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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Property Values in the Key West Indies


The title of today's blog is not a typo. A few years ago I had floor duty at the Prudential Real Estate on Duval Street. A guy in his mid 30s and his father came in to discuss something. I left my office and met with the two in the reception area. The younger guy was heavy weight and wore an ill fitting tank top that showed off his root beer belly. His dad sat on the sofa and offered no comments on anything.

The tank topped man asked me about the stock market and I said we sold real estate, not stocks. He asked "This is Prudential, isn't it?" "Yes" I said but added that the Prudential Securities was a totally different company. This discussion went on for a few minutes until he gave up on securities, and then asked me how much his house in Ocala was worth. I asked where and again he said Ocala. I told him he needed to talk to a Realtor in Ocala, that I had no idea what houses are worth in an area so far away. He queried "You are Realtor, aren't you?" And I said I was but that I don't even know where Ocala is located in Florida let alone have any idea what houses are worth there. (In mind mind's eye I could just see his double wide mobile home rusting in the hot Florida sun.)

Then he started in on housing prices in Key West. I asked what type of house and in what location was he interested. Tell me all, he said. I pressed for more info and then he asked where the all you can eat buffet is located on Duval. "I haven't a clue" or something like that I said. But I had an idea that his belly was not just from too much root beer. We went back to housing prices in Key West again. We went back and forth. He was very frustrated with me and my lack of knowledge about prices of houses in Key West. Finally, he asked in all sincerity "This is the Key West Indies, isn't it?" With that I said I had work to do, got up and excused myself and went back to my office.

I could hear the front door shut as the office receptionist thanked the two men for stopping by. When I saw the coast was clear and determined they had actually left the premises, I went back to the reception area and asked "Where is the camera?" I was sure I had been punked or was on Candid Camera.


That office episode was six or seven years ago. It has never gone from my memory. I just checked the distance between Key West and Ocala. It is 436 miles. It is about 109 miles from Key West to the Key Largo area. Those distances are important when you consider a story that appeared in today's Key West Citizen about property sales in Monroe County in June. Sales are up but prices are down, so the story reports.

I wrote about June sales a few days ago in the Cat Pee blog. When I read the story in today's paper I was reminded of the tank topped bumpkin asking me about prices in Ocala. That's akin to asking me about prices in Key Largo. I have no idea and I don't care what goes on up there. I am almost out of my element on properties on the other side of White Street. I normally write about the market in a confined little space on a little island at the end of the county. The total area I care about is maybe one mile square. To equate sales statistics for Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, or Big Pine Key is, in my opinion, just as silly as comparing prices in Ocala.

To prove my point consider the disparity of housing types, values, and locations between Los Angeles and Palm Springs. The distance between those two cities is also 109 miles. If you have ever driven the road between the two you know exactly what I am getting at. Palm Springs is a long way away from the grit and crime of L.A. Much of the architecture of Palm Springs is unique, just like Key West. Comparing enclaves of really dreamy second homes to working class homes in either small town to nearby or far away cities is pointless. I don't mean to come off as a snob, but people that are buying second homes in Key West (or Palm Springs) are not in the same mix as people buying working class first homes in either locale.

I think statistics are very tricky and can be used to prove points that may be misleading by accident or on purpose. The article mentioned the elimination of the first time buyer's tax credit. Second homes in Old Town don't play into that mix at all. I think that discussion is irrelevant to what is happening in Key West. I just don't think it makes any sense in comparing sales prices on a county wide basis.

I am getting off my soapbox and intend to enjoy the Key West ("Indies") sunshine.

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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.