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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Key West Recovery...and not from a Hangover!


I awoke very early this morning. I live in the Casa Marina area of Key West which is normally uber quiet. Some bozo continued to set off firecrackers to celebrate the new year into the wee hours of January first. So I got up and had my coffee, looked for emails (I actually had some from late yesterday), and decided I would go to the office to work on my blog. I made the annual trek up to Bourbon Street Pub to view the havoc left on the street.


Duval Street was impassible when I tried to drive past the bar. There were dozens of workers with wind blowers moving confetti, plastic cups, and beer bottles around so that big street sweepers could pick up the tons of trash the merry-makers created.  I took my pics and as I turned to go across Duval for a close-up of the bar which was featured on CNN after the Times Square drop, I noticed an old derelict lying on the sidewalk.  I could tell from his heavy snoring, disheveled clothing, and offensive odor that he was used to sleeping in public.  I'm not so sure he celebrated last night as much as he tolerated all of the zanies who came to Duval Street to welcome the new year. The partiers will have today to recover from their merry-making. 


Key West, on the other hand, I am happy to report has already made a remarkable recovery from the downturn that affected the national economy for the past several years.  Buyers have spent the past year buying up the stale inventory of unsold houses and then started buying up new listings as though the past five or six years never happened. The Old Town and Casa Marina areas continued to lead the way as far as sales for Key West go.  There were 29 sales of single family homes priced between $1,000,000 to $1,999,999. This sale count is up one from the 2011 sales total of 28 homes that sold in this price range. And in 2012 there were 6 sales of houses priced over $2,000,000. I was surprised to see that there were 7 homes priced over $2 million that sold in 2011. So Key West lagged in that price point this year.  A total of 262 single family homes were sold in Key West (mile marker 0 to Shark Key but nothing beyond).  As I looked over the houses that did sell I noted many that had been on the market for over a couple of years. 


Key West had several commercial real estate sales that were also worthy of note. Among those were the separate sales of Seascape Guest House ($2,000,000), Coral Tree Inn ($2,100,000), Cypress House ($3,850,000),  Oasis and Coconut Grove Guest Houses ($7,200,000). Three commercial buidings on Duval Street also sold including 526-528 Duval Street ($4,500,000), 117 Duval Street ($5,500,000) and 400-408 Duval Street ($19,130,000).  I am advised of a couple of large assemblages that will close in 2013 which will then be redeveloped.

Buyers that are awaiting the market to recover might want to accept the premise that the recovery has already occurred.  I had some buyers in town a couple of weeks ago who remained skeptical of the strength of our real estate market. One gent expected the market to decline again. I have no way of predicting the future any more than anyone else.  But I do believe past performance is a good indication of what will happen in the future.  I have been selling houses (and a couple of guest houses) since 1997. Prior to the down turn, houses in Key West tended to appreciate in value between 10 to 13% per year.  I pointed out to my buyer that not all other areas in Florida share the Key West sub-tropical climate. Areas like Miami and Ft Lauderdale, Naples and Sarasota do not have the kinds of restrictions on growth that Key West has.  These restrictions prevent Key West from increasing the number of living units or in making buildings taller to accommodate more people.  It simply cannot happen. As a result our managed non-growth tends to force prices higher to keep pace with the demands of more and more people who dream of eventually owning a place here. 



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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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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.