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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dazed & Confused over Short Sales?



If you have read my blog for a while or watch the movement of properties on the Key West Association of Realtors website you will see that some short sale properties seem to sell quite quickly and that others seem to languish. If you are dazed and confused by the process, the paragraphs that follow may offer some interesting insight on what some listing agents, renters, and owners do that impact why some properties sell and why others do not.

1. Some real estate agents seemingly do not understand the point of a short sale is to assist a troubled property owner to sell his/her property to a buyer for an amount less than the seller owes to his lender(s) on the condition that the lender(s) agree to accept that lesser amount in full satisfaction of the loan. The seller benefits from not having a foreclosure on his/her credit record. The lender benefits if the amount received outweighs the potential costs of foreclosure and consequent re-marketing of the property.

Here's the rub. Some real estate agents continue to price short sale properties at ridiculously high asking asking prices. I'm talking about per square prices that make no economic sense. The point of a short sale is to sell the property before it gets foreclosed, not to create an impediment (illogical pricing) that deters sane buyers from even looking at the property.

2. Conversely, some real estate agents price properties almost too cheap so that they (listing agents) can sell the property quickly. It is interesting to see how many properties get listed as short sales only to go "contingent" within a day or so of being listed. I believe this is helping to drive down the value of similar properties in the same areas. This is especially true in some condominium developments in Key West.

3. I've seen some listing agents deny that that the seller needs to negotiate the price or sell the property even though it is listed as a short sale. I recently submitted an all cash offer on a short sale property where the listing agent denied it was a short sale (even though it was listed that way in the mls). The agent even told me not to submit an offer less than a certain amount. The agent said the seller was only a few payments behind, yet I knew the lender had filed a Lis Pendens on the property months ago. The offer got rejected and a few days later the seller's agent substantially increased the asking price!

4. Many of the short sale properties in Key West are not owner occupied. In fact, many are rented. For some reason renters seem more in control of what gets sold than the owners or their real estate agents. Renters control when the properties can be shown, and what they look like and smell like. Renters usually demand at least 24 hours notice to show. Some renters refuse to show specific rooms even when proper notice is given. Dogs and cats (and their lingering odors) can make an otherwise nice place look or smell like hell. I have smelled pet urine in several short sale properties.

Some agents are never quite able to get potential buyers in to see listed properties. They may not have keys or the owner does not want the tenants to know the property is listed for sale less the tenant would stop paying rent to the seller. Restated: the property is listed for sale but cannot be shown. Make offer sight unseen.

Consider this as well. Owner rents a large house to a renter for let's say $2000 per month. Tenant then sublets each bedroom and even creates additional bedrooms by partitioning off "rooms" to create makeshift bedrooms. A three bedroom single family house suddenly becomes a five or six room boarding house. If you think I'm making this up, you are wrong. There are sure to be many beasts in the house as well. When a property owner no longer cares about what happens to the property, all animals are welcome. (Not all animal owners are bad. But some are!)

I've shown my buyers short sale properties that are rented. My buyers ask who gets the rental income. Not the lenders, dear readers. Even though most mortgages have an assignment of rents provision, few lenders exercise the right to collect the rent. In most situations the defaulting borrower (Seller)continues to collect rent until the property is foreclosed or sold in a short sale. One owner I know stopped making mortgage payments right after Hurricane Wilma in October 2005 and rented the house until last year. Now a relative lives in the property. There is no incentive to really sell when an owner continues to collect rent or lives in the property for months on end.

5. I've seen instances where people that sell real estate may be assisting sellers in depriving lenders from maximizing their recovery. Example number one: real estate agent lists a short sale house at an aggressively low price. Seller and Buyer (who might be a relative like a brother in law or cousin) enter into a Contract of Sale and Purchase. The short sale is then processed through the system without the lender having any knowledge that the "Buyer" is actually an insider of the Seller. Seller ends up staying in the property after it is sold to the relative as a "renter" or tenant. Example number two: Seller offers a short sale property that has an ancillary asset with a special value (such as an occupational license or furniture in a vacation rental property) that was purchased with the loan proceeds. The listing agent does not include the "asset" in the mls listing but does let it be known that the special asset can be purchased separately outside of the real estate closing. Wink! Nod!

