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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Are You Afraid of Cuba?

700 Block of Duval Street in 1930s when Havana Tours were possible

900 Block of Duval Street in early 1960s when you could still get "there" from "here"

Every once in awhile I have a potential buyer ask me what I think will happen in Key West when, not if, Cuba opens up to the United States again. I always say something like "I don't think it will be a big deal." Cuba is just 90 miles away from Key West. It is closer than Miami.

Key West used to be a launching spot to send tourists to that island nation to our south. I found a couple of old photos (above) that show Havana Tour locations located on Duval Street and a photo of an almost ancient (1930s vintage photo) of a steamship bound for Cuba. It seems like today you can't walk a block on Duval without some huckster trying to sell you tickets to a day trip to the Dry Tortugas or a sunset sail. I don't expect opening Cuba will be much different.

There will surely be some flights out of the recently expanded Key West International Airport (I laugh every time I say that name). But there may also be seaplane rides as well, because there used to seaplane rides before Castro. (Seaplanes actually departed near Mallory Square in olden days headed to Cuba.) I expect there will be slow cruises and hydrofoil's as well. There is a new launching spot built at the Historic Key West Seaport for just such a purpose. That spot is already bringing lots of tourists from the Ft Myers area.

If you think about it, Havana will be an attraction that is something new and different to most Americans. Canadians and Europeans go there all the time. A lot of Key Westers legally go there every year for "educational" purposes. I think many Americans will embrace the idea of going to see the forbidden country. And if Key West becomes the launching spot, so what? Big deal. I think it will be good for businesses here. But I don't think it will bring many more people to Key West. It may divert some dollars that would be spent here which will then be spent there. It's cheaper there than it is here, so I have been told. It's cheaper in New Jersey, too. That doesn't stop people from South Jersey from coming to Key West every year.

The only time I was afraid of Cuba was as a teenager when we almost went to nuclear war over it. That time is over. I am hopeful that sometime in the first or second Obama administration the airways and waterways to Cuba will be opened to Americans. I think potential buyers who fear Cuba may be looking for an excuse not to buy in Key West. They may be the same people who think that housing prices in Key West will continue to fall and that if they wait long enough, they can buy that really big place of a really small price. I have a bit of news for them: the seaplane has left the dock. Prices are on the uptick. Some Key West locations that had lots of inventory have none. I'll be writing more about this in a few days. Fear of the unknown is natural. Fear of the future is irrational.

If you are hoping to buy a place in Key West, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in sunny Key West. Our office is the exclusive Lower Florida Keys affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls. If you see something you like, please call me or shoot me an email at Don't be afraid of the future, embrace it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On balance, I believe that Cuba will be a positive for KW, as KW will be a natural "jumping off" point for Cuba. It is doubtful that many KW buyers will buy in Cuba instead - there are now and have been many opportunities to buy in other countries with a better track record than Cuba (Bahamas, T and C, etc.) I think that KW buyers are looking for property in the US - for better or worse - and are not potential buyers outside the US.

Keep up the good work, Gary.


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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.