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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

1505 Laird Street, Key West - Big Price Reduction!

Silliness aside, there is a good reason for bargain hunters to checkout the goods on 1505 Laird Street in Key West where the price has been reduced from the original $525,000 to just $425,000. The reduction was announced late Monday.

1505 Laird Street, Key West is a 784 sq ft home that is located on a large 5412 sq ft lot just east of the Casa Marina Area of Key West.  The listing Realtor describes this home this way:
 "Cute mid-century cbs house on a big beautiful lot in a great neighborhood. The small home is ready to be renovated and/or extensively enlarged. This perfectly habitable small house is being offered for less money than some vacant lots in the area."
This is a very simple house. The house is pretty much in original condition except for the kitchen which was humbly updated a few years ago. There are two bedrooms that share the one bath. The house is CBS (concrete block structure) built on slab. The floors are terrazzo throughout the house. The roof is composite shingles. The house has shutter holders in place. There are wall unit air conditioners.
I will bet that a small house like this could be purchased for $200,000 or a bit less in other parts of the USA. But not in Key West where the cost of houses are pretty high.  In fact the listing Realtor's statement that "house is being offered for less money than some vacant lots in the area." is correct.
House next door to the east
The 5412 sq ft lot measures 61.5' X 88'.  There are four very tall coconut palms located at the front of the lot and there are two older trees in the backyard. I did not make note of their type. There is nothing significant about this house. I think the value in this property is probably in the land whether for current tear down and rebuild or to buy and hold for future redevelopment. If the existing house were cleaned and painted, it could probably be rented long term for $2500 to $2800 per month.  I think land values are going to continue to increase, especially for houses like this which are located in good areas close to the beaches and which is much less expensive than the Casa Marina Area a couple of blocks to the west.  CLICK HERE to see more photos I took of this property.

1505 Laird Street is offered at $425,000. CLICK  HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a showing of this property. In fact you don't need to see it in person to appreciate its value.  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Friday, May 27, 2016

