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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home Buy Chirstmas

Take a look at the above photo of the big old Revival Style house at 630 Elizabeth Street. It sits at the tippy top of Solares Hill in Old Town Key West. It looks kind of sad and neglected. But it has the character and good bones that attract would-be restorers, people with imagination, strong backs, big arms, and a deep purse.

I took the photos below late Monday afternoon from the second floor that overlooks Windsor Lane as it heads toward the Key West cemetery and also Elizabeth Street where it intersects Angela and Windsor Lane. The views are genuinely incomparable because there is not another house with a similar commanding views.

Elizabeth Street looking northerly

Windsor Lane to the east

Anglea Street meets Elizabeth Street and merges into Windsor Lane

I found some old photos of 630 Elizabeth Street and the house across the street to the south. These photos put the house into context with the neighborhood and it's location atop Solares Hill.

630 Elizabeth was built in 1887 and was originally a store on the ground
level and had living space on the second floor. The above photo was taken in 1965.
"Intersection" of Angela Street at Elizabeth Street in 1965

1930s photo taken by WPA shows back side of 630 Elizabeth (on left)

The second storey front porch is missing. I can only imagine how grand the porch could be for a new owner sipping coffee in the morning or nursing a cocktail in the evening. Modern window unit air conditioners hang out over the sidewalk. The house would look so much better if only it were lovingly restored.

The house has good bones. It needs to be saved.
Plans have been approved by HARC to convert the present legal duplex into a single family residence. The plans provide for 2300 sq ft of living space on two floors plus conversion of some attic space. HARC even approved a rear third story porch off the rear. The HARC approved architect's plans convey with purchase.

There are several projects going on in Old Town right now where big houses are getting redone. A couple are shown just below.

1016 James Street as seen in 2010 before it was purchased for renovation

1016 James Street in December 2011 as renovation begins

1016 James Street when photographed in the 1930s by the WPA

730 Southard Street summer 2011

Work has finally started on 730 Southard Street - December 2011

1030 Fleming Street was a bank owned "MESS" two years ago

Work is almost complete - December 2011

The above photo shows the second floor interior of 630 Elizabeth Street. The place was modernized in the 1960s. The space is large and has lots of potetial. The ten foot tall walls and ceilings have Dade County Pine and the glass has historic wrinkles it is so old. The views and cross breezes up here are just great. Before air conditioning, windows provided the main cooling for houses like this. Since this house is located at the highest point in Key West, it naturally has the best breezes. And a new owner won't have to buy flood insurance.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West Association of Realtors mls datasheet and listing photos on this property. This is my listing. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at for more information. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West, Florida. If you play your cards right, this could be your Home Buy Christmas this year and your home by Christmas next year.

628 Elizabeth Street - next door to 630 Elizabeth - cute as can be


Anonymous said...

The Captain says:

The location is about as good as it gets. However, lack of parking (in an area where parking is very tight)and no room for a pool, not to mention the big bucks to get this house in shape are huge downsides.

Without starting another Waddel firestorm, I just don't see the market having rebounded to the extent that $449k can be considered a fair price when the property sold in Sept 2009 for half that and not one improvement has been made to the property. Sorry, just don't see it.

I'm all for people making a profit, but speculators who buy and then let properties sit (and deteriorate)until the market rebounds are the type that got us into this mess. Maybe you should have titled your post "Occupy Elizabeth Street."

Captain out......................

Gary Thomas said...

Captain, I always like your intelligent observations.

There is room for a pool or parking. The rear yard from lot line to the house is 20 feet. One local architect said a new owner could tear down the shed addition on the back. That is where the present downstairs kitchen and eat-in dining area are located. That would add another 10 feet of space to the rear for redvelopment. Another architect said that would not be possible. That's why God created real estate lawyers.

You are right it will cost big bucks to redo but consider what that house in that location would be worth after it is redone. The house is plenty big as is without using the third floor for additional living space. Just about any renovation would require a new kitchen and two new baths and probably reusing existing historic windows. This place will likely require many new piers to stabilize the old foundation, replacement siding on the south side (north looks great), restoration of the front porch, creation of a new rear porch, some or total electric and plumbing plus total HVAC. But renovators usually do the same on any house.

The difference between a big house like 630 Elizabeth and a cigar maker's cottage is that in the end a new owner would have an impressive home with one of a kind locational presence. You gotta see that view! Pricing of the kitchen and baths ought to be about equal. Pricing on the other would be greater because 630 Elizabeth would probably be twice the size of a typical cigar maker's cottage. Sure, it will cost a little more to redo this house than a cottage, but the end result will be far more impressive. And Elizabeth will be worth a helluva lot more!

I specifically included pics of the house on James Street because I wrote about it twice when it was for sale. I don't remember if I ever told the whole story-the story about the late afternoon showing I had when my buyer, a pretty young blonde woman, and I went inside with the listing agent. There was fresh piss on the floor in the bedroom on the main floor. The place was a dump beyond belief. I could not believe self respecting people would live in that filth. The redeeming feature was the house had great architectural appeal and large yard with room for a pool and parking. The location wasn't perfect but the pricing made it worthy of consideration. Now, that property is being ripped apart and is being rebuilt. All of the things I envisioned will likely get built and the place could end up being a showplace. The location will still never be as good as 630 Elizabeth, however. But it will have space that Elizabeth can never equal.

I think you are dead wrong about current values and pricing. The market is recovering because the inventory of available homes has decreased. And the biggest decrease from my perspective is houses in Old Town, Casa Marina, and the Meadows. There is just nothing out there. New listings that are priced under $500,000 get gobbled up quicker than you can finish a 20 pound turkey after Thanksgiving.

Your observations about the 731 Waddel property were mistaken. It had a firestorm of interest and went under 20 days after it was listed. It's a great house and a great location. So what if the owners are making a quick profit. They bought when others were afraid and are reaping the reward of their investment.

As for 630 Elizabeth, the seller hired an architect and created plans for a renovation he hoped to build. He spent time and money to get those plans approved by HARC. Things changed and the seller decided not to build but rather to sell. The property was not bought as an investment but as a place to renovate and own.

But I will grant you this: there are others who bought houses in Key West at very good prices that have put them back on the market. Some have done some painting and other minor fixes. Some nothing. But they have put them back on the market to see if they can sell them and make a buck or a hundred thousand bucks. That is capitalism.


Anonymous said...

So very well said Gary!!!!


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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.