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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Don't Buy a House in Key West from a Mr. POTATO HEAD!

One of the very best Christmas gifts I ever received was given to me by my big sister back in the early 1950's - it was a Mr. POTATO HEAD. Unlike the Mr. Potato Head OF today, you needed a real potato to make this toy work. Today's version is made out of plastic and to me that is just wrong.

The thing I liked about Mr. Potato Head was that I could make him become whoever I wanted him to be. He could look happy, for sure. But I could put his ears or nose in a funny place or move his eyebrows or smile to an odd location and create my own chameleon of sorts. The 1950's was much different from 2015. I was a nerd that was easily amused.

I was talking to another local real estate agent about an experience he had at an open house a few days earlier. I want to relate that episode to my readers because it is a bit instructive about how real estate is sometimes marketed and sold in Key West.

Here is the set-up and the cast of characters. The names and places have been changed to provide a bit of amusement. Location a lovely old Conch House on a nice street in Old Town Key West. An OPEN HOUSE sign invites passers-by to enter the house that is for sale. The Asking Price is over a million bucks (isn't everything in Key West?). Inside is Mr. Green Jeans, an affable real estate agent seeking a buyer for his listing. Mr. Potato Head is another local real estate agent at a different real estate company. Mr. and Mrs. Offput are/were customers of Mr. Potato Head.

The house itself has many of the attributes first and second home buyers want in a place in Key West: three bedrooms, three baths, a pool, and a great location. The place is old but very well cared for. There are no major issues effecting the value of the house other than it is probably priced too high.

Mr. Green Jeans placed an OPEN HOUSE ad in the Key West Citizen, our local newspaper. He placed an Open House sign on the street as well. Dozens of tourists entered the house to see what they might possibly buy if were they in the market. Several actual lookers showed up to see the house. The potential real buyers seemed excited about the property which pleased Mr. Green Jeans. As is often the case, some neighbors also stopped by to see what their fellow neighbors house looks like and how much it might cost. A favorite past time of many Key Westers is to go house shopping on Sunday afternoons even though they have absolutely no intention of buying anything. They get to see how well-off their neighbor is and compare their home to his to see develop a price comparison. Everybody does it.

Mr. Green Jeans allowed lookers to move freely about the house and offered information to anyone who had questions. One couple announced that they had recently purchased another house on the same block. They just wanted to see this particular house because they had not done so when they were looking. The couple moved from room to room. They went out to the pool and talked to each other about various features. Then they went upstairs where they were alone, whereupon Mr. Green Jeans overheard the following exchange:

Mrs. Offput said "Why didn't we see this when we were looking?"

Mr. Offput replied "Mr. Potato Head said it wasn't what we were looking for".

Mrs. Offput countered "We could have bought this house for a hundred thousand dollars more than we paid for that piece of sh*t house we bought across the street!"

"Mr. Potato Head said it wasn't what we wanted," Mr. Offput said in defense.

Mrs. Offput cried "We could have had this house that is so much larger and so much nicer than the one we bought. If only you hadn't put me on that damned budget!"

Mr. Offput lamented "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
When Mr. Green Jeans related the story of the dueling duo I reminded him that Mr. Potato Head had actually listed the same house a couple of years earlier for a couple of hundred thousand dollars more than the current asking price. I searched the old mls records and looked up the words Mr. Potato Head used to describe the same house. Mr. Potato Head only used glowing terms when it was his listing. He made it sound like anyone would fall in love with the place.

When Mr. Green Jeans told me that Mr. Potato Head had listed and sold the house that the Offputs purchased everything fell into place.

The Key West Association of Realtors mls website is open for all potential buyers to view active listings. Buyers tend to shop online by price, location, and somewhat by photos. The Offputs are responsible for not insisting on at least looking at the house they later regretted not buying. You can't really blame any agent for wanting to sell his or her own listing.

If you are looking for a place in Key West and are not working with a Realtor, please consider working with me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. I am no potato head.

