Search This Blog

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Two-Fers on Peacon Lane - Old Town - Key West

There are two great houses on one of the best little lanes in Old Town Key West, Peacon Lane. Peacon Lane is only one block long and is situated between Elizabeth Street to the west and William to the east. It is a one way lane entered from Eaton Street and exits onto Caroline Street. The exit point delivers you right at the doorstep of the Historic Key West Seaport. Peacon Lane is a mix of a few large houses like the ones mentioned here today and several smaller cottages. Most of the houses have been gentrified but there are a couple of Conch and left-over hippie places as well. CLICK HERE to see one of my favorite Old Town houses that is located next to 315 Peacon Lane. And CLICK HERE to see the cottage on the otherside of 315 Peacon Lane. That's what makes lanes like this one so appealing. Diversity.

315 Peacon Lane is described by the listing Realtor this way:

"This Is A Must See To Believe! Beautifully Renovated Conch Home On Prestigious Peacon Lane. Open Floor Plan With Dade County Pine Walls And Floors Make Entertaining A Breeze. Large Designer Kitchen Featuring Granite Countertops, Stainless Sub-Zero Appliances, Wet Bar And Doors That Open To a Tropically Enclosed Garden Is To Die For! Three Bedrooms And Three Baths Including Master Suite With Large Walk-Out Balcony. Located On A Quiet, Quaint, One-Way Lane Yet Steps Away For The Waterfront, Shops, Restaurants, Duval Street. This is a potential short sale situation."
CLICK HERE to see some great photos of the house and more detailed information. This property is offered at the current asking price of $2,150,000 or $792 per sq ft. This property has been on the market for 579 days (366 plus 213).

Right across the street you will find 316 Peacon Lane that was listed just last week. It is offered at $1,600,000 or $789 per sq ft. The listing Realtor describes 316 Peacone Lane thus:
"Beautiful historic 2 story home completely renovated including a new 2 story addition. Detailed craftsmanship is evident throughout this home with hand sanded Dade Co. pine walls, pine floors, crown molding and intricate tile work. The entrance foyer leads to a showplace kitchen and great room with two sets of French doors to the backyard with pool. Also on the first floor is a large guest bedroom with ensuite bath and a powder room. The second floor has a generous sized guest bedroom with ensuite bath and a large master suite with beamed cathedral ceiling, French doors to a small balcony, and master bath with double sinks, tub and separate shower. Best location - walk to the historic seaport, Duval St, restaurants and shops."
CLICK HERE for more detailed information and photos of this great property. 316 Peacon Lane is not a short sale!

One of the things I really like about Old Town lanes is that most require that a person actually intends to go there. If you are zipping down Eaton Street in your car or scooter you will surely miss the only entrance unless you are looking for it. It comes and goes that quickly. The entrance is opposite the former Calvin Klein House on Eaton Street. Most people are so busy looking at that place that they miss Peacon Lane. I found THIS PHOTO of a friend, David Kaufelt, leading an expedition participants during the Key West Literary Seminar to explore Key West landmarks like the Calvin Klein House.

If you are looking for a large home in the Old Town area with character and location, please call me, Gary Thomas, at 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at to schedule a showing.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

708 Passover Lane - Old Town Key West - Short Sale

The neighbors across the street are very quiet. And you can rest assured the view from the front door of 708 Passover Lane will never change. Never Ever!

708 Passover Lane is located just across from the Key West Cemetery at one of the highest points in Old Town Key West. The house sits to the rear of an odd shaped lot of 3364 sq ft. There is off street parking and a landscaped front yard with obscured views of the cemetery. The house itself is an arts and crafts style structure that was built (county records) in 1938. It had a new roof in 2000. County building permits suggest most of the interior renovations and the pool and rear deck were done in 1992.

If you are one of those buyers who feels compelled to have a designer kitchen complete with granite, marble and stainless steel, this old house could be a candidate for a new re-do that will not break the bank. It simply isn't all that big a place. And it is perfectly livable as is. The present owner paid $840,000 for this house in 2005. But now the property is a short sale and is offered at the asking price of $525,000 or $746 per sq ft.

On the other hand, some strategic fairy dust and paint could go a long way to make this charmer "pop". CLICK HERE and look at the photo of the off street parking. Imagine how cute the same space could be if the fence surrounded the area and was painted bright white. Get rid of the pea rock and brick the driveway.Ditch the trash cans while you are at it. Yuck! Imagine your little Key West car sitting in the driveway. There is a nasty old stub of a long gone tree that needs to be removed. Reinstall the picket fence around the permiter of the entire property and paint it white. Voila. You also may want to remove the screen that encases the front porch. It is not necessary and hides the beauty of this charming cottage. A house a couple doors to the north (CLICK HERE)looks somewhat similar. So it may give you an idea of what I think 708 Passover might look like sans screened porch.

There are only eight houses on the block. CLICK HERE, and CLICK HERE. CLICK HERE to see the scary cemetery. You don't need to worry about the neighbors across the street making a ruckus and keeping you awake all night. You don't need to worry about their friends taking up all the parking spots on the street. Same for the other houses on Passover Lane. The properties are single family and there isn't a guesthouse, bar, restaurant or gallery within a couple of blocks.

