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Friday, January 2, 2015

The Best Real Estate Deals in Key West - 2014

I remember Christmas 1955 very well, because I got a typewriter just like the one pictured above that year. I still have a poem I wrote on that machine. It goes "Good by past year of 55, I hate to see you go. I wish you could stay a little longer before you go." The typewriter wasn't really a typewriter. The keys did not type. Instead I had to turn the wheel next to the carriage to display each letter then press the red lever to make the wheel ring strike the paper. As you can tell I wasn't a poet either. Thank God I got a real typewriter in high school. I would never made it out of college with that knucklehead machine.

I did a quick look back to see what I wrote on January 1, 2014 and saw this: "the pickings are slim and the prices are rising".  That's the same message today. It just may be the continual message for houses in Key West for some years to come. Although we have a large number of hopeful buyers, we have a limited supply of houses for sale. That dynamic tends discourage a lot of potential buyers from becoming new owners.

I went through the single family home sales for the period January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015 and came up with  a list of the top twenty home sales that are illustrative of home sales on our little island. These sales teach us a bit of a lesson about what types of houses have sold, the location of the properties, and perhaps the physical condition or amenities that help explain the price paid. Best deals does not mean the least price paid nor the highest price paid. To me it means a fair price given the location, condition, and potential for future use and enjoyment. Some people believe in the stock market. You can't sleep with your stock portfolio, but on December 31st you could lay by your pool in Key West when it was 82 degrees and sunny as it could be. The pool could be a dip pool or an Olympic pool. The sun and temperature are the same. The trees and breeze are the same. The price a man or woman pays for their slice of Paradise is relative to them, not to you or me. But it is, as I say, illustrative of why properties have sold for the prices paid in 2014.

