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Thursday, September 30, 2010

817 Eaton Street - Old Town - Key West

817 Eaton Street - Old Town - Key West

Just Listed, but not by me, 817 Eaton Street Unit 1, Key West, Florida. This unit is one of five total units in this 2003 renovated condo project right in the heart of Old Town. This is a ground floor unit so you will not have lots of stairs to climb. The listing agent describes this property this way:
"Beatiful, well maintained one bedroom condominium in the Heart of Old Town. Walking disctance to all that Old Town Key West has to offer."

817 Eaton Street as it appeared in 1965

The original house at 817 Eaton Street (shown above) was built in 1892. It was altered a bit over the years and converted into condominiums in 2003. Four of the units are located in the Eaton Street building and the fifth unit is in a two story stand alone carriage house located on Gecko Lane. Gecko Lane is the small lane just to the left of the telephone pole in the photo. You would be surprised at the beautiful homes at the end of this inconspicuous lane . There is off street parking for four cars CLICK HERE. (The mls listing data sheet states that parking is not included with this unit. I would point out that other units I have shown have also declined to state that parking "is included" in the other units. The condo conversion was thoughtful. Each of the units has a good layout with comfortable living spaces. This unit has a front porch for outside living space. There is no pool or other common outside area.

Unit 1 has a first floor front porch view

CLICK HERE to review the mls data sheet and to view the mls listing photos. This 805 sq ft unit has a large space that occupies most of the first floor of this property. The unit has one bedroom and one bath. The rooms are good sized. The walls are Dade County Pine and the floors are genuine oak--not the new fangled engineered kind, either. The asking price on this BANK OWNED Condominium is $242,900.

Readers, this is another property priced to sell quickly. If you snooze on this one, you will lose. If you are looking for a good sized condo in Old Town within walking distance to everything Old Town has to offer, this may be the property you have been waiting for. I know a lot of people say they must have a pool. I get it. Finding a nice unit this large at this price with a pool is problematic. I have a very viable and very affordable alternative. Buy this place and walk two blocks to Dante's. For the price of a couple of drinks, you can lay by the pool CLICK HERE all day long at the Conch Harbor Marina. A lot of locals do it. You might even meet somebody to brighten your life there. Your condo assocation fees won't be as high but your bar bill may be higher-lol.

CLICK HERE to do your own price and feature comparison shopping for units in all of Key West priced under $245,000. Note some of the units are short sales so there is no guarantee those units can be purchased for the price offered. If you would like to see 817 Eaton Street, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beautiful Arts & Crafts Style House - Bank Owned - 830 Simonton Street - Key West

This Old House as it looked in 1965

A local bank owns the old house pictured immediately above. The old black and white photo was taken in 1965. Until a couple of months ago this property looked a little worse for wear. The years took their toll. Owners came and went. And then the lender did what lenders do when loans are not repaid as agreed: it foreclosed. But instead of letting a decent asset sit and fester like a lot of Big Banks that are Too Big To Fail do, the local bank did the unthinkable: it fixed it up. Not a little but not all the way. But it did enough to make potential buyers see the real potential of this very attractive arts and crafts style home that was built in 1943. Take a look at her now, below.

Above Photos taken March 25, 2010 - Key West

This property is located at 830 Simonton Street near Truman Avenue. It is zoned HNC-1 which is short for Historic Neighborhood Commercial-1. Uses for this zoning include include residential (including single family, duplex, and multi-family) and limited commercial including professional offices, banking and financial services, personal service shops, specialty shops, limited retail, transient accommodations and guest cottages. Rather than rely on what I write, do your own investigation to determine suitability for the use you intend. CLICK HERE to read the City of Key West zoning ordinances and consult with your own attorney. Just because some use may be permissible does not mean you will necessarily be able to do what you want.

