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Saturday, August 19, 2017

923 Southard Street, Key West - Price Reduction

The asking price on 923 Southard Street in Old Town Key West just got a lot better. Originally offered at $1,024,900, the new price is 2.7% less at $997,000.

The original cigar maker's style cottage was built circa 1889. I found an old photo that shows pretty much the original structure as it appeared 50 some years ago (see the black and white photo below). If you look carefully you can see traditional clapboard siding at the front but board and batten siding (vertical siding) on the side.  You also will see a "sawtooth" addition at the rear. I suspect that was the kitchen at the time the photo was taken. A later owner expanded that space to include a second floor addition.  The resultant house today has 1476 sq ft of living space under air. The house sits on a large 2700 sq ft lot (approximately 27' x 100') lot located in the heart to Old Town.
Circa 1965
The listing Realtor describes this pretty as can be property as:
"This late 19th Century cottage is the perfect oasis in the heart of Old Town. Landscaped and fenced in the rear for total privacy, with an outdoor shower, arbor, heated plunge pool and a bodega for storage. The living area and hallway are bright with eastern light falling on the natural Dade County pine walls. The bright white kitchen gives onto the outdoors, and attached laundry room. Bedrooms are at opposite ends upstairs, separated by a hallway with skylights, closets and a nook. Step out of the master suite onto the deck overlooking the inviting scene below. The harbor and Duval Street are a short walk away. New roof in 2015, and 4 new split a/c units in 2016. Offered furnished."

Today this storybook cottage rests behind a picturesque white picket. The front porch provides the perfect perch for people watching.  Inside, you are greeted by a traditional long hallway on the right which leads to the kitchen and dining at the rear. The current owner removed a previously existing wall that separated a small front office from the adjacent living room. The newly expanded living room is a delight. The floors were refinished and look like new. Windows from the hallway on the east which filter into the living area.  Windows at the front and west side light the living room during the daytime. The Dade County Pine Walls are punctuated by the baseboards, trim, and crown molding all painted a crisp white.  

There is a full bathroom plus closets closets located at the rear of the living room. This space will come in handy as the second bathroom on the second floor is en-suite to the master bedroom.
The kitchen is a compact place to cook when the owner is dining at home versus going out to one of the nearby restaurants including Mangia Mangia, Michael's, Azul, or Cafe Sole. The owner created a nicely outdoor dining area under the trellis opposite the pool. The laundry room is located adjacent to the kitchen.
The turf is not real, but the sunshine, the trees, the singing birds are very real, and they are very much a part of the appeal of this magical back yard located in the heart of Old Town.
The front bedroom tells us a lot about the history of this house. There is an original scuttle located in the ceiling over the chair in the above photo. In the old days before air conditioning, scuttles were opened to allow warm air to rise through the space to the outdoors. Today the old scuttles  remind us of the miracles of electricity and interior refrigeration. The common hallway separates the two bedrooms.
The roof top balcony is the perfect spot to take an all-over Key West tan. It's also a great place to sit in the morning drinking your coffee or late at night as the warm breezes move across the island. The last couple of nights have been incredible as the full moon migrated across the sky with slow winds moving lots of clouds about. It was quite the show. When the conch trains, delivery vans, scooters, and cars stop the real noises of the island begin: the dog scratching off fleas, the occasional cat screeching, the gecko on the wall chirping, the fountain in the garden gurgling, the palms swishing. These are the sounds of Key West us locals love to hear.

923 Southard Street is now offered at $997,000CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule a private showing of this treasure. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Let me help you find your place in Paradise.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Life as a Clown

That's not me in the pic.  I looked as cute, but nobody took a photo of me back in summer of 1962 when I spent many-a-day as a clown.

I was fifteen years old and had a job at a furniture store in Denver where I made $1.00 an hour. Minimum wage was $1.15 back in 1962. I guess my employer thought that since I was young I didn't have the right to be paid as much as an adult. I didn't care. It was money and the work wasn't hard.

I worked at a furniture store on West Alameda Avenue in Denver. This was an area of town where nearby Morrison Road led to the home a couple of miles west where Jack Kerouac once lived. During the 1950s and 1960s this part of town was populated by lower middle to middle class families who would shop for furniture that fit their modest budgets. Back in the 1960s the furniture store sold three rooms of furniture for a few hundred dollars - total. I remember the furniture "suites" were offered in various styles including "Early American", "Danish Modern", "French Provincial", and "Italian Provincial".  The furniture was pretty cheap in retrospect, but it was what people of modest means could afford and it offered a bit of style plus utility.

