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Monday, February 28, 2011

321 Grinnell Street - Old Town - Key West

321 Grinnell Street as seen in 1965

321 Grinnell Street as seen in 2011

Just listed, but not by me, 321 Grinnell Street in Old Town Key West. You probably have driven past this house if you are a frequent visitor to Key West. It's neighbor to the south is one of the most photographed houses in Key West. And its neighbor to across the street is Finneagan's Wake.

The former Cuban Counsel lived next door to the south (above)

The listing Realtor describes the new listing this way:
"This wonderful Conch home is situated on a corner lot in old town close to the waterfront. Many recent updates include an open gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances, two gas stoves, two sinks and granite counter tops. This spacious house was built with Dade county pine plus a concrete addition and consists of two bedrooms and 2 baths downstairs and 2 bedrooms upstairs. There is an extra bath and indoor hot tub. The off street parking could be converted into yard space. From here you can just walk or bike all around downtown Key West."
321 Grinnell Street is a 2523 sq ft house that sits on a 3230 sq ft lot. The house as configured has 4 bedrooms and 3 baths. The Monroe County Property Appraiser says the house was built in the 1920's. The black and white photo above shows the house as it appeared in 1965. The coral rock foundation has been replaced with concrete and the old Bahamian shutters are gone. The asking price on this property is $799,000 or $317 per sq ft.
CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls database on this property.

Off street parking

Two of my very favorite places in Key West are nearby. The Old Town Bakery is a 30 second walk (except if you have to wait for the light). You could get very fat from living that close to something so wonderful. And Harpoon Harry's is only a two block walk. They have some of the best, non-pretentious food in Key West. If you have a boat, the Conch Harbor Marina is located across from Harpoon Harry's. So are lots of other great restaurants and bars including the Schooner Wharf Bar.

If you would like to see this listing or any other property in Key West, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am buyer's agent and a full Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Harbour Place Condo - Key West Waterfront

Harbour Place - Key West - Waterfront Views
There are seven distinct communities at Truman Annex, and the community with the Million Dollar View is Harbour Place. If you are reading my blog, you are probably a baby boomer. Maybe you weathered the financial storms and are looking for that special place, perhaps a condo like Unit No. 302 at Harbour Place at Truman Annex in Key West.

When you step onto your private balcony and overlook the boardwalk and then view the private yachts and giant ships and Sunset Key and the smaller keys beyond, you will know you came out just fine. Harbour Place is Key West's most prestigious building, the former U.S. Naval Headquarters at Truman Annex. Your friends will be green with envy.

Preferred Properties (that's where I work, but this is not my listing) just listed this third floor 2 bed, 2 1/2 bath unit with 1260 sq ft of living space at the asking price of $845,000. The listing Realtor describes the unit as:
"Bright desired Harbour Place unit in the Heart of Old Town Key West, with 10ft ceilings, two large bedrooms, two and 1/2 bathrooms and a beautiful open living/dining area. Great private community pool overlooking the Gulf. Deeded Covered Parking. Excellent income unit."

CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls database and to view listing photos of this unit.

You can view radiant sunsets and the famous Key West waterfront from your personal balcony. This beautiful unit has been tastefully furnished so you can move right in and enjoy everything this property has to offer. ( The listing does not include the furnishings but says they are 'negotiable'. I can't imagine a seller not including them myself.)

Harbour Place is a secure building located directly on the Key West waterfront. There is a large pool, beautifully maintained grounds, and designated covered parking and storage. One of the joys of buying the best is that you get things others don't have. The big sunny pool and the covered parking are great amenities. Nice cars last longer when they are protected from our hot sun. Oh, and the building has an elevator so getting up to the top floor is as easy as pushing a button. Living on one level and not having to cope with interior stairs can be a plus for the Boomers and their seniors. One more thing: this unit has a Transient Rental License should you choose to rent the unit.

