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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Watson Up, Doc? Ugh, I Mean Down!

Pardon my trying to be cute with a little play on words. But I wanted to get your attention. This is newsworthy. The really cute cigar maker's cottage at 1117 Watson Street has just been reduced in price to a point where it may make sense to you bargain hunters.

The listing Realtor describes 1117 Watson Street thus:
"This very attractive cigar maker's cottage is located in the Conch Grove Compound. The tastefully renovated home features pine floors, new kitchen appliances, vaulted ceiling and an open, airy floor plan opening through French doors to a large private landscaped garden. Note the large lot. Walk through the private L-shaped lot to a beautifully landscaped yard with heated pool and sundeck. Also note that the upstairs loft (26 ft. x 11 ft) is not included in the square footage."

1117 Watson Street is located two blocks west of White Street and two blocks south of Truman Avenue. The Conch Grove Compound consists of several cottages and single family homes that share a large sunny pool, gardens, and parking. The owner of each cottage or house owns the ground under the property in fee simple. But all property owners share ownership of all of the common areas. As I recall there are only nine units. The shared space seems more like a large private park than a typical condominium or town home pool. Each cottage or house is unique. So the place does not look like a Disney version of Key West. It is the real thing. And I mean that in the most positive way.

Writer James Kirkwood, co-author of "A Chorus Line", was one of the first homeowners in the Conch Grove Compound. Local author David Kaufelt used to live there as well.

You enter the cigar maker's cottage from a door on the south side, not the front door in the photo. Inside you move to the right and enter the shared kitchen and living area with vaulted ceiling. French doors open from the living room onto the privately owned and very cloistered rear yard CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE. That area is surrounded by tall and lush trees and vegetation. It is just too sweet. There is a little path that leads over to the pool. The separation is very marked. You would never know the pool exists unless you wanted to go to it. Likewise, the neighbors can't see what you are doing in your own private outdoor space.

The cottage has just one official bedroom. It is located at the front. The door in the photo does allow access to the front porch. You can sit on the front porch CLICK HERE and watch neighbors walk their dogs or see an occasional tourist riding a bike. There is a loft that can be used as a second (unofficial) sleeping area. It's a bit tight for full time use, however.

1117 Watson Street was originally offered at $599,000. The new asking price is $499,000 or $730 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to see more info and view all the photos of this really cute cottage. This place is not a fixer. It is in move-in condition. It has all the attributes of a single family home plus the partial ownership of that really big sunny pool.

If you are looking for a single family home in Paradise that is priced under $499,000 CLICK HERE to see the other 23 houses in the Key West Association of Realtors database. Do your own comparison shopping. I have written about a couple of those houses. If you would like to schedule a showing of 1117 Watson Street (or any other house for that matter), please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. in Key West, Florida.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Key West Florida - Casa Marina area Deals

I feel the need to crow about a sale occurred late Friday afternoon. I guess you could call it an "inside job" because the Listing Realtor and Selling Realtor are both agents at Preferred Properties in Key West. Congrats Cory and Dan. That's where I work.

1021 Johnson closed Friday afternoon at the sales price of $1,800,000 or $592 per sq ft. There are two factors that make this particular sale noteworthy. CLICK HERE to see 1021 Johnson Street.

I first wrote about this property in March 2008 when it was then a bank owned asset. CLICK HERE to see what I wrote then, if you care. I showed the house several times and I told people the place was a good deal at the "then" asking price. It was. It got purchased. It got improved. It was re-listed on May first, this time by Preferred Properties, for the asking price of $1,995,000. It went under contract within a couple of days. And there were people wanting to show it even after it went under contract. The Selling Agent told me "It was like real estate in 2004" all over again.

That is pretty amazing when you consider the amount of other large properties on the market in Key West. Yet, when you consider what the buyer got for his money, he got a really good deal. The houses is all nice and new on the inside. The outside is pretty, lush and green. The pool is huge and inviting. You cannot beat the outstanding Casa Marina location where there numerous similarly large homes with big lawns, big pools, and big price tags. The streets are wide and the neighbors are far enough removed that you don't hear them sneeze (or whatever!).

The Casa Marina Resort is a block away. (It has a very luxurious beach, gym, spa, and all the hoopla of a major resort.) And then there is Higgs Beach just next door to the east. Actually, there are three beaches within a two minute walk. I drove by this morning and saw the sand maintenance guy grooming Higg's Beach. It has a recently refurbished pier where you can walk out and dive into the ocean. There are nearby public tennis courts and parking. Higg's Beach has chair rentals and volleyball nets. But beaches are free so bring your towel and watch the sights. The Astro Land kiddie playground is located across the street. Salute Restaurant, now managed by the same people that run Blue Heaven is located just to the rear of the volleyball nets. The view at Salute is so damned great! A minute east is the Key West Garden Club. (If you love gardening, this is your new place to hang.) Just a few steps to the east is yet another beach, then the Key West AIDS Memorial. Down at the end of the White Street Pier there is fishing. Yep, I've been out there fishing at 11:00 PM. Caught an eel there once just around that time. Should have gone fishing earlier, I guess. And if you walk just a few feet further to the east there are even more beaches and sandy dunes. There are beaches with tourists and private places as well. All are within a few minutes of any house in the Casa Marina area.

