see what you missed.

I know just about everybody is really nervous about the economy right now. The talking heads on TV do their best to keep everybody worked up all the time. They have to feed the need to watch their channel for "BREAKING NEWS". Fix the damned news, I say. Stop scarring the crap out of everybody. The world is not going to end. We will get through this mess.

Remember three years ago after Hurricane Wilma when us Key Westers all shared in the misery of our fellow neighbors. It's all better now. The junk got hauled away. The green came back. The island is more beautiful than ever. The weather is still great. And the tourists come back every year to give us their money.

Right around the same time the talking heads on TV were scarring us about Avian Flu. Remember? Whatever happened to the dire forecast? Why aren't we all dead, or at least sick?

Don't miss the opportunity to buy while prices are very low and some people are selling their places at sacrifice prices. CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls to find your place in Paradise. Then, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or e-mail me at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1209 Olivia Street - The Meadows - Key West - Short Sale

Back on the market: 1209 Olivia Street located in The Meadows Area of Key West, Florida. The new and reduced asking price is now just $749,000 for this 1522 sq ft story and one-half 2 bedroom 2 bath home with a pool and off-street parking. There is even a small pool side cottage to boot. The lot is 3589 sq ft. The house sits on a block with some very nice (and expensive neighbors). The house across the street is on the market for $4,490,000. CLICK HERE, HERE, & HERE to see photos of the neighboring homes.

This is how the listing Realtor describes the house at 1209 Olivia now: "Desirable Meadows single family home totalling 2 bedrooms/ 2 bathrooms plus small pool house. Heated concrete pool, off-street parking, resurfaced wood floors, new bathrooms, central a/c, Chicago brick patio, new decking around pool & recently painted both inside and out. Enjoy covered outdoor dining, laundry room/ pantry off updated kitchen and an open floor plan. Strong monthly vacation rental history at $6300.00 per month. Property needs some TLC as house has been vacant for several months."

1209 Olivia is priced at $492 per sq ft. I can report that a nearby bank owned house sold in August 2008 for $576 per sq ft. It was a smaller house and was nowhere as near as nice as this house. So I think the pricing on 1209 Olivia ought to entice some bargain hunter. CLICK HERE to see more photos and written info from the listing Realtor on this house.

If you would like to see 1209 Olivia Street, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. The house is vacant so it is easy to see. But please see it with me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

518 William Street - Old Town - Key West -Short Sale

The house at 518 William Street is offered as a Short Sale at the asking price of $875,000 which amounts to about $515 per sq ft. The listing agent (not me) shows the square footage as 1700 s.f. The County Appraiser's Office shows the square footage as 1485. An actual survey or appraisal should provide a better statement as to the true size of the house. I mention this because errors in the size of a building can lead to errors in valuing it, even in a down market.

The house sits on a 2132 sq ft lot (20' frontage X 98' depth). The house has had several updates in the past few years and it appears to be in good condition, at least to my untrained eyes. The County property records show a new roof, new air conditioning, new floors in some rooms, and other improvements. There are two living rooms and two kitchens (that's odd!), two baths, three bedrooms plus a large sleeping loft. There is a great set of french doors that lead from the rear living room onto a deck. There is a spa and garden at the rear. There is no off street parking. And there is no room for a pool.

A Short Sale occurs where the seller tells prospective buyers that the seller may be willing to sell below the asking price of the house if the lender will accept less than payment in full of the mortgage held as security for the home and forgive any further indebtedness on the part of the borrower (seller).

I saw this property right after it went on the market. I have not been able to get anybody to go look at it. That's a shame. It is located on one of Key West's best blocks. The house across the street sold about 18 months ago for $3.5 million. The house across the street and down at the end of Pinder Lane is priced just under $4 million. Like many streets in Old Town there is a mix of condos, shotgun houses, and couple of great old Conch houses. I think the location would be great for a second home owner who does not need a car or a pool--just a place to relax and enjoy life. The home did not appear to need any repairs. If I am right on that, any extra money a buyer spends would be on fun stuff like Tommy Bahama Furniture or local art.

The listing agent is not located in Key West. But I can get interested folks inside to see the house at 518 William Street without too much advance notice. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

727 Waddell Street - Casa Marina - Key West

You can see the Atlantic Ocean from the third floor (5th bedroom) of the new house at 727 Waddell Street in Key West's Casa Marina area. It's only a partial view but that beats no view at all. The house is a one block walk to both public and private beaches in the area. The Casa Marina Hotel has a private beach club, tennis, and gym that you can join so your second home could almost seem like living at the resort itself.