A retired Navy officer once told me that the United States Navy always, always takes the very best waterfront property for itself. Recall what I said in the first paragraph that this building was "the former U.S. Naval Headquarters". There are some really nice condos for sale in Key West right now, and a lot of them are priced at incredibly low prices. Unit No. 302 is priced to sell. The Harbour Place views and the location are un-paralleled in Key West. People from all over the world come to Key West and make the pilgrimage to watch sunset at Mallory Square which is a stone's throw to the right of Harbour Place. Most of those pilgrims just fall in love with the sunsets and the easy living in our little town. The new owner of Unit No. 302 will get to see those incredible sunsets every day. Forever.

Don't miss the boat and pass up the opportunity to get this great unit before somebody beats you. To see this unit or any other property in Key West, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or contact me by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.

Friday, February 25, 2011

1107 Fleming Street - Old Town - Key West

1107 Fleming Street - Key West - February 2011

1107 Fleming Street - Key West - circa 1978

The asking price on the one time home of William Copley (surrealist artist - CLICK HERE to read more about him and his work) was just reduced to $1,350,000 which makes this Key West property an interesting buying opportunity. The listing Realtor describes 1107 Fleming Street (shown in the almost antique looking photo above) this way:
"Built circa 1895, this grand historic home had a cigar maker's cottage moved from another area and abutted to the main structure in the rear. It was once owned by the well-known surrealistic artist, William Copley. A trap-door slit still exists where he passed his paintings from the 3rd floor studio apartment to the 2nd floor. There are two bedrooms and a bath on the second floor and another bedroom and bath on the first floor. Classic moldings and historic pine are evident throughout. Includes a formal parlor in the front and a large open kitchen, dining, living room in the rear with screen porch on the side. Multi-layers of decking descend to a large solar heated pool. This home is ready to be personalized to your specifications."
William Copley, 1976

Today the outside has a strong and formal feel to it. The stairs evident in the 1978 vintage photo are gone now. A new white picket fence has been added. The clapboards are painted gray and the trim a bright white. The entry is formal and lets all who enter know that this is an important house. Before reading on CLICK HERE to view the listing photos shown. Once you enter the door you instantly "get" this place. This is an "old house" and many of the rooms are compartmentalized as was the case in older homes. Each room has a defined purpose whereas many contemporary homes have big open spaces where uses merge. The new kitchen and informal living area at the rear make this place work for modern living and still allows the owner to use the other rooms for original intended purposes.

The bedrooms are located on the second floor. The art chute from the once third floor artist studio still exists and invites you to go upstairs to see what this is all about. The third floor is an OMG! What a space. What a view. And the view from the inside looking out (see photo above) is to use the most over-used word in America today "awesome". And I sincerely mean that.

A buyer who covets a home with a grand feel will love this place. The formality of another era is still present here. But modern day whimsy is scattered throughout this place as well. The house has 2776 sq ft of living space on three floors. The house has front porches on the first and second floor which makes for excellent people watch. (Two guesthouse are located at the end of the street and you will have excellent material to watch as the temporary tenants stroll back and forth during the day and neighbors walk their dogs and do the things neighbors do.) More interesting are the multi-tiered decks at the rear which provide sunning spaces that lead down to the bright and sunny pool. There is even a sun deck on the second floor. Look carefully at the photos below to see if you see what I see.

1107 Fleming Street is a big house. It is too big a house for many. But if you are a buyer with a large family or if you have lots of friends and like to entertain, this may be the place for you. And if you are an artist that craves space to create, we already know this house works. It is now priced at just $1,350,000.

If you would like to see 1107 Fleming Street, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. It will be exciting to see who the next owner of this great home will be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

