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Sunday, April 26, 2015

527 Margaret Street - Key West - An Old House Made New

The paint is barely dry in the newly rebuilt home at 527 Margaret Street in Old Town Key West. I got a chance to meet the new owners, Kirk Thompson and Brett Burch, this past week. The owners explained to me that they were visiting Key West in January when the passed by the house which was then still under construction. The builders (Paul Misch and his son-n-law John Tutlewski) invited Brett and Kirk inside to see what was being done. They liked what they saw so much that they signed a contract to buy the place before it was complete. That gave them time to enlist their friend and decorator  Dale Trice of Design Services of Florida to add special touches that would make this their Key West dream home. It worked!
If you are a long time reader of my blog you may recall seeing 527 Margaret Street mentioned here on a couple of occasions when it was previously listed for sale. A prior owner had created three living units in what was supposed to be a single family home. The house had a warren of rooms and elevations that defied logic. Earlier this year I included this house as being one of the current "Projects of Key West" where I included a couple of photos of the original house as photographed in 1965, mls photos when offered for sale, and more recent photos showing the demolition of most of the original house and framing of the new abode. 
The dark framing timbers at the front and sides are all that remain of the original house.
The front facade has traditional wood lap siding and period correct windows. The sides and rear have Hardiboard siding and wind impact resistant windows and doors.
The front door opens into a center hallway that leads past the two bedrooms with en-suite baths into the great room at the rear. I could not help but stop to take a look at each bedroom and bath before I made my way to the living area. The interior trim work was impeccable. The white gloss trim contrasted against the almost pastel blue in the north bedroom and it popped in the master bedroom with its navy blue walls.
The north bedroom has a sleeping loft (not visible in these photos). The bathroom mirror is framed by dozens of shells. Shells are a recurring decorative theme used throughout this home.
There is a guest bath located off the center hall adjacent to the adult beverage center with color co-ordinated booze. The laundry area is opposite. It was the great room at the rear that totally surprised me. When I saw the house from the street I assumed it was a bit smallish and unpretentious. The great room has a wall of windows that soars to the top of the vaulted ceiling. The first thing I saw was the canopy of the old banyan tree at the rear. The blue sky seemed to mesh with the subtle and not-so-subtle blue tones interspersed in this space.  The wood ceiling and white washed wood floors add a natural color perspective to this living space.
Dale Trice designed the media and display wall with storage below. Giant shells and white objets d'art fill that space and are interspersed throughout the room. The setting is like something out of Coastal Living Magazine or Architectural Digest. Maybe it should be! CLICK HERE to see more photos of the original house and the newly rebuilt house.
 I took the photo immediately above last October as the tree trimmer was removing part of the old growth from the banyan tree that dominated the back yard at 527 Margaret Street. That was the beginning of the rebuilding process. The old banyan tree still reigns over the north side of the property at the rear, but there is now a navy blue pool at the south side. The old house has been made new. The natural earth tones, shades of blue, and crisp white blend together in harmony. The bougainvillaea at the front still reigns supreme and provides a nice cover for sitting behind to people watch. This is truly a home worth seeing.  Well done Kirk, Brett, Dale, Paul, and John.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Be Careful Who You Trust with Access to Your Home in Key West

I love living in Key West. You can be who you want to be and love who you want to love. Nobody cares what you do or who you sleep with other than the guy who parades around town with his anti-fags sign. Gays and straights and rich and the not-so-not rich mix at work and at play with ease. We have a lot of people that have moved here from all over the world. There are good people and some that are not so good. The bad people sometimes give the rest of us a bad name.
I recall an evening a couple of years ago when  a couple who I had recently sold a house to called me. They told me they a nephew drove a new car they purchased for their Key West down here from their home up north. He had parked under their carport and went back home. 

They said a week later they were contacted by the Key West police. Their new Key West car had been involved in a hit and run accident after the nephew had returned to his home. Someone had got inside their house, found the keys, and drove the car more than a mile away to get involved in an accident. The car was returned to the covered parking space where it belonged.

I asked the obvious question: who had keys to the car?  The couple did not know. They said the lady's Key West hair dresser had recommended a painter who did some work inside the house for them had access to the keys to the house as did the pool service man. My mind raced back to several prior conversations I had with the lady where she related stories about the hair dresser who she adored.

My buyers asked me if I would go to their house and remove the key to the house that was supposed to be in a lock box near the front door. I immediately went there. As soon as I got to the place I inspected the car.  All four sides of the new car had damage. A chain had been wrapped through the trunk to keep the rear bumper from falling off. I took photos of the damage and then went to the lock box to remove the key. It was not there.

I got on my phone and called the owners. While we were talking I noticed a guy walking down the sidewalk and up to the house. He was in his 30s or 40s and had an open beer in his hand. He had that just-off-the-streets look that I am familiar with.  I checkout the Monroe County Sheriff's online crime page every morning. I see guys that look like this every day of my life either on the page or walking the streets of Key West. I asked the guy "Do you live here?" He replied "I'm doing work for the owners." I told him I was the owners' real estate agent and that they sent me to fetch the key. He reached in his pocket and decided he did not have the key. He said to wait a minute and then walked around the house to the rear. Several minutes elapsed. I knocked on the door. No answer. I talked with the owners who were now mildly distressed. The owner suggested that I go home. He said he would come down (from more than a thousand miles away) and sort things out. Then the guy opened the front door and said to come in. Although the house had been freshly painted and furnished, it reeked of cigarette smoke. The smell of recently over-fried hamburgers lingered in the air. Every light in the house was turned on. The volume on the TV was on full blast. It was obvious this guy had moved in-to stay.