1434 Virginia Street, Key West - Buying Opportunity

Bargain Hunters Take Note: The asking price on 1434 Virginia Street has been reduced to just $604,900. This is a real buying opportunity for someone looking for a large "project house" or "renovation project" or a "flipper". The listing broker describes this property this way:
Priced to sell, if you're ready for a historic renovation project this would be it! This spacious home with stunning architectural lines and gorgeous natural light is ready to be restored to her former grandeur. Property features plentiful off-street parking and possibly room for a pool. Zoned as Single Family or Duplex, this renovation project offers multiple floor plan options and endless potential. Two sets of preliminary architectural renovation plans convey with the sale. Centrally located across from the grassy expanse of Bayview Park, the property is conveniently within walking distance of public tennis courts, shops, restaurants, Garrison Bight and the White Street Gallery District.
It looked to me that the house had been divided into five apartments over the years. It is my understanding that the city will only allow the conversion back to a single family house or division into two and only two living units - essentially a duplex or two condos. At present there are multiple entrances located at the front, west, and east side of  the house. Three apartments are on the main floor and two on the second floor. Each second floor apartment has an interior stairway with access to the third floor. A talented designer or architect ought to be able develop a design equal to the views from the first and second floors. Whatever charm the original house had has been lost due to the fragmentation of the interior space. I think intelligent design can create new spaces that play off the interior spaces which have height, volume, and views not available at this price range in other parts of Old Town. Let's look at the house the way it exists today.
Each unit has a separate kitchen and bath. The bathroom in this unit is located in what would have been the original hallway. This unit has a sleeping "loft" but the other apartments have separate bedrooms. The view looks directly across the street to Bayview Park.
The door at the far end of the second floor front apartment opens out to the second floor front porch that spans the width of the house. You can see most of Bayview Park from this vantage point. Bayview is the main city park in Key West. There are tennis courts, a baseball field, and an old fashioned pavilion at the east end. You'll notice water in the photo just above. The Key West police building and a fire station are located on the far side of the water and trees. In searching the Sanborn Fire Maps to try to determine when this house was actually built I learned that the road and land immediately adjacent to the park was identified as North Beach Road and that there was a small body of water in that location. That area was later filled and and developed. When I was taking photos I imagined what a sight the owner must have had back in the day before developers had their way. (They always seem to get their way. Don't they!) This property first appeared on the 1912 Sanborn Map but the prior maps did not cover this area. I suspect this house existed prior to 1900.
I found a photo of the old "bathing pool"* or swimming hole located at what is now near the corner of Truman Avenue and Eisenhower Boulevard (previously North Beach Road). North Beach actually was a beach. Developers got the land and put up condos (don't they always!). The historic Division Street (now known as Truman Avenue) was extended over the water and became North Roosevelt Boulevard. By 1999 the city added the police and fire station just east of Bayview Park. The section of North Beach Road was then called Pearl Street. The photo above shows the roofs of two large buildings at Horace O'Bryant Middle School. Those buildings no longer exist and have been replaced with even larger structures. The park still stands amid all the development that has taken place around it in the near 80 years since the kids jumped into the old swimming hole.  wish I could have seen this sweet town back then.
Over the years some prior owner of this property put a rear addition on to the house. Eventually the space extended out past the east side of the house and made this building exceedingly large. There is a roof top deck accessed via two small doors in the attic or loft space off the rear. A wood stairway leads down to the ground three stories below. While the view is pretty incredible, I really think a new owner might take down the entire rear addition. The house is huge without it. This would be the perfect space for a new pool, deck, and garden which could wrap around the rear and east side of the property. Sometimes less is more. This is one of those times.
The middle apartment abuts the front apartment with "loft" sleeping area. There is a warren of rooms on both floors. A renovation of these disconnected rooms could invigorate this old home and give it new purpose. The lot is very large for the Old Town area - 51' X 82' or 4149 sq ft.  Key West has several talented architects and competent builders that know how to fix old houses like this. I think the renovation of this old place could result in a really interesting home with incredible lasting views.
CLICK HERE to view more photos I took of this property. 
1434 Virginia Street is offered for sale at $604,900.  CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to schedule a private showing of this property. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

 * Photo The swimming hole in Garrison Bight C 1940s. From the Louise White Collection

Thursday, May 26, 2016

All The Way with LBJ - Reflections of a Former Teen Democrat

The photo above shows Marcia McGinley, Ben King, and me awaiting the arrival of President Lyndon B. Johnson at a political speech in Denver in 1964. I was the president of the Jefferson County Teen Democrats. Our group attended a speech the President made at the old auditorium arena sometime during the race for the White House. Later that day the President signed the poster I was holding.
I still have the poster with LBJ's autograph as well as autographs of Senators and Congressmen who accompanied him. It's been kept in dorm rooms, basements, and closets for years. There are little tears and water marks, but the color and character of that time are still in tact.  CLICK HERE to see the signatures of those who accompanied LBJ as well as Colorado's former Republican Governor John A. Love.
Lady Bird Johnson stopped briefly at Stapleton Airport in Denver en route Washington D.C after vacationing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Our teen dems presented her with a small pine tree which we suggested she plant on the White House grounds. She said she would see to it that it would get planted on the Texas ranch.  How naive our gesture seems now. It made the news back then. Lady Bird signed the home made campaign poster with our Teen Dem mascot on it. Years later as her autograph started to fade, I used a magic marker to retrace her signature. For that forgery, I now atone.
Earlier this week I watched the HBO movie ALL THE WAY which depicted LBJ's first year as President and the events which led up to his election as President in his own right in 1964. Since I already knew how that election ended, it was fascinating to watch how Johnson responded to events and political turmoil that raged throughout much of  my youth. The driving force of his election bid was the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended racial segregation of public schools, the workplace, and in facilities that serve the public known as "public accommodations". I urge readers to watch this flick. Bryan Cranston did a superb job as LBJ and made history relevant to our current body politic.

