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Monday, June 14, 2010

Key West Dream House

"First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination."
Napoleon Hill
The pic immediately below was taken about three years ago. It is a pic of a smallish eyebrow house in Old Town Key West. The house had a For Sale sign on it for quite a while, but it eventually sold. I showed it twice. The listing agent would not go inside because of the stench and filth. Owners lived there, trapped inside this house of hoarding. Paper and plastic bags everywhere saving God knows what or why. On one showing my buyer started to proceed up the narrow stairway to the second floor. He paused and turned back to me and said "Gary, I can't do it! The smell is so awful." I told him to breath through his mouth. We were up and then out in a flash. A nice house in a great location, but too much work and cost, he thought. The house had two licenses, meaning it could be used legally as a duplex. Again, only God could understand why someone might even consider that. Yet, the well worn look of that house intrigued so many potential buyers who dreamed of what they could do with it. One person acted and the old reality is transforming into a new one.

I took some photos to show what is going on at present. I have used the term staple gun decorating to describe some of the cheesy redos I have seen in Key West. Those redos usually consist of cleaning a place up, a good paint job, floor replacement (often with a floating floor which I hate), replacing kitchens and baths with stylish new cabinets, nice lighting, cheaper stainless steel appliances, and granite. The things that are visible are the features that get attended to. What is not seen is often not attended to.

I remember one developer(who is also a real estate broker) who renovated a house on a little lane a few years ago. The place looked so cute. I remember showing it on New Years Eve in 2004. As we stood inside I looked back at the entry door and noticed a big gap underneath where sunlight was shining through. When we went into the kitchen we saw an expensive Italian light fixture that looked just great. But when I asked how somebody was supposed to actually cook in the kitchen at night with that cute little solitary light, the developer-agent scowled at me. The developer had not attended to the foundation of the house which meant the floors were uneven. But what do you expect for a million bucks?

The photos shown below are illustrative of what a thoughtful renovation must entail. I haven't seen the plans and I don't know the architect or owner. A very respected local builder is apparently doing the renovation. I'll check back in a few months to give you an update. Take some time and look at the pics. They may be helpful in seeing what is sometimes necessary to do to fix an old house that was neglected for too long. Understand that most houses do not have to go through this kind of a renovation process. This is extreme home makeover, for sure. By looking at the lengths that someone is willing to pursue to pursue to transform their dream into a new reality for this old house.

This photo shows the house elevated several feet off the ground. The main floor is gone and all that remains is the "eyebrow" or second floor portion.

This is what remains of the underside of the house. Big holes have been bored into the ground for placement of new concrete piers.

Look carefully at the top of this photo where you will see a window that is actually hidden from street view. Placement of windows like that allow the windows to remain open during the day and even during storms. These windows allow some light and cooling ventilation inside the house.

This photos shows what was the second floor of the old house. Now that all of the clutter and cramped living spaces are gone, the new house has a fresh start on re-imagining what this house can become.

The two above photos are taken from Elgin Lane looking at the underside of the house as it temporarily sits awaiting new piers on which it will be transformed into its new reality.

CLICK HERE to search the Key West Association of Realtors mls database. If you see a property that interests you, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or email me at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. Not all "fixers" have to go through such a process. We are in the summer lull right now. There are still some good nice homes that are affordably priced. Please give me a call and let's find your new place in Paradise.


Anonymous said...

Gary I appreciate you comments on bad renovations. It seems in the high flipping market of 2003-2006 I saw so many homes with the same stock cherry cabinets, cheap stainless steel appliances, bad pergo-type flooring and cheap thin granite I could go crazy. Saw one recently where the owner, who bought in 2006, is now finding out the subflooring is rotted and the bathroom shower has leaked inside the wall for 4 years and has caused so much mold and rot it is a total gut job. They sunk lots of money into the home and now will have to rebuild fron scratch. They love the home but wished they had known. I blame the inspectors too who let the shoddy work go by and not say anything but not everyone bother to listen.

Anonymous said...

As someone in the market right now looking at homes up to $1 million, it seems difficult to find consistent opinions about reputable contractors--especially since I haven't relied on any myself.

Gary Thomas said...

There are honest and competent contractors that do show up and get the job done.

I wrote many months ago about the day I was waiting in line at Burger King on the boulevard and overhead a lard ass big mouthed contractor bragging about how he was screwing people over after Hurricane Wilma.

Another very busy contractor has been very busy losing his empire in short sales and foreclosures.

God giveth and God taketh it away from contractors that too big for their heads.



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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.