712 Elizabeth Street - Hidden Treasure in Old Town Key West

712 Elizabeth Street is hidden behind 710 Elizabeth Street shown below

Just listed, but not by me, 712 Elizabeth Street, located steps from the tippy top of Solares Hill in Old Town Key West. Wow, that's a lot to say! But it says so much about the most excellent location of this new Key West cottage listing. The listing Realtor describes the cottage this way:
"Beautiful little cottage with lots of Dade County pine high on Solares Hill. Built in 1928, the house was completely and lovingly restored in 2000 with all new electric and plumbing, kitchen and bath and it's been meticulously maintained. There's an open kitchen/living/dining plan with a set of French doors that lead to a side porch and bricked patio. One bedroom and bath with a loft for overflow guests or storage. The house sits quietly on a walking lane behind 710 Elizabeth Street. A must see and easy to show."
Active buyers know that many of Key West's hidden treasure houses are hidden behind other houses that are clearly visible from the street. I found the old photo below that shows the house taken in 1965. Interestingly, the County Appraiser identified it then with an alias (befitting Key West's colorful history!) as "712 Elizabeth St. aka 710-1/3 710-1/2 Elizabeth St.". I have never seen any house number as being a "1/3" whereas there are several "1/2"s. That designation normally means the house sits behind a larger house that fronts on a street or lane. Such is the case here. The second photo below shows the primary house behind which 712 Elizabeth now sits. CLICK HERE for an aerial view of 710 Elizabeth (house in front) so you can gage the vicinity from a street view perspective.

The County Appraiser shows 712 Elizabeth as being 598 sq ft ( or 23' x 26'). It sits on a 1686 sq ft lot (41' x 48') and it appears that the 'walking lane' may actually be deeded as the property appraiser's map shows the access as being part of the property itself. A survey or title policy will show this for sure. At any case, the "lane" leads only to the house and is not a lane any yahoo would be walking down. The lane is accessed only through a gated and locked privacy fence inside the yard at 710 Elizabeth Street which is shown in the four photos below.
Access to 712 Elizabeth is through this gated and locked entrance

Solares Hill is the highest elevation in Key West. And it is a great starting point for any walking destination. Duval Street is just two blocks to the west (via Angela Street to the north or Olivia Street to the south). The Historic Key West Seaport is a quick five minute walk to the north. Seven Fish is up the street at Olivia and Elizabeth and Sarabeth's is two blocks away on Simonton at Southard. The Key West Garden Cottage is 100 feet to the west of Sarabeth's. Fausto's Food Palace is one block further north. And the Solares Hill grocery is one long block to the east down Windsor Lane.

Seven Fish at Olivia and Elizabeth Streets

Sarabeth's Key West at Simonton and Southard Streets

Garden Cottage at 530 Southard Street - Key West

The cottage at 712 Elizabeth Street may appeal to the buyer who wants cozy as opposed to the person who wants 'showy'. Instead of spending several hundred thousand dollars more to buy a place with a guest bedroom and parking, invite your guests to stay at a guest house or hotel-maybe at your expense. It will be cheaper in the long run and you will save extra money on taxes and insurance to boot.

Front entry is upper right side

712 Elizabeth Street is offered at $499,000. I haven't shown this place yet as it is brand new and has not been previously offered. But I'd love to show it if you are in Key West. Please give me, Gary Thomas, a phone call 305-766-2642 or contact me by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Walk - Truman Annex - Key West

The White House - home of our Presidents

President's Walk in Key West

Since today is President's Day I thought it is appropriate that I mention the only three currently active listings in the President's Walk Townhomes located at the Truman Annex in Key West.

Readers may recall that I wrote about a new listing at 233 Southard Street just couple of weeks ago. It is offered at $599,000 or $624 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to read what I wrote then. (I understand there are three active offers on this unit and it may soon be under contract.)

Last week I showed the other two units at 560 Porter Lane (now offered at the just reduced price of $549,000 or $572 per sq ft) and 566 Porter Lane (offered at $639 or at $666 per sq ft).

The three units are pretty much like most of the other units in this small townhome community in size, age, and general configuration. 560 Porter Lane is offered furnished and the other two are willing to 'negotiate' the furnishings. Each one is cute and charming in its own way-just like people. But none are cookie cutters versions of another. Each has a transient rental license which makes it an ideal purchase for a buyer who wants to occasionally rent the unit when the owner is not in Key West enjoying life.