727 Waddell Street is a newly constructed three story home with 2800 sq ft of living space that sits on a 5000 sq ft lot (50'x100'). There is a formal entry with an office/den/guest room and private bath adjacent to the right. The huge living room takes up the right rear half of the house and the kitchen on the left takes up the balance. The kitchen is very large, open, and bright and was built to accommodate more than two people at a time. You can tell that the architect designed the kitchen for some serious entertaining.

The master bedroom and en-suite bath take up the front half of the second floor. There is a second story front balcony where you can watch the world very slowly.
Two bedrooms share the rear half of that floor. Both have en-suite baths and separate doors opening onto a large second floor rear balcony that overlooks the pool and gardens.

Then there is "nosebleed", the third floor bedroom with en-suite bath and an adjacent ante-room. There is even a lighted storage area as well.

The heated pool is 16'x12' and it has a spa and waterfall. It is an auto clean pool. Mature plants and shrubs surround the pool, deck and patio. Other exterior features include Fencing, Irrigation System, Landscape Lighting, Outdoor Shower, Outdoor Kitchen, Patio, Storage, Water Display.

727 Waddell Street is priced at $1,925,000. That may sound like a lot of money. It is. The house was originally priced over $3 million. The builder has a house just like it available next door on the corner that is priced just a bit higher. I think the price is negotiable. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. CLICK HERE to see the information provided by the listing broker.

CLICK HERE to see 32 photos I just took of the property. The house is beautifully furnished and the furniture and furnishings can be purchased separately.

The nice thing about this area is that you are close to everything, but you are far enough away not to be on top of everything. You can ride your bike to just about any place in Old Town in about 5 to 6 minutes. You can drive to the airport to pick up friends at the Key West International Airport in about 5 to 7 minutes. I live about 4 blocks away, and I love the area.

If you would like to schedule a private showing of either 727 or 731 Waddell Street, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Help! I need a Bailout!

I was a political science major in college. I considered myself liberal. I was a champion of human rights before it was vogue. I never really bothered myself with economics because money has never been the focus of my life. But I guess you could say I am conservative when it comes to money because I appreciate how money is made.

I grew up in one of Denver's western suburbs--a place built right after the end of World War II. Everyone I knew was lily white and most were Protestants. As I grew older I came to realize that some of the kids I went to school with were "richer" than I was. I figured that out by the size of the houses they lived in and the large new cars that their parents drove.

My parents were almost kids themselves when my sister was born in 1930. I came along 17 years later. My dad had to get whatever work he could find during the Depression to support my mom, my sister and my big brother. Like so many people that endured the Depression, my family came out of it with a fear of ever having to live through anything like it again. So my roots are humble and I have a respect for people who work for a living and who know the value of saving and earning what you get in life.

As an attorney that worked in a couple of Denver banks managing problem loans, I learned that sometimes the rich people that live in big houses and drive big cars are not exactly the nicest people around. Sometimes those people lie and cheat and deceive other people (and bankers) into giving them money they do not deserve and cannot pay back. Oh, they will pay it back if things workout alright for them. But if things go bad, there is always an excuse or a defense.

Back in September when politicians and the media started beating the drums for a bailout of Wall Street, I raised my voice in opposition. I wrote my Congresswoman and my two Senators. A lot of good that did. Congress approved the $700 Billion bailout with no bona fide strings attached. Can you believe they got taken again?

So now DETROIT wants a bailout as well. The apologists are on TV talking up the end of the American way of life if the Detroit automakers have to file bankruptcy. I find myself siding with Republicans like Senator Dick Shelby on this one.

Mitt Romney was all over the morning TV programs today discussing his OP ED piece in today's New York Times. CLICK HERE to read. It's short and to the point. Read it.
I agree. With a Republican. My dad would disown me.

One of Romney's major points is that Detroit can use a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to get out of many of the costly and burdensome obligations that will continue indefinitely unless they are disgorged by bankruptcy. Romney and others are calling those costs "Legacy" costs. Those costs are primarily health care and retiree benefits. In government speak those costs are referred to an "entitlements" because the demand is always present and everlasting.

