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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Modest Proposal - An Eyebrow "Lift" in Key West

405 Frances Street as it appeared in 1965

It was built in 1889 and look like this when it sold in 2009 for $216,500

405 Frances Street looked undressed in June 2010

New "skin" is being added to the old but improved frame

There are many reasons people fall in love with Key West. One of those is the distinctive architecture. I have watched the renovation of numerous homes since I first came to Key West 26 years ago. Some are done by weekend warriors; some by fast-buck artists; and some are done by craftsmen. A little while back I posted a photo of the previously forlorn eyebrow house (above) at 405 Frances Street. I have been going by the place over the past few months and photographing the progress. I am inspired by the transformation. I can't wait to see the finished product.

I got to show the Frances Street house a few times before it was sold. The listing agent would not go inside. The place was filled with years of accumulated crap piled high. The smell was over-powering. People were living inside this hell hole. It was so sad. And scary. Buyers were so turned off that they would not give the place a second thought. Except one buyer finally did. He paid $216,500. The place looked small and unfixable. Now it is beginning to look quite large and impressive.

I mention 405 Frances Street because it is illustrative of many unappreciated houses in Old Town that have been neglected for far too many years. In many cases the owners moved out long ago and left the old house to renters. And in many of those instances no improvements have been made for a long time. When owners don't care, tenants don't care either. It becomes a vicious cycle. Bad houses often depress other houses in the neighborhood.

I found two Key West eyebrow houses that need "eyebrow" lifts to bring them into the 21st Century.

1016 James Street is located near the Historic Key West Seaport. I've shown this place a few times. It's a mess. CLICK HERE to checkout the mls listing info. The listing Realtor calls the place a diamond in the rough. We are both right in our descriptions. If you gut this place and jack up the building to pour new piers and replace joists and other structural members that need fixing, you will have a sturdy new foundation upon which to reinvigorate a classic Key West eyebrow house. Forget about all that is wrong with the current place, because all of that will be gone. It will get transported to the dump. The location will remain. What happens after that is between the owner, the architect, the contractor, and HARC. The asking price is $325,000.

What you cannot see from the mls listing photos is the backyard and the potential to change this house for the better. The yard is 3404 sq ft (40' x 80'). The rear of the property is on Thompson Lane-a small lane with only a few houses that get access from either Frances Street or Grinnell Street. The back of the house has an addition that could be removed and replaced with a new two story addition that could make the entire house move functional. There are two "out" buildings on the lot as well. Key West regulations may permit the renovation of one into a guest cottage or maybe a pool house. There is no pool now, but there is room for one. Or maybe room for covered off street parking.

1016 James Street photographed by the WPA in the 1930s (above)

1016 James Street as it appears in August 2o1o

The "addition" should be removed and rebuilt. Still room for a pool and guest cottage.

House behind on Thompson Lane added covered parking, bricked pavers, and a white fence

The house at 716 Thomas Street (below) was recently listed. CLICK HERE to checkout the listing information on this two story eyebrow house. This house has 1896 sq ft of living space an sits on a 3136 sq ft lot ( 32' x 98'). That means this house has room for a pool as well. 716 Thomas Street is offered at $399,000.

716 Thomas Street as it appeared in 1965

716 Thomas Street in Old Town Key West August 2010

A few years ago you would hear the din of power saws and nail guns all over Old Town. It's much quieter these days. There are not as many construction jobs going on. Builders are still building, but the number of jobs has lessened. I think now is a good time to do a project house because there is competition for the work. And whether you want to do an eyebrow house, a cigar maker's cottage, or a grand conch home, there are many good properties to chose from.

If you would like to see 1016 James Street, 716 Thomas Street, or any other house in Key West, please consider calling me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

523 Elizabeth Street - Old Town - Key West

523 Elizabeth Street (ca 1874) as it appeared in 1965

523 Elizabeth Street as it appears in 2010

Just listed, but not by me, 523 Elizabeth Street in Old Town Key West. This place was on the market before. Same house; same price; a new Realtor; a tightening market. It did not sell last time at the asking price. Will it sell now?