Photo from kitchen looking through proposed bath No. 2 and into second bedroom

Photo from living room through dining area with kitchen beyond

This 1204 sq ft building (County Appraiser records) sits on a corner lot (47.33' frontage X 58.07 ' deep or 2,756 sq ft). The building has just been painted and it looks fantastic. The roof is new; the front railing on the front porch is new; the retaining wall is new; the electric is new. All of the windows are original. They all work properly! The contractors that worked on this house did a really professional job on the projects they did. The interior is currently framed for three bedrooms, two baths, and a kitchen. A laundry closet already has been framed and plumbed and awaits drywall. Extensive building plans are available. It looks to me like the interior spaces could be changed fairly easily. But I'm not builder so any buyer needs to determine how "easy" easy can be and how expensive "easy" can be as well. There is one off street parking space. After the interior is completed, put up a nice fence, add some nice plants, and you could have one sweet looking old house in Old Town Key West. Although it is doubtful that you could get a transient license, you could rent this house as a legal vacation rental. It's proximity to Duval Street with three bedrooms and off street parking make this a great candidate for a vacation rental. CLICK HERE to checkout the mls listing datasheet and to view mls listing photos. Or you can CLICK HERE to view photos I took of this property.

This arts and crafts style house is Bank Owned and is offered at $399,000 "as is". Please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 for more information. This property is not in the mls. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida.

Monday, September 27, 2010

210 Golf Club Drive - The Sanctuary - Bank Owned with Panache

Sand Flaps for the Sand Traps!

210 Golf Club Drive - The Sanctuary - Key West

The relatively new bank owned property located at 210 Golf Club Drive may be the the "ideal deal" you have been looking for. This single family home is located in The Sanctuary at the Key West Golf Club. Driving through The Sanctuary is like taking a Universal or Disney Studios tour bus through a movie back lot. Each single family is just a bit different than the next, but every home has the traditional two story Key West Conch style architecture. Every front yard has a classic white picket fence. The one-way drive loops the development. Either side of Golf Club Drive is lined with mature palms and specimen trees. It's prettier than the set of Desperate House Wives and it is located in Key West.

This is how the listing Realtor describes 210 Golf Club Drive:

"Key West Island Style Home In The Sanctuary At The Key West Golf Club-lovely Community, This Single Family Has 2 Bedrooms With En Suite Baths, A Private Courtyard Patio With Dip Pool And Covered Assigned Parking."
Here is my take: this 1120 square foot home sits on a 1939 sq ft lot on great street. No doubt about that. The main floor is one big open living area with kitchen. There is not a lot of pizazz about that. There are two nice sized bedrooms with en-suite baths on the second floor. Each bedroom has abundant light on three sides plus each of the bathrooms has a separate window. Even though this house was only built in 2000, it does have some termite damage and some what looks to be wood rot. But neither of those factors should deter a serious buyer. This home is bank owned. This has been listed previously by two different agents. The property is now priced to sell at $314,900 or $281 per sq ft. (It is certainly priced more reasonably than before!) CLICK HERE to read more detailed info and to view more photos.

The covered parking space is located adjacent to the rear gate of 210 Golf Club Dr.

Please CLICK HERE to view photos of the golf course and this particular property.

This Bank Owned house is not occupied and can be shown at almost any time. 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. Somebody is going to buy this place in Paradise. Might that someone be you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Calling Lt. Columbo

I have always been a mystery fan. I loved to watch Perry Mason outwit Hamilton Burger, the District Attorney who was an ineffective prosecutor, and Lt. Tragg, the defective police detective.

Jessica Fletcher had the same knack for outsmarting the tricksters that portrayed themselves as altar boys only to be unmasked as murders in the final minutes of each episode.

My favorite was Lt. Columbo. If you saw Lt. Columbo walk into a room you might dismiss him because he always wore that shabby trench coat. He had a distrust of the wealthy. Lie as they might and have all kinds of excuses corroborated by their wealthy friends, the rich were no match for the Lieutenant who always had to ask "Just one more thing..." It was at that moment we at home knew that Columbo had figured out how the the rich sonofabitch with a concocted alibi had committed the near perfect crime. We relished in the fact that the bad guy would not get away with his evil deed.

A couple of months ago I noticed scaffolding had been erected around a genuine Key West landmark house - the Indian block house located at 936 United Street (corner of Grinnell and United Streets). The property is subject to the HARC (Historic Architectural Review Guidelines) adopted by the City of Key West. CLICK HERE to read the guidelines. You can even download and print a copy for your records.

936 United Street as it appeared in 1965

The guidelines are designed to give notice to owners of real property (and to the public) as to what they can and cannot do to their property because of location in the Key West historic district or because a property has been designated as significant. I advise buyers to consult local real estate lawyers, architects, and city officials to determine what it permissible and that which is not.