Romney also calls for the ouster of the geniuses that have been running Detroit that created the current mess. Again, I agree. In a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy the new companies could use the law to avoid all kinds of burdensome contracts (including the costly executive compensation packages) that have added thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs to autos produced in the United States.

Yesterday afternoon one of the guest commentators on MSNBC blamed Congress for the fact that American automobiles get less miles per gallon than most Japanese cars. Wait a minute, buddy. It was Detroit that lobbied Congress for the lower standards. I am old enough to remember that we went down this same road back in the late 1970s. Detroit was going to build cars that got better mileage. But they didn't.

Lately it has been the Bush White House that objected to the efforts of states like California to enact higher miles per gallon requirements that would limit pollution. The talking heads always seem to blame someone else for the problems that their industry created. This time its just the blame game on wheels.

If Congress gives Detroit a bailout the executives keep their lucrative executive pay and all the trimmings that go with it. That includes deferred compensation plans, bonuses, stock options, etc. Forget that the stock prices are low right now. The executives are probably buying as much of it as they can. Because if the bailout comes, the stock will go back up, and the executives will make out like bandits again.

This is how Romney ends his OP ED: "The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk."

"In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check."

Friday, November 14, 2008

2301 Linda Avenue -- Bank Owned -- Key West

You know the house by the photo to the right. It's that Big "A" Frame house at 2301 Linda Avenue -- just one block east of the Key West High School on Flagler. This 4 bedroom, 3 bath house has 2980 sq ft of living space and sits on a very large, if oddly shaped, lot of 11,930 sq ft. This huge property is BANK OWNED and PRICED TO SELL. The asking price is only $459,900 or $154 per sq ft. CLICK HERE for more info and more photos of 2301 Linda.

Forget about the architecture. Look at the price. This is one of the largest building lots in Key West. My suggestion: buy the property, tear down the existing structure, and redevelop the site. Better yet, buy the adjacent building lot at 2303Linda and redevelop both parcels at the same time. Buyer will need to verify that 2303 Linda either has existing building rights or that Buyer can acquire rights and transfer those rights to the property. 2303 Linda is a 7048 sq ft lot and it is priced at $349,000 or $50 per sq ft. CLICK HERE for more Info on 2303 Linda. The property at 2303 Linda is not bank owned.

The combined square foot on both parcels would be 18,978 square feet. That could make for an impressive development. CLICK HERE to view other building lots currently available for sale in Key West. Compare the price per square foot among other features to determine the best buy for you.

It is very easy to show both properties. Please call Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Meadows of Key West -- This is a Real Deal!

The sky may be falling. The stock market may be plunging. The real estate market may be unstable. But there will always be a Key West.

The Meadows of Key West is located in the 1500 blocks of Petronia and Pine Streets between Eisenhower Drive to the east and Pearl Street on the west. There are eight luxurious new single family residences woven seamlessly into the fabric of the historic neighborhood known by the same name. CLICK HERE to view MAP.

The homes have about 2,000 square feet of living space with stunning interiors by Pascal Delisse. There are two and three bedroom models to choose from. Each home features hardwood and travertine floors, a luxurious master suite; gourmet kitchens with granite counters and gas ranges. Each home has a private pool, spa, patio, main level and second floor front porches, and a covered carport. Scott Montgomery designed the indigenous landscapes. Each new home looks like it has been a part of the area for many a year because everything blends together with the other homes in the area.

CLICK HERE to view the information an photos of the house at 1509 Pine Street listed at $999,000--that is just $629 per sq ft for this 1629 sq ft, 3 bedroom 4 bath home. There are only four of the three bedroom homes available.

There are four two bedroom homes that sit on the corners of both blocks. Each two bedroom home has a turret which is a focal point in the grand kitchen on the first level and a cozy nook in the second floor master suite. There are vaulted ceilings, grand spaces, huge closets, elegant baths. The two bedroom homes are simply "OVER THE TOP!". The second bedroom is far removed from the master suite so the owner will have total privacy. The second bedroom is equal to the master suite in just about any other Key West residence. It is just that nice.

CLICK HERE to see more information and photos of the two bedroom home located at 1502 Petronia Street (corner of Pearl Street). This 1932 sq ft home is priced at $1,050,000 or $549 per sq ft.

These eight homes belong to a community association which is responsible for the maintains the common rear drive, fencing, exterior home maintenance, swimming pool, and all landscaping. The Meadows offers the best of all worlds: the privacy and spaciousness of a single family home within the managed structure of condominium ownership.

