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Friday, April 28, 2017

Key West - What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen

Do not take life too seriously – you will never get out of it alive. - Elbert Hubbard

The quote is funny and yes it is true.  The tragedy of the quote is that many people live in a pretend world where they do accept they will die.  Or maybe it is just that they prefer not to think about it or talk about it.  I guess it is sort of funny that some Key West vacationers take walking and trolley tours of so called haunted houses and often end up at the Key West Cemetery. They take photos of the graves and sometimes even post ghoulish photos of themselves or the tombstones on the Internet.  I, for one, have never been inside the Key West Cemetery. I'm not afraid. I just have had no reason to go there.  And as I understand it, there is no room for me there when I may need it.

I found the two photos below which show a funeral procession in 1934. Look carefully between the two monument pillars on either side of the gate and you can barely see 630 Elizabeth Street about which I have written many times. Funeral parades through the streets of Key West continue to this day.  The last parade I saw was several years ago. I was standing in front of our old city hall on a Saturday afternoon. A former colleague led the procession swinging a scepter as the mourners followed behind him. The paraded up Angela Street to the top of Solares Hill where Angela becomes Windsor Lane. The mourners slowly made their way down Windsor Lane to the iron gates at the cemetery. A small choral group of African American women dressed in bright white passed by singing. They were followed by a brass band that had had me clapping and crying at the same moment. It was an awesome experience to witness the funeral procession of someone whose name I did not know but who had so many loyal friends to take him to meet the Lord.
It seems like I am forever writing about houses that are located on or near the cemetery or one of our busier street like White, or Eaton, or Whitehead, or United, and even Southard.  Potential buyers normally shy away from all of those streets except Southard.  Those streets do experience a good amount of daytime traffic.  But traffic dissipates to a trickle after sunset when Conch Trains and Trolleys head to the barns, the delivery and service trucks stop for the night, and the office and sales people return home for the evening. When you really think about it, a huge number of our Old Town houses are located on one of these named streets or on streets that face, abut, or have view of the Key West Cemetery. And for some buyers, the location of a house with any cemetery view is an absolute no-no. For them, what has been seen cannot be unseen. 
Look at all the homes that border or are located within eyesight of the cemetery
I am reminded of the time I was showing homes to a middle aged couple looking for a quaint Key West cottage with a pool and parking. I told them about a particular house on Olivia Street which I had blogged about. I drove them to the house. The wife refused to look. I implored her just to look - to give the place a chance. Nay! She said. I told her about another customer of mine to whom I sold a big house a few years earlier. He ended up buying a house located one block past the cemetery even though he initially feared his daughters would be afraid to walk by the cemetery. He later told me cemetery did not phase them.  He said they love their house, their pool, and their ability to come to Key West to chill.  End of story.
Sometimes so of the very best deals in Key West are houses that are located on the busier daytime streets or that have views of the cemetery.  To buyers that want a deal, do not be afraid to look where some fear to look. If you are among the people who failed to buy when prices were really low and are now faced with prices that are sky high, consider looking where others fear the dead. 

Having the cemetery as a neighbor will mean quiet nights with no parties. Parking is never a problem. The area as a whole enjoys more sunshine and breezes as compared to more densely populated parts of Old Town. And you just may get a bargain in the process.  Oh, if you are looking to buy a place in Key West and if you are not working with a Realtor, call me, Gary Thomas. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Ronny Bailey Artwork of Old Key West