I have an out of state buyer who has been looking for a fixer-upper. We found one house that has a massive two tier porch somewhat like the one at 936 United Street. I started taking periodic photos of the renovation that I thought was going to occur. The first photos I took showed the original columns, railings, and spindles that had fallen into grave disrepair. Sometimes wood is salvageable. But so many elements of the porch were in such bad repair, I assumed the entire porch would have to be replaced. I thought it would be great to chronicle the old features as they were replicated. It would have. That's not what happened. You can view all of the photos if you CLICK HERE. (The most recent photos appear at the front and proceed backward.)

936 United Street Street at the start of the renovation in June 2010

Close-up of a delicate second level spindle

The delicate lines of the original columns

A couple of weeks ago I went by the house to take some pics to update the progress. I noticed that new columns had been installed. Except they were not the same as the originals which were turned or rounded. The new columns were 6" x 6" squared. That did not make sense to me. I know HARC is a stickler for compliance to the guidelines. It is my understanding that HARC provides a written description of what is to be done with each property. Substitutions and changes need to be approved by HARC. I sent an email with photos attached to a HARC commissioner who forwarded the photos to the HARC official at city hall. I was told that HARC had approved a plan where the original columns would be replaced by new turned columns. I was relieved. (See below.)

At the end of last week I went by the house to take more new photos and noticed that the three surviving original turned columns had been removed and were replaced by new squared columns. I contacted the HARC official at city hall who responded:
'The HARC members approved a final version of a turned wood column that will replicate the original ones, but the smallest profiles of the round column will be slightly larger than the original ones due to actual building code. The building department requested the contractor to secure the two story balconies due to hurricane and school season. The columns that are installed are not final columns.

HARC approved turned wood columns and we are waiting for final shop drawings from the supplier who will be fabricating the columns. We want to make sure that the final columns are as close as possible as the original ones.'
Yesterday I drove past the house on my way to an appointment. I noticed that new railings were being attached to the squared columns and that final trim was placed at the bottom of the squared columns. I'm no Columbo but I suspected something was not right about what I saw. I went back to the house an hour later to take pics and saw even more railing had been installed during the short interim. I took new pics and sent them to the City of Key West late Wednesday.

The photo below is what 936 United Street used to look like in June 2010 when it had turned columns and delicate little spindles that decorated the graceful curved porch. The curves of the Indian block, the porch, the columns, the spindles all worked together to create a beautiful Key West landmark house.

936 United Street June 27, 2010

The photo immediately below is how the house looked yesterday. Quite a remarkable difference.

936 United Street September 22, 2010

CLICK HERE to see that actual HARC application and "approval" for the work at 936 United Street. You can download and print it for easier viewing. Take the time to take a look. If you are in Key West you might want to drive by 936 United Street to see for yourself.

Just one more thing, if you have any thoughts or comments about what is going on at 936 United Street in Key West post them below.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1021 Fleming Street - Bank Owned - Key West

1021 Fleming Street Key West as it appeared in 1965. Built in 1892.

1021 Fleming Street Key West - August 2010

Just listed, but not by me, 1021 Fleming Street, a true Key West Classic Conch Home that is ripe for renovation. Look at the photo above that was taken in 1965. Checkout the clean lines of this remarkable home that was built in 1892. Now look at the same house shown in the photo immediately above as it appears in 2010. Same house, same street, same garage and same big back yard. Virtually untouched.

You can tell a lot about houses the way that prior owners cared for them. Look at the photo above, it says it all. "HOME SWEET HOME". The paint is peeling a bit. Kind of like when a distinguished gentleman gets older and his skin looses the tautness of youth. Crows feet and little wrinkles appear. I guess some would say a man with features like that is over the hill. Others may find a man like that a great catch.

1021 Fleming street is not a big house. The home has 1344 sq ft of living space. It sits on a very good sized lot ( 4656 sq ft or 49' x 96') on one of the best blocks in Key West. The historic Eden House is a couple of doors to the west. Two of the prettiest homes in town are located adjacent to the east. Here is the best part: this home is Bank Owned and it is priced to sell $321,750. CLICK HERE to view the mls listing datasheet.