6. Another instance can occur when the seller engages a negotiator to facilitate the short sale on behalf of the seller with the lender. The seller requires (as a condition of signing the Contract of Sale with the buyer) that a certain title company write the title policy and close the transaction. Seems harmless enough, except that the title company is run by an insider of the negotiator and charges fees in excess of what a local title company in Key West would charge. And when the lender demands the real estate agents reduce their commissions in order to close the transaction, the negotiator's fee remains unchanged.

Most of the short sale properties are straight-up offerings. It is not my intent to suggest anything otherwise. But there are instances where a few real estate sales people, renters, and property owners take actions that confound the process.

Monday, March 30, 2009

1209 Olivia Street - Back on the Market - Again!






This is the second time that 1209 Olivia Street has been returned to the market after the lender was unwilling to accept the short sale price negotiated between the seller and buyer. If you are among the many people who saw this house and got frustrated that you did not get to submit an offer, you just got a new chance to own a place in Paradise.

The new asking price is a price that the lender will agree to accept: $610,000. This is what you will get for your money: Desirable Meadows single family home totaling 2 bedrooms/ 2 bathrooms plus small pool house. Heated concrete pool, off-street parking, resurfaced wood floors, new bathrooms, central a/c, Chicago brick patio, newer decking around pool. The house has sat vacant for several months, so it smells a bit. There is also a spiral staircase in the living room that provides access to the second floor bedroom and bath. The pool is green these days, and there are deal palm fronds all over the yard. Each of those negatives can be remedied. But at $610,000 you get a 1522 sq. ft. house on a good sized 3589 sq. ft. lot in a desirable location for $401 per sq. ft. The waiting time on approval should be minimal since the lender has already approved the price.

CLICK HERE for more information and photos of 1209 Olivia Street. Please note: the photos in this blog are old photos. They do not represent the present condition of the property.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Peace in the Middle East of Key West - Short Sale




If you are looking for a pretty, clean, comfortable and peaceful place far from the Madding Crowds in Old Town, the Mid Town area of Key West has a great single family home that is a real Short Sale buying opportunity. 1712 Laird Street is located just two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and the nearby beaches.

Here is how the listing Realtor describes 1712 Laird Street: "This is a wonderful renovation of a concrete block house with high open ceilings, open floor plan and French doors that lead to a large deck and beautifully landscaped gardens. There are 2 bedrooms, 2 beautiful baths with a study that can be used as a third bedroom. Shell stone floors through out, walk-in closets and plentiful storage, central air, stainless steel appliances, beautiful hardwood counter tops and a good sized laundry room. Handsome privacy fencing, off street parking and plenty of room for a pool. This is a potential short sale that may be subject to third party approval."

You enter the property through a beautiful privacy fence into a yard filled with specimen palms and other exotic foliage. The grounds were designed by Ecoscape Landscaping. There is a sprinkler system and exterior lighting as well.

The interior is all very modern and the lines very clean. The living area is on the right side of the house and the eye is drawn to the gardens at the rear. It's as if the yard is saying "Come on outside!" The second bedroom is at front on the left side. There is a door that opens to the outside from that room. The master suite is at the rear. The bedroom has a vaulted ceiling and French doors open to the rear deck. Again, the rear yard beckons. The rear deck is sophisticated, just like the rest of the house. The house and gardens were designed. They did not just occur by happenstance. The marriage of the two makes the one so peaceful.

CLICK HERE to read more info on the house and see the photos. Better yet, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule an appointment to see this property. This is not your typical mid-town redo. Far from it. This house was orignally listed for sale in January 2007 at $995,000 and is now offered as a Short Sale for the asking price of $499,000 or just $333 for this 1500 sq ft house on a generous 5285 sq. ft. lot.

Friday, March 27, 2009

1018 Thomspon Lane - Old Town - Key West - Short Sale





Attention Bargain Hunters: At Home in Key West just listed 1018 Thompson Lane, Old Town, Key West, Florida at the asking price of $600,000 or $526 per sq ft for this 2 bed two bath 1140 sq ft house with a cocktail pool and off street parking. Best yet is the fact that this property is a Short Sale. A short sale means the seller is offering to sell the property for less than the amount the seller owes to lenders on condition that the lenders agree to accept the lesser amount as full payment on the amount owed.