All is not lost, dear reader. Preferred Properties has another Key West treasure located at 906 Johnson Street that was recently reduced to $2,695,000 or $724 per sq ft. CLICK HERE see all the features of this 3720 sq ft estate type home that sits on a commanding 10,750 sq ft lot on one the best streets in Key West. This is one of the most beautiful homes in all of Key West. It has everything a buyer that wants the very best demands. The architecture is stunning. The rooms are large and livable. There is space for live-in help. There is a separate writer's cottage and also a separate guest house with its own small kitchen and bath. The master bedroom on the second floor has a partial view of the Atlantic Ocean that is just one block to the south. Not everybody can afford a grand home like this. But it you are one of the few that can, you really ought to look at 906 Johnson Street. It is priced to sell.

If you would like to schedule a visit to 906 Johnson Street (or any other house in Key West, please give me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, a call. Or contact me by e-mail at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. We are an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. I live in the Casa Marina area. I love it. You will, too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Going "Realtor"

We are all familiar with the slang term "Going Postal". It originally referred to postal employees that suddenly exploded with workplace rage and committed horrible acts of violence. But it evolved into a description of ever more common sudden, extreme, and uncontrollable acts of rage and violence towards people in the workplace and to fits of rage inside or outside the workplace.

Please understand I am not making light of the awful deaths and personal tragedies that have become a part of the term "going postal". But I am concerned that there is so much distrust of Realtors, bankers, mortgage companies, short sale negotiators, appraisers, Congress, and "investors", that the distrust and frustration will turn into similar acts of violence towards this group.

One Monday many years ago when I was a young lawyer working in a suburban Denver law firm, I arrived at work very early only to find that the glass front door to our office had a shotgun blast through it. One of the partners had been representing a woman in a nasty divorce. Her estranged husband had called the partner's house and warned that he was going to kill the lawyer. I surmise the shotgun blast was meant as proof as to how much the husband hated his wife and his wife's lawyer.

The economy is in a mess. People get crazy and do things that are completely out of character when they feel powerless. Lives are falling apart. Men may lose their self-esteem and see themselves as failures. Women have to work harder and longer and fear more for the well being of their children. Nobody knows how it all will end and everybody is fearful of what horrors may befall them. They get a legal notice posted by the Sheriff that reads "Lis Pendens". Foreclosure has been started. Consider the following.

Seller owns a property he cannot afford. Seller can no longer afford the mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, and utilities. Why should he even try because the property is not worth what it cost a few short years ago. Many neighbors are losing their houses in foreclosure or are trying to short sell them. Seller finds a Realtor to short sell the property.

The listing Realtor enters the Seller's property into the mls database as a potential short sale. The term potential short sale conjures up the image of a "deal" to many potential buyers.

Buyer looks at the property and makes an offer on the house. The Seller accepts the offer which is conditioned upon the formal approval of Seller's lenders. The contract normally requires the lender to accept less than face value of the amount Seller owes to lender and precludes the lender from pursuing Seller for a deficiency.

The contract is delivered to a short sale negotiator hired by Seller to persuade the lender to accept the short sale offer. Weeks and often months pass. Nothing happens.

Time passes and e-mails and phone calls go from principal to agent, from agent to negotiator, from him to her, and all go nowhere--slow. Very slow.

The mortgage company negotiator complains it did not receive all the documents that are needed. The short sale negotiator goes back to the Seller or Seller's agent requesting more information. Days pass. Documents get prepared and faxed, and paper trails of the financial affairs of Seller get traded back and forth between agents and negotiators. Documents get "scanned" onto the computers of the mortgage lender far away. The mortgage company is all powerful and demands its procedure be obeyed on its timetable. Piss off one peon at the mortgage company and get screwed for life. So do what they demand and shut up. You can't complain to the supervisor because everybody there is anonymous. Or so it seems.

Procedure for approval of a short sale contract includes obtaining a broker price opinion ("BPO") which is ordered by the lender. Supposedly a disinterested third party Realtor will do a drive by appraisal of the property and send an opinion of value to the mortgage lender. If the BPO amount seems reasonable, a formal appraisal is ordered. (Consider this, however. If the party doing the BPO also happens to regularly "list" bank owned properties, could that party be giving mis-information to the mortgage lender that would cause the lender to disapprove the short sale and thus permit the foreclosure to ultimately occur? Does this procedure ensure confidence or distrust?)

Mortgage lender is being asked to forgive thousands of dollars in debt. It then engages an appraiser to determine the current market value. Appraisers have their jobs on the line and are busy chasing values in a declining real estate market. Fannie Mae has drawn up new guidelines that require lenders not to have direct contact with appraisers. Third parties now select "random" appraisers. (Another level of intrusion into the process because of governmental distrust of the players.)

Key West is known for its quirky houses and neighborhoods. Out of town appraisers often have to travel here from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to appraise potential short sale properties. Makes a lot sense, I know!

The process can seemingly go on forever. Some short sale properties permit the seller to accept multiple offers on the same property which are then all submitted to the mortgage lender. That process really creates distrust by Buyers towards the Seller, the Realtors, the appraiser, the mortgage lender, and everybody else that has anything to do with the process. The process is viewed as imperfect and corrupt, and all of the players in the process may be viewed as being corrupt. And in real life there are can be some really corrupt people involved in this imperfect process.

Realtors can, likewise, be distrustful of each other. Snips and sales and unreturned phone calls, unanswered e-mails, inability to show a property because a tenant won't allow it, excuses for days and more delays--that's what little ploys are made of.