This is how the listing realtor describes 708 Passover Lane: "Sequestered cottage in the heart of Old Town with brick patio, fencing, offstreet parking, high ceilings, wood floors and walls. Tented by Hammerhead 2/11/09." CLICK HERE to read more info from the listing Realtor and to see more photos.

Everything in Key West seems to be negotiable these days. Half of my readers won't consider this house because of the location. So that means less competition from potential buyers that do not mind tombs with a view as neighbors. I think a smart buyer will act on this.

Please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at to arrange to see 708 Passover Lane. By the way, I recently sold the house next door at 8 Passover Lane. My buyers absolutely love it and the neighborhood.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fore! - Thought - Key West Golf Club

Forethought: "n. A thinking or planning beforehand; prescience; premeditation; forecast; provident care."

If you keep track of sales activity in Key West you may have noticed a flurry of activity in the past few weeks at the Key West Golf Club community. During the past couple of years there have been numerous foreclosures and related short sales that have driven down the asking and selling prices at the Key West Golf Club. I'm not reporting anything new. But the flurry of recent buying may be a signal we are at or near the bottom of the market, at least at the Golf Course.

CLICK HERE to view townhome sales at the Key West Golf Course over the past year. There was only one single family home sale (CLICK HERE) during the same time period. It sold for $735,500 in June 2008.

I also generated a report CLICK HERE of active listings for townhomes at the Golf Course. CLICK HERE to see a separate list for single family homes at the Golf Course. Try a Google Map search of the street address to get a better feel what the surrounding area looks like. Just like everywhere else on this planet, location means a lot. And in this instance, some "lots" are more valuable because of their location than others. Also, checkout the individual listings for photos of the interior and exterior. Asking price is not always a predictor of a good location or quality finishes of a townhome or single family home. Some townhomes and some single family homes have private pools. So you really need to view each listing separately.

My suggestion: use some forethought and consider buying a townhome or single family home at the Key West Golf Course community. Prices are low but demand may be rising. Get a good deal before the good deals are all gone.

If you see a property you like, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at Let me help you find your place in Paradise. If you haven't been to the Golf Course in awhile, the view at the end of Golf Club Drive just as you enter The Sanctuary is absolutely beautiful. (I took the above photo last Friday.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Her Dog Ate Her Homework & She Didn't Get the Memo!

One of the agents in my office has been working like a dog to sell a so-so property in a so-so location in Key West. The property is a short sale. The buyer and seller agreed to the price and my fellow agent has been shepherding the short sale through the Bank of America short sale service center.

A couple of days ago he received this e-missile from BofA:
I got the notes from customer service that you will not reduce the commission to 4%. I'm sorry but per our revised matrix this loan falls under the 4% commission. I am unable to give you anything more then that. We do not offer 6% commissions, the most we give out is 5% but this loan does not fall into that category. I'm very sorry, but please revise the HUD and send it in. If I don't receive it within 72 hours the correct way the file will be closed out for non compliance."

The average mls offer of compensation is 3% of the sales price to a buyer's agent. Sometimes the split is higher and sometimes it is lower. For the past few years many lenders have refused to pay the real estate commission offered in the mls offer of compensation and instead refused to approve short sales unless the commission was reduced to an amount lender was willing to pay.

The National Association of Realtors complained and in March 2009 Fannie Mae issued this directive to loan servicers (the companies that process loan payments and make decisions on the approval or disapproval of short sales):

Servicing Guide, Part VII, Section 504.02: Contacting Selected Borrowers
Effective March 1, 2009, closing of preforeclosure sales may not be conditioned upon a reduction of the total commission to be paid to real estate agents to a level below what was negotiated by the listing agent with the borrower, unless the fee exceeds 6 percent of the sales price of the property in aggregate. Servicers are reminded that they must continue to obtain any approvals that may be required by interested third parties in connection with preforeclosure sales.

Maybe the lady at BofA didn't get the memo that it is not okay to screw Realtors and threaten not to approve a short sale unless the Realtor take a cut of his commission so that BofA can repay the bank bailout money (and pay bonuses and retention payments to worthy employees). Or maybe BofA is so big that it doesn't have to obey any little policy.

I worked my rear end off last summer on a very difficult deal. Countrywide (now part of BofA) was the lender and it approved the short sale but only permitted a commission of $50,000 even though the earned commission was much higher. I've had similar situations with other lenders that demand Realtors share in the misery of a short sale by reducing their commission. The Fannie policy was supposed to address those wrongful practices and stop them.

I don't have a dog in the fight over my fellow agent's battle with BofA over the commission he earned but will not receive. But I know there are plenty of other agents that are experiencing the same treatment from BofA and other lenders every day. Some real smart trial lawyer is going to come along and create a class action lawsuit against the lenders and servicers that are violating the rules. I welcome that. In fact I have a lawyer I showed property to a few weeks ago that filed a very famous class action lawsuit. Are you reading this, Tom?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Key West Bank Dick - Part Two

I've complained before that the Key West Association of Realtors mls database does not automatically show bank owned properties. Some Realtors believe that lender-owners do not want to disclose to the public that a bank owns a piece of property. I guess that is possible, but having worked in the Special Assets division of two banks, I know that we advertised we were selling bank foreclosures. There is a segment of the market that wants to buy bank foreclosures: they think they are going to get a deal. They have watched those late night infomercials on how to buy real estate in a down market.

