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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Ghost House of Christmas Past or How Not to Buy a House

This is a true story. 

A couple of years ago just around Christmas I posted a blog about a bank owned house located on a nearby island not far from Key West. Like most of the homes in the Lower Keys, this home was elevated and located on a canal with a boat dock. This particular home had sold a few years earlier for nearly $800,000. It was a spacious three bedroom home with over 2,000 sq ft of living space. The lot was in excess of 15,000 sq ft and had both sunny open spaces and tropical foliage that provided privacy. There was a pool and a hot tub and a cabana. You could tell that whoever lived there before loved this house. The grounds around the house, though overgrown, had been magical. The nearest neighbor was half a block away. The house was offered at less than $300,000.

The day after I wrote the blog I received a phone call from a buyer from an east coast location. He loved the house. He and his wife drove directly to Key West from the frozen north and met me at the house two days later. I told the buyers that other agents and potential buyers were at the house the day I took photos for my blog.  I warned the buyers that what they liked about the house would attract other buyers just as much. I suggested that if they made an offer to make it in excess of the already very low asking price. Instead the buyers offered 85% of asking price all cash with a quick close. A different buyer offered 102% cash of the asking price, a longer close, and got the property.

I happened to drive by that former bank owned property last week on my way to show a different house on a smaller lot on a different canal with neighbors to the left and right in front and behind. There was no pool, no hot tub, no cabana, and no privacy. That house is in much better condition than the bank owned property, but it is smaller in size and priced near $500,000.  
I have seen this scene played out several times. A buyer draws a line in the sand.  He says I will pay this price and not a dollar more. When a seller refuses to meet a buyer's price, the deal ends.  (Sellers draw the same line.)  A variation often arises after a home inspection and "problems" with a house are pointed out. Sellers who want to sell and buyers who want to buy normally work out a way how to deal with whatever "problems" are discovered. Genuine problems require a lot of work by the parties and their agents. Problems can sometimes lead to the break-up of a deal simply because a buyer or a seller refuses to negotiate or cannot find a meeting place that is on the other side of a line in the sand.

Instead of drawing a line in the sand and creating a barrier that makes buying a house potentially impossible, buyers ought to keep their eyes on the prize: owning a home in Key West. No, I take that back. It's not owning "a" home, it is moving to Key West to live your life here. That is the prize. Once you find the house you want to live in, you may need to compromise a bit to get what you want. I am not suggesting that a buyer pay whatever some greedy seller demands. I am saying not to lose sight of what you want to achieve. Sure there are always other houses.  But in Key West, some places, like the house my buyer lost, are really one of a kind. A few thousand dollars over the course of a few years will seem like nothing.

If you are looking to buy a place in Key West please consider working with me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or by email at  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


Joseph Graham said...

Very, very well-said, Sir Gary. To lose a house, and perchance a dream, over a few thousand bucks? In the long run, that's the real nightmare. We could all use that reminder

Anonymous said...

now all we need is some inventory to put offers on


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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.