Most buyers want a deal anytime they try to buy something. That normally means that the buyer intends to gain an advantage over the seller. When you consider it, buying real estate sometimes brings out the worst in people. I just Googled the terms "real estate" and "seven deadly sins" and voila I found THIS BLOG.

I've said enough. You get my point. Like I said, I hope "going postal" does not become "going Realtor".

P.S. Interesting things happen to people who buy from me. Follow me on TWITTER today to see what just happened to one.

710 Chapman Lane - Old Town - Key West

Think quick. Be prepared to act quicker. This property is so cute, so well done, and so affordably priced it likely will be under contract within a couple of days. The new listing (but not mine) at 710 Chapman Lane in the Bahama Village section of Old Town Key West was just listed at the incredible price of only $400,000 or $333 per sq ft.

CLICK HERE to see the listing info provided by the listing Realtor.

You can tell a lot about a property by a picture. I wish I were a better photographer. The pics I took do not do this house justice. But you may help you to appreciate all of the love that went into creating this house.

CLICK HERE to see the bricked courtyard entryway with a gurgling fountain CLICK HERE surrounded by hibiscus and other plants. Look up at the CLICK HERE custom shutters that set off the front porch so smartly.

The listing Realtor allowed me to take photos for a potential buyer who decided he could not make an offer. But I have to tell you that when I saw the outside I was really excited to see the inside. The listing Realtor opened the door and I saw a really bright, cheerful, and super clean entry hallway CLICK HERE. Off to the immediate right is the large master bedroom CLICK HERE and master bath. Unlike so many vintage Conch houses, the bedroom here was large and actually livable. I looked quickly at the master suite, but I was so captivated by the entry that I was like a kid at Christmas: I wanted to see what was at the back of the house.

There is a large dining area located at the end of the entry hallway. It shares space with the open and inviting kitchen with the living room just to the rear. There is an open stairway at the far side of the dining area that provides access to the two bedrooms and bath on the second floor. Every inch of the second floor is used creatively. The result is pure charm.

Just off the rear of the house is a good sized yard that I think is large enough for a decent pool. And I don't mean a cocktail pool. I can't guarantee anything, however.

Almost all of the neighboring houses have been redone. Chapman Lane runs just one block and is accessed off Petronia and Angela Streets. It's an easy two or three minute walk to Duval Street. The new Key West boardwalk will be a two or three minute walk when it is completed.

I hope I've got your attention. This place is really sweet. If your "other" Realtor didn't tell you about this, forget him or her. Please call me , Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule an appointment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1209 Olivia Street- SOLD - Short Sale that Happened

I probably showed 1209 Olivia Street to just about as many people as the listing Realtor. I think the property was a real bargain at the asking price of $610,000. It sold and closed this week at an even better price of $590,000. That is $387 per sq ft for very nice 2 bed, 2 bath house, "recently updated", with a pool and guest cottage, off street parking, located in a very good neighborhood, in Old Town Key West. CLICK HERE to see the details.

Getting a short sale actually accomplished can be very time consuming and bothersome to everybody involved. If you are a potential buyer of a short sale house, my advice is to make sure you have True Grit. I think the buyer on this house got a great property. Congrats!

CLICK HERE to search the real Key West Association of Realtors mls database. If you see a place you like, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2742. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI in Key West,Florida. If you lived here instead of New Jersey, you would see blue skys almost every day of the year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bank Owned in Key West - My Thoughts

I'll probably get yelled at for writing this, but I don't care. I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!

Well, maybe that is a bit of an overstatement. I do want to share my thoughts about local banks in Key West and how they are selling bank foreclosures. I'm not singling any one locally owned bank (local as to South Florida) because they all do pretty much the same thing.

Banks sponsor different events in the community to build up good will. Both lenders and operational employees in banks are members in all kinds of service groups and organizations. They make donations of time and money to put a good face forward in the Key West community.

Banks sponsor events for Realtors in Key West such as monthly Realtor luncheons, educational seminars, Realtor caravans, Chamber of Commerce and the Key West (gay) Business Guild functions, etc.

Banks and bankers everywhere do the same thing. They do it to court business and to make money.

Banks woo Realtors to bring customers to their bank so that bank can make new loans. I encourage my buyers to work with Key West lenders to get a loan. Local bankers know the Realtors, appraisers, attorneys and/or title insurance companies, insurance agents, surveyors, and home inspectors. Local lenders may know some of the history (Key West drama)that goes with the property or contractors that may have worked on the property. That knowledge can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who the contractors were or what kind of event may have occurred at the property. A local lender can very often speed things up and make things happen a lot more efficiently than some mortgage broker sitting behind a computer screen far away.

I appreciate the ability to call a local lender on the phone or to walk a potential borrower into the bank to discuss financing availability. That access can often make a deal occur that might not be possible with an out of area lender. The Key West real estate market (especially Old Town properties) is truly unique, and local lenders are essential to getting many deals done.

The symbiotic relationship between Realtors and bankers is essential in making real estate transactions work smoothly.

Yet, when Key West banks foreclose on mortgages and become the reluctant owners of houses or commercial properties that could not get sold, many banks try to sell the foreclosed "assets" on their own. Most local banks have Special Assets departments that market the distressed properties.

