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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

829 Simonton Street - Key West - Historic Investment Property

I distinctly remember going inside the old building at 829 Simonton Street on Superbowl Sunday (January 25, 1987). The place was a sandwich shop called "La Bodega". I had spent the afternoon at Atlantic Shores and wanted to grab a sandwich. The place was near and the food was good. My needs were met. Fast forward 24 years and the building looks pretty much the same.

The unpainted facade looks pretty much today like it did when the two photos below were taken.

829 Simonton Street Key West May 2011

The building was called The Square Deal Market when the photo above was taken in 1965 by the Monroe County Property Appraiser. The appraiser says the building was built circa 1974. The sign at the street advertises "STEAK 89 cents lb." and "Homo Milk".

The pic above was taken in 1970 before Key West got gentrified.

The 4662 square foot building (listing agent provided) which is located on a 51' x 106' (5353 sq ft) lot near the top of Solares Hill and just one block south of Truman Avenue. The listing Realtor describes this investment property this way:

Exquisite mixed use piece of property- Historically renovated with exceptional eye to detail. The downstairs of this property consists of two commercial bays each with about 998 square feet. The upstairs is made up of two residential units. One unit is a 2br/2ba with 1678 square feet. The other is a 1br/1ba affordable housing unit with 463 square feet.It features 7 off-street parking spots."

The property has been renovated a couple of times in the past ten years. The most recent renovation converted the front downstairs space into offices which are now used as a real estate office. The photo above was taken from the large parking lot located on Olivia Street. Listing agent says there is parking for seven vehicles. Note the beautiful Royal Poinciana Tree that frames the lot.

The asking price on the investment property at 829 Simonton Street was just reduced from $1,600,000 to $1,200,000. If you are interested in this property, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at This is not my listing. I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

1208 Florida Street - Bank Owned - Key West

1208 Florida Street - Key West
The listing Realtor describes the newly listed Bank Owned property at 1208 Florida Street in Key West this way:
"Bank Owned property. Great Mid Town location close to the beach, Faustos on White Street, several coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries and retail establishments. 3Br/2Bth, two story home with off street parking for two cars. Just about everything is within bicycling distance from this unit. First floor has kitchen dining room, living room and bathroom. Second floor has three bedrooms, landing and bathroom. Second Floor balcony accessible from 2 bedrooms. Could use a facelift but is clean and livable."
I showed the property this past weekend. It was a rainy day (same day as the east coast was being brutalized by Hurricane Irene). My buyers decided they needed more room than this property provides. The house has 948 sq ft of living space divided between two levels. The downstairs consists two living areas plus the kitchen and a full bathroom. Upstairs you will find two good sized bedrooms both of which have individual access to the second floor balcony. There is a small third bedroom and a very small second floor bath. That bath needs a lot of work in my opinion. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on 1208 Florida Street.

I took more photos which you can see if you CLICK HERE. This Bank Owned property is listed at $289,000 or $304 per sq ft. The second floor ceilings are low. The bathroom on that floor needs redone. Some of the interior space could be reconfigured to make the space more usable. The backyard has huge rear stairway that could be removed along with a nasty old tree. The removal of both could create a nice backyard space. This is a project house for someone with imagination and carpentry skills.

If you would like to see 1208 Florida Street or any other property in Key West, please call 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, Florida.

Monday, August 29, 2011

400 Simonton Street - Key West Investment Property

400 Simonton Street as it appeared in 1965
400 Simonton Street as it appears in August 2011
Just listed, but not be me, 400 Simonton Street in Old Town Key West. According to the Monroe County Appraiser this landmark building was built circa 1889. See the black and white photo which shows how this property looked back in 1965. That's nearly half a century ago. My God, I graduated from high school that year. Compare it to the color photo below. The property has had various uses over the years. And now it is offered for sale. The listing broker describes this property like this:
"High curb appeal, landmark architecture located on the prominent and convenient corner of Simonton and Eaton Streets in downtown Key West, FL (only 1 block from Duval St.) 1920's design, 3 stories with commanding porches, Dade County Pine, 12 ft ceilings, grand interior staircase, fire monitoring system, balconies, lovely bricked courtyard, iron entry gate, fountain & tropical landscaping. 6 residential, non-transient units, 6 electric meters with onsite manager. Zoned Mixed Use. Formerly Meyer's Place of Key West and also a restaurant. See MLS supplement for unit configurations, rental amounts, and other pertinent information. This historic Old Town Key West investment property has much to offer and has been well maintained."

