I love living in Key West. You can be who you want to be and love who you want to love. Nobody, other than the guy who parades around town with his anti-fag sign, cares what you do or who you sleep with. Gays and straights and rich and not rich mix at work and at play with ease. We have a lot of people that have moved here from all over the world. There are good people and no so good people. The bad people sometimes give the rest of us a bad name.
I was eating dinner last week when I got a phone call from a couple that recently bought a Key West dream home from me. They had a shiny new convertible delivered to their Key West house a couple of weeks ago so that they could have transportation whenever they make it down. A nephew drove the car down and parked in under the carport to protect the paint from our harsh sun. He left the keys inside the house.
A week later the couple were contacted by the Key West police. Their car had been involved in a hit and run accident a couple of days earlier, long after the nephew who delivered the car had returned to his home. Someone had got inside their house, found the keys, and went out and managed to smash the front end and the back end into a parked car on a side street a mile away. Mysteriously, the car was brought back and parked exactly where it belonged. A big chain was looped to keep the trunk from falling off the car.
I asked the obvious question: who had keys to the car?. The couple did not know. They said that workers who were doing some interior work on their house had keys to the house as did the pool man. My mind raced back to several prior conversations I had with the lady. She had told me about her Key West hair dresser who she loved. When we were looking at houses she would ask me about places he had recommended. I drove to one such place to take photos. I didn't waste any bytes on my camera. It was the antithesis of what we had been looking at.
I don't know why it is, but it is a fact that many potential buyers trust people they meet on bar stools (or in this case in a salon chair) more than they trust Realtors. I have had several buyers tell me about recommendations they have received from locals they have met in bars. Complete strangers that have told them what to buy and what to avoid or who to hire as a contractor.
After several months of looking at various properties, my buy buyers bought a great place. They hired a decorator to develop a color scheme and design plan. My buyers relied on the hairdresser's recommendation of a friend who they hired to do some minor fix-up and painting.
My buyers asked me if I would go to their place after dinner and look at the car and then remove the key to the lock box outside the front door of the house. I said I would. I was so upset I couldn't finish my meal. I immediately drove to the house and found the new car. All four sides of the new car had damage. The damage is repairable. That's not the point. My buyers had been violated by someone that had access to the inside of their house. They gave access to people they trusted. I took photos of the damage and then went to the front door to get the key. It was not there.
I got on my phone and called the owners. While we were talking this guy walks down the sidewalk and turns to enter the front yard. He was in his 30s or 40s and had an open beer in hand. He had that just-off-the-streets-of-Key-West look. I asked "Do you live here?" He replied "I'm doing work for the owners." I told him I was the owners' real estate agent and that they sent me to fetch the key. It was just near sunset and dark was approaching. He reached in his pocket and decided he did not have the key. He said to wait a minute and then walked to the side to make his way to the back of the house. Several minutes elapsed. I knocked on the door. No answer. I talked with the owners who were now mildly distressed and suggested that I go home. The gent said he would come down and sort things out. Then the would-be painter opened the front door and said to come in. The house which had been freshly painted reeked of cigarettes. The air conditioner was on so high I felt chilled. The new big screen TV was on as were all the lights inside the house. It was obvious the painter had moved in-to stay.
I asked the painter "Do you know how the car got damaged?" to which he replied "No." He turned away and walked toward the pool and jerked his hands to his head. He grabbed his hair and asked me to get out and come back in five minutes. He needed time to think.
I went back outside and spoke to the owners. I decided it was best for me to leave before this guy went completely insane. I had asked two questions in a calm and polite voice. I made no accusations in the tone or words. The guy, however, seemed over whelmed by the thought of having to leave his new house.
Many local real estate offices provide property management services. If you plan on renting your property, consider using a licensed and insured property management company. Hire licensed contractors who won't move into your property or drive your car when you are not around.