Some banks do not set an asking price. Instead they solicit offers. The banks want buyers to make the first move. Banks usually will not make a counter-offer. Rather, banks will request the buyer to make a "best and final" offer.

Some banks have bank owned foreclosures listed on their website. Banks may even offer "bank financing". One local bank offers "95% Financing Available" on its website. I recently discussed a bank owned property with a bank officer. I specifically asked about the 95% financing and was told something to the effect that the offer of 95% financing did not apply to "that" particular property. I then asked what amount of a loan the bank would finance and what the interest rate would be. I was told the amount, rate, and terms are negotiable. The bank officer would not disclose the "asking price". I was told my buyer shuuld just make an offer.

Banks are required to comply with the TRUTH IN LENDING laws enacted by Congress. Just because a bank is a seller does not give the bank an excuse for not obeying the law. Disclosure is required and failure to disclose is a violation of the law. Advertising an interest rate that is not available is actionable in my opinion.

I used to manage the special assets department for a big bank in Denver. Part of my job involved the sale of bank owned properties. But my primary job was to minimize bank loss through doing loan workouts and managing bank litigation. I had to use the bank's money to avoid losing more money. I had to use my time efficiently and allocate the bank's resources wisely.

I was never known for giving anything away in litigation or in selling bank owned properties. But I knew this much: the bank's good name is at stake in every deal I made and in every action I took. You do not litigate to teach borrowers lessons. You do not foreclose on real estate to create an empire or preserve your job. You foreclose when other solutions are not available. Then you go after the bad guys.

Banks are required to have a current appraisal on file that supports the book value of each bank owned asset acquired through foreclosure. (A six month old appraisal in Key West is outdated.) Banks should market foreclosures at book value and not play games with the public. Banks should market bank owned assets by listing properties with local and knowledgeable Realtors rather than "in house". Marketing properties widely and openly avoids the appearance of impropriety. Banks should not give preferential deals or treatment on the sale of bank owned properties to insiders or customers of the banks. Instead, banks should to do everything possible to keep the bank's name and reputation above reproach in the sale of bank owned assets. I am not suggesting that any local bank is doing anything like that. I am saying that banks ought to do the right thing and not take actions that are self-serving.

Local banks in every town across the country have boards of directors that supervise the governance of local banks. Just as Wall Street investment bankers came under fire for big bonuses, local bank directors should insist that their particular bank should dispose of bank owned proprieties openly and honestly. They should insist that bank assets be listed with local Realtors and that asking prices and financing packages are clear and unambiguous.

Friday, June 19, 2009

1216 White Street - Bank Owned - Key West

Good news for those of you who looked at 1216 White Street but lost out on the bidding war. This Bank Owned property is back on the market.

I've shown this house several times. I think this property could make a great project for someone who doesn't mind spending some time and money turning this place into a little gem. Here's why: I am assuming the prior owner did the upgrades or improvements that exist on the house. Work was started. But then it stopped. The improvements are not complete. The kitchen needs to be replaced and the floors need to be repaired. Some piers probably need to be replaced. A competent home inspector or contractor can tell you what needs to be done and how much it will cost to complete the renovation.

1216 White Street has a huge yard on the side and rear. I'm talking about the potential to create a really beautiful pool with a spacious garden area. There appears to have been off-street parking where the current boarded-up garage sits. There is a new sidewalk with no curb cut. There may be photographs or city records that would provide evidence to enable a new owner to get that curb cut put back in place. All of a sudden, that ugly little garage comes down and the property has off street parking and gated access to the new pool and garden area.

1216 White Street is now offered at $329,900 or $251 per sq ft. The house is 1357 sq ft according to County Records. But the lot is enormous--5807 sq ft. The location is good in my personal opinion. The street is busy in the daytime. But it is pretty quiet after 6:00 PM. The property is convenient to the beaches a few blocks south and Old Town a couple of blocks to the north.

As I mentioned, this property is bank owned. The Seller requires all offers must be pre-qualified.

CLICK HERE for more detailed information and photos of 1216 White Street. If you want to see this property, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

911 Watson Street - Old Town - Key West Treasure

If you are looking for a project house in Old Town Key West and have a lot of cash, read on. It would be most helpful if you have a good imagination or the money to hire a really talented local architect to help you develop a vision of what this incredible property could become. Since I am sharing this with you, please keep in mind I am also trying to sell property. So if you read this piece and get tempted to see it, please see it with me. If you are already working with another Realtor, please tell him or her you saved one dance for me alone.

If you are one of many people that read about 612 Griffin Lane CLICK HERE and regret not buying it, read on. This place is very similar to Griffin Lane, only better. It sits on an Old Town lane (even if it is called a street). The street is only one block long and it deadends at the Key West cemetery. Unlike Griffin Lane where you would have to park a block away from your property, you can actually drive to your house and park your car. Like Griffin Lane, this old house has a huge yard with a magnificent variety of trees and potential second story views.

The little house next door fronts the cemetery. CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE.The house across the way at 910 Watson Street CLICK HERE) sold for $3.5 million in 2006. (Different times, I know. But if you look at that house and compare it with this house, you will see they look very similar. Except that house was remodeled to perfection. CLICK HERE to see 910 Watson.) The two houses are of very similar original age and construction. So a serious comparison is in order for a serious buyer.