I considered buying this property and The Artist House (located next door at 534 Eaton Street) when the owner at that time was tinkering with the idea of selling both. That owner had been renting rooms at 400 Simonton Street as part of the guest house. I don't know if he ever got caught because that is not permitted. That owner sold both properties to different people and The Artist House has sold at least twice since then. Today the property at 400 Simonton Street is licensed to rent six non-transient long term rentals.

I took a couple of not-so-good photos of the bricked courtyard and was reminded that the area was previously used as a small cafe. I think that space is quite lovely but very under utilized today.

The bricked courtyard

I did a Google search which resulted in an ad in The New Yorker in 1982. A real estate company had its office at that location back then.

Commanding presence at a key location

The building itself looks to be in very good shape. Compare the way the building looked in 1965 to its appearance in 2011. It is virtually the same. Even the exterior stairs between the floors is visible. According to the mls listing this building has 4078 sq ft of living space located on a 4200 sq ft lot (42'x100') at the corner of Eaton Street and Simonton Street

400 Simonton Street is offered at $1,699,000 or $417 per sq ft. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and to view listing photos. This property 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.

If you would like to see 400 Simonton Street or any other property in Key West, 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.

Friday, August 26, 2011

1020 Von Phister Street - Casa Marina Area - Key West

Entry Hall
Would you like a place that seems far removed from the hustle and bustle of the regular world; a place designed by a world famous architect as his Key West getaway; a place where each room is unique; a home where each bedroom has its own private veranda; Then consider the home just listed by Preferred Properties (that's where I work but this is not my listing) at 1020 Von Phister Street in the Casa Marina Area of Key West. The listing Realtor describes this special property this way:
"Award wining Architect built and designed this home for himself in 2002 on one of the prettiest blocks in the Casa Marina. Just recently it has been improved even more to reflect the Key West lifestyle. As you enter the foyer you are greeted with an abundance of light and a view of the massive sliding doors that open to the pool and tropical landscaping. The home consists of 3 ensuite bedrooms, office, laundry room and a kitchen that opens to the living and dining area. The unusually large upstairs master has two bathrooms and a great outdoor shower on an oversized deck surrounded by Orchids. An elaborate solar power system supplies the electric and heats the pool There are two rolling gates for off street parking."

Living and Dining Areas share a view of the beautiful pool and gardens to the rear

The Chef is never far from the action in this open kitchen

The architecture and design lets you know upon entry that you are someplace "special". The formal entry entices you to walk through to the living room with its two story view of the pool and gardens. Each of the two bedrooms on the main level have a private bath and private veranda. The stairway to the second floor has windows with muted views of the garden to the east. Then you enter the large master suite with his and hers (or in Key West it could be his and his, or hers and hers) bathrooms. The master suite has a built in bookcase that overlooks the living room below and the pool and gardens. If that isn't enough, the master suite has its private second floor veranda which would be great for some stunning sunning. And there is a even an orchid garden adjacent to the private outdoor shower with obscured views of the forest primeval next door. It's like having a park next door.

Master Bedroom with his and hers baths

The three block section of Von Phister between White Street to the east and Reynolds Street to the west has several giant mahogany trees and numerous other palm and ornamental trees that give the stretch an almost park like feel. Von Phister Street runs parallel to Flagler Avenue which leads to the Casa Marina Hotel two blocks west. Von Phister is very quiet street close to everything, yet far enough away not to be in the middle of anything. You can walk to the beaches in five minutes or so. You can ride your bike to one of about seven gyms or yoga places within 5 blocks. There's a nearby grocery store, a Dairy Queen, some art galleries, churches, and the Glynn Archer School. While those businesses are near, they are not in the area itself. And that means your neighbors are homes and not businesses. You have to go leave the sanctity of Von Phister to go back to the real world. It's not that far away. But it is far enough.

1020 Von Phister Street has 1977 sq ft of living space and sits on a large 4558 sq ft lot (46.75 x 97.25) lot. The house was built new (not remodeled) in 2002. There isn't another house like it anywhere. It is real a beauty. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on this house and to view listing photos.

