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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1420 White Street - Bank Approved Short Sale - Key West

1420 White Street Key West

I wrote about 1420 White Street a few months ago. It needs a second look by serious home buyers looking for value in Key West and specifically in the Casa Marina area. The "asking price" on this short sale has already been approved by the lender. So the what ifs as to the price on this property are eliminated. There are other issues addressed below that still will require resolution, but I am optimistic they can also be resolved successfully.

I have only been inside the grand Conch House at 1420 White Street once, and that was several years ago when it was offered for sale at the price of $2,695,000. The inside had been carved up. The interior stairway between the main floor and second floor was removed so that the upstairs could be used as a separate apartment which has an exterior stairway entrance. The large side yard on the north was sold off and different owner built a beautiful new home.

The garage at the back had been made into an apartment years earlier, and that parcel was legally separated from the main house. The property was sold to a totally different owner for an outrageous price.

Despite the loss of the side yard and garage properties, the main house still stands as an anchor in the Casa Marina Area of Key West. It is now offered for sale at the short sale price of $470,000 or $190 per sq ft.

This is how the listing Realtor describes 1420 White Street:
"Casa Marina Area! This 2-story 5 bedroom, 3 bath home has over 2600 SF of living area. It sits on a large corner lot and is within walking distance of the beach. The separate guest quarters on the second floor of the house is not currently accessible but could be renovated to make the house one grand home again. This is a potential short sale that may be subject to third party approval. Property is being sold AS-IS. The utilities of the adjacent property at 1133 Von Phister are connected to the subject property. It will be the Buyer's responsibility to resolve that situation. Bank approved$470,000."

But that's not the end of the story. The garage at 1133 Von Phister Street (rear of 1420 White Street) became a "cottage" and was sold to a different purchaser in May 2005 for $749,000. That 648 sq ft building has two bedrooms, one bath, a nice little kitchen and living room. There is a second smaller building located behind the main "cottage" that could possibly be incorporated into living space in some way or perhaps be demolished to make room for a pool. Or demolish both buildings and use the existing car pad on Von Phister Street for off street parking and use the remaining space for a new pool and garden. That would be my preference. 1133 Von Phister Street is now offered for sale as a short sale at the asking price of $299,000. This building does not have its own electric, water or sewer services. It will cost about $20,000 +/- to put in new utilities to the property.

1133 Von Phister Street Key West - Existing off street parking

These two properties are located a couple of blocks from Higg's Beach and Rest Beach. Imagine walking your dog each morning in the wonderful Key West weather or walking a couple of blocks north to get your cafe con leche at Sandy's. You'll flip over life in Key West!

If you would like to take a look at either or both of these properties, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty,Inc. in Key West, Florida. I live in this area and love it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Classic Eyebrow Home - 1108 Southard Street - Key West

1108 Southard Street - Old Town - Key West - November 2010

Recently listed, but not by me, this classic Eyebrow Home at 1108 Southard Street in Old Town Key West. The listing Realtor describes the property like this:
"A beautiful classic eyebrow style home in one of the best locations in the Old Town Historic District of Key West - This renovated home features a main level open floor plan with living room, a wonderful large kitchen/dining room with vaulted ceiling, a separate laundry room, guest or master bedroom and full bath. Multiple sets of French doors open to a large loggia and decked private rear yard with heated pool. Upstairs is a master bedroom with French doors to a private porch with roof top views, a large bath with separate tub and shower, walk-in closet and a small guest bedroom or study. The home has beautiful architectural detailing throughout including wood floors on both levels and Dade County Pine walls. Off-street parking."

This home has 1820 sq ft of living space and sits on a good sized lot (56' x 67' or 3752 st ft) on one of the very best blocks in Old Town. That may seem redundant as the listing agent said about the same as to location. But location is often critical to long term value in Key West, and this location is a winner. A few doors to the west of this house is the feature home that appeared in Architectural Digest about 6 years ago CLICK HERE. The Ginger Breadman House is located in the same block CLICK HERE. Across the street is the very large single family property that sold in 2006 for $5.5 million CLICK HERE The home to the rear spans the entire length of Ashe Street to Frances Street, and it is a doozy.

1108 Southard Street as it appeared in 1965

1108 Southard Street was built in 1885. I found one of those older photographs of this house that was taken in 1965 (above). Note how similar the exterior looks today, nearly half a century later. The simple elegance has not been altered, and that is what makes buying a house like this in great location such a good, long term investment. This home is offered at $1,150,000. CLICK HERE to see the mls datasheet and interior & pool photos.