Where, pray tell, is Thompson Lane? you ask. It runs parallel between Eaton and James Street (east-west) for one block. It intersects Grinnell Street on the west and Francis Street or the back end of Manley deBoer Lumber Company at the east. Thompson Lane is only one block long. It's a very narrow little lane that the tourists on Mopeds will surely miss. And no Conch Train will ever pass by this abode.

Finnegan's Wake is a mere 30 second stroll to the west. And the Historic Key West Seaport is maybe a two minute walk. The Waterfront Market is down there so you will never be short of fresh fish and veggies. Duval Street is a five minute walk so you can get to your favorite restaurant or other libation destination without having to drive a car or remember where you left your bike or scooter.

1018 Thompson Lane has been rented as a monthly vacation rental. So if you are looking to purchase a place that can legally be rented as such, this place may meet your needs. The website that offers this property as a monthly rental describes the property this way: "A little slice of paradise located only one block from the historic seaport and close enough to bike to all the sites and attractions of old town. The Key Lime Pie is located on a small narrow lane that is a secret from even many of the locals in Key West.
This house has been lovingly refurbished with updated kitchen cabinets, countertops, appliances, a brand new downstairs bathroom and new hardwood floors on the first floor. Also on the first floor you will find the living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. On the second floor is the second bedroom and bathroom. Off of the living room is a cozy deck where you can bask in the swim-spa or relax reading a book. You will have one parking space for a smaller SUV or compact car. Sleeps 4."


CLICK HERE for more details and lots of pics of 1018 Thompson Lane.

If you are interested in seeing 1018 Thompson Lane or any other property in Key West please consider using me, Gary Thomas, to help you find just the right place. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. We are the exclusive Key West affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. Call me at 305-766-2642 or e-mail me at kw1101v@aol.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Price Reduction - 712 Southard Street - Old Town Key West





The sharp Key West Conch Cottage at 712 Southard just had a price reduction. The new asking price is $899,000. The house was extensively remodeled a couple of years ago so everything is in very good condition in my opinion. I have hosted two open houses at the property and have had time to poke around a bit. My observations later.

The listing Realtor describes 712 Southard Street thus: "Location!Location!Location! Just two blocks from Duval Street, sits this beautifully appointed shotgun on the best block in Key West. Two nice size bedrooms and bathrooms, great new kitchen with cathedral ceiling that opens to the glass tiled kidney shaped heated pool surrounded by tropical landscaping."

The house is 1026 sq ft according to Monroe County tax records and sits on a 2259 sq ft lot just two blocks from Duval Street. There is no off street parking, but the other properties in the area are single family homes with no commercial activity nearby. I often suggest that second home buyers consider renting a car when in Key West rather than owning one and then having to pay thousands of extra dollars just to have a guaranteed parking space. When you consider the cost of owning a car and add in insurance and depreciation, you gotta be loaded to have a second car in Key West. You can rent a brand new convertible every time you come to your home in Paradise. It will be cheaper, dear reader.

The bedrooms at 712 Southard Street are located in the front of the house. The living room is next and the kitchen (a sawtooth addition with vaulted ceiling) is at the rear. It opens onto the large deck and very good sized pool. The gardens are beautiful and very serene. The pool get plenty of sunshine and the neighbors cannot see the pool, so what happens in your pool area stays in your pool area.

If you are looking for a house in Old Town with at least two bedrooms and two baths and that has a pool CLICK HERE to see the other properties priced $899,000 or lower. 712 Southard Street beats many of the properties on several levels, but the potential buyer is the best judge of what works at what price.

CLICK HERE for more detailed information on this sharp Key West Conch House and lots of photos of the interior and exterior.

If you would like to see 712 Southard Street or any other property offered for sale in Key West, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc., an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just Listed: 602 Southard St. Old Town Key West




Just Listed, but not by me: 602 Southard Street (corner of Southard & Simonton Streets). This is how the listing Realtor describes this property: "Grand Historic Home (3 legal Units)located in the Old Town district. One block off Duval. Featuring Entry Porch, Hardwood Floors, Walk in Closets, High Ceilings, Ceiling Fans and Metal Roof. The perfect historic Conch Home!" CLICK HERE to see more info and several photos of the interior.

