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Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to Buy Real Estate in Key West

Thirty years ago when I lived in Denver I would ask my Realtor if you could borrow her mls book. Realtors were not allowed to share their mls listing books but could copy pages and give them to customers. But I was sweet so she gave in and let me borrow the book. Today the Internet has made home buying really easy, in fact it is so easy even a Caveman can do it! If you are reading my blog on Key West real estate, you probably found me via Google or some other search engine. What you may or may not know is that all of the Key West mls listings are available for free and are offered unfiltered (meaning you do not need to give anyone your name or other personal information).

Key West is located in Monroe County, Florida. You might think the Florida Keys would be the last place to embrace and utilize the Internet. You would be wrong! The City of Key West has its own Internet presence as well. And most real estate agents have websites and an Internet presence of sorts. My purpose today is to give you some good links so that you can do your own "home work" before you buy your new home in Key West. I know for a fact lots of potential buyers like to use the Internet to help find their new home in Paradise.

CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors mls data base. All real estate agents use this same database. So no matter which real estate company you may choose as your entree to the database, you will end up using this search engine. There is one notable difference, however. The Key West Association of Realtors database is maintained in real time. I have found other sites that have stale or old data that must be manipulated or changed by human beings. The official database is constantly changing as new listings are added or existing listings are changed.

The Monroe County Property Appraiser CLICK HERE has a very helpful website that permits you to search for property information from various perspectives including Alternate Key Number (a numerical id that appears on all mls listings, usually in the middle right that reads Alt Key # followed by seven numbers. Copy and paste those numbers and hit the "Search the Monroe County Property Database" button. You can also search Owner's Name, Physical Location Address, and others. Once you click the Search button, a Property Record View appears which you can print or click for more information. Some properties permit the user to click the "Show Parcel Map" which then provides an aerial view of the subject property. You can also see all kinds of detailed information related to that particular property such as year constructed, additions, improvements, building permits and costs, and "Appraisers Notes". Here the Appraiser's office adds comments from newspaper ads, mls listings, or physical inspections that may point out discrepancies or explanations between items shown of record versus data from other sources. You can also see the property tax valuation for past years and recent sales that are noted by date, price, and recording data.

The Monroe County Tax Collector also has a helpful website CLICK HERE. This site permits you to search properties by Owner's Name or Physical Location. I would caution readers not to assume to much since many people do not pay their property taxes on time. Many lenders escrow for property taxes and insurance. Property taxes in Monroe County are paid in arrears.

The Monroe County Clerk of the Court is an excellent website to search all kinds of information about real property and people that own or have liens on property. CLICK HERE to go to the main page. There you must select between Search Official Records and Search Court Data.

If you click the Search Official Records button you will need to click a "Disclaimer" button and then a n Application Menu. Click it. You will then have four new search options to select from. If you know the Name of the Person or Company, click the Name button. A new page will appear where you type in the Last Name. Then add additional information that you have. I would caution, however, that searches can be either too broad or too narrow. I suggest you limit searches by starting date. If your search is too narrow, you may not see all that is available that pertains to a particular property, owner, or lien claimant.

Click the "Go Search" button. A new page will appear with a potential wealth of new information. You can then click individual lines that reference recorded documents by date, name, book and page, document number, legal description, and so on. You can then bring up most items by clicking the item and it will appear in pdf format. Those documents are printable. You can make copies of all pages or copy just enough to maintain your own personal reference on properties that interest you.

Do not substitute your due diligence with that of a title company or attorney. Do not rely on your own searches to find all of the data or assume you have found everything. We all make mistakes. Trust your attorney or title company. Exercised in real estate sleuthing are just that. Exercises. Rely on professionals that are paid to provide correct information.

The Clerk of the Court has an alternate entree point CLICK HERE that takes you to the Civil, Probate, and Criminal Court records. You can search those records for information by Name. But beware that sometimes people make human errors and encode information incorrectly. You may want to search by name variations or omissions of middle names or initials. Sometimes first names are encoded incorrectly or judgements or deeds or liens are encoded correctly but with erroneous names.

A year ago I wrote a blog entitled "Has My Realtor Been Arrested?" Boy did that get some people upset with me. You can search the criminal record for any name in Clerk of the Court's website. You can also search the Monroe County Sheriff's website to see if someone has been arrested. CLICK HERE for access to that site. Being arrested is not the same as being convicted. And an arrest in Monroe County or Key West does not exclude the possibility of an arrest or conviction elsewhere. A few years ago I got into a heated debate with the broker of a company where I used to have my license. There were two people in that office that had been charged with or convicted of felonies. That discussion came up after a new real estate licensee at a different office made the front page of The Key West Citizen which reported that person was wanted in another state for fraud.

The City of Key West has an excellent website that provides access to all city departments, personnel, Code of Ordinances, Commissions (such as HARC and the Tree Commission), forms, permit applications, and so on. CLICK HERE for the main entree page.

Whether you are in Key West walking down a street or in your home or office far away, you can also access the Key West mls database and get real time listing information, maps, etc. with the i Phone Real Estate App. CLICK HERE to view how the IPhone App works and then CLICK HERE to download the iPhone App. You need to sign up with to download the Application but not with any one agent-such as yours truly.

I do hope that if you use the search tools I have described today when the time comes and you decide to fulfill your dream by purchasing your place in Key West that you will call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or contact me by email. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. I don't have another job such as waiting tables, selling shoes, doing construction, or anything else. Selling real estate is what I do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know, cavemen have feelings, too!



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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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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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.