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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Know Nothing Realtors

I will bet just about every middle aged and older reader of my blog recognizes the face of Sergeant Schultz of Hogan's Heroes.  He's the guy who when confronted with direct evidence of wrong doing simply looked  the other way and stated "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!" By his action (or inaction) he avoided responsibility for dealing with whatever substantive issue may have given cause for concern.

A couple of weeks ago a fellow Realtor pulled me aside during a showing and told me I talk too much. I do.  Unlike Schultz, I probably would have ratted out Hogan and the show would have been cancelled because the POWs would have been exposed for their acts of sabotage. Hogan and his band of men would no longer have been merry.

Several years ago while showing a property to a buyer, I pointed out some issues that the buyer needed to be aware of. The listing Broker called me aside and told me I should not point out issues like that - that it is the buyer and the buyer's home inspector who should look for issues that may be of concern. I told her that is not how I view my responsibility. My buyer bought the property in spite of the issues.

A couple of years ago I recall showing a local couple a house located a couple of blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. The entire area around this particular house flooded during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Everybody in town knew this part of town flooded because furniture and debris from theses houses littered the streets for a couple of weeks until removed by the city trash trucks. My buyers  knew the area had flooded when I asked the listing Broker the simple question "Did this house flood in Wilma? to which she replied "I don't know. I wasn't here." Maybe she was in Miami - or Germany - when the hurricane happened.

I remember a different showing with a different buyer who was both a Realtor and an insurance agent in Connecticut as I recall. We were looking at a house which had just been totally renovated. It looked very good. I asked the listing agent a simple question about the remodel to preferredhe replied "I don't know."  A couple of minutes later I asked a different question about something else. The agent again said "I don't know."  As we were walking toward my car my buyer said something like "I would never buy anything from that guy. I don't trust anything he says." 

My purpose is not to discuss the Realtor Code of Ethics or Standards of Practice, but rather to address my propensity to talk too much. I am not a Sergeant Schultz. I will point out things that are wrong about a property as well as features that are beneficial or attractive or both. Being a "know nothing" is of "no use" to a buyer.


Anonymous said...


That's why you're a breath of fresh air. So many realtors simply throw it on the MLS and wait for a call. Such a frustrating thing for all of us having to pay a commission to someone who knows nothing about the place we call home.

Anonymous said...

When we worked with you I liked your insight and your local knowledge. I would not do business with a know nothing. I needed local knowledge. Or I should have just dealt with the owner directly. Thank you for your truth telling---ever think of running for office?

Al and Patrick said...

And that is exactly why you have been our buyer's agent twice. You definitely know the island better than almost anyone and you also take the time to know your buyers. When you point out flaws and things that would have to be done right away if someone purchased a particular property, you know whether or not your buyers are willing to take on the project or not.

Gary Thomas said...

Dear Anons: Thank you for the compliments. I planned on running for office when I was in college. I got to intern for the Lt Governor of Colorado in 1969. He was a great guy but I decided I could never do what politicians do. (Not him - them!)

I love my buyers - those that buy one place and those repeats!


Anonymous said...

Who really cares. This sales season is a massive bust so far. Only things coming on are old listing that never sold made new again and overpriced crao

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Selling houses likely will become a second job for most Key West Realtors if the market keeps going like this. The top agents will still do decent but the ones who do just "throw it on the mls and wait for a call" will drown in their own lazy ways. Gary you rock!

Gary Thomas said...

I just checked the MLS from January 1 to today. There are 79 houses, condos, and townhomes in KW under contract priced $100,000 and higher 73 of which are priced under $1 million. 60 of those are priced under $500,000.

I noticed that several properties which have been on the market were recently listed with new listing agents. I have both written about and shown some of these houses. Two particular properties come to mind. There was nothing wrong with the listing agents. The properties were priced too high for the location. Giving a listing to another agent is not going to overcome a location that buyers perceive as not so good. But sellers do that. It must be the agents fault that their precious house did not sell because the agent did not spend enough on advertising or hold enough open houses or some other excuse other than the seller can't afford to sell at a particular price.

I know one thing about many sellers: they would not pay as many dollars for their house as they are asking. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff recently sold a house for about 40% less than the Zillow estimate. So many sellers think of Zillow as knowing more about home values here. Think again. Zillow could sink our ship and all the sellers who believe that hooey.