Oh, you cannot see 911 Watson Street from the street. It is hidden behind a big privacy fence and is protected by a stand of trees to boot. So there is built in privacy. You could put up a fancy privacy fence like the one at 910 Watson. But I'd think twice before doing it.

The property at 911 Watson Street is old Key West--Key West when houses were cheap and structural renovations were not restricted by all kinds of rules (or if there were, they were not enforced seriously). I am talking about the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when really big houses and small cottages could be purchased for next to nothing. I am referring to a time Key West that did not have a Tree Commission or HARC or even building codes for all I know. A lot of the houses that were "redone" during that time period evoke a similar hippiesque aura. You know the kind of house I am referring to: simple but strong homes made of Dade County Pine that were adorned with love beads, stained glass windows, and hand made cabinetry. Places that rely more on natural cooling of shade trees and open windows rather than air conditioners. I am talking about houses that have additions and roof line alterations that made living spaces “work” but that would not be permissible under today’s strict building codes and HARC Guidelines.

The yard at 911 Watson Street is quite large. It is roughly 106' x 93'. The house and three other structures are situated under an umbrella of huge trees (Sapodilla, fig, mango, avocado, and a host of others whose names I do not know). I’ll talk about the house in a moment, because it is the outside that makes you want to own the inside.

When I stepped into the yard last Saturday for a showing,I immediately fell in love with the place. I felt dwarfed by the sheer height of some of the trees. Some were huge even by Key West standards. Yet there were big areas of open sky so I did not get a claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a forest. The grounds are filled with a variety of bushes and so forth, so that cats and dogs can hide. I felt like I was exploring an un-chartered part of the world. Well, at least I did explore different places in the yard. Same thing. I climbed up a rickety old stairway to a sundeck of sorts. I was told that you could see the Gulf of Mexico from the top of the roof, but I chose not to climb up there. There are natural archways made by creeper vines that have taken over utility wires. And then there is that hand-dug pool.

The pool sits on the north side of the property. It is long and deep and very oddly shaped. It probably needs to be replaced because it doesn’t look like it has been used in years. There is a very rare mango tree that hangs directly over the west end of the pool. Another type of mango guards the east end of the pool. And there are several other trees in between. I said the pool is big.

There is a “carport” on the south end of the property and a double garage on the north end. The garage does not look like it has been used in years but it is a garage nonetheless. There is plenty of room for expansion as the lot at 911 Watson Street is almost 10,168 sq ft. The house itself has 1306 sq ft of living area plus an ample amount of decks for outdoor living. There is a small building at the west rear of the house that some new owner might want to expand to use as a guest cottage or pool house.

The property was last purchased in 1973 so it may be time for some updating. The county records show the house was built in 1924. The owner thinks it was actually built in 1920. It is a single story wood frame building constructed of Dade County Pine. Like so many of the simple older Key West homes, it is charming. It is a little dated now. I wouldn’t mess with it too much, however. The house has a center hall with bedrooms and bathrooms on either side at the front. The kitchen is at the rear. And there is a covered outdoor living area beyond the kitchen. That living area is just incredible.

It would be a crime to gentrify this house. The house does need a new roof. It might be time to update some of the plumbing and electric. And a new owner would probably want to redo the kitchen and baths. And the place could use a new paint job and some attention to the floors. The garden could be thinned. But I would advise against doing too much. This place works because of the simplicity of the house as it sits today. Why mess with something that works?

911 Watson Street is now priced at $679,999 or $521 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to view the mls listing info. The current asking price may seem high for an older home these days, but I remind you that the lot is enormous and the property as a whole is magical. This place is worth a serious look by a serious buyer. It is going to take cash to do the things a new owner would want to do. I don’t know that banks are making construction loans these days. So have cash or a rich uncle.

Please remember that you read about 911 Watson Street from me, Gary Thomas, not the other Realtor you have been working with and not by doing your own search of the mls. If you want to see this property, please call me at 305-766-2642. This property will change your life. I guarantee it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

1119 Catherine Street - Short Sale - Key West

Attention K-Mart shoppers and other bargain hunters. The legal duplex at 1119 Catherine Street in Key West may be the one you have been waiting to find. The property is a short sale and the asking price is now $490,000. Interested? Read on.

The listing Realtor describes the Catherine Street duplex this way:
"Great renovation in progress - very close to finished. First floor unit is 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths; the upstairs unit is 2 bedrooms, 1 bath. Both units have covered rear porches. This is a great location - walk or bike anywhere. Condo papers are finished but not filed. New paint inside & out, new electric, new plumbing upstairs and down, new downstairs cabinets and vanities, new tile in the downstairs baths & kitchen, new walls, 37 new windows, most doors are also new. NOT YOUR NORMAL DUPLEX - COME LOOK AT THIS ONE! Priced well below recent bank appraisal. This is a potential short sale and may be subject to third party approval."

The photo above is a bit deceptive. The photo shows a glass enclosed front porch. In real life the porch area is now part of the master suite with drywall that cleverly conceals the windows on the exterior. That deception enabled the renovator to use the interior space much more efficiently. The downstairs unit would make a really great place for an owner to live. The kitchen has higher end cabinets and tile already installed. The appliances also need to be purchased. The baths are nearly complete but are missing a couple of sinks and toilets. And the living area still needs hardwood floors installed.

Upstairs the views are just wonderful. This place is really bright and cheery. It needs a few finishing touches as well. But overall the upstairs and downstairs unit can be completed fairly quickly and cheaply-maybe $20,000 or so.

