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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!

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.