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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Key West Properties Blog 11th Anniversay


Today marks the beginning of my eleventh year in writing my little blog about Key West real estate.  Eleven years ago while having dinner with a couple I sold a house to a few years earlier one of the two suggested that I write a blog about Key West real estate. I asked "What is a blog?" or something like that. He explained a Realtor he knew in New Jersey was writing a blog. So the next day I Googled "blog" and found several examples. I started b blog on December 29, 2007.  I was surprised anybody read what I wrote. But they did and I continued to write. Then I started to get phone calls and emails from readers. And then a gent in North Carolina bought a house located in the Casa Marina Area from me. That's not a big deal in itself, but he never saw the house. He told me he read my blog and decided I could be trusted. We met in person a couple of years later while I was hosting at an open house. I was impressed by the power of my little blog. Over the years I have met most of my buyers and sellers who were first readers and later clients. Some have begun friends. I owe all of my readers a note of thanks for having kept me busy for these past eleven years.

One of the most viewed blogs was that of a really charming stand alone cottage located at the back of The Key West Writer's Compound on Solaris Hill.  I actually ended up selling this special home. CLICK HERE to see that blog which had 1242 hits on blogspot.  Over the years I have written about several homes in the compound which I find utterly charming. After all, the compound lured notable writers and poets to live nearby and share the beauty of this incredible spot on the island. I sold John Hersey's former home located near the front gate. Shortly after it became safe to walk around outside after Hurricane Irma had left Key West and was winding its way up the west coast of Florida, I walked around Old Town looking at the tree damage. I made my way to Windsor Lane where I saw the two giant trees that once stood sentry on either side of Hersey's house had fallen in the storm. I recently went by the house. The trees are gone, the fence was rebuilt, and the house stands undamaged.
This blog and the photos I take and put up on the internet have helped me reach a wide audience around the world that no regular Realtor website could ever have achieved. Almost every agent I know has one of those - except me. Instead, I write individual blogs about new listings, price reductions, and sometimes properties that are beyond the financial means of most readers. I try to give a good sense of what is for sale to appeal to a broad range of buyers. Most readers are looking for bargains. There are few of them anymore. But sometimes there are and I tell my readers. Our prices have gotten really high so a bargain here could often buy a very nice primary home up north. Longtime readers know I am not one for charts - I rarely understand a charts so I avoid them. But I do understand when the market is hot and when it is soft. I understand trends. I understand and admit when I am wrong. And I only boast a bit when I am proven right. And on occasion I write about my childhood or tell other stories that relate in some way about life in Key West or maybe culture at large.
In the earlier days when prices were dropping and suspicions about the end of the world as we knew it were rising, I got a lot of phone calls and emails from readers. The responses by phone or email usually start by saying "I've been following your blog..."  And then we start the sweet romance of finding the dream house the reader has been seeking.  When I meet these readers in person they often tell me the blogs they like most are the ones not about houses, but instead about the stuff that has happened to me or the machinations that go on inside my old head. That is how they develop a sense of trust in me.

I have three favorite blogs which I later  re-posted when the market was slow just to let my readers know I was still around. The first was Superman and Me CLICK HERE. This is the simple story about who I am told in little episodes in my life as a child and later in my professional life.
Another blog which I really enjoyed writing was The Importance of Finding Ernie CLICK HERE. I made up a silly little story about the Bert & Ernie after they found their way to Key West. The real life fact is that too many people who come here get lost and end up drunks or on drugs or both. I think a lot of people come here thinking they can reinvent themselves or find new meaning for their lives or whatever the heck it is that made their lives so bad up north in America.

The final blog is How Gay Was My Villa CLICK HERE. Earlier this week a nice couple from up north came to look at houses.  While exchanging small talk the gent said he had been reading my blog for years and mentioned a vignette in that particular blog which left him howling. Other readers remember the exact same vignette. It is one experience I will never forget either.