I decided to do my best imitation of W.C. Fields as The Bank Dick and went through the mls database and found the properties CLICK HERE that are bank owned. These properties are primarily single family homes in Key West. A couple of the properties are very nice. So there may be a real bargain if you play your cards right. I suggest that you look at 3 Casa Roma Lane and 1710 Bahama Drive, both are water properties and are located in Key West.
If you are interested in MidTown CLICK HERE to see 1300 Ashby. It is a large house with 3 beds, 2 baths, on a large lot at only $309,000.

If you are looking for commercial property, CLICK HERE. There is a Duval Street Transient Licensed property ($4,300,000), a Stock Island multi-unit property (2,300,000), and a Key Largo commercial property ($3,300,000) that are each Bank Owned. Bank financing of these properties may be available.

Most of the bank owners periodically reduce the asking price on properties that do not sell. Some of these properties are getting stale. They have been on the market a long time and nobody wants them. A couple actually look pretty interesting. Checkout the list and if you see a property that you like, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at Let me be your Bank Dick and let's find a deal.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Half-Price in Key West

I've noticed several "For Sale By Owner" signs in the area near the gym I go to. One caught my eye the other day and I decided to share two photos with you. See above.

My purpose is not to try to find a buyer for this property or to dissuade anyone from looking at it. I will tell you this much: the asking price on this 1254 sq ft house that sits on a large 7830 sq ft lot (90' x 87') is now $750,000 or one half the original price of $1,500,000.

I just did a quick search of other houses listed for sale in the Old Town, the Meadows, and the Casa Marina areas that are priced up to $750,000. CLICK HERE to view the list. (I did some "heavy" editing. There were 82 houses in this price range.)

You will note that there are two houses on the list (529 Olivia and 726 Fleming) that have valuable transient rental licenses. I wrote earlier at 715 Ashe Street. I think it could be a great house for somebody who wants a small project house. 407 Catherine is adorable and the owner is looking to sell it. 706 Chapman Lane is as cute as a button and has room for a pool. 1016 James Street is an eyebrow house that needs total renovation, but it has an existing out building and a large backyard which means this could be a great project house if you get it for a good price. 618 Petronia Street has a huge rear yard which opens the property to potential development possibilities. 723 Southard Street is a real sleeping beauty. 825 Southard Street is a great big old place that needs total redo, but it has strong bones and great curb appeal.

1009 Watson Rear sits behind other houses located on Watson Street. You cannot see the property. So it is really hidden. Livable as is, but it is not a protected house so it can be demolished and a new house built on this incredible lot. Easy to show and worth looking at. The house next door at 1007 Watson is a short sale. I think we should look at both houses at the same time. Bring your imagination.

719 Windsor Lane is the former home of writer John Hersey and is located in the Writer's Compound. I wrote about this house last year. CLICK HERE. I've shown the property several times, mostly to writers want to soak in the atmosphere that populates this compound. The owner sold the small cottage I mentioned in my earlier blog. So it is now time to sell the main house.

If any of these properties appeals to you, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. I don't think a property has be offered at half price to be considered a good deal.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The One that Got Away!

While searching for pics to help convey the sense of loss we feel when we realize we missed a great opportunity, I cam across a sad blog posting from a would-be buyer in The Hudson Valley. She said in part "THIS is the one that got away. This is the heartbreaker, the one I can’t stop thinking about, measuring all others against. “Another house will come along,” said the same person who told me there wasn’t anything on the North Fork of Long Island for under 300K. Well, there was, and it was a beaut, but I didn’t get there fast enough." CLICK HERE to read her lament in full.

I had a reader call me on Saturday. She wanted to see a house I mentioned here a while back. I called to set up a showing. It had gone under contract the prior afternoon and was not yet in the mls. Noteworthy? No. But more and more houses in the most desirable Key West locations are going under contract.

When I thought of the title "The One that Got Away!" I was thinking about houses, of course. I've had my share of properties I missed and regret some of them to this day. But don't fishermen lament the "big one" that got away? Don't lovers rue the one that got away? Don't athletes and fans alike cringe at the win that was lost by a fleet second? The ones that got away can haunt us all forever because we know that if we had only acted differently, the outcome (and maybe the rest of our lives) would be different and possibly better.

I did a quick search of the real Key West Association of Realtors mls database and found these properties CLICK HERE that went under contract since April 1, 2009. I know there are a lot of very savvy buyers that keep real good track of the status of our real estate inventory. They know how old and stale some listings have become. They know when a new property hits the mls sometimes more often than some Realtors. And they should appreciate the fact that the inventory of available properties is dwindling.