I have never been inside this place, but I have admired this house since the first time I came to Key West. There is something so "old" about the place that makes me feel safe or content. It's a big house, 2746 sq. ft. according to tax records. The lot is big too, 5573 sq. ft. at a major point in Old Town. The property is presently configured as three units, and the listing agent says there are 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. CLICK "PHOTO" to see PHOTO, PHOTO, PHOTO , PHOTO I took this morning of the exterior.

The list of negatives about this property in today's economy might scare away just about every buyer: location (busy corner); income on 3 units likely not enough to support debt to finance the purchase; cost of renovation would be huge because of the large size of the property; the price ($950,000) s barely under one million bucks; that ugly little commercial building next door to the south; I could go on. But if you look at the property differently you see the location as a positive if you are looking for a house near everything with the size of the building and lot to do what you want. The building next door doesn't have tenants that party all night. The economy is slow right now so you do your own stimulus package and hire some local builders that are not otherwise engaged. The asking price may seem high but it may be negotiable and on a per sq. ft. basis ($346) it is a great value given the structure, size, and great location. There are some structural things you may want to change (add a pool and eliminate the exterior plumbing pipes for example). I envision HARC and the planning department working with a new owner to turn 602 Southard into striking property. Let's say you invest an additional $500,000 in renovation. Would a "new" renovation in that location be worth about $1.5 million? To some buyers it would. You can get a lot of house in Key West for $1.5 million in today's market. Some locations are better than others.

If you think the worst of times is in front of us, this property is definitely one that you should not see. But if you think our country is going to come out of this mess and you want to take advantage of the present price levels, you might want to take a look at this property. Whoever buys this big house with a big lot needs a big pocketbook to do this old lady her due. This place could be fun. If you want to see this property, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or send me an email at kw1101v@aol.com.

Monday, March 23, 2009

3533 Flagler Avenue - Bank Owned - Key West




This distinctive Mid Century house at 3533 Flagler Avenue is bank owned and it has been on the market for quite a while. It was previously listed with a real estate agent in Miami. I've carped about them carpetbaggers before coming down here and listing homes in Key West. They join one of the Monroe County association of Realtors and start to list houses as if one house is like another. Well, it did not sell and it was put in a national auction. It didn't sell there, either. It was recently listed by a local Realtor and this is what that Realtor says: "Great family or shared home in New Town.,Key West, Florida. Spacious 3/3 with dip pool. Downstairs are a bedroom and bath, laundry room, large kitchen/dining area and living room. Multiple French doors provide lots of light and great views leading to tropically landscaped side/rear yards. Upstairs there are two bedrooms each w/ private baths and a comfortable deck overlooking pool and gardens. Rear yard is very private with beautiful, mature palms. The dip pool is uniquely shaped and a perfect size to cool off with friends on a warm tropical afternoon. There is plenty of parking on street and off street, front yard is paved to allow for vehicles and play. Large front porch, sit & relax and watch the world go by. Repairs needed. Foreclosure."

CLICK HERE to read more of the info in the mls and see 22 photos of the house and grounds. The previous agent had one pic.

I think this house would make a great family home. The front, side, and rear yards are big. The lot is 5000 sq. ft. and that means room for the family to actually enjoy the outside. The rear yard and pool are dramatic and really sexy. The place needs some spiffing up, but it will come back. The prior owner obviously loved this house. They put in a new kitchen and made several nice improvements to the property. There is a Romeo & Juliet balcony off the master bedroom that looks down to the pool.

If you are looking for a good sized house (1658 sq. ft.) at a good price, $332,900 or only $201 per sq ft, checkout this Bank Owned property. Get out that pencil and sharpen it. You might actually get a pretty good deal on this one.

CLICK HERE to search the real Key West Association of Realtors mls database. No one will call you or track you on the Internet--not even me. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at kw1101v@aol.com, if you are interested in this house or any other property in Key West. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc., an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

821 Southard Street - Old Town - Key West





There is something so comfy-cozy about 821 Southard Street in Old Town Key West. It kind of reminds me of my grandmother's house. It sits back off the street protected by a white picket fence. It sits up high and has a front porch to watch the world go by. There is even a screen door, a site rarely seen in Key West.