I got to take my own photos which you can see if you CLICK HERE. I live across the street and to the east just a tad bit. I love living in this area. And I am really serious about the beauty of the very special home at 1020 Von Phister Street. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305.766.2642 to schedule a showing of this property. You will be very pleasantly surprised. I am buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc.

White Street Pier is an easy nighttime stroll away

Thursday, August 25, 2011

911 Grinnell Street - Bank Owned - Old Town - Key West

The new listing at 911 Grinnell Street will likely turn into a feeding frenzy as many prospective buyers submit offers on this Bank Owned single family house in Old Town that is offered at just $399,900. The listing Realtor describes the property thus:

"Cute 2 story Conch home has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, located in Old Town Key West. Home features: Dade County pine , stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, new carpets, updated bathrooms and a swimming pool."

911 Grinnell Street as it appeared only a couple of years ago
I showed this house several times in the past few years when it was listed as a short sale at a much higher price. Obviously, the house did not sell then. I had a buyer that submitted an all cash offer at a price higher than the current asking price, but we were unable to get the previous owner to accept it. Such is often the case. Let me share with you the description of this property before it became bank owned:
"Located in a quiet part of Old Town this gorgeous 2+ bedroom 2 bath home has just been totally renovated with an architect's supervision. The upstairs master suite includes a sitting room, walk-in closet, and views to the east over neighborhood rooftops and gardens. The kitchen is spacious and open w/granite counter tops. The beautiful bathrooms feature unique custom tile work and modern fixtures/faucets. This home has two French doors that open to the deck and the wonderful, sunny, private back yard, landscaped with tropical vegetation, a pool, and outdoor shower. The front porch is spacious and feels like an outdoor room."
Dade County Pine walls throughout the main floor living area

Recent kitchen with stainless steel stove and dishwasher only

Snappy newer bath

I recall some occasional difficulty in showing the house when it was listed for sale because it was continually rented as a vacation rental. Yes, a vacation rental. It had most of the features repeat vacationers want when they rent a house including that ever-so-necessary charm, Dade County walls, and pool. CLICK HERE to view the property when it was marketed as a vacation rental. Carefully read the narrative description (which explains there are really three bedrooms and then view the photos that entice renters to select this property. Click the photo which will start a slide presentation. Remember the property is now vacant and the furnishings are no longer there.

Pool prior to foreclosure

Pool now. But it can look wonderful again.

911 Grinnell Street is located midway between Truman Avenue on the south and Olivia Street which runs parallel to the Key West cemetery. Click GOOGLE MAP for an aerial perspective and remember to use the toggle switch for a street view. The bar up on the corner at Truman stays open late and re-opens at 8:00 AM. The cemetery on the other hand stays quiet forever. There is a mix of single family homes (some extraordinary) and some apartments. The property to the rear on Watson Lane is undergoing an huge restoration. It ought to have a very positive impact of adjacent property values when it is completed. This is a true Key West neighborhood. In other words quaint the block ain't. But it has convenient access to Duval Street five blocks to the west. There are several gyms, yoga studios, restaurants, shops and some galleries along the White and Truman corridors. This house does not have off street parking but on street parking is normally not difficult.

CLICK HERE to view photos of this property as it looks on August 25, 2011.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls listing sheet. Then if you are serious and want to buy 911 Grinnell Street, you must make a serious offer. Forget about trying to buy it for less than the already very low asking price of $399,900. There will be multiple offers many of which will be all cash with few if any contingencies. The bank requires proof of cash or pre-approval by Bank of America on any non-cash offers. In all likelihood the bank will solicit best and final offers from the anticipated multiple offers. If you want this property it is yours to lose by making a tight-fisted offer.

If you would like to see 911 Grinnell Street before its gone (which will likely be in a matter of days) please contact 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. This bank owned property is a bargain at the asking price. Seriously!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2430 Fogarty Avenue - Key West - Estate Sale

2430 Fogarty Avenue - Key West

Just listed, but not by me, 2430 Fogarty Avenue in Key West. The listing agent describes the property this way:
"Perfect home for a small family, this renovated CBS has a 2 bedroom/1 bath main house, and a 1/1 attached efficiency. Boasting a concrete fence streetside, the spacious front yard is nicely landscaped with a magnificent Bismark palm, and a brick walkway and brick drive and carport. This home also features tiled floors, laundry room with washer/dryer, and a 12x13 work/storage shed on a concrete slab. The kitchen has stainless steel appliances, bullnosed granite counter tops and fine wood & glass cabinets. Metal Bahama shutters. Sliding gate for the carport. Back patio area is partially covered."