Here's my take on a couple of the houses in the list CLICK HERE: 711 Elizabeth was on the market forever and priced to high. New Realtor, new photos,new price, and it went under contract immediately. 1229 Florida offered forever until bank foreclosed; then new Realtor, new price and under contract over-night. 531 Olivia has been for sale "forever" and as luck would have it I had a buyer who wanted it the day after it went under contract. 1 Pinder Lane on the other hand was barely on the market for a day before it went under contract. The same is true for 1020 Southard, the Gingerbread man House (offered at $1,975,000). Under contract in one day. 929 United Street is one heck of an asking price at only $1,295,000. Somebody is getting one of the biggest deals of this market downturn. 1020 Von Phister is another sweet deal for an excellent house in an excellent location. I wrote earlier about 1209 White Street, a bank owned house for only $329,000. That house had already been partially redone and it had a huge side and rear yard awaiting a pool and garden. Another missed opportunity. And then there is the cute property at 811 Fleming where you could operate a little business and live up above like in the olden days. The house had room for a pool to boot. 1021 Johnson Street is another house that was listed and went under contract within a couple of days, asking price $1,995,000. That house was a bank foreclosure last year. Search my blog for it. Bought, fixed up, and put back on the market. And under contract right away. I told you folks it was a good deal last year. The big house on Noah Lane ($2,750,000) went under contract as well. So did the cute little cottage at 1018 Thompson Lane, also in my blog.

If you don't want to miss the opportunity to buy your place in Paradise before the number of available properties shrinks even more and prices start to rise (and they will), CLICK HERE to search the real Key West Association of Realtors mls database. No one will track your internet activity and no one will send you unsolicited emails. But if you see something you like, please consider contacting me, Gary Thomas, to assist you in buying a place in Paradise. You can find me at 305.766.2642 or email at

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Casa Marina - Short Sale - Do It Your Own Way

We are getting to a difficult point in real estate pricing in Key West. Many of the bargain properties are gone (not all). Many of the properties that remain are either located in bad locations (you decide what that means) or the properties seem over-price (we all know what that means).

I am fortunate enough to have some active buyers that want nice houses priced just under one million. They want a good neighborhood, good neighbors, and a very nice house. You would think for a million bucks that would be easy. It isn't. Not in Key West. That's not to say we can't make it happen, but there are not a lot of properties priced to sell at that magic number.

In the 1980's and 1990's industrious buyers sometimes bought neglected properties and renovated them to get exactly the kind of Key West treasure they wanted. As Key West became more popular and the price of real property increased, the cost of doing renovations became almost cost prohibitive.

There are individual properties in Old Town and Casa Marina that I think a serious buyer should consider as an option to buying a house already completely "done". I have said before on numerous occasions that people with nice houses who do not need to sell do not have their properties on the market. Those houses have not lost any value despite what is going on with their neighbors. They may have even benefited from real property tax adjustments downward. But the intrinsic value of their homes(short term and long term) has not diminished.

1316 Whalton Street is located between Seminary Street and South Street just one block west of White Street. I mention the location because many locals don't even know where Whalton is located. Think of it as Frances Street on the other side of Truman because that is what it is. CLICK HERE to read more info provided by the listing Realtor who describes the property this was: "Development opportunity in the Casa Marina district of Key West! Priced for only $520,000, this sale offers the rare opportunity to purchase 2 legal addresses that can be combined or redeveloped into separate properties. Complete working drawings are available for 2 luxurious 4 BR & 3 BA, 2200 sq. ft. custom homes. As an added bonus, according to public records, the lots are situated high atop an X500 zone presenting a preferred elevation. The existing property consists of a 2 BR & 1 BA cottage, a pool, garage & 1 BR & 1 BA apartment. This sale requires 3rd party approval by seller's lender, & all offers must be accompanied by a buyer's lender prequalification letter for financing or statement of assets for a cash purchase." This property is offered as a short sale at $520,000.

Here are some photos I took of the property. CLICK each photo: Livingroom, rear bedroom,two story rear house viewed from sideyard, pool, pool and two story rear house, neighbor to the south, neighbor to the rear on Grinnell Street. These houses can be demolished and one or two new houses built at this location. The property has been divided into two parcels, but the offering is for both properties as a single short sale purchase.

Just one block to the west is another short sale that is raring to be purchased. It is a development lot at 904 South Street in the Casa Marina area. The listing Realtor describes the property this way: "This is a fantastic build able lot with a Rogo in the heart of the Casa Marnia.HARC Approved plans for 2550 sq ft home including a pool and off street parking are available and will need recertification. This is a potential short sale." This lot is 5187 sq ft according to the information provided by listing Realtor. This short sale is listed at $350,000. It will not last long at this price. Better act quickly. CLICK HERE for more detailed listing information. Here are some additional photos, CLICK lot, lot, adjacent house to the east, and the house across the street.

If you are interested in a project property, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or email me at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties in Key West Florida. Our office is an affiliate of Christies Great Estates.

Monday, May 11, 2009

1119 Von Phister Sreet - Key West - Bank Owned

This foreclosure stuff is starting to get personal. Eight months ago a fellow Realtor got to help select my new neighbor by placing the house at 1119 Von Phister Street in the Casa Marina Area of Key West on the market. It is owned by a local Key West bank. You see I live right next door. The neighborhood is very nice and very quiet. There are no apartments or businesses nearby. Here are some photos of neighboring homes: CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK.

Let me tell you about 1119 Von Phister Street and why I think it is a great buy. And let me tell you about the neighborhood and why you might just want to live there.

The original house is constructed of Indian Blocks, a building material used in maybe 30 of the older homes in Key West. The man who owned the house before the last owner added room after room during a time when there either was no building code or there was no enforcement of building codes. The lot is huge and the house and the structures on the lot were many and very strange. That man passed away and when the most recent owners bought the house the additions and contraptions were removed. What was left was the core of the original house and a huge lot. Other than the exterior walls in the front, everything is new.