CLICK HERE to read the memoir of Atlantic Shores Resort.That one blog had 14,628 hits on Activerain alone. It's a short read on a big part of Key West that is sorely missed by many.

As of today I have published 2366 blogs on the Blogspot's platform where I have had 1,574,961 individual views. Later when I discovered the Activerain platform, I started to re-post my blog there. To date I have  re-posted 2033 blogs there where I have had 3,172,071 individual views. I have hosted most of my photos on FLICKR where the numbers are astounding - 1,951,385 single hits (not views).

I will end today's pat on the back blog by relating two little stories about readers. A few weeks ago I went over to one of the law offices to pick up something whereupon I introduced myself to the receptionist. She said something like "Oh, you're the Gary Thomas who writes the real estate blog. My husband and I loved your blog on the Writers Compound. When we came to town to look for houses, we looked at the Writers Compound and bought the house you wrote about." 

During a recent home inspection on a house I listed for sale, the buyer mentioned I wrote a blog about a house she bought after reading my blog on it.  She is still using the same Realtor now, but this time I represent the seller so I can profit a bit this time. 

It's been fun. Let's see what happens in the new year.






Friday, December 29, 2017

Key West 1989 - A Depiction of the Past


I found the above photo a week or so ago. It was taken in Key West in 1989.  I love this pic.  It depicts how much of Old Town looked nearly 30 years ago. (I invite readers who recognize the location to comment below. I will go over and photograph the location and update this blog.)

January 9, 2018 update. An anonymous reader sent me a google street view of 525 Louisa Street. I made it over there this morning and took the above color photo.  I think this is the same house with the haunting picture of Steve taken nearly 30 years ago. 

I would guess that more than seventy percent of the homes in Old Town have been totally renovated and that less than five percent look anything like the two above. The old wood telephone poles have been replaced by concrete poles which now include fast internet connection, the once heaving and cracked sidewalks have been replaced, and I doubt that you would find weeds growing anywhere in Old Town in the year 2017.

When I first came to Key West I looked at houses like this and imagined what I could do if only  I bought one.

Prices have risen so high that many wish they had bought one when prices were lower.

If you are thinking of buying a place in Key West and are not working with a Realtor, please think about contacting me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or by email at kw1101v@aol.com. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Even though prices have gone up and there is not a lot of inventory of available homes for sale, I tell buyers there will always be new houses for sale because people are always dying, getting divorced, or moving away for various reasons.





Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Beware the Ides of March. Better Yet, Don't Do Dumb Things!


On March 15th of this year I noticed a bank owned listing at the Key West Golf Club community that looked interesting. I contacted the listing agent to ask permission to write about it in my blog. Soon thereafter I drove to the property to take photos. I often lock the front door so that nobody disturbs me, but this time I left it unlocked. I went about my business taking photos and creating a mental image as to features that stood out.  

The second floor front bedroom was both tall and wide. It had a vaulted ceiling and ran the breadth of the house. Unlike a lot of golf course houses, this one did not have a second story front porch. I closed the door and placed my tripod at the far right side to demonstrate the size of this spacious bedroom.  But when I tried to open the door I discovered the door knob lock set had automatically locked the door.

I was trapped. This had happened before at a different location. That time I called an agent in my office who came over to rescue me. However, when I called my office to see if anyone was in who could come help me out, I was told none of the agents were in the office. I was still trapped.

I then thought of Instagram so I posted the above pic there. That did not help.

And then I thought about calling Ken who I had sold a golf course property to. He came over within a couple of minutes and brought a little gadget that pricked the little gizmo that turned the thingamabob that unlocked the lock. Ladies, it's nice to have a man around the house that knows how to use tools.

Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, I was free at last!

I thanked Ken profusely for saving me. 

It wasn't until earlier this morning when I searched Instagram for the photo that I realized this dreadful event occurred on the Ides of March.