And if your agent calls himself or herself an "Expert Realtor" make him or her prove it. All you have to do is pay a fee to get your name and profile to get leads from Zillow. It takes years of selling houses in good and bad markets to know WTF is going on.

There I go again. Talking too much.


Anonymous said...

Well said. Exactly why you shouldn't take listings that come with unrealistic owners. In the end they likely just blame you...hire someone else...and the best part is list for much less with the new person...waste of time and resources. If more agents said "thanks but no thanks" maybe our market would be priced correctly and everybody would be happy.

Anonymous said...

Let's make it a little more clear. I just checked the MLS for the same parameters. There are SIX properties under contract priced over $1M. SIX.

THREE of those SIX are townhomes in that development at the corner of Simonton and Greene.




Gary Thomas said...

Dear Anon above. I just checked again. There were two new contracts since earlier today. I am posting the addesses of the houses, condos, and town homes so that readers can see for themselves. There are more than six, but I am not trying to prove a point other than there are very few properties under contract:
1401 Olivia $1,250,000
707 South $5,395,000 not a typo
1299 Florida $1,099,000
1204 Duncan $1,179,000
905 Florida $1,225,000
143 Simonton $1,649,000
145 Simonton $1,799,000
149 Simonton $1,799,000
1514 Petronia $1,285,000
1500 Atlantic 205 $1,299,000
1701 Patricia $1,349,000 added today
1221 Johnson $1,430,000
1410 Reynolds $1,750,000
1716 Seminary $1,785,000
910 Watson #3,875,000 not a typo


Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,

Patricia and South streets are actually both contingent/show. My search was only for homes that were contingent beginning Jan 1, 2017 until today. All the others can be included but not if you use the Jan 1 date as you stated first. Many of those were put under contract before Jan 1...such as Watson street. But you're correct...any way you slice that pie it's bleak at best. Get these prices down STAT. Kinda funny to see the $300,000-$500,000 price drops start to roll in. There will be many more.

Anonymous said...

The previous poster may have been looking at just Old Town. I see only 6 there (not including the Simonton townhomes). Add to that the 4 1M+ homes that have sold in Old Town so far this year. Compare that to the number of 1M+ listings in Old Town- I stopped counting at 100.

And with the selling season almost half over. Yikes!!

Anonymous said...

Scary stuff

Mendy Dittit said...

Boo Hoo Hoo!!! It's rich to see all these crying realtors, who didn't save their pretty pennies during the longest economic expansion in US history (the boom years) complaining about the current state of the market. Just wait until we actually get away from near 0% interest rates, see more weather related and ZIKA events affecting the Florida Keys (and accompanying insurance rate hikes) and have to deal with the market uncertainty created by the absolute lunatic currently occupying the White House (wait until he tries to open up Florida's Atlantic coast to off-shore drilling). Moreover, do not believe for a second that the lack of willing buyers (dreamers) will create desperation amongst the current owners of high end properties to lower their asking prices. Most of the current owners paid cash for their properties and are willing to 'wait it out', rather than take a big hit by selling their properties at a perceived loss. These wealthy owners will rent out their properties monthly to offset costs, if necessary, and sell their properties if and when prices escalate.

Gary, you will be okay because you are the best of the best and the cream always rises to the top. Plus, you probably still have your very first penny earned in that shoe box of yours.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Key West real estate always has its ups and downs. However, the one constant is that everyone wants to live here and if you want something bad enough you will pay the price. It has been this way for the last 30 years and won't change anytime soon. Just wait until the height restrictions ease and our new amphitheater at the waterfront and new mini mall on Rockland Key and everyone will flock to Key West.

Mendy Dittit said...

All those things mentioned appeal to some, but represents gentrification to many others. On balance, however, I agree with your comments. There will always be demand for Key West real estate, and there will always be a limited supply of Old Town properties to purchase.

Anonymous said...

Mendy Dittit wrote:
Most of the current owners paid cash for their properties and are willing to 'wait it out', rather than take a big hit by selling their properties at a perceived loss. These wealthy owners will rent out their properties monthly to offset costs, if necessary, and sell their properties if and when prices escalate.