This is how the listing Realtor describes this property:
" When location matters look no further. Situated on Elizabeth between Southard and Fleming, the perfect Old Town Key West address! History abounds in this historic home with great detail taken to restore period details. Currently configured as a duplex, but with little effort could be turned into a spacious 4 or 5 bedroom single family residence. 11 foot ceilings, beautiful restored crown moldings and perfect Dade County Pine walls are just a few of the details that grace this Historic gem. Final touches could be made to the back yard and pool area to create a tropical oasis. One of the best priced homes in this area of old town for its size! Two balconies with beautiful foliage to relax and off street parking complete this package."

Off street parking
523 Elizabeth Street was built circa 1874. (See the black and white above photo taken in 1965 before the white paint was stripped). The house is a 2125 sq ft and sits on 4950 sq ft lot (45' x 110') just two blocks from Duval Street and three blocks from the Historic Key West Seaport. This block of Elizabeth is one of the more eclectic blocks in Key West-and we have man of them. The third oldest home on the island is across the street and down a couple of houses. The former Mayor of Key West lives a couple of doors away. A large house across the street is owned by a local architect and contractor. I say this kindly: that house is leftover hippie and I love it. There are fancy redos as well. They all blend together in the end. Two giant Royal Poinciana Trees frame 523 Elizabeth. A giant orchid tree is located across the street. The whole block is green and evokes a feeling of laid back comfort.

The Groovy Pad across the street
This is a large house. Maybe that's why it got cut up and made into a duplex. The pool in the rear was allowed to disintegrate and the yard went to hell. The exterior was all spiffed up and the interiors were very recently remodeled. There is one very large tree that appears to be growing into the right rear side of this house CLICK HERE. It needs an exorcism.

The listing Realtor got it right in suggesting that this "duplex" could be reconfigured back into a single family. I don't know why that didn't happen when the recent renovations were being done. The good thing is that this house is solid and symmetrical. A recent addition or renovation at the downstairs rear needs to be undone in my opining. That space needs reconfigured and opened out to the pool. The current usage just misses the mark. The lot is enormous by Old Town standards. I believe building code would permit renovation of the current pool. (It is built inside the current building code setbacks. Keeping the same location expands the other usage on the lot.) It needs it as it is falling apart. A huge tree has creepy vines growing down into the pool. Conditions like this scare many buyers. They shouldn't. We have lots of very capable architects, contractors, and pool installation companies that can "fix" bad planning concepts, repair or replace rooms from hell, and turn an eyesore into a thing of beauty.

The pool needs a little work!
CLICK HERE to checkout the mls listing data sheet and to view listing photos. I took some photos as well. CLICK HERE to see my pics-interior shots were taken last year.

There are fewer and fewer big houses offered for sale in Key West that are priced under a million dollars. 523 Elizabeth is being offered at $875,000. True, if you bought this house and did some of the things the listing Realtor and I suggest, your cost basis in this property would be higher. But you would end up with one very large house on a very large lot on a great (and eclectic) block in Old Town. This place is worth a look if you are seeking a big house. If you want income property, look as well. Keep the current configuration and use one unit for yourself and rent out the other.

If you would like to see 523 Elizabeth Street please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. Our office is Exclusive Lower Florida Keys affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

707 Washington - Short Sale - Casa Marina Area - Key West

I have written about the house at 707 Washington Street for over two years. The places just won't sell. It is a short sale and has been under contract several times. It went back on the market yesterday. It is beginning to play like a broken record. Last time I saw it pop up in the mls I thought of Mr. Bill saying "OHH NOOO !!! And so it is again. Read on.

707 Washington Street - Casa Marina Area - Back on Market as Short Sale

707 Washington Street - Offered at $1,049,000 as a Short Sale

701 Washington Street - neighbor immediately to the west

709 Washington Street - neighbor immediately to the east

And then I decided I must remind my Readers know about this buying opportunity.