Monday, December 25, 2017

The Santa Caper

 
Christmas is, for me, always a time for reflection. I look back to my childhood with such fondness for the way things were back in the 1950s.  I live in the present and don't dwell on the past, but I cannot shake my memories of wonderful times.

My parents were barely out of their teens when my sister was born in 19030.  Five years later my big brother was born. Those two kids got to live through the Depression and moved with my mom and dad from city to city wherever my dad could find work. I came along in 1947 and had the good fortune to live in a family who thought the Depression was still going on. Throughout my youth and teen years, my mother was as tight as old Ebeneezer.

Still I remember the cookies and fudge and divinity she made, the sprinkles and gum drops and hot chocolate too.  Even back then they sold Christmas trees by the foot.  She cheated and bought a shorter tree and placed it on top of our coffee table which made it look taller. There is an old photo of tiny me, looking up at that special tree. I remember one night so damned well, I pulled on an ornament, and down the tree fell. She screamed at wee me and I thought bloody hell, I'm done for.

A few years later on Christmas Eve day, I was helping my mother clean out the refrigerator to make room for our Christmas feast. I was perhaps eight or nine years old. It was on this day I really learned Newton's Law of Gravity. I placed every single thing from the refrigerator on top of the blond drop leaf dining table with its leaf extended. (I must diverge a moment: just a couple of years earlier I learned about electricity, I was crawling on the floor,  maybe ten feet away from the blond table, and stuck a key into an outlet.  Across the room I flew in flash.)

My dad liked to try new things. He also liked to buy in bulk. I guess he thought the more you buy, the more you save. Once he took me to the store and bought an entire box of Peter Paul Mounds. One was great, two were wonderful, three were till pretty good, but after four the joy was over. I was a little pig and ate the whole box. I learned that too much of a good thing is more than enough.

Shortly before Christmas my dad discovered a new product super-concentrated liquid coffee sold in a 24 ounce tin can.  The concept was simple: put a spoon of concentrated coffee into a cup, add hot water, and whamo you have hot brewed intensely rich coffee.  Back then tin cans had holes punched on either side to allow air pressure to let the contents flow. Resealable tops had not yet been invented.The last item I placed on the drop leaf table was the big can of liquid coffee.  At first the table leaf teetered, and then it tottered. I reacted quickly, but not quick enough. The table tumbled onto our brand new wall to wall carpet.  Bloody hell again!  I thought for sure I would die on this day. I raced to the phone and called my dad to come home immediately. I told him my mom was going to kill me for my bad little mistake.

I think it was the next Christmas that my folks last spent together. My dad had been in the hospital for some unspoken problem which I now think involved his prostate. I remember being surprised and so happy when he came home on Christmas Eve day.  I told him how much I missed him and loved him. I remember him hugging me so tightly that day.  A week later on New Year's Eve day we all awoke sirens screaming loudly and persistently in our little town. That sort of thing just did not happen back then. Sirens and cops and fire engines were foreign to me. We lived in little suburban town west of Denver where there was no chaos. In the dark of the very early morn we looked out from our living room window to flames and smoke more than three blocks away. I remember it well, this truly was bloody hell. The next day was New Years Day, my birthday.  I walked up to the scene of the fire - a Safeway store at 38th and Benton. The front wall was gone and water was all over the floor. I remember people walking among the ruins. People were picking up cans of food. Like a little fool I followed the adults inside and found a lime which I kept as my souvenir. These people were not poor. They were middle class white folks doing something utterly stupid.

By the next Christmas my mother and dad had divorced. My mother told me there would be no Santa Claus that year. She said I was too big. I was not too big - I was still a squirt. For several years my big brother told there was no Santa. The year prior, when my dad came home from the hospital, I remember going shopping on Christmas Eve day. I especially remember seeing a 45 RPM record of Ave Marie that ended up in my Santa stocking on Christmas Day. So I reluctantly admitted to myself that my treacherous brother hadn't made this stuff up. Well, he was still being mean. He told me because he wanted to spoil Christmas for me. Not so fast, you big dick.  I'll teach you one last trick.