There is room for a pool in the backyard. There are some nuisance trees that will need to be removed and the pool would need to be hand dug. That happens quite often. I think the existing main level deck could be extended into the rear yard so that the depth of the pool need not be so deep. A pool and deck like that might add an additional $50,000 to your investment.

I don't do property management, but the upstairs unit would be an easy rental with or without a pool. The downstairs unit would be great for an owner live-in situation. Maybe you use the upstairs for the occasional guests instead of as a long term rental.

The renovator was going to condominiumize the property. The paperwork was done, but not filed. Good thing. It costs money to terminate a condo association and there is no present market for condos like this today. But having the option to use the documentation at a later date is another potential positive on this property. CLICK HERE to see more detailed information and photos of 1119 Catherine Street.

I think this duplex will go fast at this new price. If interested, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642. This property is listed by Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bewitched - Act Two

Samantha Stevens must have twitched her nose, because the big new house at 929 United Street in Key West sold at a magical price of $1,000,000. You may recall that I wrote about this property CLICK HERE when it was offered at $1,495,000. I really liked this newly constructed house house. Everything inside and outside was done just right-except for the paint on the front porch. This house had top of the line Viking appliances, designer cabinets in the kitchen, high end light fixtures and plumbing fixtures. The grounds were very nicely landscaped and had exterior lighting and a sprinkler system.
I mention this sale because 929 United Street was originally listed at $1,950,000 or $1026 per sq ft in February 2008. It sold June 15, 2009 at $526 per sq ft. That is a remarkable price reduction for a very nicely done new property. CLICK HERE to see more info on 929 United Street.

Note: 929 United Street was not a short sale.

Some readers may argue that the location on United Street pushed the sales price down. Perhaps it did, a bit. But all properties are located on a little island and many of our streets have real traffic-as does United Street. Not every street in Key West is a quiet little lane. I think the price is more a realization that the original asking price was unrealistic and that a seller in today's market must be realistic if a meeting of the minds is to be reached. It does not matter what someone paid for property years earlier or how much money (or sweat equity) someone put into a renovation. Market value is driven today by how much a knowledgeable, willing, and able buyer is would pay for property.

Prospective Buyers for Key West real estate know how to use the Internet to search the mls and public record websites. They can use the Key West mls database or other search sites to see what asking prices are. More importantly, they can see recent sales to develop a realistic appreciation for what a prospective purchase is realistically worth today.

Congratulations to Cory Held and Everett Watkins of Preferred Properties on the sale of this property.

If you are thinking of buying a place in Paradise before all the good houses are sold, CLICK HERE to search the real Key West Association of Realtors mls database. If you see a place that you like, please think of calling me to assist you. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc, an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. Contact me, Gary Thomas, at 305.766.2642 or by e-mail at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

730 Southard Street - Old Town - Key West

The asking price on 730 Southard Street was just reduced to $1,490,000 or $525 per sq ft.
The listing Realtor describes the property this way:
"Right in the heart of Old Town Key West sits this jewel of an original Conch home built in the 1800's awaiting your special touch. The history behind this home spans several generations of just one family. The rooms are large, the ceilings are high and everything is original in this two story home including Dade County pine throughout. There's over 2800 square feet of living space including the large master and guest bedrooms upstairs plus the living room, den, study, dining room and kitchen downstairs. The standup attic runs the length of the building with access to the widows walk allowing for a bird's eye view of Old Town. All this plus room for a pool in the back."

This house sits at the corner of William and Southard Streets right smack dab in the middle of Old Town. You could not ask for a better location. The lot measures 100' X 68'.53" or 6853 sq ft. That is huge for Old Town. The house is equally large. The listing Realtor says the house is 2838 sq ft and has 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, a garage, an incredible facade and a widows walk. CLICK HERE to see a photo that shows the rear of the house where there is more than ample room for a good sized pool. CLICK HERE for more detailed information and photos of 730 Southard Street.

When I previously wrote about this house (when it was listed at twice the current asking price), I referred to it as a "virgin" because it has remained in the same family since it was built. There is only one building permit of record in the County Appraiser's records and that was to upgrade the electric service. The house looks pretty much the same today as it did when it was built. Of course, there is another even more expensive virgin on the market located at 616 Eaton Street. I wrote about it on September 3 when it was listed for $5.5 million. The price remains the same on that property. CLICK HERE to see the listing info on 616 Eaton Street so you can do some comparison shopping.

The house at 730 Southard Street is known by everybody in town and by most seasoned tourists as well. And just about everybody says "that would make a really good renovation project" or something to that effect. It would. This property is another Key West treasure. It deserves a new owner with lots of money and a big vision to restore and improve this landmark.

If you are looking for a renovation project in Key West, or just a simple little Conch Cottage, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at Let me help you find your place in Paradise. Prices on most properties are at historic lows so I think now is a great time to buy bargain priced properties. CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database and then call me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

416 Margaret Street - Old Town - Key West

Just Listed: 416 Margaret Street - a beautifully restored Victorian home with a legal studio apartment, pool, off street parking that is located in the Heart of Old Town Key West. This is how the listing Realtor describes this property:

"Historic Key West charm abounds this Folk Victorian home with a wonderful renovation just completed. Relax on the large front porch with beautiful balustrades and Gingerbread trim overlooking tropical landscaping. A quintessential Old Town neighborhood, 2 blocks to the Historic Seaport and 4 blocks to Duval St. Original Dade County pine lovingly restored throughout. First floor boasts 2 bedrooms, 2 full baths, and living and dining area that opens onto a covered lanai with pool and outdoor shower. A separate entrance on the second floor leads to a beautiful studio with kitchenette and full bath. With no detail forgotten, off-street parking is accessible from the lane."