The pool at President's Walk Townhomes

Truman Annex is a very popular location for both renters and owners. It is close to Duval Street but it is not a part of the madness that sometimes occurs there. It is a lush green sanctuary with beautiful buildings (townhomes, condominiums, and single family homes) most of which have been built after 1990 with a few historically significant 'grand conch homes' included in the mix. Mallory Square and the boardwalk are an easy walk through the north gates; the Ernest Hemingway House is five blocks to the south on Whitehead Street (just one block east) and the Southernmost Point is only a couple of blocks further; Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach are located at the west entrance to Truman Annex on Southard Street. But inside the Truman Annex there are just lush streets and lanes and lovely homes, but there is no commercial activity.

Front Street single family homes in Truman Annex - adjacent to President's Walk Townhomes

Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach - just a few blocks from President's Walk Townhomes

The real estate market in Key West is rapidly contracting. By that I mean the seemingly huge inventory of unsold homes from two years ago has shrunk dramatically. The number of new short sales and bank owned properties has dwindled to a smattering. Whatever you read or watch on TV about Florida home sales still being a buyer's market may be true for 'Florida' (and still is for Monroe County), but it is no longer the case for almost of Key West. CLICK HERE to do your own SEARCH of the active Key West mls database.

If you want to buy a place in Key West please consider working with me, Gary Thomas. I am a buyer's agent. Contact me at 305-766-2642 or by email at I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. Don't miss out on the opportunity to buy now before prices start to increase and mortgage rates go up.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Open House - Today - 418 Porter Lane - Key West

Porter Court - Truman Annex - Key West Wonderful Living

Open House - Today - February 2oth
12:00 PM ~ 4:00 PM

418 Porter Lane in the Truman Annex

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 RENTAL LICENSE. A fabulous opportunity to own a second home or a vacation rental property. This pristine unit is in move-in condition. And it is fully furnished.

Offered at $699,000.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Papa's Hideaway and other things...

I think most of us go through a learning process of what works in life and what does not. This process must include who we love (and often learn to hate); how we earn money (and the amount of crap we are willing to put up with from bosses and fellow workers); and what gives us pleasure and makes our lives worth living (and what we hate about where we are in life).

When people come to Key West they see a collective group of locals that appear to live a life less normal than what goes on up north, in America. Or anyplace else. They see a quaint little town with cute little cottages and grand old homes sitting behind white picket fences with yards filled with palm trees and exotic foliage of all types. They walk up and down the streets and take pictures of the commonplace and muse to themselves how wonderful it would be to live in a place like Key West. Except there is no other place like Key West. It is a one-of-a-kind place in life and in the world. Of course there are other quaint towns across this country and elsewhere. I don't deny the obvious. Our wonderful weather and our community make this little town the place that inspire many to dream of moving here to live life wearing a tee shirt, shorts, and flip-flops and saying goodbye to overbearing bosses, insidious co-workers, daily commutes from jobs they can't stand, and weather from hell.

Some think of buying a guest house in Key West and living a life less stressful but more meaningful. If you have dreamed this dream, read on. Papa's Hideway Guest House at 309 Louisa Street is now listed for sale at the asking price of $1,495,000. (This equates to $373,750 per transiently licensed room.) Papa's is located one block east of Duval Street near the Southernmost Point. You may have walked near or driven by the place but you probably did not notice it because it sits behind another property that fronts on Whitehead. The street itself dead-ends at the end of the property which abuts a small city park.

The listing Realtor describes Papa's this way:
"Price Reduced! Seller will carry $1,000,000 1st mortgage. Papa's Hideaway: densely landscaped private guesthouse compound - versatile boutique facility - [4] transiently licensed daily, weekly, units + a large, architecturally ornate 2bdrm/2Bth home with wraparound porch overlooking heated pool. Located on a short,dead-ending Lane means peace & quiet. Street side parking. Short walk to Duval Street's restaurants, shops & a few blocks to South Beach. 80'x118' lot, towering palms, blooming foliage - high privacy fencing. Easily managed guesthouse with a monthly vacation furnished home for large groups -or- live on site in the house with an established income stream from the 4 units. 15 yr track record - advance bookings in place & website."
I would describe Papa's as being more like a compound consisting of a two story house divided into four rooms with private porches, a small cottage to the right (or east) where the office is located, and a large old Florida style house on far left (or west) side. A large pool separates the old Florida house from the two story house. So many places in Key West have a closed-in feeling because buildings are so tightly spaced and the grounds are densely peppered with palms and sometimes gigantic old trees that tower in the sky. The grounds at Papa's Hideway are lush and tall palms and huge blue skies make this place seem immense by comparison to almost all other guest houses and many large private homes in Key West.