Friday, February 27, 2015

911 United Street, Key West - Price Reduction on a Classy Move-in Ready Home

The asking price on 911 United Street in Key West was just reduced from $1,295,000 to $1,189,900. While this beautiful house looks like a classic Conch Revival, it was actually built new in 2000.  The listing Realtor describes the property as a:
"Meticulously maintained home on corner lot featuring open floor plan with sliders leading to the deck with covered outdoor area, heated pool and spa. Three bedrooms, two full, two half baths. Master and guest bedroom on the second floor ensuite. Large his and hers closets in master with ample storage in master bath. Master balcony accesses pool area via a spiral staircase. Guest suite has private covered porch. Spacious third bedroom perfect for overflow guests & can also be used as an office. Off street parking for one car, professionally landscaped with lighting & irrigation. Located in the X Zone, hardy board construction and colonial storm shutters."
This 2380 sq ft home sits at the corner of United and Packer Street. The 2970 sq ft lot is an irregular  34' X 94'. The house sits towards the font of the lot. The back portion of the lot contains the pool and rear garden area. And there is private off street parking located behind the fenced pool area.
911 United Street offers three full floors of living space. The first floor includes a formal entry way which leads to the kitchen and great room just beyond. Notice the travertine marble floors, large baseboards and crown molding that would work equally well if decorated in a traditional semi-formal theme or with a relaxed Key West tropical theme. The second floor includes the guest bedroom with en-suite bath at the front of the house and the generous master bedroom at the rear. Both bedrooms have access to separate balconies. The rear balcony overlooks the pool below.
View from Covered Front Porch
This home and land are owned in fee simple, just like your home up north in America. But here in Key West, this property is classified as a "land based condominium". The condominium designation allowed the construction of new single family homes (and the renovation one existing property) on lots that were smaller in size than required for new single family home construction. Some of the homes share a private lane that leads to off street parking spaces. Condo fees are just $325 yearly. Here the homeowner pays all maintenance and insurance costs just as you would on a single family home where you live.
A spiral stairway leads to the overly large third floor. The space runs the length of the house. The front space could accommodate a single bed.  The back space currently has a daybed and office furniture. There is more than enough room for a king size bed in the space. There is a small bath on this floor as well.
As noted above, a door off the master suite exits on to the rear second floor balcony that overlooks the pool and garden. A stairway provides access from the balcony for an early morning or late night dip in the private pool or spa.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos of 911 United Street which is offered for sale at $1,189,900.  Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to arrange a private showing of this impeccably maintained home. You won't find a thing that needs to be fixed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

1317 Elizabeth Street, Key West - An Old Town Buying Opportunity

Just listed by Preferred Properties Key West, that's where I work but this is not my listing, 1317 Elizabeth Street. The listing Realtor describes this 952 sq ft legal duplex this way:
"Duplex in old town located on a quaint street between United & South Streets, close to Duval, the beaches, restaurants. This ideal location also comes with off street parking and a nice yard. Could use some TLC but is currently rented. One unit in front & one at the rear. The front unit has a covered porch and small front & side yard plus parking. The back unit has a gated larger side & back yard, laundry & storage shed. This would make a nice owner occupied property with rental income or keep as a rental investment."  
Here's the deal. There are very few single family or duplex properties listed for sale in the Old Town area of Key West priced at or near this price point - $629,000.  But there are many potential buyers who are looking for a property that they could purchase around this price which they could then renovate and improve. This particular house is located on a small one-way street that at this location is only one block long. In essence, this is a "lane" even though it is an extension of a larger street. Normally, homes located on lanes are prized properties because they offer a degree of exclusivity and privacy not available in many other streets in Old Town.

I checked the Historic Sanborn Fire Mas to see if I could determine when this home was originally built. This little island enclave is not shown on any of the four maps. I did find an old photo taken fifty years ago. See below. That photo shows that the existing stucco siding had been applied to the house by that date. Assuming a new owner would renovate and turn this property into a single family home, I think the stucco would be removed and traditional wood siding reapplied. A potential buyer needs to overlook the current interiors if renovation is your stated goal because all that is inside will get ripped out. If you are an investor, you probably won't have to do a thing to make money. The rental market in Key West is robust. I think this places is rented below market.
The house is situated on a 40' X 88' lot (3520 sq ft) which is fairly large compared to many lots in Old Town. The good thing is it is wide enough to provide long term parking even when the property is renovated and a pool is added. The back yard is large enough for a nice sized pool. CLICK HERE to view more photos I took. There are no photos of the front unit.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to set up a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.  Do not wait on this. I really think this will sell very quickly!