713 Galveston Lane is a cute little two bedroom one bath house located on Solares Hill. It was totally renovated and has room in the back for a pool. And it had a valuable off street parking spot.  It sold for $407,500. Solares Hill is the highest point on the island. Lenders do not require flood insurance for homes in what is called the X zone. This gives some buyers a sense of security knowing they won't be flooded. Others see the cost savings as having long term value for money not having to be paid for flood insurance.
721 Windsor Lane is another cute little two bedroom single family home. It is located in the Key West Writer's Compound just a block away from the Galveston Lane house. The adult compound is a group of charming cottage style homes that share a common pool glorious trees and tropical flora. There's no parking here and that puts off some potential buyers.  Other potential buyers appreciate this beautiful little compound knowing that they can "lock and leave" their home and that friendly neighbors will there. This little doozie sold for $467,125.
1028 James Street is located near the old seaport. I represented the buyers, a young local couple looking to buy their first home. The house needed a little cosmetic work but not that much. It has room for a pool - some day. It sold for $495,000.Other houses in the immediate area that have been remodeled have sold for much more money. This home offers a lot of upside potential. In the meantime, it offers a good sized house with a nice backyard.
529 William Street was a 3 bedroom bank owned property with a pool located on one of the best blocks in Old Town. The house needed some TLC. The new owner paid $500,000 and got a valuable property in a great Old Town location. I heard there were multiple offers on this property.
530 Catherine Street was a somewhat neglected house with a large lot and a valuable (but unused) transient rental license. Some buyers talk about wanting to buy a place like this, but when they actually see the real thing, they get cold feet. They may think they don't like the location (a block from Duval), or they may think renovation will cost too much - it will. But other potential buyers act immediately to seize an opportunity before someone else buys a hidden gem. The new owner did an incredible renovation and has already put the transient license into use. Sales price was $500,000.
1233 South Street is located one block east of White Street near the Casa Marina area. Many of the surrounding homes in this area are priced over one million dollars or more. There are no Conch trains and tourists usually end up here whilst getting lost on bike rides. It's a nice area where pride in ownership is abundant. This house was in good but dated condition and sat on a large lot. The rear garden offered a wonderful space for a new pool. This house sold for $636,000.
506 Elizabeth Street appeared in my blog a couple of times. I really liked the superior Old Town location of this "legal duplex" which could be made back into a single family house. The house had some challenges that are not rare in our older homes - the upper floors sagged, there was no room for a pool nor parking. Now, the place worked just fine the way it was. But it seems new buyers always want to tinker and fix things. I will be writing about this property in the near future as the new owner appears to have gutted the place and is doing a major renovation. I cannot stress how not every homeowner needs or wants a pool. They are costly to maintain. People from all over the world come to Key West and go to our beaches. They are free.  This house sold for $640,000.
923 Southard Street is a picture perfect house in a great Old Town location. Houses don't get much cuter than this, and especially when the sell for just $774,000. This two story gem had a great main level living area that included the ability to convert one room into a full time bedroom if necessary. There were two more bedrooms on the second floor. There was even a small pool in the beautiful back yard. The house was typical of many houses in the Old Town area. Some renovations were made within the last twenty years or so. A new owner might feel a need to "fix" something or replace something. That's what buyers do even in really big and very expensive houses. Buyers who look at houses like this sometimes let the cost of potential fixes and replacements interfere in their quest to buy a house in Key West. Few things in life are perfect. And those that are not perfect usually require the expenditure of money and time to make them closer to perfect.
 1501 Washington Street is an example of an almost perfect house that went under contract just after it was listed. Like the house at 1233 South Street, this home is located just east of the Casa Marina area. For some potential buyers it's located "too far" away from Duval Street. For locals, it's a great location because it is not near the noise and hoopla associated with Duval area homes. This home was totally renovated and showed like something you'd see in an interior design magazine. It sold for $775,000.
818 Olivia Street was in my blog a couple of times. The old house was located opposite the Key West Cemetery and that fact scarred away a lot of potential buyers who would have otherwise snapped up this utterly charming three bedroom home with a pool and parking. It sold for $855,000. This same house would have sold for over a million dollars if it had been located on William or Frances Street.
2 Fletchers Lane was a great two story home plus guest cottage and pool tucked away on a hidden little lane just off the corner of Grinnell and Eaton Street. While you could drive a car to the house to unload groceries or baggage, there was no parking space. That "killed" the house for many potential buyers who believe they must own a car in Key West. The folks who owned this home actually parked on Eaton Street for the many years they owned the house. It worked fine for them. I know that people I showed the house too fretted over not having a parking space. Potential second home buyers ought to do the math on what a parking space actually costs them. I am not talking about land value (although that really is a consideration). Instead, I am referring to the cost of car ownership that include price of the car, insurance, maintenance, depreciation from being exposed to our ever present sun and weather. I think it might be less expensive for a second homeowner to rent a car for the month or two they spend here than to buy a car that sits idle for several months each year. The not having a parking space is a deal killer in many home sales. Buyers really ought to reconsider what they want more a house or a car! 2 Fletchers Lane was sold fully furnished (everything) for just
$880,000. This was such a great deal!
