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Thursday, December 12, 2013

832 Johnson Lane - Key West

I recently showed 832 Johnson Lane in Old Town Key West to some buyers who had expressed a willingness to buy a fixer-upper.  They were searching for a place they could buy for a reasonable price, do some renovations, maybe expand the existing size, add a pool, and end up with a dream cottage. Their primary concern for any house was price and location. The amount of work and potential cost of updating and expanding 832 Johnson Lane became their over-riding concern. The little cottage  was a bit more of a challenge than they imagined.  I saw the place differently.  The house is small and because of certain rules, a new owner probably cannot expand it too much. I think it is worthy of your consideration if you are a cash buyer and have the ability to see beyond what presently exists.  A buyer with an ability to do some of the renovations or who has additional cash for renovations ought to at least take a look.  You may be pleased.

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.  The existing house has just one bedroom and one bath.  The Monroe County Property Appraiser says the 527 sq ft house sits on a 2633 sq ft lot or 25' x 116'.  The house sits close to the front of the lot. A new owner could seek permission from HARC, our local Historical Architectural Review Commission to expand the size of the little house by adding to the rear. It appeared to me that the existing foundation is a bit dated. The existing piers may need rebuilt or replaced.  
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 dysfunctional. They were built long ago for people who lived much differently than we live today. I didn't bother to take any photos because the interiors will be gutted and replaced by whoever buys this place. The cottage will need all new everything - water, sewer, electric service. It will need new wood windows, doors, and floors.  A new kitchen and bath(s) will replace what exists today. There is some Dade County Pine walls which ought to be preserved.

I consider the backyard as the most attractive feature of this home. The yard is 25' wide by 116' deep or 2633 sq ft. The back property line abuts the rear of a parking lot that belongs to a guest house on Truman Avenue.  I am making an assumption that a new owner may be able to obtain permission to use the parking lot for a limited time to add a pool and deliver building materials necessary to renovate the cottage. 
The above photo was taken from the back step of the house and looks south. There is no back porch.  I have added a 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.  The small addition to the rear is bathroom. The original "out house" still sits exists on the property. The blue chair (two photos above) rests in the middle of the old outhouse. HARC and building rules may permit that space to be expanded into a cabana or other use.
The above 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 are essential to any good renovation.  Once the foundation is repaired, the creative part begins.

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 Avenue) on the west and Margaret Street to the east.  The lane itself is a mix of very expensive town homes, some nicely updated homes, and a few little cottages like 832 Johnson Lane that await renovation.  Photos of the house next door and across the lane are shown below.
Next door
Across the lane
832 Johnson Lane is offered for sale at $580,000.   CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet for more information.

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.


Bob Meyer said...

Gary....are they serious? $1,100 per square foot for a complete gut??? Seems to be triple what it should be?

Matt said...

I agree but I guess that's why it has been on the market for about a year.

812 Johnson Ln down the street has a pool and sold for < $500k.

Gary Thomas said...

Bob and Matt,

I sold 812 Johnson Lane and it was a bargain compared to the asking price for 832 Johnson.

This house is owned by an estate with lots of relatives who I assume would like to share in a big "pie". The property is "worth" what is is "worth" and that is not necessarily what the owners may be asking. The listing agent wants offers. Offers sometimes get negotiated to more realistic prices.

The lot size and the location give this property a lot of value that readers may not appreciate. This place will be gutted and will not look anything like it looks now.

I would not pay the asking price. But if I were a buyer looking for a place that I could redo, add a pool, have off street parking, and have a good "high and dry" Old Town location, I might take a stab at buying this old house.



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.