The house has original Dade County Pine walls and ceilings. The place looks pretty much like it looked like decades ago. The original windows and glass are in good condition. The glass ripples as it reflects the life on the streets of Key West(CLICK HERE).The house has four bedrooms and two baths. The kitchen looks like it was last remodeled in the 1950s. But that's okay. A lot of good things came out of that decade. Not everything has to be au currant. A new owner probably will redo this place. Interior spaces, fixtures and fittings will likely be changed. But the character of this old house is strong enough to withstand the challenges of this new century. Who knows, maybe a new owner will resist the temptation to fix this place and only do small changes.

Look at the top two photos again. See that garage at the left side of each. Same old building, but perhaps the building might work better if it were converted into a guest cottage or a pool house. The yard (CLICK HERE) is very large for Old Town. That yard has got to be the second best feature of the property. (The architecture is still number one in my book.) There is plenty of room to put in a good sized pool. The existing back porch is a relic and I would hope a new owner could get permission from HARC (Historic Architectural Review Commission) to nix the current porch and replace it with something that works for today's lifestyle. A good architect can assist a prospective buyer in understanding exactly what it permissible and what is possible. Perhaps new brick pavers could replace the existing concrete pathway to the garage. I can envision this place freshly painted with a nice new white picket fence.

CLICK HERE to view several photos I took of this property. If you are looking for a project property in a great Old Town location, the house at 1021 Fleming Street should definitely be on your list of homes to see. Please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a showing of this great old Key West home. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. Our office is the Lower Florida Keys exclusive affiliate of Christie's Great Estates. There could be a HOME SWEET HOME in your future.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Real Housebuys of Key West

Summer is over. Fall is on the way. This is always the worst time of the year to sell a house in Key West. It is the same way every year. 2010 isn't special in that regard. Many shop owners and restaurants close for vacation. There's no reason to have a crew working if nobody is buying or eating or sleeping in hotel rooms. Five weeks from now, however, Fantasy Fest will be here and so will the tourists. Money will flow like crazy once again. The boat races follow and then Christmas ushers in season when the cycle starts all over again.

A few years back buyers wanted into the Key West market so bad that they would buy just about anything to get a piece of the action. So much of what was bought then at high prices is now offered as either a short sale or maybe it is already bank owned. I have heard of sellers who own too many homes in different locations that have decided they need to sell off unnecessary properties which in some instances means their place in Key West. Our inventory of homes is down from the past few years. That is a good thing. But the selection of homes is down as well. Fewer homes means fewer to choose from.

Most of the Realtors I know have buyers looking for "deals". I thought it might be helpful to list a few properties that I consider real housebuys in this market at this point in time. Here are some potential real housebuys.

2507 Linda Avenue in mid town is a short sale offered at $370,000 or $152 per sq ft. This is a four bedroom 3 bath home that looks pretty attractive. Photos of the kitchen are below. CLICK HERE.

Older photos of the Linda house

711 Georgia Street is a bank owned home located in the Meadows. It recently had a price reduction to $389,000. (This place used to be owned by a real estate agent who had it priced at $1,199,000. It had appliances then and kitchen cabinet handles. They are gone but they house is priced a lot better.) This is definitely worth looking at. CLICK HERE

721 Chapman Lane is a big house (1900 sq ft) priced at $469,000 which is located in Bahama Village. This place has big rooms and a good sized pool. It is bank owned and it has been actively market for 118 days. The house is in pretty good condition but it needs painted and cleaned. CLICK HERE.

3715 Pearlman Court in New Town is now a short sale which is offered at $495,000 or$295 per sq ft. This place is beautiful. The pool is magical. CLICK HERE.

The pool at 3715 Pearlman Court is magical

507 Frances Street is an odd duck. (I mean that nicely!) It is presently configured as three legal apartments but it could be converted into a single family home. It is one of the tiny few double gabled houses in Key West. This is not a short sale nor bank owned but it is offered for much less than the owner paid for the property. This Old Town property is offered at $599,000. Read the comments, this place generated $48,000 in income last year. CLICK HERE.

507 Frances Street is one of only a few double gable homes

3334 Riviera Drive
is a very large waterfront home located directly on the Riviera Canal. This place is bank owned. The asking price was recently reduced to $689,900 or $244 per sq ft. The "bank" that owns this property is actually a local Key West credit union that itself is now in conservatorship. It has to sell this property. I think somebody can make off like a bank robber on this one. CLICK HERE.

The Riviera pool before it became bank owned

1012 Southard Street is located on one of the very best blocks in all of Key West. This home has a separate full guest cottage, a large pool, and off street parking. The asking price is $895,000 or $463,000. CLICK HERE.