Ronny Bailey dropped by my office the other day to show me his newest wood carving depicting a Key West cigar maker's cottage of long ago. Frequent Readers of my blog will remember I first learned of Ronny several years ago when he stopped by Preferred Properties Key West to show a new wood installation he had created. Ronny is a Conch, a native Key Wester. He was a general contractor by trade. When he retired he began the second phase of his life as a folk artist. I don't think he started out to be an artist as much as he used his skills as a carpenter to create replicate miniature versions of the facades of homes that used to dot much of our Old Town area. Later he did larger homes and then added some commercial buildings. (CLICK any photo to enlarge it.)
I photographed the above piece in front of the actual house to demonstrate the attention to detail and historical correctness. Ronny used reclaimed Dade County Pine lumber which he cut, planed, sanded, painted to create this remembrance of a time that is now a memory. As our heritage gets "restored" or "renovated" Ronny's works are becoming the last memory of what Key West of years ago once looked like - before everything was decreed by the do-gooders on HARC to become perfect and as contractors took months and months to fix the old old houses at the cost of hundred of thousands of dollars to fix houses that originally only cost a few hundred dollars.
The new wood carving is number five in what may become a series of  many. Ronny told me he joined two boards together with biscuits, stained all sides, and then began to carve the detailed images. The dark stain accentuates the carving. The carving below exhibits the same whimsy, attention to detail as his more elaborate installations.  There are always little touches such as chickens, cats, a hanging light bulb, a mailbox, a broom. Here a clothes line and a stick prop open a window with a propensity to obey Newton's Law of Gravity and a man feeding the chickens in his front yard. I have never seen or heard of locals who eat their chickens. But it wouldn't surprise me. Finally note the three watchwords appearing on each of Ronny's are: Love, Joy, and Peace.
I noticed the address over the door - 522. I asked Ronny the address of the house. He said it was the spirit of our houses, not a particular house, then added the number refers to Galatians 5:22 (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,).  He is a man of faith and those are the guiding spirit of his life.

Locals and returning visitors to Key West can tell the time of year depicted - sometime between May and June when the Royal Poinciana Tree (red tree on the left) is is full bloom. The original home was so minimal in size and construction. It would have cost only a few hundred dollars to build. Today contractors take months and months to restore these homes at the cost of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Of course the red rooster, mama hen, and baby chicks are evermore on this their island home.

It may come to pass that Ronny Bailey's artwork may become the only remaining remnant of historic Key West.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

520 Porter Lane, Key West - Transient Licenesed President's Walk Town Home

I have written about Presidents Walk Town homes on several occasions over the years. These town homes were built in the early 1990s and vary somewhat as to interior layout and condition. Some are pretty much in the original condition while others have been updated - some tastefully and others done to the owners' sense of style. Some are located on Southard Avenue while others are nestled away to the rear of large multi-million dollar single family homes which face Front Street.
Some homes have first and second floor front and rear porches or balconies, but not all.  Each unit has an assigned parking spot and some have covered parking and storage.  The amenities at Presidents Lane include a beautiful pool plus the beautifully maintained grounds of the Truman Annex and  gated security. Frequent visitors know that Truman Annex enjoys a great location near Duval Street, Mallory Square, quick access to Fort Zachary Taylor Beach and state park, and soon will be steps away from the new City of Key West Truman Waterfront Park. 
 Each of the Truman Annex communities has a private pool for that community. The President's Walk pool is for owners and guests only of that community. It is located about a 90 second walk from 520 Porter Lane which is shown below. This home is offered for sale by Preferred Properties at $874,900.
The listing broker describes 520 Porter Lane this way:
"This two bedroom two and a half bath townhouse in Presidents Walk includes a Truman Annex transient rental license. Beautifully updated kitchen opens to the dining and living space with french doors to the large outdoor deck. Each bedroom has an attached private full bath as well as a balcony for indoor outdoor living. Assigned covered parking spot with attic space included!"