1023 Johnson Street is a project property. It is a big old house on a great block in the Casa Marina area. It's an historic old house which means it cannot be razed but instead must be preserved. Many buyers talk about wanting to buy a renovation project, but when they find a great property they get cold feet. They see the prospect of pumping hundreds of thousands of new dollars into what some view as an overpriced fixer. I saw this house as being money in the bank. Now, not every buyer is gong to love the facade of the house. It cannot change. But the inside and rear can become something really special. And I am sure it will. This house sold for $1,050,000. It will be worth more than $2,000,000 even before the renovations are over. The trend in the Casa Marina area is for housing prices to increase upward.
1108 Fleming Street appeared in my blog several times. This house had three bedrooms (one in the cottage at the rear where the off street parking was also located). The facade was picture perfect but the interiors were a bit difficult for some buyers. What some buyers don't really appreciate is the fact that many of our old houses have been manipulated into being something much more important or grander than intended when they were built. This house is a great example of a common cottage growing into a three bedroom house with a pool and parking. In this instance function does not follow form. That's not a bad thing. It's just an explanation that you can get three usable bedroom spaces in cute houses like this. The interior layout may not be perfect. Buyers who are willing to accept pretty and quaint often overlook having to take an extra step or two to go to the bathroom. This home sold for $1,140,000.
814 Carey Lane is an example of a house with a lot of potential. The house is located at the far end of one of the prettiest Old Town lanes. This particular house and guest cottage sit on a huge lot. The main house is a bit dated. The kitchen and baths were redone a couple of decades ago. In real estate years that's eons. I don't understand why everything has to be new. It's like kitchens and baths have become "fashion" instead of "function".  But that is the state of how we view our homes and the rooms inside the homes. The house, cottage, existing pool and gardens and the overall size of the lot offered so much potential for future development. The house itself was not historic and could be razed and a new house built. I saw this property as being an incredible buy. It sold for $1,150,000. 
I wrote about 1109 Fleming Street a few short months ago when it was listed for sale as a bank owned property. I went over and took photos within the first hour after it hit the mls. There were other agents there when I got there and when I left. I went back the next day with potential buyers. Different agents were there with their buyers. None of my buyers submitted an offer but many others did. This house with rear cottage and parking in the rear was listed for sale at $995,900 but sold for $1,300,600. (Not a typo.) This home and lot has immense potential. Yes, it will cost a lot of money to renovate. The size of the two houses and lot offer so much potential reward in the future.
1126 Washington Street is a renovation success  story. The former house sat on a large Casa Marina area lot. Houses on either side and to the rear were much more valuable. The former bank owned property sold for $369,000 in 2011. The new owner did an incredible job in transforming hodge podge into a gracious home. This home sold for $1,350,000.
1025 Von Phister Street was my listing. It sold to a local buyer for $1,465,000. The house was built in 2000 and I considered the house to be just about perfect. I held an open house on Easter Sunday. I had about 80 lookers. They walked inside and their jaws dropped when they saw the awe inspiring living room and pool beyond. The new owners are doing a major renovation to the property. Homes in the Casa Marina offer buyers more land and fewer neighbors than we see in Old Town.
635 William Street appears to be a sweet little cigar maker's cottage from the street. A new addition at the rear expanded the living areas and added new bedrooms plus a pool, spa, and loggia amid beautifully manicured gardens. Many potential buyers look just with their eyes and don't read the details of a mls listing. The other thing I have noticed is that many would-be buyers who do read the fine print and who go to the Property Appraiser's website or who rely on a Zillow zestimate believe they "know" all there is to know about any listing.  They think they know the value of a given property. Real estate does not work like that in Key West. What you see is not always what you get. This charmer sold for $1,605,000. 
718 Eisenhower Drive is a truly grand old home. It's bigger and grander than most folks want or certainly need. The main house reminds me of something out of The Great Gatsby. There's a rear guest cottage that needed some updating. The once epic gardens looked good but could be made better. This incredible property sold for $2,000,000. I chose this house not for the price but for the challenge large homes offer to owners - both old and new. 
415 Margaret Street completes the list of the best real estate deals in Key West for 2014. I showed this home several times over the past couple of years. The original house was updated and expanded several years ago when a new master wing plus a guest cottage added.  The rear grounds include a 40ft pool and extensive grounds. This is another example of what you see from the street fails to portend what lies beyond the facade. This sophisticated home sold for $2,200,000. There were seven other houses that sold for more than this house in 2014. I think this was the prettiest of the bunch of $2,000,000 plus houses.

I urge buyers to not be locked into a certain mindset when considering the purchase of a house. Houses that need renovated can be costly but they don't necessarily have to be bank-breakers. Houses that are perfect may not be perfect for the new owner. Locations can be difficult, but no location is perfect. Idiot neighbors are not restricted to any one part of the island. Houses on busy streets and those located by the cemetery or some other scary site may offer tremendous buying opportunities.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Gary!

Thanks a bunch for the quick posting of what was formerly known as "the year that was". It, along with "projects of key west", are my two favorites. Are you positive that price for 1109 Fleming is accurate? Why in the world would someone offer so much more than the asking price on that home? Plus, the weird $600 in the sales price makes it seem fishy.

Hope you had a great holiday and look forward to following your posts again in 2015. I'm a big fan.

Gary Thomas said...

The price on 1109 Fleming is accurate. There were multiple cash bids. I suspect the reason for the $600 was to up the ante a bit over a possible competing bid in the same price range.

Anonymous said...

I think the Carey Lane house was the best of the bunch. That is a beautiful location. Thanks for the great blog Gary

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Good Deeds section of the Citizen? Used to check on all the sales there and now it seems to be gone.

Gary Thomas said...

I was not aware that the good deeds section is no longer being published.


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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.