CLICK HERE to see more detailed information on this listing and view some very good photos. This 3 bed 3 bath house is a total of 1630 sq ft and sits on a 3300 sq ft lot. It is offered at $1,195,000 or $733 per sq ft. This is a very good price dear readers.

I showed this house to one particular buyer from New Jersey in 2006 and again in early 2007. She was a medical doctor. She loved the house. But she was fearful of how much renovation would cost. She found a dozen reasons not to buy the home she absolutely fell in love with. It is available again. It just costs a lot more. And it has the new roof and electrical upgrading it needed. It got the pool you wanted and the off street parking. But it still has all that charm that lured you back four times to look.

The house is located mid-distance between Eaton and Fleming Streets, so there is quick access to the restaurants and shops nearby or at the Historic Key West Seaport (2 blocks to the north) or Duval Street (four blocks west). If you are a buyer looking for a second home with a little income to help defray the cost of ownership, this may be your dream home. In addition to not needing any work to make it "livable" (that has already been done with pizazz!), this place has a legal second floor apartment with a separate exterior entrance. That apartment is large enough to accommodate one person very nicely. And the prospective tenant could be your eyes, ears, and physical presence for times you can't be in Key West. The rent would help defray the cost of home ownership.

I took a couple of photos of the houses on either side of 416 Margaret Street. This is the house to the south CLICK HERE. Little Lopez Lane separates 416 Margaret from the THIS HOUSE to the north. The house directly across the street at 415 Margaret CLICK HERE sold in 2006 for over $2.6 million. Great house to have as a neighbor. There are some condos, guest houses, and small stores in the immediate area. This area is real Key West. It is not Truman Annex.

There are not a lot of houses in Old Town with the amenities 416 Margaret Street offers in this price range. I think this house is going to sell very quickly. I would love to show you this house before it is snapped up by one of the many would-be buyers looking to purchase in this price range. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. We are an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. Come Buy with Me!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

1105 Washington Street - Casa Marina Area - Key West

Just Listed (but not by me!) 1105 Washington Street in the Casa Marina Area of Key West. This 1960 vintage ranch has been recently updated. I know, I live nearby and watched the workers doing all kinds of things to the property during the past couple of years. The house has 1415 sq ft of living space and sits on a 4035 sq ft lot. The house has 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. 1105 Washington Street is offered at only $750,000 or $530 per sq. ft. The listing Realtor points out that "this is not a short sale".

The listing Realtor describes the house this way: "A really nice home located in the Casa Marina area and just a few blocks from the beach. There is an additional bonus room with seperate entrance to be used as a bedroom, office or workout room. Master bedroom has a suana bath. Kitchen is equipped with stainless appliances. There is also a wetbar that seperates the livingroom and diningroom." (I copied it exactly.) CLICK HERE to see the photos and more detailed info on the house. There is no pool and I don't recall that there is room to add a pool. But there is plenty of privacy.

The house directly across the street (my neighbor to the rear) is a massive estate property that occupies a size able plot of land. It has been under renovation for the past two years. It is a great property that is always maintained and would be a charm to look at each day you go out to walk the dog. The house next door to the west is equally charming. The house next door to the east is a Key West landmark (Guest Cottage photo here). The beaches are nearby. Shopping is within walking distance. You can get to the airport or the shopping centers in about 5 minutes. And Old Town is a quick bike ride away. But the neighborhood with the big trees and big lawns is why you want to live in this part of town.

At an asking price of only $750,000, I think this house ought to sell fairly quickly. I know it does not have the essential pool that so many buyers want. But that big ocean a few blocks away is awfully inviting and you don't have to pay a pool boy $100 per month. Instead you can walk over to Louie's Backyard and have cocktails every Saturday evening. Life is made up of choices.

If you would like to see 1105 Washington please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. We are an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

529 Olivia Street with Transient License - Key West

Once there were two. Now there is just one. Yesterday the single family home at 531 Olivia Street in Old Town Key West was sold for $525,000. It had been offered as high as $999,500 in 2006. CLICK HERE to see what you missed.

But 529 Olivia Street is still available. At least it is as of this writing. The listing Realtor describes this property this way:

CLICK HERE for more info on this house and to see photos of the inside. The property is managed by a local property manager and the place stays rented. It has its own parking. And it has just about everything a vacationer wants - except a pool. And I think there may be room for a pool. This property has a transient license which means you can rent it daily, just like a hotel room and get all of that income to help defray some of the cost of ownership. 529 Olivia Street is offered at $550,000 furnished and with the valuable Transient Rental License.

If you are one of the many potential buyers that want to buy a place in Key West and have your place in Paradise help pay for itself, 529 Olivia Street may be what you are looking for. Please considering calling me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or contact me by e-mail at to discuss purchasing this property.