1012 Southard Street: location, location, location!

If you are looking for a place in Key West now is the best time to look. Sales are slow, hopes are down, buyers who want or who need to sell may be receptive to an offer that they never thought they would entertain. If you would like to see any of the properties shown above (or anything in Key West), please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or by email at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.

Friday, September 17, 2010

1107 Olivia Street - Transient Licensed - Old Town Key West

The asking price on 1107 Olivia Street in Old Town Key West was just reduced again. Now this recently renovated eyebrow house with a pool and a City of Key West Transient License is attractively priced to sell at $725,000 or $644 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to see the mls listing data sheet and listing photos.

This property was originally offered for sale at $1,250,000 when it was first listed in May 2009. The asking price has been periodically reduced to the current price point. I think someone may finally make a serious attempt to purchase this property now.

1107 Olivia Street is located one half block east of the Key West Cemetery. CLICK MAP to see location. Duval Street is a five to seven minute stroll. The shops, restaurants, galleries, gyms and assorted local businesses in the Truman and White arts district are just five minuets away. The Historic Key West Seaport can also within an easy walking distance. A full time homeowner or a tourist in town for a few days often measure the convenience of a property by how long it takes to get to a particular destination. Nearness to gyms, restaurants, and bars makes a house with a transient license that much more desirable and marketable.

This house has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The master bedroom and primary bath are located on the first floor. The second bedroom and bath are on the second floor. The second floor has an unconventional floor plan that is more "loft like". It does not offer traditional privacy that some might require. I'm not being judgmental. But this may be part of the reason this house has not sold. A buyer who requires traditional enclosed space could fix this house without spending too much money in my opinion. But some money will need to be spent. The furnishings are not included in the offering but could be purchased separately. It might be more fun to decorate the place yourself and get exactly what you want anyway.

The pool is small but it is a real pool. There is a great second floor sundeck that provides great views of the immediate area. I think this feature is really neat. I wish I had taken photos of it when I showed the property.

The property does not have off street parking. However, there is an abundance of off street parking nearby. I don't see that parking would be an issue for a full time owner.

If you would like to see 1107 Olivia Street, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. 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. Let me help you find your place in Paradise.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

1200 Varela Street - Just Became a Better Compound Investment

Talk about "compound investment", checkout the legal duplex at Varela Street Compound (located at 1200 Varela Street) in the SoTru area of Key West. SoTru is South of Truman.

The listing agent describes this property thus:
"Charming Key West Compound consisting of 7 homes and a shared pool. Completely fenced and very private. Lower unit has large covered deck and upper unit has large covered balcony.Both units are 902 Sq Ft under air w/dishwashers and stack W/D. Upper unit has vaulted ceilings & stained glass transoms. Entrance to compound and duplex off Catherine St. through secured gate."
Entrance to the Compound shown above

Notice the palladium windows in the lower level unit

The photos above show this two story unit that sits at the corners of Catherine at Varela Streets. CLICK MAP The duplex is equally divided into two floors of 902 sq ft each. Each unit has two bedrooms and two baths. The asking price on this short sale property was just reduced to only $374,900 or $208 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to see the mls listing info and to view photos of this unit. Checkout that pool!

This duplex might be the perfect property for a buyer that wants to have his cake and eat it too. A new owner could rent one unit long term and use the income to help make mortgage payments. The new owner could alternatively live in the other unit full time, use it for extended owner visits, or rent both units.

These units are spacious. The second floor unit has great vaulted ceilings. Both units have palladium windows which create dramatic interior spaces. Both have large rear balconies that open onto the private courtyard. I think there is plenty of room for a private pool inside the private courtyard. The interiors are a little dated but they do not require anything that I could see when I showed the property.

This compound has historically had a low turnover of units. Most of the other units are owner occupied. The neighborhood has a mix of expensive to moderate priced homes and condos. There are many rentals in the area as well. This is a very stable "community".

Corner of Catherine and Varela Streets in the SoTru area of Key West

The shops and galleries on White Street are just one block to the east. The Atlantic Ocean and beaches are about six blocks to the south and Duval Street is and equal distance to the west.

If you are looking for a place to stash your cash, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. Let's take a look at 1200 Varela Street to see if it will meet your investment needs. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.


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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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.