If you are looking for a home like this, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a buyers agent and I work at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. Let me help you find your home in Paradise.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Open House - Sunday - Key West

Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. is hosting an Open House at six homes this Sunday. Five of the homes are in the Old Town Key West area and the sixth is on Sugarloaf Key.

1012 Southard Street CLICK HERE is located on one the best best blocks in Old town. Several other homes on this particular block have sold for multi-million dollar prices. This home has a beautiful pool, a complete guest cottage, off-street parking, and a price ($895,000) that makes it affordable. Stop by and meet me, Gary Thomas.

4 Lowe Lane CLICK HERE is an ultra charming 3 bedroom with pool, off street parking, and a second floor private deck off the master bedroom suite offered at $995,000. Mabry Binnicker will by your host.

1006 Fleming Street CLICK HERE is one of the most beautiful homes in all of Old Town. Even in if you cannot quite afford the $2,999,999 price tag, you should stop by and take a look at this incredible home. Cory Held will be your host.

905 Elizabeth Street CLICK HERE is located just north of Truman near Olivia Street. This home has an incredible rear yard with outdoor kitchen, off-street parking, and charm that oozes from every room. The price has just been reduced to $1,395,000. Everett Watkins will host this home.

316 Peacon Lane CLICK HERE is one heck of a bargain that is priced at only $999,000. Beth Eliot will host this home that has 3 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, a pool, off-street parking, and a very quiet lane location.

17161 Starfish Lane
CLICK HERE is located up on Sugarloaf Key (Mile Marker 17). This is one big house with 3944 sq ft of living space located directly on the water. Venture up the Keys to meet Korky Irick who will be your host.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bring Your Toothbrush - The Truman Annex - Key West

Adorable and Comfortable are words that describe the new listing at 418 Porter Lane in Porter Court, a community of just 19 townhomes in The Truman Annex area of Old Town Key West. The listing Realtor describes this property this way:
"Looking for the perfect carefree retreat...look no further! This beautifully decorated 2 Bedroom/2.5 Bath condo is located in the gated community of Truman Annex. Nicely sited for privacy, yet just steps away from the pool and 2 blocks from Duval Street. The unit is being sold turn-key and comes with a transient license. A fabulous opportunity to own a second home or a vacation rental property. This pristine unit is in move-in condition. Everything stays in the unit except for a Debra Yates painting and 3 David Lee prints...just pack your suitcase!"
This property is a listing of Preferred Properties. We toured the unit last week and it is really sweet. This unit has a valuable Transient License, but the unit has never been rented as such. So you will not see lots of wear and tear. Instead, you will find a getaway place that is almost pristine and it is just adorable. The large and open first floor living area has French doors that open onto an extra large and very private rear deck. Those two areas seemingly merge into one very large Key Westy living space. Upstairs both bedrooms have private decks as well. The master suite has a vaulted ceiling and the deck there overlooks the pool below. 418 Porter Lane is offered at $699,000. CLICK HERE to view the mls datasheet and listing photos.

This unit is located at the far end of the cul de sac Porter Court. Off Street parking is right outside the door just beyond the white picket fence. The neighbors across the street are the large private homes of Truman Annex located on Front Street, and most of those homes are valued at $2 million price range and higher. I mention that because location matters, and Porter Court has a great location. CLICK HERE to view photos I took of this property.

If you are looking for a nice and squeaky clean place that is move-in ready, this may be the place. If you are looking a special place that you would like to occasionally rent to help make the mortgage payment, this may be the place. You won't know until you take a look. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.76.2642. 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. Just bring your toothbrush!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Behind the Key West Real Estate Sales Report

The Key West Citizen,the local newspaper, regularly publishes a sales analysis provided by another real estate company with offices throughout the Florida Keys. All Realtors have access to the same statistical data, the Key West Association of Realtors database. Private sales where Realtors are not involved are not reported in the statistical data.

The front page of last Sundays Citizen ran this item "Keys home sales lag, In Key West, sales plummet". CLICK HERE to read the article. Within a couple of hours I got an email from a reader asking what I thought. I had read the same story before I got the email so I already had done some fact checking on my own.

The premise of Sunday's article is that real estate sales throughout the Florida Keys are down and that Key West sales are down significantly. The article stated "Key West sales plummeted 27 percent, from 138 last year to 81 this year, while sales remained stagnant in the Lower and Upper keys." I did my own checking and found numbers to be a little different but the same general result.