Inside the rooms are large. All of them. Except for the kitchen and baths, the rooms are pretty much now as they were when the house was built. The kitchen looks like new cabinets were installed around 20 years ago. I've seen the same cabinets all over town in houses and condos from that era. The stainless steel appliances are new, however. And the maple floors throughout the house add real warmth to the place. But the primary thing you see when you enter the house is that magnificent rear yard. It shouts out to you to come outside!

821 Southard Street is a 3 bedroom 2 bath house of 1526 sq. ft. that sits on a large 5400 sq. ft. lot (54'wide x 100' deep).It is offered at $1,250,000 or $819 per sq. ft. There is a small cottage at the right rear of the garden. The present garden is lush and dense. There is a great view of the steeple of a nearby church and the giant trees in other yards create a grand view from the covered rear deck. There is no pool, but there is ample room to build a very nice one. The setting is just beautiful.

The listing Realtor describes 821 Southard Street thus: "Perfect location with off-street parking! Lovely three bedroom and two bath home with an open floor plan, spacious rooms and wood floors. A generous dining porch overlooks the lush landscaping with plenty of room for a pool. Can also be sold with adjoining properties (MLS #107783 & 107785). CLICK HERE to read more info and see additional photos of this property.

This charming house is perfectly livable as is, but it would just as equally be a good candidate for a superior renovation. It is just that neat a property. If you are looking for a house like 821 Southard Street (or any other for that fact), please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at kw1101v@aol.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kid Friendly in Key West





Thanks to all the readers who made such nice comments on yesterday's blog "You do the Math". I appreciate it when my shills are awake. Your checks will be arriving soon.

Diana, the reader that prompted all the comments,was looking for kid friendly area other than pricey Old Town that her family could afford. They are in that under one million threshold. I just created a list CLICK HERE of houses in the Meadows and Casa Marina areas that are priced under the one million mark. I think all prices are negotiable these days, so don't let the asking price on any property prevent you from looking at it.

I eliminated houses that are on busy streets. Some are affordably priced, but kids do run into streets. I think locals are pretty careful about driving on side streets. But you need to watch out for tourists. I did leave in houses on South Street. I know it gets traffic, but it also has some real nice houses at great asking prices and I think they may sell even lower.

1217 Varela Street is located right next door to the Montessori School. It's neat and clean, has room for a pool, and it has off street parking. The other houses on the block are much more expensive. The house across the street was featured in HGTV's House Hunters Key West episode last week. It's priced over $2.7 million. Nice house, great block, kid friendly, what more do you need?

1019 Flagler Avenue was left in because it could be a great family home. It's going to take some money and a good designer to do it, but the value is there. The rear yard once was incredible and it can be again. The house two doors away once belonged to R.J. Reynolds. It was recently redone and it is now offered just under $4 million. Same street folks.

1116 Seminary Street is a short sale. I wrote about it before. It is a great house and is located across the street from the Glen Archer Elementary School. Seminary gets local traffic from moms dropping the kids off and picking them up from school. And occasional locals like me who ride on the street on a bike.

1217 Petronia Street is in a dense area of the Meadows. Houses are closer together than houses in the Casa Marina area. But this house is priced very competitively.

The city government and many of the service groups are always doing something to make the lives of kids and families with kids more enjoyable. The city commissioners take pains to make sure that they provide good clean wholesome things for families to do that are apart from the craziness that happens on Duval Street.

The top photos is of a house in the 1000 block of Washington in Casa Marina. The next photo is located next door to 1116 Seminary mentioned above. The school is the Glen Archer Elementary School on the corner of White between Seminary and United Streets. It was the original Key West High School. Oh, I forgot to mention, there is even a Dairy Queen located nearby.

If you are considering the move to Key West, please consider working with me, Gary Thomas. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties, an affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. Call me at 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at kw1101v@aol.com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

You do the Math - Key West Potential Deals





I thought it would be interesting to let the readers compare two similar yet dissimilar houses for sale. Both houses are often referred to as cigar maker cottages or shotgun houses. Some people call them Conch Cottages. Call them what you want. Both houses are for sale and here are the details that may make them attractive to you.