So on that Christmas Eve day when I was told not to hang my stocking, I decided instead to go Christmas shopping.  I went to Woolworth's and bought some candy and small toys including pieces for my Lionel train set. After I completed my shopping, and while my mother was still at work, I found an old stocking which I crammed it the toys from my earlier day's work. I hid it in the garage.

My Christmas stocking was always an old nylon hose of my mother.  Since we did not have a fireplace I would instead hang the nylon hose on the floor lamp in our living room. Back then nobody locked their doors, but I made sure to leave the front door unlocked so so Santa could get inside just in case. I hid it in the garage.

Before I went to bed that last Christmas Eve night,  I made a point of going into my mother's bedroom to get my final stocking. I hung it on the lamp. My mother said, it would be of no use. She knew not of my soon to be ruse. I went to bed, my trap had been set, not it was time to take my Christmas nap. In the middle of the night through the house did I sneak, while my mother and brother continued to sleep. Then I crept to the garage to retrieve my shocking stocking. While my mother and my brother continued to doze, I replaced her old nylon hose.

For every year that I could remember, I would spring from my bed by dawn's early light to see what Santa had left me that prior night. I remember on year my mother yelling at me from her bedroom with the door ajar to get back into bed! So that last Christmas I stayed in bed until my mother and brother had arisen and through the door I did listen. She asked my brother if he had filled the stocking toys and treats not previously seen in our house. No he said, had she? How could it be, did Santa exist after all? I finally got up and headed straight to the floor lamp to retrieve my Christmas haul.

Merry Christmas to my Dear Readers!

Gary








Saturday, December 23, 2017

Negotiating with Bullies - A Perspective Based on A Christmas Story


One of my all time favorite movies is A Christmas Story. It took place about the time I was growing up in the suburbs of Denver. Readers in their sixties and over should appreciate the town, the houses, the school, the neighborhood, the situations, and the characters that are portrayed in this classic.

One of my favorite scenes is that of dealing with the bully. We have all encountered bullies in our lives. Collectively we have one in Washington that looks a lot like the kid above. But I will leave that topic for a different forum.  About forty  years ago I attended a training session on how to negotiate hosted by Herb Cohen, the author of You Can Negotiate Anything.  I won't bore you with what he taught me and the group of commercial loan workout negotiators from across America.  It was the very best educational event I ever attended.
I encountered at least one bully in my life. It is not fun. In fact it is scary no matter if you are smaller than or bigger than the bully because small bullies can terrify some bigger guys. Not all. But some. Mr. Cohen taught me about a negotiation tactic bullies use to get their way. The stand up and say something outlandish and walk out of the room. That's it. And then he said what people in the room will inevitably do. And it is not to clap or to celebrate.
I was working for a really big bank that had loaned a lot of money to a west Kansas farmer who I will call King.  King owned or leased several sections (square miles) of land plus the family homestead. My bank's Ag lender gave King a huge unsecured loan. Lenders back then were paid commissions based on their loan production. The loan had to go through committee, so the Ag guy was not the lone screw-up involved. As soon as we (my department) got involved, we flew to Kansas and obtained mortgages on the owned land and obtained security interests on all the owned farm equipment but not his airplane.  We later attended creditor meetings in Omaha and still later Garden City, Kansas.

The group of lenders flew to a Garden City to hold a meeting attended only by his lawyer not King. His lawyer was described to me as a big shot Republican who ran for governor but lost. I don't know if he lost the election or simply did not get the nomination. But he still had his name recognition and his presence: just like the bully in A Christmas Story.

The creditors were asking for things the lawyer could not give because King did not the cash needed to satisfy the claims against him. I remember sensing the lawyer was about to erupt. Then he did. He quickly stuffed a bunch of papers in his briefcase, loudly said something, and quickly walked out of the room. All of the other lenders got up and chased him and begged him to come back - to negotiate.