I grew up in a lily white suburb of Denver. We had no black students at any of my schools and probably none in Jefferson County located west of Denver and extending into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We lived a very comfortable post World War II life in an economy that was booming. I had no reference to poverty or racism because I didn't see it. But I knew it existed because I watched the nightly news and saw stories on TV about how blacks were treated in other parts of America - especially the south. Those of us in our sixties and older probably remember those grainy black and white nightly news clips which showed sit-ins, marches, bombings, lynchings, murders, riots, and speeches by civil rights leaders reacting to the turmoil of that era. The Civil War ended slavery, but it had not given black people equal rights to whites. Blacks could not vote in many parts of the south. They could not use restrooms in bus stations or eat a meal at a lunch counter. They could not go to college in many places. Segregation was a method by which the white majority kept the black minority in its place. It was a way of life. In Denver blacks lived in one part of town. A federal judge created forced busing to desegregate Denver's public schools.  A lot of white folks fled to the suburbs in response.

In June 1965 I got a summer job at a guest lodge located in Upper Bear Creek Canyon just outside of Evergreen, Colorado. Historically the lodge had been the summer home of one of Colorado's richest families. In 1965 the owners were a middle aged couple who ran the place with the aid of their adult daughter and her husband plus the summer crew of four or five college students.  I was one of them. I had never had a job in the hospitality business before that job. One day I had to replenish the glasses in the bar. I carefully stacked each cocktail glass in a neat row on glass shelves with a mirror behind. I put one glass too many on the glass shelf. The entire wall of glasses came crashing down. I was mortified. I found an online photo of that room as it exists today. Instead of stocking glasses, I laid kindling and logs for future fires throughout this mountain castle and other odd jobs that did not include anything in the bar area.
The other college kids were like me: squeaky clean white kids. The cook was a young black guy named Willie. We had worked together as a group for a couple of weeks. We all got along great. One afternoon after our work was done and when all the guest rooms were vacant, we all jumped in the pool and had a good time. We spent the entire day preparing for the next day arrival of a group of executives from Duracell or some other battery manufacturing company. The lady owner, whose first name was Sadie, was not pleased that Willie got in the pool. She told him he could not swim in the pool in future under any circumstance. Whereupon he quit before she had a chance to fire him. This all seemed odd and wrong to me. You see Sadie routinely boasted that she and Lady Bird Johnson were cousins. I would have thought she would have treated a black person with respect since she was an important member of the President's family so to speak. She could have said that none of the staff could use the pool and that would have been understood by all. But that is not what happened. In the HBO movie ALL THE WAY LBJ told a story about the time before he was President, when his cook drove the Johnson's car from Washington down to the LBJ ranch in Texas. This was a time before the Civil Rights Act was passed - when blacks were not allowed to use white restrooms in many parts of the south.  Johnson bemoaned the fact his cook had to squat in roadside fields.

Willie got his revenge on Sadie without doing or saying anything. When the guests arrived the next day there was no cook. The owners' daughter and I drove into Evergreen to find already prepared food to feed the guests. There wasn't such a thing in 1965 Evergreen. So we ended up at the Safeway store where we bought Swanson TV chicken dinners. We took them back to the lodge. I remember thinking how loony it was that we were taking TV dinners up a private gated half mile road to this luxurious mountain top retreat to serve to people who were expecting a wonderful meal. We heated the TV dinners and plated them along with a sprig of parsley. We made salads and served some form of desert as well.

The next morning the college kids cooked breakfast. I remember one guest asked me for some jelly or preserves. I knew Sadie had two different kinds of preserves. One was a cheap jar which was to be served to guests and an expensive jar which was reserved for family use. I reasoned that since the guests had to eat a TV dinner instead of a real meal prepared by a real chef they should be treated to the more expensive preserves. Sadie noticed I had done and walked through the elegant dining room with windows looking out to the wooded grounds and removed the bowl from the table. She told me to replace the bowl the cheap preserves. I did as I was instructed.