The renovation of the former house and the construction of the new additions was done with an unique style and a devotion to detail. Room after room feature unique woods, tiles, and decorative treatments. You will not find this home constructed with materials available at Home Depot or Lowes.

This is how the listing Realtor describes this house: "Exquisite residence in the Casa Marina neighborhood. This custom home is owned by a LOCAL bank. The original structure with Indian Block facade dates to 1943 and was recently remodeled/expanded. Many custom features make this 3 bedroom home unique. Custom kitchen flows into great room, covered porch, back deck and pool. First floor has great room, kitchen, living room, study (or bedroom), one bedroom, one full bath room, pantry, laundry room, computer nook, two half baths, covered front porch, covered back porch & covered car port. Second level has master bedroom, master bath, dressing room, 2nd bedroom, 2nd bath, office, covered porches front & back plus back balcony."

Click each word or phrase to see parts of this home: Greatroom -- Great room and dining alcove -- Kitchen -- Pool and rear deck -- Pool and spa -- View from second floor front balcony
-- Bath second floor front -- Master bedroom and sitting room -- View from master bedroom -- Master bedroom balcony -- Master bathroom -- First floor front bedroom -- First floor bath.

There is a huge old Mahogany tree at the front of 1119 Von Phister. I have one in front of my house and there are several others on our block. Many of the houses are quite old but renovated. The block looks stable, as in real people who take care of their homes live here. The house is a five minute walk or take a bike ride to the Atlantic Ocean and the beach. This is the real deal my friend. And the good thing is you won't have any sand in your feet by the time you walk back home. Of course you can ride your bike or drive your car or scooter.

You can also walk or bike over to Duval Street(5 minutes); or go down to the shops on White Street like Faustos or go to the Island Gym and watch me lift weights in the early morning (2 minutes): or you can grab a cafe con leche at any of the several neighborhood joints. You can be at the Historic Key West Seaport as fast on your bike as in your car (if you consider parking in your travel time) (5 minutes). And you can be in the Key West suburbs at the shopping centers or leave on a jet plane (we got 'em) at the Key West International Airport, all within a 5 minute drive from 1119 Von Phister. We don't have Conch Trains and motorcycles going through the area. We don't have noisy bars and noisy tourists walking home at four o'clock in the morning singing songs or arguing about how much they love or hate each other. We are so close to everything we all love about Key West, and yet so far away from the things we don't like.

There was a contract that unfortunately did not close. This property recently went back on the market as an "active" listing. The property is still offered at $1,895,000 or $616 per sq ft for this 3078 sq ft house under roof on a huge 5761 sq ft lot.

If you want to test me out as a potential neighbor and take a look at 1119 Von Phister, please call me, Gary Thomas, at 305-766-2642. CLICK HERE for more detailed information and photos of 1119 Von Phister Street.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Verry Interesting!

If you are old enough to remember Rowan & Martin's "Laugh In", you'll surely remember Arte Johnson's German Soldier character as he peered through bushes and chortled "Verry interesting!". I don't know that I am chortling, but I do think I just found some very interesting sales statistics for Key West real estate. Earlier this month I recapped the April 2009 sales figures. We have had a fairly remarkable sales week just in my office. And that got me to wondering what else is going on. This is what I found:

There are seven single family homes sales "pending" in Key West. A pending sale means that all conditions of the contract of sale have been met and that the parties are just waiting to close. Two of the seven pending contracts are for "bank owned" homes. Three of the seven pending contracts are for properties priced above $1,180,000. There are nine condo, town home, duplex, and multi-family homes under contract. Two of those are short sales and three are "bank owned" properties. We should see most of the pending contracts result in actual closings sometime in the next 30 to 45 days.

This next part is "verry interesting": there are 88 single family homes listed as contingent in our local mls database. Contingent means that some condition in the contract (such as financing, home inspection, or other condition precedent) has yet to occur. When all conditions have been cleared, the contract is then re-classified as pending. If the condition cannot be satisfied (buyer cannot obtain financing, for example), the contract may fail. Fifty-six (or 63%)of the 88 single family home contracts are designated as "short sales" and 8 (or 9%) of the contacts are for "bank owned" properties. And those numbers only reflect what the listing Realtors have committed to writing regarding the contracts. I have spoken with other Realtors that have told me properties shown as contingent are also short sales but are not designated that way in the mls database. The importance of this is that something in excess of 75% of the single family homes sales in Key West that are effectively designated as distress sales.

The news on condos, town homes, duplexes and multi-family is about the same. There are 100 such properties designated as contingent. Fifty-six of those (56%) are short sales and 8 (8%) are bank owned properties. Not all short sales actually close, but the lenders are speeding up the approval process. More importantly, the number of short sale and bank owned contracts is whittling away at the perceived "over supply" of property. When all the excess (most of which are low-end)properties are sold, the Key West real estate market may be headed back to a sense of equilibrium. I mentioned the three pending single family home sales above $1,180,000. That's because we haven't had many such sales. The market has been depressed and buyers have not been buying. They have been sitting on the sidelines. Waiting. Waiting for the prices to fall more and more. And they have. Fallen.