2009 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in all Florida Keys 501

2010 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in all Florida Keys 483

Then I researched sales from Key West sales up to and including Shark Key because those areas includes Stock Island, the Key West Golf Club, and Key Haven. Then I looked at three price groups to see how each fared.

$1,000,000 and above
2009 (July 1 to October 1)

Total residential units sold in Key West 183 with 9 sales over $1,000,000
(The 9 homes sold for an average sq ft price of $588. Only one house was bank owned and it sold for $438 per sq ft.)

2010 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in Key West 112 with 5 sales over $1,000,000
(The 5 homes sold for an average sq ft price of $525. Only one house was bank owned [916 Fleming which sold for $493 per sq ft. It was an
incredible bargain.])

$500,000 to $999,000
2009 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in Key West 25 at an averages sales price per sq ft of $418

2010 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in Key West 14 at an average sales price per sq ft of $434

$200,000 to $499,000
2009 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in Key West 19 at an average sales price per sq ft of $275

2010 (July 1 to October 1)
Total residential units sold in Key West 64 at an average sales price per sq ft of $294

I talk with other Realtors all the time and ask how they are doing. Most have been reporting slow sales. I can tell by what is going under contract (as reported by changes in the Key West Association of Realtors mls from "active" to "contingent" status) that the market is soft, but it is always "soft" during this time of every year. The solds for the three month time period in 2010 compared to 2009 are down significantly.

People are not buying the big houses-homes priced over $1,000,000. It's not that buyers are not looking. They are. They just are not buying.

Our office lost the sale of a major Key West house because of the oil spill. The buyer balked a few days prior to the scheduled closing because of the oil spill. I don't know how many other deals in all price ranges that may have failed. I did have a sale that closed, but my buyer was wavering until the last minute. The media got a lot of people riled up about the prospect of Key West and the coral reefs being damaged by the oil spill. The same thing happens almost every summer when CNN or the Weather Channel send bimbos down here to stand at the Southernmost Point whose job it is to predict the demise of Key West.

If that multi-million dollar sale had closed at the price I heard, it would have signaled other buyers looking to spend big bucks that it was okay to buy. Nobody wants to be the fool-the guy that spends too much or who buys too soon. The guy who buys an iconic house in a place like Key West gets noticed. People talk about him. People write about him in the papers and in blogs. Realtors tell potential buyers about the guy that got the great house at a great price. That sale gives permission for other buyers to follow. But the deal that could have given lots of buyers permission to buy did not occur because of the hysteria about an oil slick that did not happen in Key West.

The Key West real estate market traditionally "tests" new market highs. I have seen it happen again and again over the years. While we have sold houses at higher prices than those currently available, buyers are resisting purchasing until they feel it is safe. I think this persisting reticence gives a real buyer actually looking to purchases a big house tremendous leverage.

The inventory of mid-priced houses ($500,000 to $999,000) in the Old Town area is small. These are the homes most second home owners are looking to purchase. If homes that are priced higher were reduced to a more realistic sales price, they would have a better chance of getting sold.

Homes, condos, and townhomes in the $200,000 t0 $500,000 range continue to be very popular. The majority of those sales are bank owned properties and short sales. That inventory is getting depleted. There will be new bank owned properties, but I think the number of new units will be fewer. The banks are getting better at evaluating new short sale contracts, and they are moving through the system much quicker than previously. Many of the properties in this price range are being purchased by full time Key West residents and investors who see the low market prices as buying opportunities. The Key West Golf Club has had a tremendous run. (I have sold 11 units there during the past year.)

CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. See for yourself what is available in your price range. I'll bet you will not see much to choose from. There is still a bunch of junk for sale in bad locations. There are still a lot of properties that are priced too high for this market. Nobody is going to look at a house that is priced too high because they envision an unreasonable seller. Buyers avoid looking at a house they expect they might like if they expect the seller is an idiot.

The heartening news from Sunday's news article about plummeting prices is the fact that the sales price per sq ft has gone up for houses priced between $200,000 to $1,000,000. The number of units sold is down compared to last year which was a much better year than 2008.

If a seller really wants to sell, he or she needs to meet the market. I recommend that sellers obtain an appraisal from a disinterested certified real estate appraiser and set the asking price at the appraised price. (I know real estate agents can do CMAs. Too many agents overstate potential sales prices just too get listings.) And too many sellers continue to set the asking prices higher than the price they want and they end up missing the market. We have five good months of potential sales coming up. Let's see how many sellers actually meet the market and achieve their goals.