Large inviting pool

The main house

Wrap around porch at the main house

The listing Realtor says Ernest Hemingway used to box in the main house. The space is certainly large enough to have had a boxing ring. Today the house looks more like just an old Florida home with four or five rooms with wrap around porch. Don't get me wrong, the architecture is wonderful. I think this wonderful space is under utilized. I found old photos of the main house and the two story building. The two story house appears to have been added onto a couple of times over the years and it no longer looks anything like the old photos. Today each room has a semi-enclosed porch with minimal views of the grounds. A singular staircase bisects that building.

The main house as I call it as it appeared in this 1965 photo

The two story house appears to have doubled in size compared to this old photo

I think a new owner could have a field day redoing this property. A new owner might redo the main house and convert the space into two large luxury suites. (This would require the purchase of two hotel room transient licenses.) I'd redo the stairway to the two story house and create a more Key Westie feel and open the porches so that guests can see the beautiful grounds and pool.

Since this place is so hidden a new owner might develop a different business model to appeal to a different clientele. I'll go out a limb here and suggest this place might appeal to the clothing optional crowd - either gay or straight. Another very popular "all welcome" guest house in Old Town has a very successful business and it is clothing optional. I think a new owner could upgrade the rooms and service and turn Papa's into a real chic boutique hotel. I am not saying the present owner is doing anything wrong because that is not the case. But a new owner is going to have to increase revenue and one way to do that is to change the business model. My suggestion might be one way to do that.

The current owner is willing to carry a mortgage but that may require a new owner to operate the business in a manner approved by the seller. Local banks are lending money to guest house buyers. I suggest that a new owner develop a strong business plan that details exactly what he or she will do with any guest house and demonstrate not only the projected revenues but also the method by which the guest house will be operated. To say "I am going to raise room revenue" won't cut it. A potential new owner must be able to show how the place will really generate the projected revenue.

I used to own a guest house in Key West. It is an easy business and it can be a hard business. You can be a success if you make people feel at home and provide a clean and safe environment. Having toilets that work and cleaning rooms each day pays off. You would be surprised how many places cannot or do not offer even that minimum standard of care. Guests that have a good experience return to the same place year after year because they know they exactly what they can expect. A small place like this would be an ideal property for a buyer that wants a small business operation - a real Mama and Papa place so to speak.

Two Key West guest houses sold in Key West during the past three weeks. Neither is anything like Papa's Hideaway but I offer the sales info for your review.

The former Nassau House at 916 Fleming Street was an nine room guesthouse with 5 transient licenses that became a bank owned property. While I recommended it as a potential buy, the place had a bunch of "issues" to say the least. The place is going to undergo some renovation and will reopen under a new name. (If you read Trip Advisor you will certainly know why.) This property sold for $1,275,000 or or $255,000 per room.

The Paradise Inn with 18 transiently licensed rooms, pool, and off street parking located at 819 Simonton Street sold for $4,400,000 or $244,444 per room. The Paradise Inn is one of those boutique hotels that returning visitors flock to year after year. Don't let the disparity in sales price mislead you as to the quality of either property. The Paradise Inn is a first rate operation. The Fleming Street property had four phantom unlicensed guest rooms that played in the ultimate price paid.

If you are looking to leave your old life behind and buy a guest house in Key West, please consider working with me as your Realtor. I did the same thing. I wish I had done it sooner. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. Don't grow old and gray living a life of unfulfilled dreams.


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.