This property is technically a "remodel" since the original duplex located on the huge lot was never officially demolished. CLICK HERE to see 707 Washington as it appeared in 1965. But in reality the two buildings that occupy the space are new from foundation up to the tippy-top of the roofs. The buildings were designed by local noted architect Tom Pope. He, however, did not design the interiors. The interiors were, in my opinion, ill conceived. The rooms as presently built just don't work. There are big spaces and also small bedrooms. The kitchen is very large but one owner removed all the appliances. So a new buyer is going to have to spend thousands of extra dollars replacing appliances which should never have been removed. The pool is quite nice but there is little outdoor space to lounge and recreate.

My suggestion: gut the interior and rebuild. This time use a good space designer and decorator. Redo the pool area as well. This house is huge. The pool area was poorly designed. The thing that works best in Key West is to have living areas that open out to the pool and garden so that the transition from inside to outside living is almost seamless. The current configuration is more that of a box with a pool located down a clumsy set of stairs.

The house at 707 Washington is a legal duplex. But for all intents and purposes it is really a single family house with an attached two-story guesthouse or caretakers house. I would propose that the new owner reconfigure the guest quarters into a second master suite that would occupy both first and second floors of this wing. All of the ground floor in the main house needs reconfigured as well. The rear wall at the back of the house should be removed and the space re-invented into an open air garden room overlooking the pool.

The houses on either side are just beautiful. So is the mega-house across the street. Louie's Backyard Restaurant and the nearby Doggie Beach is a block to the south. The Casa Marina Resort and Higgs Beach are a five minute walk to the south. And Duval Street is only a five minute walk top the west.

I am not panning this house. I think this place is great. The interiors suck. Sorry to Sluggo or to whoever designed the inside and pool area. The houses as currently configured have 3257 sq ft of living space and sit on a 5300 sq ft lot on one hell of a Casa Marina location. The asking price is just $995,000. This is a Short Sale. There are very few houses in Key West that have this kind of space with the quality of exterior design and construction. This could be a great deal for a buyer that wants a project house. CLICK HERE to see the mls listing and view photos.

If you would like to schedule a showing please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an e-mail at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West Florida. Our office is the exclusive Lower Florida Keys affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Friday, August 27, 2010

813 Frances Street - Delightful Old Town Key WEst Cottage

Nighttime Photo

Just listed the delightful Key West Conch Cottage located at 813 Frances Street is the ideal home everyone longs for. This 1450 sq ft home has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living area that opens onto the pool and tiki hut plus off street parking. The master suite is on the first floor. There is even one of those Key West step-through showers to the pool. This home is listed at $995,000 or $686 per sq ft. The listing Realtor describes this cottage home this way:
Elegant and beautiful historic home featured in Coastal Living Magazine located on one of the most desirable streets in Old Town Key West. Bright and airy rooms with open floor plan from kitchen to spacious family room overlooking tropical yard and pool. Home to a champion Lignum Vitae tree and other tropical flora, the yard is private and lush and boasts a cozy outdoor covered lanai. Hardwood floors, downstairs master bedroom, chef's kitchen including gas cooktop and stainless steel appliances. Off-street parking and wonderful front porch add to this Key West Historic Gem in the Heart of Old Town Key West.

This property is located directly across the street from the Key West cemetery. So there will be some fraidy cats who will not even consider this charming house. What a pity! Aside from the fact that the "neighbors" are exceedingly quiet, there is no parking on the opposite side of the street. The City of Key West erected new six foot wrought iron fences around the cemetery just a few years ago. So all that is inside is visible from the outside. Yes, you will have killer views of the graves and tombs. But you also see the green grass, trees, and walkways. You get to see the vast Key West sky and watch it as it changes. Trust me on this. There are no vampires and or ghouls that will creep into your house. You can sit on your front porch like others have done for decades and quietly watch the world walk by.