I didn't go. I told the two other bank officers to sit and wait. I said the lawyer would return. What Herb Cohen had taught me was playing out in front of my eyes. The other lenders persuaded the lawyer to return. They lessened their demand and agreed to some kind of short term peace.

The three of us returned to Denver and initiated foreclosure on all of King's assets in which had a security interest. I am not claiming to have beat the bully. He was only the tough guy protecting his client. But we got a lot of money by liquidating King's assets.



Friday, December 22, 2017

Key West - A Couple of Days Before Christmas Story


This is true. I don't make stuff up. Sometimes my memory plays tricks on me and I get things a little screwy, or I can't add correctly, but for the most part if I write it in my blog soon after I experience something, it will come out true. This is the case here. And it should make my Dear Readers laugh or at least chuckle. We all need to chuckle.

I recently met with a couple that I sold a place to a few years ago. I was sitting in their living room petting the family dog and swapping stories about Key West real estate - what else? We were discussing all the changes they made to their home. Then the man's eyes darted to the left as if looking through the bedroom wall - the one with the Comcast box.
He mentioned the time when the contractors were working on the house.  He recited a laundry list of little changes they made to their Key West getaway. I perked up when he started to talk about the porn bill.  It seems that the contractor or one of his workers had racked up a $300 Comcast bill for  porn videos that were viewed the month the contractor was supposed to be remodeling the house. I think that's when the Mrs. remarked there was one day someone watched three porn movies. I think porn movies last about two hours so that means somebody (or somebodies) charged the owners a lot of money to watch the porn the owners had to pay for. Talk about over-billing.

I then asked who the contractor was. The man said the contractor's name. I'll call the guy "Mort" because I might get sued if I said the real name. I know Mort. I may have recommended Mort to this couple. I have recommended Mort to other people who wanted a contractor who would take on smaller projects. I said "He's so old, I didn't know he still had a dick!" The lady looked at me like what did you just say?


Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Welcome to Paradise" - 915 Washington Street, Key West

Christmas is arriving early this year. But I must warn you, if you snooze, you'll lose. If you doubt this Mr. Thomas, you will be sorry. I know this to be a fact and not some Realtor mumbo-jumbo. The adorably sweet Casa Marina Cottage located at 915 Washington Street in Key West was just listed for sale.
The listing Realtor (not me) describes it best as she writes:
"Classic Conch Home in prestigious Casa Marina neighborhood. This three bedroom, 3.5 bath historic home has an expansive, large, comfortable front porch on beautifully landscaped corner lot in Casa Marina that whispers “Welcome to Paradise.” Soaring ceilings and light-filled windows in the open floor plan living room and kitchen connect through French doors to the secluded outdoor entertainment areas with pool, deck and private conversation spots. Corner lot ensures you enjoy every Key West breeze. Rare off-street, covered parking for you and your guests. Gleaming hardwood floors throughout are accented with custom tiles in the kitchen and master bath, bringing a touch of classic Old Key West to this home. Choose either of the two en-suite bedrooms for your master, third bedroom with bath plus a lock-out door is a perfect office or guest suite. This home in one of Key West's most desirable residential neighborhoods has been updated and lovingly maintained. Move-in ready for those desiring that special classic Key West look-and-feel with potential to add your personal touches."