I would agree (with the above) that in a normal high end real estate market this should be true, but I am going to disagree with this applying to Key West. A quick look at the MLS shows 29 residential properties listed for sale in old town between 2 and 6 million. Of those, 11 are owned by what I would call real estate investors (speculators if one were to be less generous ). I am going to define a real estate investor as an invidual who owns at least 2 residential properties on the island of Key West with at least one of those currently on the market. I don't believe that when almost 40% of the sellers fall into the above category normal market rules can be expected.

I would not expect to see as high of a percentage of investors in the sub 2 million segment, but they are there.

Mendy Dittit said...

I would be curious to see how those numbers compare to the market back in 2008, which was a perfect storm of bad news for realtors and sellers. My suspicion is that most sellers in Old Town held onto their properties and did not take a significant loss (perhaps a break even or near break even at worse). I suspect outside of Old Town, people lost their shirts. If investors have enough money to purchase more than one property in Key West (particularly cash buyers), they usually have the financial wherewithal to weather the storm until upward market forces take hold. As for $2-6 million dollar properties (especially 3 plus million), that is such a small number of homes, combined with such a small number of available buyers, market trends are probably irrelevant.

Gary Thomas said...

Dear Mindy, I tried. Our mls system won't let me go back that far. I tried. I looked at my old blogs for then. Prices were much, much cheaper and a lot of places did not sell. I recall a lot of skepticism about how much lower the market would drop. Buyers sat it out preferring to wait for rock bottom before they decided to buy. I remember comments on the blog and in real life situations where I was told something like "I would prefer to wait it out and pay a little more than too pay too much now."

The problem with the wait and see strategy is that some buyers miss the opportunity to buy a real gem. We have several condominium developments, the golf course, and Truman Annex properties where uniqueness is not an issue other than waterfront views perhaps. But there are some great homes in Old Town, Casa Marina, and the Meadows that are truly unique. I can think of a couple of Old Town listings that have never, ever been in the mls before. Someone who is not afraid of the dark days ahead will buy places like this. I don't know what they will sell at, but I know someone will buy them.


Gary Thomas said...

From my March 21, 2008 blog:
"Since March 1st there have been 29 residential closings in Key West. The majority are on the low end to be sure. That is where most people perceive that the bargains are located. Most of the properties are selling in the $200's to mid $300's per square foot. Those prices are what we were getting in 2003 and 2004 for modest to mid range properties. There were several sales in the $1.5 million range and they sold between $550 to $850 per square foot. And there were two big house sales: 916 Washington that originally listed for $3,750,000 and sold for $2,500,000 or $600 per sq ft and 326 Whitehead that originally listed for $4,495,000 and sold for $3,500,000 or $608 per sq ft. I think the new owners of the last two homes got terrific deals because they purchased value at a great.

"And even more exciting is the news that 92 homes and condos went under contract or went pending since March 1st."

Gary Thomas said...

Dear Readers,UPDATE from Feb 9th. Now there are 82 houses and condos priced under $1 million under contract with at least 4 that I wrote about in my blog. 37 of those are priced under $500,000.

I changed SEARCH PARAMETERS and was dumbfounded: There are 172 houses and condos priced over $1 million shown as ACTIVE. Some of these are getting gray beards. A few have been on the market for a couple of years. Some have been shifted from one high-end brokerage to another as if to shift the blame for not selling to the broker rather than accept the price is too high. There were three places where the listing agent had units shown as duplexes and single family homes but that does not change my skepticism. We are still over priced. Something has got to give.


Anonymous said...

Gary thanks for the update. Since the half way mark of the selling season passed last week I was curious if you'd be posting on the market.

I'd also like to correct a misconception I had earlier this month. At the time I posted that I'd be surprised if the sub two million dollar homes in Old Town had as high of a percentage of "investor ownership" as the +2 million. I was wrong. A few weeks ago when I checked, 36%(vs 40%) of the homes in Old Town, priced between 1-2 million, were investor owned. I should note I changed he definition of investor from owning more than one home on the island of Key West to owning more than one home west of Summerland Key. Still much higher than i thought it would be.

In any case this isn't unique to Key West. Last week the WSJ had an article about the stagnant luxury real estate market nationwide. As they said in the article: you can't price like its 2014.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for,the update on the market Gary. Since the mid point of the selling season passed last week I was wondering if you were going to post something on the market.

I don't think this is unique to Key West. The WSJ had an article just last week on the stagnant luxury real estate market nationwide. To quote someone from the article: you can't price like it's 2014.


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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.