There was a large parking lot adjacent to the store where the owner set up a huge green Army surplus tent to expand showroom space beyond the building walls. The tent was crammed with new and used furniture. Strings of bare light bulbs illuminated the space at night for shoppers. There was a night watchman that stayed in the tent to make sure nobody stole anything. Looking back I can't imagine anyone would want to steal anything there.

I would work from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM five or six days a week.  In the early morning I would dust the furniture, sweep the floors, and assemble new pieces for display in the store. Sometimes I would help deliver furniture when one of the truck drivers was not present. Just before noon I would go to the bathroom and put on my clown costume, make-up and red wig with a flip-top mop that would raise a front patch of the wig to startle people. I would then go out to the front sidewalk and wave at passing cars.  There were many occasions when cars would stop and I would walk up to the car to say "Hi" to kids in the car. One day a car filled with teens stopped. One guy grabbed my arm and tried to put out a cigarette on my hand. I pulled it away quick enough not to get burned. It never occurred to me that someone would try to hurt me.  I am not wired that way. But I never extended my hand that way again.

After being a clown for a couple of years while in high school,  I went to college and later law school. I became a lawyer and later went into banking. I worked for the federal government where I worked on selling complex assets owned by the Resolution Trust Corporation until 1993 when I moved to Key West to own and operate a guest house. For the past twenty years I have been selling houses in Key West. Unlike a lot of agents with real estate licenses, that is the only thing I do.  I like to make buying a home fun but I no longer act the clown.  If you are thinking about buying a place in Key West, please consider using me as your Realtor.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mob Violence in a Small Town

On March 4, 1968 I participated in a Peace March in Fort Collins, Colorado while attending college at Colorado State University. I wrote a diary back then and found the pages where I memorialized the events of that cold gray day. 

About 1500 students gathered at the campus oval around 3:30 PM.  We headed north on College Avenue and marched six blocks to Mountain Avenue.  I wrote "When we crossed Oak Street everything changed. You could feel the hostility. Townies - young and old - lined both sides of the street. They were quiet, then, but you could feel the hate."  I am sure we singing something. Marchers always sang about giving peace a chance or we shall overcome. The townies started heckling. They got louder and louder. We arrived at the Larimer County Courthouse on Mountain Avenue which is a very broad road with an island divider where the marchers gathered. The street was supposedly closed to traffic. Galway Kinnell, the poet in residence at CSU that year, was speaking when big semi drove straight into the crowd with it's horn blaring. At least the driver gave the marchers a warning he was headed their direction, unlike what happened in Charlottesville yesterday. I wrote "Jesus, that could have been a bad scene!"  It all happened so quick and then it was over. I really did not process the magnitude of what happened because nobody was hurt. (The police chased and caught the driver who complained his son was fighting in Viet Nam.)

The speakers continued, prayers were made, and the crowd retraced their steps back to campus.  Except the return to campus turned violent. Townies rushed the marchers and ripped the signs away from the marchers as if that would silence the call for peace. As we neared campus someone from the Farm House Fraternity began throwing eggs at the marchers. An egg hit a small child in a stroller in the eye. That was horrible. Marchers began to cry and run for safety. One block later we were back on campus and safe. Once you have been a victim of mob violence you can't forget what happened. I was unharmed, but I still remember that cold gray day forty nine years later.

Three weeks after our march Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for a second term as President. He had lost moral authority in my opinion.

Leaders do not divide; they inspire. I am fearful for where we are headed.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Key West : Buildable Lots and Renovation Properties

Summer is nearly over. Fall is on the way. This is always the worst time of the year to sell a house in Key West. It is the same way every year. 2017 isn't special in that regard. Many shop owners and restaurants will close for vacation during September. There's no reason to have a crew working if nobody is buying t0shirts or trinkets, eating over-priced food, or sleeping in hotel rooms. Ten weeks from now, however, Fantasy Fest will begin and throngs of thongs will parade on Duval Street. Money will flow like crazy once again. The super boat races follow in November and then Christmas ushers in season when the serious real estate buyers return. Like it or not, our real estate market is still "hot" and prices continue to appreciate year after year.

Potential buyers in the Key West should appreciate the limitations of our real estate market. Unlike many parts of Florida where cities can expand into vacant areas or build skyscraper condominiums near a beach, Key West has a limited land mass and numerous governmental restrictions which severely limit new construction. The Old Town area of Key West has strict rules which disallow taking down historic older houses and impose standards on how existing homes may be renovated. As a result most of our construction involves the renovation of existing properties in Old Town and/or razing non-historic properties in other parts of our island city.