1216 White Street is located about five blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. It is a Bank Owned house listed for sale at $344,900 or just $262 per sq ft. CLICK HERE for more photos and detailed information provided by the listing Realtor. I've shown this house several times in recent weeks and I think this 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. They are not complete. The kitchen needs to be replaced and the floors need to be repaired. Some piers probably need replace, but those are things your home inspector and contractor can tell you what needs to be done. To me, those issues are "givens". But what makes 1216 White so appealing is the huge yard on the side and rear. I'm talking about the potential to create a really beautiful pool and garden area. Now, there appears to have been off-street parking where the current boarded up garage exists. There is a new sidewalk with no curb cut. But there may be photographs or city records that would give a buyer the right to get that curb cut put back in place. All of a sudden, that ugly little shack comes down and a new covered off-street covered canopy goes up. Beyond that is a fence protecting the gardens and pool beyond.

217 Truman Avenue is located in Bahama Village just west of the Key West Lighthouse. CLICK HERE to read more information and checkout the killer photos of this lovely house just two blocks from upper Duval Street. 217 Truman is priced at $599,000 or $586 per sq. ft. 217 Truman is "done" whereas 1216 White is "a fixer-upper". But both are priced in the price range acceptable to many second home buyers looking for a place in Key West. 217 Truman has less square feet than 1216 White, but White Street needs to complete the renovation.

Both properties are on streets that get a lot of traffic during the daytime. That is why I chose these two for comparison purposes. The view of the Historic Lighthouse, that sweet little pool, and the convenient walk to Duval Street should make a lot of potential buyers want to consider Truman. And the potential to create a very large pool and garden close might attract a buyer who wants a place close to the beach. Most houses in the Casa Marina area are still selling for over a million bucks. This place is about one block outside the Casa Marina area, but it is priced about $650,000 less because of its condition and location. You do the math on either house.

If you are looking to purchase a home in Key West, please consider calling me, Gary Thomas at 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Prederred Properties Coastal Realty Inc at 520 Southard Street, Key West, Florida.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

25 years ago this week





Twenty Five years ago this week I sat foot on the Island of Key West for the very first time. I had read about Key West a few years earlier in a magazine called "After Dark". Things were different back then. We did not have 24 hour per day news channels and travel channels to tell us about the world. We had magazines and books. The photos above are from the issue I read. (That's Randy from The Village People in the top photo. Those pics attracted my attention. I read the article and decided I must see for myself.

I drove down from Miami and thought if I didn't like Key West, I could return to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the second week of my vacation. When I got to Key West, I did what any red blooded American guy would do. I didn't read the map. I guessed which direction to take. I drove south along the ocean side and ended up in no man's land somewhere. I was really upset. I thought I had made a horrible mistake. Somehow I found Duval Street (again without aid of a map). Then I found the cross street where my guest house was located. I checked in and started to decompress. Within hours there was no stress at all. Like every other first time tourist I walked up and down Duval Street and some of the side streets taking in the still "beat" feeling that existed at that time. The town had not been gentrified the way it is now. Some places like Jerry Herman's two sisters houses on the corners of Fleming and Elizabeth were redone. But so many more houses looked like they were ready to fall down any day. The sidewalks were cracked and falling apart. When you walked down the sidewalks at night Palmetto bugs (dozens of them) would litter the sidewalks. The sidewalks are fixed and the bugs are gone. Thank God on both accounts.

Each day brought a new discovery. I met new friends at the guest house. Together we found great restaurants to enjoy and together created wonderful memories of one of my best vacations ever. I met some locals and got invited to a party at a really swank Casa Marina home. I attended Tea Dance at La Te Da. (They held Tead Dance on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons. The town was hopping!) I made the nightly trek to the COPA and the other bars that existed back then. There was a place called Michael's on Duval Street. The Old Plantation and another called Papillion were popular as well but now they are gone. The Monster had burned down a year or so before. So I only learned of it by legend. I made the pilgrimage to Atlantic Shores and was amazed at the mass of naked people, many college kids, and locals hanging out listening to loud disco music in the daytime. I'm not a party person, but I started thinking "I could live here." Then it became "I want to live here." It wasn't about the bars or the booze or the sun. It wasn't about the beautiful old houses or tall palm trees or the ocean. It was the way that the People that live in Key West relate to where they live and how they relate to each other.