If you are looking to purchase a home 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. I am pretty much a buyer's agent but I take an occasional listing (which I then sell).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

1116 Stump Lane "Little Paradise" - Old Town - Key West

Little Paradise in Key West is now offered for sale. Just listed by Preferred Properties (that's where I work) is 1116 Stump Lane in Old Town Key West. Stump Lane is a one-way lane that is entered from White Street and exits onto Frances. It is situated between Fleming Street to the north and Southard Street to the south. CLICK HERE to see an aerial Google Map photo of the area. In his book The Streets of Key West: a History Through Street Names, J. Willis Burke says "Running parallel to Curry is Stump Lane, once called Garrison due to its location near the Army barracks. Stump Lane is named for the Charles Stump family." (Go back and look at the Google map. That big area east of White is the former Army base.)

The listing Realtor describes 1116 Stump Lane this way:
" Artist cottage on quiet lane in the heart of Old Town Key West. Well maintained home with large outdoor area with hot tub. Transient license to convey for the buyer looking for an investment. Hurry! Won't last long!"
Did you notice the words "Transient license"? Our office also manages this property and you may find the description there more helpful:
"The perfect place to relax in your own little paradise, located on a quiet historic Old Town lane. This unique Conch Cottage is pet friendly and features front and side covered porches, vaulted ceilings, an open floor plan, and also offers a fully equipped kitchen with easy access to the outside deck. You can access the spacious and shady deck which provides lots of privacy where you can grill, dine outside, and soak in the hot tub. The master bedroom has a queen bed, and the second bedroom offers 2 twin beds and opens to the cozy living room. Tucked away from the living area, is a spacious and bright bathroom with a tub/shower which also houses the washer/dryer. Sliding glass doors open from the living room to another small side deck where you can relax and read a book, or have your morning coffee. "
The cottage is just 858 sq ft and it sits on a 50' x 40' (2000 sq ft) lot. There are two bedrooms and one bath. The asking price is $615,000. CLICK HERE to checkout the mls datasheet and to view listing photos. (By the way the listing sheet is in error as to date of construction. The Monroe County Tax Appraiser says this house was built in 1906. I even have an old time photo taken in 1965 CLICK HERE.

A Transient license permits an owner to rent a home every day of the year to somebody different. We have lots of "different" people here. Boy, do we. Places like this typically are rented either weekly or monthly and sometimes for the season. It is the ability to rent a home to different tenants more than one time per month that separates a place with a Transient license apart from a place where an owner is limited to just one rental per month. The difference can mean a substantial increase in income over the course of a year.

I sold a neighboring cottage on Stump Lane last year. The new owners love it. The location is so Key Westy. Here are a couple of photos of neighboring homes.

If you are looking for your place in Paradise, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642, to see Little Paradise. 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.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Key West: Bohemia in the Tropics

I found these photos on the Internet the other day. They bothered the hell out of me. They are of a warning sign in the DuPont Circle area of Washington, D.C. I haven't been there for several years. In fact I haven't been to very many places outside of Key West for several years. When I leave this little island I get very anxious and bothered. Everything elsewhere seems so foreign and much of it seems threatening.

My life in Key West is so normal and predictable (and maybe boring). Most of Old Town looks today like it looked a hundred years ago, only now there are lots of trees and white picket fences. It is as if I live in a place where time didn't necessarily stand still, but it didn't spin out of control either. It's not just the old buildings that stayed normal. The people here are normal-in a slightly off-center way. The Conchs who have lived here for generations are the primary reason for the stability. They keep things grounded. They treat others (especially elders) with respect. I was looking for some old Key West photos the other day and ran across a discussion of locals where the author mentioned a host of locals this way: "Mr. Johnny Hernandez, Dr. Julio DePoo, Mr. Earl R. Adams, Judge Raymond Lord, Judge Jack Saunders, Mr. Arthur Lujan, Mr. Glynn R.Archer Jr. Mr. T.R. Roberts, Mr. Charles Pritchard, Mr. Joe Balbontin and Mr. Woodsy Niles". In talking with C0nchs they invariably refer to others as Mr. or Miss or Mrs. as a matter of respect. The receptionist at my doctor's office calls me "Mr. Gary".

It's not the way we address or refer to each other, it is the way we treat each other. I have only been cheated by one Conch and that is a local appliance repair company. One time in seventeen years of living here. It had to happen. Some people, on the other hand, go out of their way to be helpful. And after 9-11 this town was filled with people being nicer than ever. Even the people that move here that work in the shops on Duval Street were nice. They often have the worst attitudes of anybody, but they were nice, too.