If you doubt my high regard on the price, location, and amenities offered, please do your own personal search of the Key West mls. CLICK HERE and set your search parameters between $950,000 to $1,075,000 and see what you come up with. The Meadows of Key West were originally priced between $1,695,00 t0 $1,999,000. The new lower asking price is a real deal.

CLICK HERE to view a series of exterior and interior photos of the properties.

If you would like to see these properties, please call me Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, and let me help you take a look at a real deal. This is a buyer's opportunity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Real Estate Market Lows, Real Estate Market Woes!

I was talking to a fellow Realtor yesterday about the current real estate market in Key West. I was asked my opinion of what is going to happen.
I don't have a clue. I see great properties that cannot find buyers. There are buyers. Don't get me wrong. They just don't want to buy now.
One of the commentators on CNN or MSNBC was recently discussing the huge drop in the stock market during the past weeks. He spoke about the stock market testing new lows in an attempt to find it's bottom.

That discussion caused me to look at the single family homes that sold during the period between October 2007 through October 2008. I included all single family home sales from Sunset Key just off shore from Old Town through Shark Key. These homes are all in the Key West Association of Realtors database of homes in Areas One, Two, and Three. I did not exclude any sale. So the material is raw. And it is uniform in the sense that it was not manipulated. Statistics can be used to show just about anything. I'm not trying to prove any particular point. You as the reader can draw your own conclusion as to what the data shows.

The "spike" in prices during June, July, and August occurred in months when we had a couple of very high priced per square foot sales in Old Town and Sunset Key. Had those sales not occurred, the monthly averages would have been reduced.

The drop in sales during September and October 2008 is pretty much a seasonal occurrence. Sales during the summer usually take about 45 to 60 days to close. So the early fall sales reflect the lack of earlier sales activity. The disturbing reduction in price per square foot sales during September and October 2008 from September and October 2007 is troublesome, however.

The graph at the top of this page is the result of my attempt to try to figure out what our market is doing. I am not a statistician. I do not claim the figures are anything more than I mentioned earlier. You can judge for yourself.

If you think prices have dropped enough for you to seriously consider buying a home in Key West, please CLICK HERE to search the official Key West MLS database in real time and without registering with anybody. If you find a property that you like, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or e-mail me at

Monday, November 10, 2008

Real Estate Auction - Key West

Attention Bargain Hunters! I know you are out there. I know there are buyers waiting for the absolute rock bottom prices. When bank owned properties do not sell after being on the market for several months, they are moved to the next level in an attempt to sell them. The next level is public auction.

There is going to be a huge public auction in Miami on Sunday, December 14, 2008 where the Key West houses shown here are available for purchase to the highest bidder. A company called REDC (REAL ESTATE DISPOSITION CORPORATION) is conducting the auction for various bank owners. CLICK HERE to see the RULES of the auction and the drop down menu of properties available across the state of Florida. The same company is conducting similar auctions in other areas of the United States in the immediate future. So spend some time on the internet to checkout other areas of Florida or elsewhere. Why anybody would consider buying a vacation house anyplace else boggles my mind, however.

The five Key West properties are listed below. I am not recommending anything. I am simply letting the buying public know about this opportunity.

3533 Flagler Avenue Key West. Nice two story single family home near the east end of Flagler. There is a newer kitchen, 3 bedrooms, and a pool.
Starting bid is $189,000.

630 Elizabeth Street Key West sits at the top of Solares Hill. This is an apartment building in need of TLC. There is a small outside area at the rear. Great location but it is going to need some work. Starting bid is $169,000.

1 Coral Way is a cute townhome located on sunny Stock Island. The starting bid on this two story unit is only $99,000. I have not seen the unit itself, but others have recently sold for a lot more than the current asking price on this unit.

3711 Duck Avenue is located in the New Town area of Key West. The starting bid on this single family home is only $69,000.

The final is a condo at 201 Coppitt Road (Unit C 204) on Big Coppitt Key. The opening bid is only $5000.

Two of the properties have been listed by a real estate firm out of Miami that has no physical presence in Key West. I personally think Realtors that list properties this way are hurting the seller and harming the local community as well. The bank owner does not get its property promoted and shown properly; the property stagnates and does not sell; the property is sold at a huge discount to its real market value; and that discounted price tends to drive down prices of other houses in the area.