I asked the guy "Do you know how the car got damaged?" to which he replied "No." He turned away and walked toward French doors that opened out to the pool. His  hands jerked up to his head. He grabbed his hair and ordered me to get out and said to come back in five minutes. He needed time to think.

I went back outside and spoke to the owners. I decided it was best for me to leave before this guy went completely insane. I had asked two questions in a calm and polite voice. I made no accusations or inferences in the tone or words. The guy, however, seemed over whelmed by the thought of having to leave his new house.

I think it is very important that new owners hire licensed and insured contractors and other business professionals who may access to the inside of their homes or access to a car. Most real estate companies offer once a week home inspections to make sure a Key West dream house is safe and secure. Like I said "There are good people and some that are not so good. The bad people sometimes give the rest of us a bad name." 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

812 Windsor Lane - Sitting Pretty in Old Town Key West

The simple home at 812 Windsor Lane in Key West did not always look so neat and proper.  I remember driving past that house several years ago on repeated occasions when someone would ask "How much is that house"?  I would always respond "It's not for sale" to which they would reply something like "We'll I want to buy it when it is for sale." The house looked pretty rundown back then. The front yard was over-grown. The place looked like it had been abandoned. But then in 2008 the family who had owned this house since it was first built undertook the renovation of the original house and construction of a rear cottage and pool.

812 Windsor Lane, Key West - 1965
 Today the property is available for the very first time to the buying public at the reduced asking price of $1,450,000.  The listing Realtor describes the property thus:
"Historic Treasure in the heart of Old Town. First time on the market! Fully renovated in 2008, this historic home has been in the same family since the 1800s. 2BD/2BA main house has a beautiful mix of original Dade County and heart pine walls and floors in the bedrooms. Updates include vaulted ceilings and a modern kitchen with granite counter-tops and stainless appliances. A 2BD/2BA guest house is connected via a Caribbean style covered walkway. Both homes are lined with French doors that open onto a spacious deck overlooking the tropical gardens, bricked courtyard, and private waterfall swimming pool. Fully fenced with a locking gate, the property has off street parking for 2 cars. This is Key West tropical living as it was meant to be!" 
The front porch is just for show these days. The formal entry to the main house is located just beyond the fence at the end of the driveway.  You enter into the great room in the new rear addition to the historic house.  The living area is at the back of this house.  It has French doors that open out to the covered rear deck and which overlook the pool with waterfall.  The two front rooms are used as bedrooms. Both bedrooms have large bathrooms. The master bedroom has access to the old front porch which as a view of the Key West cemetery across the street. The Royal Poinciana Tree in the front yard will be full of a million red flowers come May.  The site will be glorious!
The guest cottage at the rear has two very large bedrooms and baths. Both bedrooms have vaulted ceilings and ample closets. Each room has a loft inside for the grand kids to play or sleep.  A covered breezeway connects the guest cottage to the main house. 
The two houses have a combined living space of 1892 sq ft under air conditioning. This does not include any of the covered or non-covered deck areas or interior lofts. The lot is 5880 sq ft lot which  is fairly large for the Old Town area. There is bricked off street parking for 2 cars.  CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls data sheet.
The house needs a fresh coat of paint and some minor repairs which will make it all pretty again. I think a bit of fairy dust would do a heck of a lot of good myself. If I bought this home I might splurge and retile the baths and replace the dark granite counter tops with quartz or some more contemporary hard surface. The color schemes are okay but I think a new owner could pick colors that are less Caribbean and more chic. The pool, rear decks, and grounds need some new plantings which would make the spaces more welcoming.  None of the things I have suggested are expensive.  I believe they would make this property show so much better.

This home has a successful rental history as a vacation rental.  The property is located just a few short blocks to Duval Street. The historic Key West seaport is located six blocks to the north. Most of the gyms and yoga studios are within an easy walk as well. Repeat long term vacation renters love being within walking distance to the gym or yoga studio. They follow patterns of going to their favorite haunts that are within easy walking distance. This location is central to just about everything.

CLICK HERE to view more photos I took.  After you've viewed the photos and the mls datasheet, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to set up a showing of this Key West home with lots of potential.  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1111 Packer Street, Key West

 The newly listed home at 1111 Packer Street will appeal to a buyer who is looking for an eventual retirement home in Key West but who wants a place that can be used as a vacation rental to help reduce purchase and maintenance costs. This home has been thoughtfully renovated and has all the attributes that make it very desirable both as a place to live and also a place to spend a vacation. 
I looked around in my old shoebox and found the black and white photo above which shows 1111 Packer Street fifty years ago. If you compare that photo with the color photo at the top you will see that a new addition was built on the left side where the car is parked in the old photo. There's a cottage located at the far side of the lot. That cottage became the third bedroom and a pool was placed in between. You will also see a "bridge" between the addition and the original house. That "bridge" is now the formal entry.
The above photos show the living room with French doors that open out to the covered deck and pool area. The guest cottage is at the rear. The cottage has its own private little covered terrace which overlooks the pool. There is both covered and open deck just to the rear of the kitchen.
The front bedroom is naturally located at the front part of the original house. The original front door is now a door to the private porch area nearly invisible from the street. The original hallway is now a corridor between the two bedrooms and the kitchen at the rear. The main house and cottage offer a total of three bedrooms, three and one-half baths with about 1436 sq ft of quality living space.  The lot is quite large for Old Town - 5239 sq ft. There is off street parking for two cars.
I have shown this property a couple of times since it hit the market. It looks great! Everything is in good condition. The rooms almost look like something you'd see in the furniture department at Macy's of Bloomingdale's.  This is important to a new owner because you won't have to spend money to fix something or to create something. 

1111 Packer Street is offered for sale at $1,175,000. CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos. 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. Don't wait on this. It ought to sell quickly.


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.