There's a lot of momentary chatter on TV and on the Internet about the T.S.A. and the new passenger screening. There is always something to get people stirred up about. Those damned bastards that brought down the World Trade Center really messed up our lives. We were messed up before 9-11, but they made it worse. Under the Bush Administration we had color coded threat alerts. Now we have total body scans and intrusive pat-downs. Who in their right mind would pat down some old lady or little kid? But now everybody is suspect.

Now there are solar powered signs urging us to report suspicious activity. We don't have any signs like those in Key West. We don't need them. Life up north in America may be turning into the society George Orwell envisioned in 1984. Here, in Key West, life continues to be Bohemia in the Tropics.

Speaking of which, if you are in the reach of Miami and Fort Lauderdale television, you can watch a program tonight on WLRN (public television) entitled Key West: Bohemia in the Tropics at 8:00 PM. It will be repeated at other times this week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

If I had a Hammer...

I get phone calls and emails from potential buyers that want to buy a fixer and build their own Key West Dream Home. I get it. I understand. But when I send them photos of existing properties for sale (as shown in our user-friendly Key West Association of Realtors mls database), many potential buyers see prices that they think are too high or locations that they don't like. I get that, too. I understand their pain.

507 Amelia Street - November 2010

I have shown the house at 507 Amelia Street a couple of times over the past two years. Yes, that property has been on the market a long time. The price has been reduced a bit. It is now offered for sale at $549,000. Perhaps a potential buyer with an itch to renovate will read today's blog and decide to take a look at the Amelia Street house with me. Read on, Dear Reader.

507 Amelia Street - 1965

I found an old photo above of 507 Amelia Street that was taken in 1965. The Monroe County Appraiser says this house was built in the 1920's but does not state a firm date. A similar house across the street is shown as being built in 1928. We know that this house is between 80 to 90 years old. It has been updated. The Property Appraiser shows some permits in the 1980's and 1990's. I don't recall anything significant having been done recently, and that's why I think this might make an interesting renovation project.

The listing Realtor describes 507 Amelia Street this way:
"Located only a half a block off Duval on a dead-end lane is this sweet conch house with a spacious yard, front porch and parking for two cars. Perfect for a vacation / second home as is but location could support improvement as well. Plenty of room for a pool. If you want to live within walking distance of all that Key West has to offer, this is a perfect home. Zoning allows for transient use with restrictions."
World Famous La Te Da

507 Amelia Street is about 125 feet up on the left side

The 500 block of Amelia Street is a small dead end street located about 200 feet north of LaTeDa. This block has several houses built during the same time and almost all have been remodeled and are now used as transient rentals or vacation rentals.

CLICK HERE to see a Google Map aerial view of 507 Amelia Street. When you look at the aerial view you will appreciate the size of the existing house, a separate (and legal) 285 sq ft building at the rear, a large detached carport, and lots of open space between. Remember the listing words "...Zoning allows for transient use with restrictions". Houses on all sides on this block have transient licenses. ( A new owner would have to verify that he or she could purchase and move a transient license to the location.) Any owner could rent a house in that location as a monthly vacation rental without purchasing a transient license.

The lovely cottage home directly across from 507 Amelia Street

The existing house is 1064 sq ft (plus unit in back which has 285 sq ft) which sit on a 3964 sq ft lot (irregular shaped 51' x 87' or so). CLICK HERE to see the mls listing and photos. I don't think interior photos are particularly helpful since I see this as a renovation project. The house itself is perfectly livable as is, but second home buyers want a place that is all fixed up with a pool and guest house. If I had a hammer and I were the buyer, I'd rip of the existing interiors, windows, and doors, vault the ceiling, and remake the house the way I want it. I'd fix up that unit in the back or maybe extend the existing house to attach to the building. I'd tear down that awful carport and put in brick pavers to accommodate two cars. Then I'd erect a nice white picket fence to set off the parking area from the new pool and outdoor living area off the remodeled house and guest cottage. I'd build my own little island paradise. That's what I'd do if I had a hammer.

What would you do if you had a hammer?

Many people buy fixers hire local contractors to do the work for them. But if you have the skills and want a project house, the house at 507 Amelia Street might work for you. This property is a listing of Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. (That's where I work.) If you would like to see this house, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642. Let's go see this old place and see what you could do if you had a hammer.


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.