Checkout the links and checkout the properties. All homes Open for inspection 11AM to 4PM on 11/22/08, 11/23/08 and 11/29/08.

Read the RULES at the website carefully. The RULES must be followed. Advance registration is required. This is not a solicitation for business on my part. I am not affiliated with the auction or any of the properties listed.

But if you are looking to buy a place in Key West, I would appreciate your phone call to me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or e-mail at

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Just Listed 723 Southard St - Old Town - Key West

Just Listed (but not by me!) 723 Southard Street - right in the Heart of Old Town Key West, Florida. This is how the listing Realtor describes this most charming cottage: "Totally renovated Old Town cottage located in the most desirable location atop Solares Hill. Absolutely stunning 2 bedroom, 2 bath home with a large family room with 3 walls of sliding glass doors opening onto the tropically landscaped yard, large deck and in-ground jacuzzi/dip pool. The gourmet kitchen has granite counter tops, Bosch stainless steel appliances, vaulted ceiling and a dining area with a wall of glass. Crown molding, designer lighting and beautiful heart of pine floors throughout make this one of the most appealing homes available."

723 Southard Street has 1100 sq ft of living space and sits on a 2228 sq ft lot(24'.75 X 90') midway between William and Elizabeth Streets. It sits in an eclectic block of similar conch cottages and larger conch houses. The location is a three minute walk to Duval and five minutes to the Historic Key West Seaport. If you run out of bread and milk, Faustos Food Palace is a five minute walk. Of course you could just walk to any of the dozens of cafes and restaurants within minutes. 723 Southard is offered at $899,000 or $817 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to see more photos and obtain detailed information on this cottage.

If you are looking for a place in Key West, now is a good time to buy. Prices are way down from their historic highs on all types of properties. I am a firm believer that any property that is listed for sale in today's market is listed because the owner wants or needs to sell it. I think all prices are negotiable. Please CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls database. If you see something you like please call me, Gary Thomas, or e-mail me at

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Like a Virgin -- 522 Grinnell St. Key West

I love old houses. I've spent years watching This Old House as the hosts and professionals restored neglected homes from another era. The end product was almost always very appealing and seemed to fit nicely into today's lifestyle.

One of the first houses I "almost" bought was the Croke Patterson Mansion at 428 East 11th Avenue in Denver. Like a lot of large older properties it was converted into apartments and deteriorated somewhat. Click HERE and HERE to see what I almost bought for $90,000 in 1974 or 1975. I was a young lawyer at the time and needed to borrow some of the down payment money from my mother. She didn't say "No" but instead said it was too much work for me to handle. Same thing. So I didn't buy it. Someone else bought it, fixed it up, and resold it a couple of years later for a little over $1,000,000.

A lot of the old houses in Key West got "bought up" in the 1970s and early 1980s. They got restored and the price of real estate in Key West exploded. Some of the very large houses were converted into apartments and others in guest houses (bed and breakfasts). And a few of the big houses just sat there, neglected. They sat for decades and nobody did anything to them. The exteriors did not painted or the gutters repaired. The facades were untouched. The interiors were un-fooled around with.

It invariably happens when I am driving clients around Old Town they spot one of the virgin houses and ask "How much does that cost?" thinking it must be cheap since it looks so run down. Nothing in Key West is cheap. So properties are just priced more affordably than others. And most of the old virgins are not priced affordably. But that may not make them expensive.

The new listing at 522 Grinnell Street belonged to the same family since it was built in the late 1800s. It was purchased from the original owners a couple of years ago. The house now sits vacant and awaits new owners. Potential buyers can look around this great hulk of a house without feeling like you are intruding. (The previous owner insisted that only she could show the house. She always re-told her family's history room by room. I actually enjoyed her showing the house because buyers got a real appreciation for the property.)

As I recall the story the former owner told this house, like so many of the grand old homes in Key West, was built by ship chandlers. That means the house was built to withstand strong winds and the elements. I would not call this house "grand", but I do think it has a very simple beauty that could just shine after a careful restoration. The house is big (2754 sq ft) and sits on a 55' x 100'lot.

There are bay windows on both the south and north sides. There is a large inviting formal entry. The living room and dining room are formal by design. The other rooms are just basically large rooms with tall ceilings. There is a wrap-around front porch on both the main and second floors. You can see so much of the Key West skyline from the second floor.