The house is a five or six minute walk to Duval and perhaps four minutes to the Historic Seaport. The Coffee Mill is a block to the southeast, Old Town gym a block directly south, and the Citgo gas station at the Corner of Truman and White where you can buy the best fried chicken in town at Dion's Quick Mart.

CLICK HERE to read more about this house and to view photos. Better yet, call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a showing. Don't get spooked by the location and pass up a real buying opportunity. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. Our office is the Exclusive Lower Florida Keys affiliate of Christie's Great Estates.

Maybe the present owner is trying to tell the denizens across the street something...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1411 Petronia Street - Old Town - Key West

Notice the sweet second level front porch located off Master Bedroom

Sawtooth addition behind the original Eyebrow house

Inviting Old Fashioned Front Porch Perfect for Sitting or Doing Nothing

The Eyebrow House at 1411 Petronia Street is now offered for just $400,000. This is a short sale. The lender recently approved the price and the buyer decided not to buy. I know this house fairly well. I think this is a great price for a house in Old Town with a pool.

The listing Realtor describes the property this way:
"New price of $400,000 is firm. Renovated 3 bedroom (as per Monroe Co. and Realist tax records), 2 full bath historic eyebrow house in The Meadows. Original Dade County pine floors, walls and ceilings throughout the house. There is a new pool with landscaping and decking in the large yard, which is totally fenced for privacy. This is a potential Short Sale that may be subject to third party approval."
In my opinion the present layout of the rooms is not as efficient as it could. One bedroom is fairly small, one is in an odd location, and the third bedroom is located just fine on the second floor. (It has a really cute front porch of the second floor bedroom.) The living room is nice and large but the kitchen is small. The kitchen and the downstairs bath are on the north side of the house. The deck and pool are located just north of the kitchen and bathroom so there are no inside views of the pool or garden. Some new owner might want to move things around a bit. But things have "worked" okay for previous owners.

I included a couple of photos of Petronia Street. This is a nice and quite street just a couple of blocks east of White Street. Duval Street and Bayview Park are within walking distance although Duval is further away.

The opposite side of Petronia Street

1400 block of Petronia Street

The large pool, tropical foliage, and great location (coupled with the price of just $400,000) make this house a great buy at that price. This house ought to sell within a few days now that the price has hit rock bottom. Take advantage of this great deal today.

CLICK HERE to checkout the mls listing information on this property and to view photos 0f 1411 Petronia. For comparison purposes I created a list of other houses for sale in Key West priced at or under $400,000. CLICK HERE to compare 1411 Petronia Street with those houses. Better yet, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida.

1515 17th Terrace - Key West

If you are looking for a really nice recently remodeled home with a huge sunny pool, a large yard, covered off street parking, and located in an upscale and quiet location, you might want to take a look at 1515 17th Terrace. This property is located in the Sunrise Canal neighborhood of Key West. MAP.

I got the opportunity to show this house last week. I was surprised by how large this 1434 sq ft house really is. While the house has only two bedrooms each with private bath, they are located at opposite ends of the house affording the occupants lots of privacy. The house has a large living room and a separate (and even larger) family room overlooking the new pool. The majority of the house has been recently remodeled (just a few minor things need to be completed). Otherwise, it is is move-in condition. The listing Realtor describes the property this way:
"Located in a beautiful residential neighborhood at the corner of Sunrise Dr, this is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath house that has been recently updated. New travertine and tile floors, central air, new kitchen with stainless appliances, and a large in-ground pool, all on an oversized lot (8937 SF). Off street parking and an excellent value!"

Sunrise Drive side of the property

Patio just off the Livingroom (below)

House across street - great block in a great location

1515 17th Terrace is offered at $460,000 or $321 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to checkout the mls listing info and to view some great photos of this property. Below you will find photos of the kitchen, living room, and that great back yard with huge sunny pool. Bring your imagination and green thumb to complete the oasis.

Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing of this property. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. I'll bet you will find this Sunrise Surprise a great buy.


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.