It is such a joy to view a home that is truly loved and taken well care of. When you look at the exterior of this house for the first time you will instantaneously know it looks equally charming on the inside. It's like seeing a little boy or girl with a freshly scrubbed face, combed hair, big smile, and clean clothes. Precious is easy to recognize. You get one chance in life to make a good impression. This house wins that point! While there are only a few other cottage style homes in the Casa Marina Area, this is the only one with such a presence.
This 1211 square foot home sits on a 3600 square foot lot at the corner of Washington and Grinnell Streets. You just cannot ask for a better location in Key West. The streets are wide and the houses are well maintained. Many of the homes in this area are second homes, and most of the recent home sales were for properties priced well over one million dollars and several in this past year have topped three million dollars.
When you open the front door you enter into the great room with its vaulted ceiling that spans the east side of this home. Multiple sets of windows and French doors at the end provide ample muted light into this wonderful space. The color combination of the bright ceiling, colorful walls, and rich wood floors create a restful space for easy living. The French doors open out to the side garden where the pool is located. The pool is actually located just east of the front porch which faces south. That means you will have sun in the pool area most of the day.
The hallway leads to the three bedrooms located on the west side of the home.  There is a powder room located just on the other side of the kitchen wall. Each of the bedrooms has a bath.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet plus all listing photos of this lovely cottage style home located in the coveted Casa Marina neighborhood. 915 Washington Street is offered at just
$1,250,000. That is a deal!  And that is why I said "If you snooze, you'll lose. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to schedule an appointment to see this sweet home with a precious countenance. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. While you won't be able to own this place in time for Christmas this year, it certainly could be your home for Christmas next year. But only if you act quickly.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

1619 Rose Street, Key West - Just Listed

Just Listed, but not by me, 1619 Rose Street in Key West, Florida. I was invited to preview this lovely mid-century home that has been recently totally renovated for 21st Century living. I have shown similar homes in this same area (and sold two nearby homes of the same original design). They did not look anything like this. And that means if you are a looker, you must really take a look at this home.
According to the Monroe County Property Appraiser records, the house is 1610 square feet of living space and sits on a 6100 sq ft lot (61' X 100'). There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Numbers mean nothing when you see the house in person. A large privacy fence blocks viewing the house from the street. The front yard is  minimally landscaped which means less work for the homeowner or gardener. I was truly awed when I first entered the house. Every design element suggested "new", "modern", "clean", and "efficient".  Where other houses of this era have small, boxy rooms, this living area of this home has been opened to allow movement from living space to living space without having to move through hallways which take up potentially valuable living space.
There is an abundance of cabinets and counter-tops in the new kitchen as well as down lights and under cabinet lights.  What the photos don't reveal is that the sliding doors disappear completely into the walls creating a seamless transition from the interior living area to the outdoor space. 
The current owners use the front guest bedroom as a media room. Notice the black cabinet recessed into the wall that was formerly a closet. Today that space provides all varieties of media devices and storage. The barely visible hall leads to the rear guest bedroom which the current owners use as a home office where there a a Murphy Bed system that includes a desk. The Murphy bed system conveys with the house.
I could write an entire blog about the master bedroom, but I'll try to keep my comments to a minimum. The double opaque doors near the dining area open into the bedroom which is minus part of a wall. The bathroom is just plain elegant.  You'll notice the cabinets appear to float. The tile wall at the rear wraps around the corner where you will find the two person shower. Part of the framing of the original house was removed and re-framed to allow the addition of a a transom window in the shower which introduces light into the space. The end wall of the shower is actually an opaque glass door which adds more light into the space. The transom effect carries on into the garage that was transformed into a new super-closet and wine storage area. I told the owners Imelda would be jealous. Finally, look backup to the first picture above of the bedroom area. Another set of sliders open out to the outdoor area.
The owners use the outdoor space all year around. The covered area provides protection from the sun or rain. The table is the perfect place to dine alone or with friends among the garden filled with specimen orchids, many of which convey with the property. There are a lot of little things the owners added that were totally unique to what I have ever seen in a home in Key West that will convey including a living vertical garden that acts as a bit of privacy barrier from the home next door to the west. It is so damned cute. (Photo below)
Not shown in the photos is the east orchid garden and additional covered storage areas. And also not included in the square footage of the house is the storage shed at the far side of the rear garden where large chaise lounge provides a perfect perch to admire the orchids and sip a glass of wine.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and listing photos of 1619 Rose Street. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing of this incredible home that is located within walking distance to either Smathers Beach of Higgs Beach or the private pool where no bathing suit is required.I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


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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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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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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.