There are 425 active single family homes listed for sale in Key West (from Mile Marker One at Mallory Square to Shark Key). None of these houses are officially designated as "short sales". Two Hundred-two or 47.5% of the active listings are located in Old Town, The Meadows, Casa Marina, and Sunset Key. There are an additional 12 single family homes in the same areas that are designated as "short sales" in the mls database. They range in price between $299,000 to $1,998,000 with a price per square foot variance between $304 to $572.

There are 147 condos, townhomes, duplexes, and multi-family properties in the Key West area actively listed for sale plus and additional 28 officially designated "short sale". (Some Realtors do not designate their listings correctly, so I am reporting what they input into the database even though their listings may be in error.)

I sense that we may be nearing the end of the down market. We still have to sell off all the excess inventory of unsold houses and condos. But for buyers looking to purchase a dream home in Key West, there just are not a lot of dreamy houses available. People that do not need to sell are pretty much not listing their properties. Buyers are resisting the prices of nice houses and are waiting for prices to fall. By the end of August or early September we will see who wins the waiting game. Hurricane season is approaching. It will be interesting to see how many buyers will be heading this way to snap up a house this summer. Verry interesting.

If you have been waiting for the bottom of the market, maybe you will agree with me that we may be near the bottom. CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors mls database. If you see a property that you like, please consider working with me to help you find your place in Paradise. Please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or e-mail me at

Friday, May 8, 2009

604 Elizabeth Street - Old Town - Key West

This is how the listing Realtor (who is also the owner) describes 604 Elizabeth Street: "Perhaps the perfect house in the perfect location, the 600 block of Elizabeth Street, 3BR/2.5 BA, very near Solares Hill. Recent renovations with easy island living in mind, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, dense foliage,heart shaped cocktail pool for those romantic Key West evenings, off street parking, open living/dining area, and much, much more. Must be seen to be appreciated Recent appraisal available for review!!" CLICK HERE for more info and photos of this house.

Let me add a few comments. The location is great. The house is located two blocks from Duval and just steps from Southard Street. So it's a quick walk to the shopping, restaurants, and nightlife but not near enough to hear it. The neighboring houses are a mix of super expensive to moderate, but nothing cheap. The house directly behind 604 Elizabeth Street (620 Southard Street) is on the market for a mere $14,400,000. Not a typo.

You enter the property through a white picket fence into a brick courtyard complete with a bubbling fountain and gated off street parking. There is a two story front porch for people viewing and navel contemplation. (The yard isn't all that large so you will have time to contemplate something.)

The main level is shared by the kitchen and living area. There are three sets of French doors that open onto the pool at the rear. The present owner replaced just about everything in this house which was originally constructed in 1997. (Not a typo.) All the materials are high end and the quality of the materials and installation of materials shows.

The owner removed one interior wall at the top of the stairs to create an open office area (wall could be replaced to restore use as bedroom) with access to the second floor front porch. There are three or four transoms between the office area and the master bedroom at the rear that create a clever source of additional (but subdued) light in the master bedroom. The master bedroom has a little Romeo & Juliet balcony where you can peer down to the pool. The master bath and closet were totally revamped and the result is two great spaces that you normally do not see in Key West houses in Old Town. This house actually was designed to be lived in. There is a (third) bedroom also on the second floor and that has its own door onto the front porch.

604 Elizabeth Street is now offered at $1,249,000 or $797 per sq ft. The house has 1568 sq ft of real living space situated on a 2528 sq ft lot (79' x 32') in a great Old Town location. If you would like to see this really attractive home, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I think you will be in for a very pleasant surprise. I can email you more photos if interested.

CLICK HERE to search the real Key West Association of Realtors mls database. No one (including me) will track your moves on the internet or send you emails by using this official site. If you see something you like, pleas call me or send me an e-mail at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc, an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oh, Dear!

I found some photos on the internet about recent picketing in front of the Key West Police Department headquarters on North Roosevelt. Maybe you have driven your car past the station on your way to or out of Key West. It's located next to the dinosaur pond on Roosevelt & Eisenhower. The photos were taken and posted by Iowapix with the disclaimer that reads "Affiliates or friends of the Westboro Baptist Church conducting an anti-gay picket in front of the Key West, Florida police department. The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is headquartered in Topeka, Kansas and was founded by Fred Phelps. The WBC is monitored as a hate group by the Anti-defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center."

The photographer gives us this description of what he saw and photographed:
"Key West is very low key. I saw nothing in the local newspaper or on the Miami television stations. From experience with Kluckers, sometimes the news media, NAACP, and other organizations will completely ignore, boycott, or avoid hostile protests. That prevents the protesters from getting the publicity that they are looking for.

The first protest that I saw was against an Episcopal Church. The second protest (one doofus) was in front of the main police station. In hindsight that may have been for the protesters own safety.

Key West has a very diverse population of Caribbean islanders, Cubans, blacks, and whites. I could envision any number of people wanting to give these fellows a real thrashing. They probably would not be safe for very long. Especially calling people f*gs or whatever else.

Because of the potential for either violence or claims that the protest was being interfered with, these photos were taken out of a car window across the width of a two-lane commercial driveway."

I sent the photographer a request to re-publish his pics, and he agreed. Thank you. A couple photos are shown above and the rest are Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here.

This morning's Key West Citizen has a front page story about the impending visit from the Holy Man himself. CLICK HERE to read the item.