Monday, February 23, 2015

307 Truman Avenue, Key West

If you are a buyer searching for a Key West house with a checklist that an three bedrooms, two baths, a pool, and parking, you need to checkout 307 Truman Avenue. CLICK HERE to view the Key West Association of Realtors mls datasheet on this 1280 sq ft house that sits in the shadows of the Historic Key West Lighthouse.
I searched the Historic Sanborn Fire Maps and found 406 Division Street on the 1889 Map. The street number on the 1892 Map was changed from 406 Division Street to 307 Division Street. Division Street later became Truman Avenue.  While trying to find the date Division Street became Truman Avenue I found the "Autobiography of Stephen Moreno Whalton" whereupon I learned that before Division Street got that name, it was previously known as Rocky Road. Mr. Whalton* further wrote
"Another event in my life that I have never forgotten happened when I was about seven years old, at that time there were a very few houses on the Southeast side of our Truman Avenue, most of that part of the Island was a wilderness, my grandfather and my father raised quite a number of horses in the woods of Key West, and my grandfather gave me a horse and my father had him broken to harness and saddle, this was a stallion, and somewhat mean. The only time that I was put on his back, was on a Sunday morning, when one of my father’s hired men put me on him without a saddle, as soon as he got out of the yard, he started to run, and I was too small to stop him, there was a man coming up the street who stood with his arms open,but when my horse got near this man, he made a quick turn to go by him, and landed me on a flint rock, I recovered from that accident in about six weeks, but I never had a chance to get even with that horse, as my father sold him before I became old enough to handle him. This was the end of the events of my early childhood, which have remained fresh in my memory down through the years, due of course, to the fact, that they made a great impression on my mind at the time of happening."
Next I looked through the old shoebox and found the black and white photo above of 307 Truman Avenue that was taken in 1965. Look at the clean lines of this simple wood frame house with metal roof. The architecture of old Key West is so basic. So minimalistic. The simple lines live on a mere 126 years later. I think the simple architecture of our little town and this little house will continue to appeal to people for decades to come.   

There are three bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom has an en-suite bath. There is a bonus loft space in the living room that is accessed via ship's ladder. There is another open space over the the front porch that provides some architectural interest inside the living room. The kitchen is really sweet.It adds so much architectural flavor to this place. The rear deck has a canvas awing. A small heated pool was added within the last five years. Other recent additions include a new roof, central air, hot water heater and stainless refrigerator. There two off street parking spots.
307 Truman Avenue is offered fully furnished except for artwork at the asking price of $895,000.  All you will need do is bring your toothbrush. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. 
*There are two different streets in Key West named after Stephen Moreno Whalton. I happen to live at the corner of Whalton Street and Von Phister Street in the Casa Marina area. The other street is Whalton Lane which is accessed off Duval Street between Truman and Olivia Streets. Mr. Whalton's boyhood home was located there.

CLICK HERE to read the  "Autobiography of Stephen Moreno Whalton". It's great reading if you love Key West. I promise.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

826 Johnson Lane - Key West

One of the least expensive houses in Old Town is a potential candidate for renovation or possibly demolition and rebuilding. The listing Realtor, not me, describes 826 Johnson Lane, Key West this 1128 sq ft cottage style house this way:
"Renovation project in prime Old Town Key West location! This Old Town frame residence was built circa 1938 and is ready for a complete rehab. Nestled on a quiet lane near Truman Avenue and just blocks to famous Duval Street, this property is sited on a 116 foot deep lot and offers endless possibilities to create your dream home in paradise. The large deep lot leaves plenty of room for a pool and gardens and has off street parking. Home is vacant and is not habitable as-is. Potential buyers should verify with City of Key West if home can be completely torn down or partially torn down. Per tax roll the home is 1128 square feet. Do not enter property without permission of Listing Realtor as decking in rear is not secure."
I found an old photo of 826 Johnson Lane at the bottom of my old shoebox. This Plane-Jane salt box style is found in many of the small cottages that dot the streets and lanes of Key West. Modest people of modest means lived in these houses decades ago. This particular house was update several years ago but has fallen into disrepair. I will share a couple of interior photos that are self explanatory.
These pics may look scary, but they are probably typical of what many of the now picture perfect Key West cottages looked like before they were redone. And that is the truth. Just below are a couple of photos of the backyard and side deck. The deck is falling apart and needs removed and or rebuilt. The backyard offers room for a pool once the decades of over grown vegetation are removed. One potential buyer that I showed this house to came up with a very good idea which would be to move the house forward just a bit. That would shorten the driveway and allow for a larger rear yard. I have seen this happen before on a couple of houses. Our Historical Architectural Review Commission would have to grant this extraordinary permission. I think it makes sense myself. -
 I am certain that this particular house is not on the list of contributing historic structures in Old Town. That being the case a new owner might even get permission to raze this house and build a new structure. A qualified architect would be able to advise a potential buyer as to whether HARC would allow a house like this to be razed.  Even if the building could not be razed, it would certainly be a candidate for major renovation. I will bet that most of the building seen in these photos would be taken down and rebuilt with a new foundation and new materials throughout.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on 826 Johnson Lane. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Let me help you find your place in Paradise.


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.