The owners hired a new cook who started work later that day. We served bottle after bottle of champagne to the battery people that night. We kept the bubbly flowing and flowing. After all the guests paid for it. Sadie's husband who was referred to by all as The Colonel grilled the steaks. The new cook prepared the remainder of the meal. The guests had a really good night in this  remarkable setting.

The next day was Sunday morning. I walked into the office and told Sadie I quit. I told the other kids. They all quit as well. I couldn't work for a crazy woman (or man). Until I started to write today's blog I forgot how wacko Sadie behaved over a jar of preserves and cruel she was to Willie. What a petty person she was. And what a miserable human being she was to treat a really nice man so meanly.

The President got landmark civil rights legislation enacted which has changed the course of American life for the past 52 years. But there are still people who are petty and carry on grudges over the way things used to be. They continue to use the States Rights argument to deny all people fair and equal treatment in these United States of America.Watch ALL THE WAY as it recalls the way we used to be and that the way some of still are. The echoes of that era are a part of our current political debate.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

1214 Laird Street, Key West - Price Reduction

The listing Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West describes 1214 Laird Street which is located in the Casa Marina Area of Key West this way:
"This spacious and substantial one level home sits on an extra large corner lot (75 x 100 feet) which is completely surrounded by a high wall for total privacy. The two bedroom two bath main residence has many sets of French doors opening to the lovely yard (designed by Ray Jungles) and large sunny swimming pool. The one bedroom one bath guest wing has it's own living area and private courtyard."
Before I actually moved to Key West and was only dreaming of living here, I only considered buying a place in Old Town. I think that is probably the location most prospective buyers think about as well. There are, however, several different neighborhoods in Key West that potential first time buyers should consider as an alternative to Old Town. The Casa Marina Area is just such an alternative.. Most locals recognize the Casa Marina Area to be that geographic area located south of United Street and west of White Street. This area sits on a naturally occurring land arc that curves from White Street as it heads to the Casa Marina Hotel at Reynolds Street. Purists will say that is the Casa Marina Area - Period.. They will argue any property not within the geographic confines of those streets is not Casa Marina. They may be technically correct, but I argue that there are some homes that are near enough to the "border" to be considered in the area. The home at 1214 Laird Street is one of those houses since it is located just about 200 feet east of White Street. And it rivals many of the properties inside the area.
Until recently this house was a part of a much larger estate that recently sold.  The main portion of the house served as the guest house and the smaller section was the caretaker's unit. 1214 Laird Street is now offered for sale at $995,000CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet for more details. There are separate entrances to the guest house and the caretaker's cottage. This is one building which could be made into a single family home. There is off street parking for both living spaces.

The house is hidden behind a six foot privacy fence on the Laird Street and Sirugo Avenue sides. The red clay tile roof can barely be seen from the street, but once inside the gate the roof becomes a bit of a novelty since most roofs in Key West are metal. Then you see the pool - in the front yard. Egads! This, too, is not normal. The pool and gardens are stunning in the simplicity of design.
The renovation of this home was designed by local architect Tom Pope who also designed the larger home next door to the south which appeared in Architectural Digest several years ago. Pope incorporated the same attention to detail to this property. Dual sets of French doors open from the garden and pool area into the living room. The bright kitchen is at the rear. A traditional "back door" exits onto a small alternative garden area. This side of the property has less sun; hence, the pool was located at the front.
The main portion of the house has two bedrooms and two baths. The master en-suite bath (pictured two above) is quite large. The master suite dual sets of French doors that open out to the private garden area on the Sirugo Avenue side of the property. The guest bedroom has doors that open out to the pool. The caretakers space is quite large. The house as a whole is 2211 sq ft and sits on an ample 7500 sq ft lot (75' X 102').  A new owner might combine the spaces into a single living unit or convert the caretakers' space to guest quarters.

 Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, if you would like to see 1214 Laird Street. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


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.