It took me nine years of screwing around making goof-ball offers on real estate before I bought my first property. I was always trying to get the best deal. That got me no deal for nine years. Then I got lucky. Real lucky. I bought a property at an SBA auction in 1993 and outbid the others in attendance. And I moved to Key West the week before Christmas. So many great properties had slipped through my hands. I wasted nine years in the cold winter snows. Nevermore.

A few years ago I wrote an offer for an English couple that wanted to purchase a newly renovated two story carriage house on a small lane just off Eaton Street. That carriage house was on one of the very best of the best lanes. I delivered the offer that evening to the listing Realtor. My buyer called very early the next morning and left a voice message asking me to stop by their guest house. He said his wife had been up all night. Crying! I went over immediately. She started crying again. She said something about not wanting to come to Key West and walking up and down Duval Street every day. I told her locals don't go to Duval. Tourists do that. Locals have real lives. Some locals go to Duval Street to work. Some locals go there to party. A few unfortunate locals spend too much time there, but they are not the norm.

I was showing a couple around town the other day and the wife said "You really enjoy selling real estate, don't you!" And I said "Yes."

I enjoy my life so much in Key West. It's a small town with small town values when it comes to people but it's a big town when it comes to having lots of things to do on so many levels. If you are thinking of buying a place in Key West don't miss the present buying opportunity. Prices are low compared to years past and interest rates are still very low. Local banks are making loans to purchase single family homes. Please give me, Gary Thomas, a call at 305.766.2642 or e-mail me at kw1101v@aol.com. Don't wait nine years like me. Life is too short to screw around over a few thousand dollars. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

P.S. Trivia Question: What was the name of the rooftop restaurant at La Te Da (chinese that served drums of heaven chicken wings among other delectable foods)?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

614 Greene Street - Old Town - Key West






They've already started the party without you folks. I just went down to take a photo of 614 Greene Street and the area is a bustle of activity with people wearing O'the green. How appropriate they are doing it on Greene Street. If you think I jest, look at the photo above with the couple in green t-shits that read "St. Patrick's Day 2009".

Anyway, St. Patrick's Day or someday soon may be your lucky day if you were to buy 614 Greene Street which is located at the epicenter of tourist activity at the Historic Key West Seaport. The listing Realtor describes this Transient Licensed Property this way: "Located just steps from both Duval Street & the Historic Seaport this commercial store front plus 3 transient rental unit property is in the perfect Old Town spot. Behind the bustling street lies a peaceful garden where each renovated unit enjoys its' own private covered porch. Relax in the ambiance of a wonderful custom dip pool with natural seashell waterfall. Front unit is commercial, Captain's Quarters (2nd unit) is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, Crow's Nest (3rd unit) is a 1bedroom, 1bath & Pirate's Den is a freestanding 1 bedroom, 1bath bungalow. All units are offered fully furnished, turn-key including flat screen TV's & wireless internet access. Walking distance to all that Old Town Key West has to offer. OWNER SAYS SELL - MAKE OFFER!"

CLICK HERE to read more details on this property and see photos supplied by the listing Realtor. This property is a potential money maker for someone wanting a small hands-on day to day transient rental operation. I see the potential owner as someone who does not mind a little work to make a modest income from a property in a terrific location that may increase in value as the economy recovers. I can tell you this, the Monroe County Property Appraiser values the property highly. The location is what makes the modest buildings so valuable. That, and the ability to produce income either from transient rentals or other commercial activity that the Hrcc1 zoning permits. 614 Greene Street is not a Short Sale, but the seller is willing to entertain offers.

If you are thinking of buying a second home and potentially buy a small business in Key West, please call me, Gary Thomas 305.766.2642 or my associate Phil Wilson 305.394.4105. Phil has been in the commercial real estate business for years and either he or I may be able to help you put this deal together or maybe another property. Prices are low compared to years past, and there are some real buying opportunities.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Key West House Hunters - Part Two



Did you watch House Hunters last night on HGTV to Cory Held of Preferred Properties show and sell a second home in Key West? If not and you are looking for a place in Key West, try to find it on re-run. It's helpful even if you are not looking in the same price range as the buyers who were willing to spend up to $2 million for a second home.