He'll probably get his pictures all over the internet and maybe end up on CNN or maybe FOX. What a sad little man.

Key West is a great community made up of people from all over the world. And we get tourists from everywhere on earth. The other day the Crown Prince of Denmark was in Key West. We have our own royalty, of course--the drag queens on Duval. But we all get along. The straight men who live here are not threatened by the gays. We seem to have achieved what Rodney King implored: “Can we all get along?”

The Holy Man may not have thought out his choice for a demonstration. Even though not every tourist that walks down Duval is totally cool with gays, I'll bet you that each American male will be pretty upset with the Anti-American signs. We have a large military presence in Key West as well. It will be interesting to see how Key West responds.

630 Elizabeth Street - Old Town - Key West - Bank Owned

630 Elizabeth Street is a big old house located at the very top of Solares Hill. The black and white photo above has a little ^ showing the location of the house and its commanding location and view to the east and south. What you can't see in the photo is the topography. Windsor Lane drops off to a right angle and slopes gently toward the Key West cemetery two blocks to the east. This is important for those worried about flooding. It doesn't flood. It won't flood. If it did flood, the entire island of Key West would be under water. I don't think that will happen during the lifetime of anyone able to read this.

This property is Bank Owned. It has been bank owned since September 2007. There was a recent contract that failed because the potential buyer could not obtain a new mortgage on this property. So the property is now aggressively price to sell for CASH ONLY at $246,900 or $123 per sq ft. The house is 2012 sq ft and sits on a 1682 sq ft lot. As you can see from the photos above and CLICK HERE this house has no front yard. The rear yard is presently about 12 wide by the length of the property.

This is how the listing Realtor describes this property: "This historical building, located atop Solares Hill, was the Solares family General Store circa 1884. It sits on the corner of Elizabeth and Angela Streets just 2 blocks from Duval St. In addition to the excellent curb appeal and 2012 sq ft of living area, it has approximately 936 sq feet of bonus attic space. It is a duplex with infinite possibilities for renovation. The location and square footage make this property an investor's dream. CASH OFFERS ONLY." This Realtor is very fair and submits offers to the bank owner promptly.

What I say and think doesn't really matter because my opinion doesn't count when it comes to HARC or the Key West planning department. But I think a buyer could chop off the rear addition and create enough space for a decent sized first and second floor new rear porches and still have room for a small, but real, pool. A variance may be necessary and nothing can be assured in life, but I've got to think a good plan to preserve the looks of this old house might get some massaging by HARC and planning. But, like I said, what I think doesn't matter.

Somebody is going to get a great deal on this house. CLICK HERE to read more about the property and view the photos. Here are a couple of additional pics I took this morning. Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4.

If you would like to see this house or make a sight unseen offer on this old house, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at The offer must be all cash and all offers must show proof of funds.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

800 Elizabeth - Old Town Key West Renovation Project - Short Sale

I get emails and phone calls from prospective buyers looking for a renovation project in Old Town in a "good location" where there is no worry about flooding and that has off street parking and room for a pool. The new listing at 800 Elizabeth Street CLICK HERE could potentially fit those requirements provided a buyer gets permission from the Historic Architecture Review Commission. That will not be easy.

The listing Realtor describes 800 Elizabeth Street and 624 Petronia Street this way: "A special opportunity to own 2 Old Town homes with an overwhelming total of 8 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths presenting investment rental income potential. Located in Old Town just 2 blocks from Duval Street, the home offers numerous possibilities for large families, employee housing or use one rent one. The property features preferred elevation sitting high atop an X Flood Zone. Each home has separate electric & water meters. This is a potential short sale requiring third party approval."

800 Elizabeth Street and 624 Petronia Street is offered at $510,000 or $230 per sq ft. The house sits near the top of Solares Hill which means there is no danger of flooding. (Nothing is certain in life, but I'm pretty confident that the location will not flood.) And the location is just a two walk block to Duval Street. Elizabeth Street is a one way street so you don't need to worry about Conch Trains or Trolleys passing your house all day long.

This property is currently used as apartment rentals. A buyer could keep the current use for a few years and then do a renovation. The options are wide open.

If you are looking for a renovation project, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule an appointment to see this property.

Monday, May 4, 2009

1015 Eaton Street - Old Town - Key West - Eyebrow House - Short Sale

So you have been coming to Key West for years and dream of "someday" moving here. You imagine what it would be like to get up in the morning and have coffee out by the pool under the palm trees listening to the birds cheep while you watch the butterflies flitter and the geckos dither. Maybe you love going over to the Green Parrot or down to Sloppy's and getting a little crazy and think to yourself, I could do that all the time. Or perhaps you dream of being able to do something adventurous like parasailing, snorkeling, biking, or canoing through the mangroves whenever you want.

You regret not having bought years earlier when prices were cheaper. You remember that special house you saw at a Sunday afternoon Open House and say to yourself "I should have bought that place." But you didn't.

CLICK HERE to do your own personal search of houses for sale in Key West. You set the price range and see what is available today. Tomorrow, surely one of two of the properties you see will be gone. I expect more new properties will be listed, especially condos and townhomes in on the eastern side of the island. But there is a limited amount of single family houses under a million bucks in the Old Town area.

