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Sunday, September 1, 2013

832 Johnson Lane - Old Town "Fixer" - Key West

I recently showed 832 Johnson Lane to some buyers who had expressed a willingness to buy a fixer and to spend some money and devote some time to turn an older house into one of the dream cottages we've all seen in Old Town Key West. The little cottage on Johnson Lane was a bit more of a challenge than they imagined.  I, however, saw the place differently.  I think it is worth your consideration if you are one of the buyers with some cash, a willingness to work (or hire someone who will), and an imagination as to how you could transform the cottage into some pretty special.

Just below is a photo of 832 Johnson Lane that was taken in 1965.  I took the photo below it to show the same house nearly 50 years later.  Our HARC (Historical Architectural Review Commission) will need to approve changes to the building.  I think a new owner may get permission to enlarge the house which would increase the small and inefficient interior the way it presently exists.  Nothing is a "given", but I see no reason for HARC to not allow some expansion of the house because the rear lot is so large.  The existing house one bedroom/one bath is 527 sq ft and sits on a 2633 sq ft lot or 25' x 116'.  
832 Johnson Lane as it appeared in 1965

 As we walked through the house I knew nothing on the inside was worth saving. The rooms are small and cluttered. That's why there are no interior photos. The cottage will need all new everything - that is a given. It's what you can't see from the street that makes me think a creative individual or couple might turn this place into something much greater than it is. And what you cannot see is the huge backyard.
 This photo was taken from the back step of the house and looks south. There is no back porch.  I have added graphic to show the lot line at the rear.  As you can see there is a lot of open space from the house to the rear lot line. The plumeria tree (some call it a Frangipani) is not protected. It can be removed to provide room for lot development such as adding a pool.
The above photos were taken from the rear lot line looking toward the house.  You will not the small extension at the rear of the house. That is where the bathroom has been added. The original "out house" still sits opposite. The blue chair sits in the middle of it.  Don't laugh.  Your architect may be able to expand that space into a pool cabana. It sits on the property line and current code would not allow any new structure to be built that close to the property line. However, existing buildings can be expanded.
This final photo shows the condition of the rear piers or foundation.  This is typical of many older homes in Key West that have not yet been renovated. Many of the lovely homes you see on the streets and lanes of Old Town used to look something like this. Some were much better to be sure, but others were worse.  Our local contractors are seasoned veterans when it comes to dealing with fixing old foundations which really are essential to any good renovation.  Once the foundation is in place, the interiors are easy.

A house like this would get all new electric, plumbing, windows may need to be replaced depending on condition. Exterior siding may need to be repaired, prepped for painting, and then painted. A smart buyer would take off the existing roof and replace it with a new roof with necessary straps to obtain maximum mitigation credits for windstorm insurance. I would definitely add a pool and rear deck.  I wasn't kidding about using the old out house either. You might be able to convert that into a guest cottage with a bed and bath or a pool bar at minimum.  You don't know what you can do until you ask. 

Johnson Lane is only one block long and runs parallel between Truman Avenue to the south and Olivia Street to the north. Entrances are located on Windsor Lane (that intersects at Truman where Mary's Star of the Sea Basilica) and Margaret Street.  The lane itself is a mix of very pricey town homes and a couple of very nicely updated homes and a few little cottages like 832 Johnson Lane that await a new owner.  Below you can two neighboring houses. 
Next door
Across the lane
832 Johnson Lane is offered for sale at $600,000CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet for more information.  I would add the property is owned by an estate with numerous heirs.  I have written about other estates before. My theory is that heirs want to sell and divide the money.  If I were a buyer, I would submit my offer based on what I think the property is worth - what it would appraise for in its current condition. This is especially true if I were going to obtain a new mortgage. A lender will not finance a property for more than its appraised value. Therefore, I would make any offer contingent on the property for appraising not less than the contract price. 

If you would like to see 832 Johnson Lane or any other house in Key West, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

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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.