This 1330 sq ft home has three bedrooms and two baths plus the mother-in-law apartment mentioned above. Oh, and the yard is immense: 5,000 sq ft (50'x100'). There is plenty of room for a pool in the backyard. The front yard is enclosed from the street by a privacy fence. There is even a covered carport which is accessed via a rolling gate. The front entryway and driveway have brick pavers and the area is lit at night. The landscaping is very simple and quite beautiful. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls database and to view listing photos.

Shiny new kitchen

Living and mini kitchen in the mother-in-law apartment

Bahama shutters on all windows will reduce your windstorm insurance

New air conditioning, covered patio, and large back yard with room for a pool

Fenced and gated driveway and lit front walkway

This property is an estate sale. The property was just appraised and the property is listed at $349,000 or $262 per sq ft.

If you would like to see 2430 Fogarty Avenue or any other property in Key West, please consider calling 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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

When I was young and people would ask me "What do you want to do when you grow up?" I would answer "Be Cary Grant." I was serious. That guy was exactly the type of guy I wanted to be: good looking, intelligent, witty, and rich. I failed on all four.

I still love watching many of his old movies including one of my very favorites "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House". By chance that movie was on Turner Movie Classics this past Sunday. For the reader not familiar with the plot, Mr. Blandings and his family plus maid lived in a small post World War II New York City apartment. The Blandings had two pre-teen daughters who needed space to grow into young ladies. So the family decided to look for a real house outside the city. They found a run down house in rural Connecticut that supposedly dated back to the Revolutionary War. It had "character" but it needed tons of work. The location, however, was ideal and the couple decided to buy the old place.

The lucky couple taking their friend to see their new dream house. He was not impressed.

I tuned in after the movie started just as Mr. and Mrs. Blandings were showing the house to their friend Bill who happened to be an attorney. Bill complained that they had made a dreadful mistake to which Mr. Blandings announced:

Muriel and I have found what I'm not ashamed to call our dream house.

It's like a painting. You buy it with your heart, not your head.

You don't ask, "How much was the paint? The canvas?"

You look at it. And you say,"It's beautiful. I want it."

And if it costs a few more pennies, you pay it and gladly.

Because you love it.

And you can't measure the things you love in dollars and cents.

Well, anyway, that's the way I feel about it.

When I sign on Saturday, I can look the world in the face and say, "It's mine.

My house. My home.

To which Mrs. Blandings added "Our house. Our home."

We get to watch the Blandings go through buyer hell as they realize the little fixer needed more repairs than imagined. Ultimately, they hired an architect and decided to design and build exactly what they wanted: their dream house. Of course dream houses cost more than one could imagine. Simple little things eventually add up to very large sums of money. Disputes, delays, budget overruns, and misunderstandings sometimes turn a dream into a nightmare.

The house was nearly completed but the windows were delivered to another site.

Near the end of the movie we see Mr. Blandings reach his boiling point over perceived price gouging. He even suspected his wife and best friend of infidelity. Yes he paid more than he planned. And no, his wife and best friend had not cheated.

The final scene is a tight shot of the Blandings family along with their attorney friend sitting at the foot of the freshly completed home. The camera pulls back ever so high to show the new owners enjoying life in the bucolic landscape living happily ever after in their dream house.

As much as I love this movie the fact is the Blandings could have avoided all of the drama (and maybe some of the cost) had they bought a house that already met their needs. Instead of looking for a place that they could fix-up, they might have found a place that didn't need any work. Rather than feeling cheated by contractors and doubting the fidelity of his wife and best friend, Mr. Blandings could have saved himself (and family) from remembrances of Daddy not at his dearest. If you are thinking about buying a Key West getaway home, CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. Instead of limiting your search to your intended price target, increase the price a bit to see what other properties might be available. Take into consideration the costs in time, materials, and contractor fees if you were to do a renovation.


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.