Monday, June 8, 2009

1020 Von Phister Street - Casa Marina Area - Key West

Want to live far from the Madding Crowd? Want to have a place where you will feel confident nobody, but nobody will ever build a place that can look down onto your pool or make noise that will wake you up at the crack of 3:00 AM? Consider becoming my neighbor by buying the really sweet home at 1020 Von Phister Street in the Casa Marina Area of Key West.

1020 Von Phister Street is described this way by the listing Realtor:
"This extraordinary home was custom designed and built with master craftsmanship in 2002 by an award-winning architect. Situated on a beautiful block of the Casa Marina area, the property has 3 bedrooms plus an office, 4 bathrooms, a gourmet kitchen, large windows for light and off street parking for 2 cars. An outdoor shower on the second floor master bedroom porch has wonderful privacy and serene views of the gardens and pool."

This is not an ordinary "house". The architecture and design lets you know upon entry that you are someplace "special". The formal entry entices you to walk through to the living room with its two story view of the pool and garden. Each of the two bedrooms on the main level have a private bath and private veranda. The stairway to the second floor has windows with muted views of the garden to the east. Then you enter the large master suite with his and hers (or in Key West his and his, or hers and hers) bathrooms. The master suite has a built in book ledge that overlooks the living room below and the pool and gardens. If that isn't enough, the master suite has its private second floor veranda which would be great for some stunning sunning. And there is a even a private outdoor shower CLICK HERE with obscured views of the forest primeval next door. (That property runs from Flagler to Von Phister with a depth of 199 feet and a width of 52.75 feet. CLICK HERE to see the stand of huge trees that will not be taken down during the lifetime of anyone reading this blog.) Those trees provide so much privacy that I want to buy this house.

The house next door to the east is a second home for somebody else. The other properties in the neighborhood are mostly single family homes on large lots.

This particular area has a lot of mahogany and other tall trees that make the streets particularly beautiful. Von Phister Street runs parallel to Flagler Avenue which leads to the Casa Marina Hotel two blocks west. Von Phister is very quiet street close to everything, yet far enough away not to be in the middle of anything. You can walk to the beaches in five minutes or less. You can ride your bike to one of about seven gyms or yoga places within 5 blocks. There's a nearby grocery store, a Dairy Queen, some art galleries, a paint store, some churches, etc. But none are that close. You have to go leave the sanctity of Von Phister to go back to the real world. It's not that far. But it is far enough.

This is the deal. 1020 Von Phister Street was under contract until last week. Something happened and the property is now back on the market and it is now priced at $1,299,000 or $657 per sq ft. The house is 1977 sq ft and sits on a large 4558 sq ft lot (46.75 x 97.25) lot. The house is only seven years old, and it is really a beauty. The owner of this house has already purchased another house a block or so away. This is not a distress sale!

CLICK HERE for more detailed information and photos of this sweet home. I live across the street and to the east just a tad bit. I love living in this area. And I am really serious about the beauty of this very special home. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 to schedule a showing of this property. You will be very pleasantly surprised.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Bank Owned Houses - Key West

For those who think they can get a good deal by buying a Bank Foreclosure, may I present two new offerings for your consideration.

607 Margaret Street is located in the Old Town area of Key West. It is two doors to the south of Mangia Mangia for locational reference and across the street from the old Harris School. There is a big tree in front to provide shade from the sun. The interior has Dade County Pine walls. And it is a fixer for sure. The listing Realtor describes this house thus:

"Bank Owned. Fantastic location in Old Town Key West. This home has charm and needs your personal touches. Make this your oasis. Backyard has patio. Bedroom on first floor and second bedroom is on the second floor plus additional storage in the attic."

CLICK HERE for more info supplied by the listing Realtor and to see 4 photos of the property. This house is offered at $349,900 or $360 per sq ft.

3725 Eagle Avenue is located one block west of A1A or near the intersection of Flagler and South Roosevelt Blvds. The two blocks just prior to A1A have some of the nicest homes in Key West. This is not one of them right now. It needs a lot of work in my opinion. But the house is very large (2900 sq ft) and it sits on a huge lot of 12,000 sq ft. That is not a typo. The lot is gigantic. The asking price is $355,000 or only $122 per sq ft. The listing Realtor describes this house this way:

"Mediterranean Style Home. This 3 Bedroom/2.5 Bath residence has authentic textured walls, beamed wood ceilings, beautiful redwood staircase, soaring ceilings, arched french doors and windows, fireplace, private dining area, window-wrapped family room and pinewood floors. Bank Owned Property. Priced to Sell."

CLICK HERE to view listing information and more photos.

The house directly next door to the east CLICK HERE was renovated in 2003-2004 and it is beautiful. I even took a pretty picture of it this morning so you get an idea of what 3725 Eagle might look like after a few hundred thousand dollars and a lot of work.

Both properties are bank owned. I suspect 3725 Eagle will be under contract by Monday. So if you want to buy it, contact me right away. This house will be an an undertaking and it is going to take money and vision to transform this property into a showplace.

607 Margaret Street has a tiny deck and the smells. There is an open toilet right off the living room--no door. The exterior was butchered with an aluminum awning and most of the windows need replaced. The interior stairway does not meet city building code requirements. And you will be throwing a lot of money into any fix-up of this place.

If you think you want to buy a bank owned property, this is your chance. Two new listings in two different areas of town. Both are "affordably" priced. Both need vision, work, and money. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642, if you would like to make an offer to purchase either property. Don't wait.


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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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.