On the program Cory showed her customers three houses. In reality, they looked at about 20. I'm going to share the gritty details on the three houses on the program. Only one remains unsold and it is temporarily off the market but.... (more later)

House No. 1 is located at 804 Elizabeth Street in Old Town. It is an eyebrow house that was recently renovated and has a spectacular pool. The living room and dining area are just captivating. The second floor bedrooms are cozy (small but not tiny). The master bedroom is in the back and I thought it should be expanded to take advantage of the beautiful pool and garden. It was listed in April 2007 at $1,695,00 and sold a week ago for $950.000. I hope the buyer knows what a sweet deal he or she got. CLICK HERE to see the mls data sheet on 840 Elizabeth.

House No. 2 is located on Varela Street about one half block north of United Street. The Key West Montessori School is located up on the corner at United. I remember hosting numerous open houses at this location in 2000 when it was offered for about $600,000. I remember telling people about what a great property it could become. It was a big house and it had a big yard with a potential guest cottage and off street parking on the lane behind the house. Our office got to see the house a couple of months ago. My goodness, what an incredible change. You have to watch the episode to see all the bells and whistles that were incorporated into this home.

House No. 2 is temporarily off the market but was recently priced at $2,595,000. It is listed by Preferred Properties. CLICK HERE to see the mls listing info on this home. Click the photos to see more pics of the house including that kitchen on Steroids. The French doors open on two sides to let the outdoors come inside. And that pool is absolutely breath taking. The guest house in the back would suit me fine. What a charmer it is.

House No.3 is the house the "buyers" bought. It is located on Packer Street about one half block south of Truman Avenue. It was originally listed for sale in 2005 at $3,150,000. The buyers paid $1,337,500. (Public record.) CLICK HERE to see what they got for their money. This property is new as compared to the others. It is not in Old Town, but across the street so to speak. I think the buyers made out like bandits on the price. They got new construction with no issues. That's not bad.

Cory did a great job and I hear her buyers are delighted with the "little place" in Paradise. There are some great buying opportunities out there dear readers. And they aren't all for houses and condos in New Town. Every house that is for sale right now is for sale for a reason. Some people have to sell because of the economy; some are getting divorced; and some people have died and the heirs want their share of the money.

If you are looking to buy a second home in Key West, please call me, Gary Thomas. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty Inc. Give me a call at 305.766.2642. You won't end up on TV. (I got interviewed for the CBS program "SUNDAY MORNING" and got so confused I forget what I did at the RTC. So I know better than to try to walk and talk on camera.) But you might end up getting yourself a real sweet deal.

CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. No Realtor will call and you won't get emails sent to you without asking.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Key West House Hunters - Tonight on HGTV




Our very own Cory Held (Preferred Properties super agent) will be on HGTV's House Hunters tonight (March 15th at 7:30 PM EDT). Cory will be helping a couple planing to move from their Dillsburg, Pennsylvania horse farm to a million dollar home in the Florida Keys.

Let's all turn on the tube and see what happens. She did tell me that the episode was filmed a few months ago. It will be interesting to see what the buyers looked at and what the pricing was. Cory kept mum as to what the couple bought - or not!

I really like the House Hunters and House Hunters International shows. It is interesting to see what a few hundred thousand dollars can buy in various places compared to Key West. I know some people think our prices are still over-priced. Watch House Hunters and see what real people pay for real houses, especially in the House Hunters International series. One of the things I've noticed about the international episodes is the desire of buyers to be in a great location at a great location. You know what I mean: they want the best location at a destination they love. When confronted with choice of price versus dream fulfillment (size, features, amenities, superior location such as ocean front or "view" of whatever), it is fun to watch buyers struggle to decide what to do and how to justify their decision.

My buyers go through the same decision making struggles all the time. They typically want either an a cute Old Town house on a good block that has off street parking, a pool, and a good price--under $500,000. Some want the place done and others are willing to do some fix-up. Other buyers opt for the Casa Marina area because of its proximity to the beach and its distance from the hub-bub of Duval Street. Most realize they can't get a place in the Casa Marina area for $500,000, but that doesn't stop them from asking.

We got struggles, right here in Key West City. Ha!

That's Cory and her dog BINGO in the photos.

Watch Cory Held tonight on HGTV. But when you come to Key West, please call me to help you find your place in Paradise. Call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 or email me at kw1101v@aol.com. CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors official mls website. No Realtor (me included) will track you and start sending you emails.

Disclaimer

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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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.