The rear yard has a small building that might allow you to "renovate" and turn it into a pool house. Yes, there is room for a good sized pool as well. I'd ask for permission to tear off the existing kitchen addition at the back and reconfigure the main rooms downstairs into spaces that meet our current lifestyle. That would mean creating indoor-outdoor living space. Perhaps you could add a first and second floor rear porches overlooking the pool and garden. Certainly you would want to redo the second floor and have the master suite at the rear to take advantage of the pool views. The nice thing is that this house is so large and so sound that you could dream up all kinds of creative ways to renovate it in style and yet retain that simple architecture that we can see under the peeling paint.

Cornish Lane (it's so small there isn't even room for a car) flanks the south side of the property. There are four cottages on Cornish Lane and a good sized house next door to the north. There are a couple of beautiful restorations on the opposite side of the street. And Five Brothers Grocery is on the corner at Southard Street. The Historic Key West Seaport is a three minute walk to the north and Duval is a five minute walk to the west.

CLICK HERE to see more photos and more details on the grand old virgin at 522 Grinnell Street in Old Town Key West. They don't make virgins like her any more.

If you are in the market for a virgin, or maybe a place that's been abused and needs some TLC, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at

Monday, November 3, 2008

Believe in Change

That freckle faced 17 year old kid on the right side of the photo is me way back in 1964. The guy next to me is now an attorney in Denver, and the girl on the end was my first love interest. We were at the old Stapleton Airport in Denver at a rally for President Lyndon Johnson.

I was president of the Jeffco Teen Dems (Denver's western suburbs). We had a crew of about 120 teenagers that had been inspired by JFK who wanted to see his legacy continue under the new President. (That was before Johnson took us to the dark side in Viet Nam.) We were true believers in all that is good. We helped as best we could to see that LBJ won Colorado in 1964 election. He won that race by a landslide. Big time.

My view is that Johnson's landslide victory was a ratification by the American people to extend the promise of President Kennedy. The Republican candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater, was portrayed as a demon and a war monger. Looking back more than 40 years later I don't know if anybody could have beat LBJ.

Ronald Reagan pulled off a similar landslide in 1980 when he decimated sitting President Jimmy Carter. Reagan's entrance into the White House was the beginning of a shift to the right in public policy. There was to be less government than envisioned by JFK & LBJ. Twenty-eight years have passed. Our world has been shaken by the events of September 11th, our involvement in a war without end in Iraq, the pernicious partisanship on both side of the aisle in Congress that keeps the peoples business from getting done, and the near collapse many segments of our economy. Everywhere people want change. It's not even about who is to blame. It is just to change the way things are done.

After his election as President, LBJ got a lot of programs through Congress that President Kennedy had been unable to do including the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in public facilities (restaurants and hotels), in government, and in employment, and it invalidated the Jim Crow laws in the southern U.S. It became illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring. It also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Prior to its passage I remember getting into screaming matches with white adult men who were opposed to this legislation. They are all old men now, if they are still living. I wonder if they are afraid of having a black man as President. They were afraid of having a black man having civil rights back then.

I remember the collective sense of loss all Americans felt after September 11th. It was the worst day in my life, and I wasn't even there. I was in Key West. I knew things would never be the same again.

I recall that later that day Republicans and Democrats stood in front of the US Capitol as the Speaker of the House said "Senators and House members, Democrats and Republicans will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight this evil that has perpetrated on this nation. We will stand together to make sure that those who have brought forth this evil deed will pay the price." And they did. For a while.

I remember watching President Bush climb atop a pile of rubble at the site of the World Trade Center on September the 14th. He spoke with determination into the megaphone and said "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" No matter how much many of us disliked him or his policies or how he became President, he was our President. We stood behind him. We were one.

Seven years later the list of woes is endless: the two wars, the housing market collapse, the bailout, the recession or whatever you want to call what "it" is that we are living through, the loss of American jobs, the high cost of gas and its impact on everything we consume or use, the mounting national debt and the impending social security surge, the lack of affordable health care, the decline of American education, the loss of America's prestige in the world, the illegal aliens, and so on.

The polls and pundits are predicting a landslide for both Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate in tomorrow's election. I do not know a single person who wants our current way of living to continue. Everybody wants change. If the American public gives the new President a chance and stands behind him, like we did with President Bush after 911, maybe we will see the change we all want.


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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.