The Key West MLS has a few "vacant lot" a few properties with an existing structure which could be razed or renovated. Building a new house or renovating and expanding an existing property will tax any marriage, but if done correctly, the rewards could be astounding. A new owner will end up with the house of his or her dreams.  Let's take a look.
317 Virginia Street, Key West
317 Virginia Street is located in the Bahama Village area of Key West. It is  a vacant and cleared lot which measures 25.25' X 86.92' or  2195 sq ft lot offered at $369,000. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet.This lot is located a little over two blocks west of Duval Street and about three blocks east of the soon to be completed Truman Annex Waterfront Park. I think there will be a surge in demand for homes in the Bahama Village area soon after the park opens and the public sees how easy it will be to get to the park.
323 Angela Street, Key West
323 Angela Street has an existing 840 sq ft home plus loft situated on a 4,824 sq ft lot (48' X 100.5') offered for sale at $724,500. This house is located a little over one block west of Duval Street in Bahama Village. A new one and one-half story house is being built right now next door to the west.   CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet.
622 Mickens Lane Key West (vacant lot only)
622 Mickens Lane is a 27.5'  90' vacant lot offered for sale at $381,000. If it were purchased along with 624 Mickens Lane (below) the combined site would be a 4,500 sq ft renovation property located in the X-flood zone just a block and one-half off Duval Street. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet.
624 Mickens Lane Key West
624 Mickens Lane has an existing 948 sq ft wood frame home sitting on a 90' X 23' lot which is offered for sale at $575,000. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet.
903 Eaton Street, Key West
903 Eaton Street has an existing 761 sq ft non-historic concrete block house which can be taken down and a new house built on the 5,300 sq ft lot which measures 50' X 103'. This is the largest lot for sale in the Old Town area where a new house can be built. The photo only shows the front 1/2 of the lot. The existing house and even larger lot is located behind the wood fence. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet. The existing house two bedroom one bath house would probably rent in excess of $2500 per month. A new owner might rent parking spaces in front to locals who do not have off street parking for $150 a month or more creating an additional $450 or more in rent.

26 Floral Avenue, Key West
Gulf of Mexico

26 Floral Avenue is located in the Key Haven addition to nearby Stock Island just five miles east from Duval Street. This is a 60' X 100' (6,000 sq ft) lot with seawall on a canal which leads to deep ocean water. This lot is nestled between other homes added to the area in the past fifteen years. Those homes are typically two story located over covered ground parking. The houses on Floral Avenue all have first and second floor views of the Gulf of Mexico across the street and water views of the canal at the rear. Owners in this part of town are most often young professionals as well as retired locals who moved here when Key Haven became an upscale bedroom community for locals displaced from Old Town. It's super easy to go out to the boat after a day at the office, grab a beer, and take the boat out for a couple of hours. CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet.

These are the active listings. One might assume there are many other large lots in the Old Town area that might become available in the future. I doubt it. Most of Old Town is tightly developed. Vacant lots and buildable lots are the exception to the norm. Scarcity creates value. I think an investor could buy any one of the above lots and sit on it for five to six years and probably double the value. 

If you are a buyer who wants to build a new house in the Old Town or nearby area please give me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, a phone call. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Let me take you on a short tour of these particular properties and discuss the possibilities they offer to you. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Key West - A True Story about Senior Living

Today's blog is a true story. All of my blogs (with a couple of exceptions like Bert and Ernie) are true. I want to make sure my readers know what I write is true.

This is a story that while I think the drama as it played out is unique, the problem itself is pretty universal as more and more senior adults are living longer and longer creating issues for their children who themselves are either in or are quickly approaching Golden Years. It is one of adult of how adult children manage the care of their aging adult parents and how and where they live out their adult senior years.

A few short years ago I was working with a woman I will call Shirley. Shirley lived in the Ft Lauderdale area. She and her husband had recently sold their business and had a nice nest egg for their retirement years. He suddenly passed and she found herself wanting to make more of her remaining years than just remembering the past. She discovered Key West and imagined how wonderful a life she could create here. The lure of Hemingway's old haunts and the prospect of new friends and new adventures caused her to look at the interenet and that is where she found me. She had the idea of buying a small place in Old Town, fixing it up, and then traveling back and forth to Ft Lauderdale where her mother lived.

Meanwhile Shirley hired a full time live-in helper to watch over her mother who was able to do many things for herself but who also had lapses where she forgot things.  For that reason, Shirley felt a need to be in Ft Lauderdale more of the time than down in Key West. She made frequent trips to Key West and made offers on a couple of fixer properties which never worked out. Then one day a very expensive bank owned property right in the heart of Old Town came on the market. I put it in my blog and sent her photos. She came down the next day and bought it. It cost a lot more than she planed to spend but she understood that by the time she went through a year
s worth of renovation, she would end up spend about the same amount of money. She paid cash and hired a designer guy to do some custom work on the inside to make this old house into her new home. 
One day Shirley got a phone call from the live-in house attendant. Shirley's mother had wandered out of the house and got away. Shirley was very upset that the woman she trusted to take care of her mother had allowed this to happen. The live-in was let go.