1015 Eaton Street is listed as a short sale at the asking price of $995,000. This house is a classic eyebrow house that has been tastefully restored. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a new addition at the back with a large great room and kitchen that open onto the long and inviting pool and spa. The living area has a fireplace for those two or three days a year there is a bit of a nip in the Key West air. The great room doors open accordion style so that the entire outside becomes part of the inside. The master bed and bath are on the ground floor. The bath opens onto the spa making a late night dip just too inviting. And if you have looked at eyebrows before and been disappointed by "dinky" bedrooms, look at this house. The bedrooms are large and the ceilings tall. That means those rooms are actually livable. A claim not all eyebrows can make.

1015 Eaton Street is a listing of Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. While this is not my listing, I hosted an Open House there and have spent enough time there to get a real feel for the house. I loved it. The kitchen and baths are new so you won't feel like you are roughing it like you might in many old Key West houses. The bedrooms are good sized so you have more room than to crawl into a bed. If you have looked at other eyebrow houses you know what I mean. But the really neat feature is the way that the back end of the house totally opens onto the pool area. You move to Key West to enjoy the outside. And the outside here is just wonderful. The one thing this house does not have is off street parking. If this were to be your second home, you can easily store your Key West car in the public garage which is one block away. (I believe the monthly storage fee there is $100.)

CLICK HERE to see more photos and read the detailed information on 1015 Eaton Street. This house is a short sale that is offered at $995,000 or $573 per sq ft. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at if you would like to schedule a showing of this classic Key West Old Town property.

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Sales Recap for Key West

It's that time of the month again: time to report on what happened in Key West real estate sales for the prior month. I think I am a pretty optimistic person. I'm old enough and seen enough not to get too rattled by the Swine Flu Scare and the Chrysler Bankruptcy. I know thousands won't die of the flu and that Chrysler will emerge from bankruptcy and continue to manufacture Jeeps and convertibles. That is why I am not frightened by the seemingly sad numbers for the month of April 2009 as compared to prior years.

There were 11 single family homes sales in all of Key West for the month of April with an average price per foot of $455. Two of the sales were "short sales" and one was a bank owned property. Notable sales included three I wrote about here earlier including 608 William Street that sold at $670,000 or $890 per sq ft; 708 Eaton Street that sold for $2,400,000 or $724 per sq ft; and 912 Fleming Street that sold for $372 per sq ft. 608 William Street is a tiny little gem in a great Old Town location. Remember when I wrote yesterday about people that buy a look, a lot, and a location? 608 William Street had all three nailed!

708 Eaton Street is a big property on a busy street during the daytime, yet it commanded a huge price per sq ft. Proof again that quality does matter to discerning buyers.

And don't forget 912 Fleming Street. It has one of the best locations in Old Town and is surrounded by multi-million dollar homes on all sides. The house is in good condition and has a gorgeous pool and rear courtyard. Congratulation to the new owners, Sean & Kellee.

In 2008 there were 11 single family homes sales in all of Key West and the price per sq ft then was $419.

Condo and Townhome sales in Key West in April were not quite as fortunate. There were 10 such sales in April. Three were "short sales" and three were bank owned properties. The average price per sq ft was only $271. In 2008 there were 11 sales with an average price per sq ft of $537. In 2007 there were 20 sales where the price per sq ft was $751. (Four of those sales were of units at Santa Maria Condominiums. Several units there are now offered as short sales with prices discounted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars!) And in 2006 there were 12 condo and townhome sales with an average price per sq ft of $791.

The number of sales in 2006, 2008, and 2009 is fairly consistent. If you take out the four Santa Maria sales for 2007, all four years have about the same number of units changing hands each year. But the price degradation is disturbing. Short sales and bank owned units at the golf course, Shipyard, Seaside, and similar properties have just decimated that market. I watch the filing of Lis Pendens in the Monroe County Clerk's office. The filing of new Lis Pendens on condos and townhomes is not stopping. I haven't tracked how many were filed previously and I can't state the numbers currently. But there are enough to make me think we have not seen the bottom of foreclosures in the condo and townhome sector of our market.

I think there are some real bargains in the condo and townhome market. A buyer has to look not only at the price of a particular unit but also the developments, the strength of the the home owners associations, the reserves held by the associations, and the condition of each unit. Some units are better than others. And some developments are better maintained than others. So if you are looking to purchase a condo or town home, take your time, do your homework, and buy wisely.

When I started today's blog I said I'm optimistic. Everything I just wrote sounds bad however. Sales are down in dollars and percentages over years past. On the other hand, there are lots of buyers. Everybody I know is writing offers. Many of those offers are screwball and low-ball offers that do not have a chance of getting accepted either by the seller or a lender in a short sale scenario. The other day I got an e-mail from a local lender offering 4.5% 30 year mortgage money. That makes buying a place in Paradise much more affordable. There are not a lot of houses in the Old Town and Casa Marina area under the million dollar benchmark. My advice is to think big and think bold. Houses that have not sold during season are languishing for a reason: they are probably over-priced. I think there is a group of houses in the $1.2 million range that are nearly ripe for purchase. Wait until hurricane season and see how ripe they are then.

If you are looking to buy a place in Paradise, please consider working with me,Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. E-mail me at Let me help you find your place in Paradise.


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.


Free Counter

Key West

Key West
You could be here!

Blog Archive

Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

My photo
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.