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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Projects of Key West

What do you conjure up when you read or hear the term "project"? I did a quick search of the Urban Dictionary which contains a lot of definitions including this one:
"Project:- People Relying On Just Enough Cash To Survive.
Usually the leaset econommically advantageous people will live in the projects. Projects lead to many things such as crime as a resort."
I guess I watch too many shows on PBS, HGTV and BRAVO because the shows on those networks use the term project as a vehicle to demonstrate a major undertaking which usually involves considerable money, personnel, equipment, and materials. Most projects showcase how design, construction, and smart selection of materials can transform a lagging structure into something quite admirable.

I do get "business" from people that read my blog. Some readers call and others write. Many of the readers often say they would be willing to take on a project if certain conditions could be met. Those conditions vary from buyer to buyer, but most focus on price reduction as the reason to consider buying what most call a "fixer-upper". Some readers recognize the housing slump has created buying opportunities where one might purchase a truly unique property at a fraction of what it cost before. Others fantasize about buying some run down property which could be restored or renovated at a considerable price saving if the buyer did part of the renovation.

The house below is located at 613 Olivia Street in Old Town. It is situated mid block between Simonton Street to the west and Elizabeth Street to the east. Most of the houses on this block, but not all, have been renovated. I chose this house because it is kind of place that second home owners dream of owning.

The property appraiser notes that "THIS BUILDING WAS BUILT CICA 1850 AT 619 SIMONTON ST. AND MOVED TO 613 OLIVIA ST CICA". This property is not for sale.

Instead of providing you with a list of potential fixers that you may want to consider, I thought I would instead show a few current projects that have been recently purchased. The next time you are in Key West walk by these properties and decide what you think.

I wrote about 730 Simonton Street on at least seven different occasions. It is one of the most notable houses in Key West. It sold in December 2010. Some initial work has started. A nasty old tree that endangered the structure was removed and some exterior prep work has begun. A very short fence has been added to the property. This is probably the property for which I have the greatest expectation.

730 Southard Street in 2009

730 Southard Street - July 2011

1130 Fleming Street sold in 2010. It was a bank foreclosure and many competing offers were made on this house. The inside had been messed around with by amateurs. The entire rear addition was falling into the ground and the main house had major stress issues. I showed it to several potential buyers. One made an offer but not high enough to get the property. This house has one of the best locations in Old Town. Compare the way it looked in 2009 to the way in looks in July 2011. I will be anxious to see if the gingerbread trim is restored and returned to this house.
Rear addition was demolished a and new addition has been added.

Another landmark location at the corner of Eaton and Elizabeth Streets sold in March 2010. It looks like it has been gutted of much of the faux Victorian interiors that were added by a former owner. (That's gotta hurt the ego and pocketbooks.) Construction crews are at the property now. Exterior walls have been blown-out and rebuilt. The old "new" kitchen is gone. It did not work aesthetically. Maybe the new owner will get this re-do done right. Let's hope.
Elizabeth Street before current renovation

Work in progress

Faux Victorian side entrance is gone

Work in Progress

I wrote a couple of blogs about 911 Watson. It was a "diamond in the rough" that required a buyer with a big imagination, a good architect, a competent builder, and money in the bank. The existing house and some other buildings sat on a 10,000 sq ft lot with huge specimen trees on a quiet little street near the end of Key West cemetery. The location was an immediate "turn-off" to some potential buyers while others saw the potential.

The house was hidden behind a huge fence and decades worth of trees and shrubs

A former garage is gone and the side and rear yards are now open awaiting development. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one. I really want this place to be something special.

Sometimes work is done so "quietly" that you don't notice that a house has been updated. Take the simple house at the corner of William at Fleming Street. Below are two photos of the same house taken about twelve months apart. The house was purchased in June 2010. The renovation was recently completed. Don't you wish you had bought this charmer?

This is the "before" picture

This is the "After" picture.
The new owners have redone other houses and know what they are doing.

And there is even new construction occurring in Key West. An example is this beautiful Casa Marina area home that was completed in February 2011.

This South Street home was completed in February 2011

If you are thinking of buying a place in Key West CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls for your dream home. If you find something that interests you, please consider working with me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. Let me help you find your Key West Project!


Anonymous said...

Some great examples of projects, Gary. I'll be really interested in what happens to 730 Southard. I'm a little confused about the process they're following (exterior painting before a lot of other exterior work that needs done). I'm sure they have a plan (and hope they do).

I will also be interested in seeing what happens to the big lot at the corner of Waddell and Reynolds. That's a lot of land to play with and it could be something fantastic!

Anonymous said...


I would imagine that 1012 Southard would also be a great project to watch. A property in that location might be a "can't miss" remodel.

Gary Thomas said...

I agree that 1012 Southard would make a great project. The lines on that house are so "sweet"-just like the house at the corner of William and Fleming. Maybe the guys that bought that ought to tackle 1012 Southard.

Anonymous said...

Gary good point! The house at William and Fleming does look almost identical, at least from the front, as 1012 Southard. Surely it doesn't hurt to have such beautiful and expensive houses as your neighbors also.

Anonymous said...

Projects = yes.

But remember this is Key West. Cutting corners is our way of life. I just had an experience with some so called pressure treated lumber for my outside deck. Contractor installed it three years ago. Turns out, it wasn't really pressure treated but lightning flash treated. Think pressure treated but done fast and not quite penetrating the wood. It rotted out in less than three years and it was painted!

Many issues in the FL Keys lately with some less than adequate building materials (and I am including the store stock at Home Depot, Strunk Ace, etc.).

Between the Chinesse drywall of Central Florida and our poor excuse for outside grade lumber, we have issues here. Serious issues that any homeowner or contractor must face. It may cost you more than you bargained for but be sure you get the best grade A1 for EVERYTHING.

Then you hope and pray you aren't burned.

I wasn't so lucky.

Now I am forking out more cash to replace what should have been there for life.

Hope you have the cash or deep pockets because you can never tell here in the FL Keys and my story is just the tip of the iceberg of how bad building materials are and how quality has disappeared.


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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.