A short time later Shirley picked her mother up to go out to lunch.  While they were dining, a truck went to Mom's house and packed her clothing, her bed and dresser, her clothes and photos, and so forth and took them to an assisted living facility in the area.  After lunch Shirley took her mother for a drive. As they approached the assisted living facility her mother exclaimed "What is this? What are you doing to me?" Shirley's mother was very upset. There were tears for loss of freedom and dread of the unknown. This was heart-breaking for Shirley.  But she knew it was best. They went inside and all of Mom's things were put away and the new room looked somewhat like the old room. Mom wasn't happy at first. But as the days and then weeks rolled on and as Mom got to making new friends, it worked out.

A couple of years ago Shirley came to one of my open houses. We hugged and talked about things. I asked about her mother and was told she had passed away. Her dementia got worse and then she passed. Shirley now spends much more time here. She has a new set of friends and is living the life she imagined but even more than she imagined.

I told Shirley to never ever invite me to lunch.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

227 Julia Street, Key West, Florida

Just Listed, but not by me, 227 Julia Street, Key West. I had driven past this house before and actually parked next door to it a few times over the years  I assumed it was a very nice renovation of one of the original cottages that still exist in the area which is located about three blocks west of Duval Street and two blocks south of Truman Avenue. The original home first appeared on the 1892 Historic Sanborn Fire Map when it was then numbered 231 Julia Street. The street number changed to 227 Julia St when 1899 map was published.  The map maker identifies the change in number by placing the house number in parenthesis below the then current house number. This helps future searches to keep track of the changes in identifying the property in a time before computers and too much information.
The old map showed Julia Street being  located two blocks to the south of Division Street which is now known as Truman Avenue.  During my research about the Division Street name change I came across the "Autobiography of Stephen Moreno Whalton".  Whalton was born in 1872 and grew up just a few paces off Division Street which he said 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."
Imagine a horse running wild down a dirt road and across the fields and "forest" of Key West. What a sight that must have been.  Today this same area is midpoint between all the tourist activity on upper Duval Street and the new Truman Waterfront Park which will link the entire waterfront area from Ft Zachary Taylor Beach and State Park to the Historic Seaport at the eastern edge of Old Town. 
The listing agent asked me if I would like to blog about the new listing. I did my research before I went there thinking that the house was a renovation of the old cottage. I dug into my old shoebox and found a taken of the original house located here in 1965. The house sat on the west one-half of the lot which measure 26' X 45.8' which explains the vacant space to the right.  In examining the Monroe County Property Appraiser records I learned the old house was razed and was replaced by the new 1270 sq ft house which was built all new in 2004. That explains why the current house and the two story addition at the rear looks so sharp. Wait till you see what is on the inside.
The dual front gates at the front retract to provide off-street parking, however, there isn't really that much need for that at the present time. Most of the homes in this area are single family homes. I do know that there has been an increase of vacation rentals in this area. In fact, this home has a good history of use as a monthly vacation rental. When you look at the rest of the photos, you will quickly see why people book this place.
Two sets of bi-fold doors close off the living room to create a second bedroom which has a custom Murphy bed surrounded by additional bookcases and three window seats. The library ladder provides access to an additional small sleeping area located over the bookcase. There is a full guest bath tucked in the corner. The front porch is more for show than actual use as an entry, but it sure "shows" well.
 The stairway is a work of art. I had to stop and take a look at how much detail the owner put into something so many others would might just put in a door to create some storage. Consider all of the design elements fit into the seven feet of or so of floor space. Of course there is the door for storage plus the shelves for displaying pottery, the wainscoting that wraps its way up the stairs to the master bedroom. There is abundant recessed light throughout the house which diminishes the need for table lamps.  Real wood floors give this new house a genuine old house feel. All too often new homes have ceramic or porcelain floors that trick the eye into seeing wood when the material used is not. The black iron hardware add a pop of color everywhere they are located. CLICK HERE to view more photos I took of this home.
The slanted roof gives the master bedroom and bath a genuine old house feel. Wainscoting wraps this room as well.  A chair rail seems to continue to wrap the bathroom where the wood wainscoting leaves off. Wherever you look, there is attention to detail. This home has an abundance of small things that add up to become so much! 
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet on 227 Julia Street offered at $715,000. 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.

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


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.