This home has an undated interior with new kitchen, new tile floors and a half bath tucked under the stairs to the second floor. This home has a nice decked rear with a gate that leads to the nearby parking space.
The master bedroom has a private en-suite bath and private balcony overlooking the little walking lane that end about 25 feet to the east. The importance of this is the fact you won't have neighbors walking past your balcony on those frequent nights when the weather is so pleasant you want to leave the doors open. The back bedroom also has a private bath and a private rear porch.
This unit has a covered parking spot located about thirty feet from the back gate. When I show places like this I point this kind of feature out for a good reason: if you go to the store and buy food you also probably have to carry it in to the house. This is a good location compared to so many other units in Truman Annex where the parking is (No.1) not covered and (No.2) located a long walk from the entrance to the home or condo.  Our summers and falls are known for their heat. Getting into a covered car is preferred to one baked in the sun.
This home has a valuable Truman Annex Transient License which permits owners to rent the unit any 25 weeks of the year on a weekly basis and possibly to rent the unit as a monthly or longer term rental the rest of the year (or use it oneself). These units are located the nearest the guarded entry which just two blocks from Duval Street. We do not have person on person crime like big cities But having the guy at the gate makes the two block walk home at night seem safer just the same. And having the beach a couple of blocks to the west is just wonderful.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and to view listing photos. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing of this unit. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

1500 Albury Street, Key West - Easter Sunday Open House

If you are out and about this Sunday morning or early afternoon please stop by and see the beautiful new home located at 1500 Albury Street at the corner of Albury and Pearl Streets, just one block north of Bayview Park. Cory Held and I will be hosting an Open House from 11:00M until 2:00 PM.

Newly Constructed 2240 Sq Ft Single Family home on a large corner lot, fence lot with gated off street parking for two cars.
Heated 20 ft pool with waterfall, light show, outdoor shower, landscape lighting and irrigation system, Azec decking, and tropical landscaping.
This home surpasses any newly (or recently constructed) home in the Old Town area in construction features and amenities offered. Coffered ceiling, custom wainscoting, custom wood trim throughout, real hardwood doors throughout, Impact windows and doors throughout, Smarthome technology, Traverine flooring main floor.
Dramatic staircase and second floor landing, front and rear second floor balconies, very large master suite with vaulted ceiling, tons of closet space, dramatic en-suite marble bath, plus two large guest suites with shared Jack-and-Jill bath. Main floor guest room with private entry, extra large en-suite bath for the ultimate privacy of your guests.

Cory and I look forward to seeing you.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

3419 Flagler Blvd, Key West - An Unexpected Treasure

Just Listed by Preferred Properties Key West 3419 Flagler Avenue, Key West, that's where I work but this is not my listing. The listing broker describes this home as an unexpected treasure when she writes:
"This charming home is an unexpected treasure. It has very high ceilings and tall windows that let in lots of light. Polished wood floors and crown moldings compliment the custom built solid wood cabinetry of the cook's kitchen. There are three bedrooms and two baths plus ample storage. Doors open to a decked and bricked yard and garden where one will surely enjoy the scenery. Off street parking."
I had the opportunity to see this home last week and can report it is incredible. The Monroe County Property Appraiser shows this home was built in 1938. It was built in Old Town and moved to the current location sometime later. Most of the homes in this area of Key West were built in the 1950s and 1960s. Most are Mid-Century concrete block ranch style homes. This house is all wood construction and looks more like bungalows built through out America before the Great Depression. 
The 1570 sq ft house sits on a large 53' X 100' sq ft lot which has ample room for a pool. What I believe to be the original front porch is now an enclosed room. Custom wood Bahama style shutters protect the windows.  
You enter the home at midpoint between the original front porch and the rear of the house where there is an old fashioned back porch.T You step through a custom entry into a more recently renovated interior with new flooring, crown molding and trim, and expert carpentry throughout the home. Remember this was originally a modest bungalow. Today it reflects the keen workmanship of a craftsman who spent years making this house a home. 
The two primary bedrooms are located on the east side of the home. The third bedroom is used by the current owner as a family room area. It is located to the rear of the kitchen and followed by the back porch. 
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet and more photos of 3419 Flagler Avenue which is offered for sale at $565,000. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing of this home. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.  For those readers who missed the boat on pricing, this is your opportunity to buy a great home with the old house features you seek at a price you can afford. Don't pass up this opportunity. I expect this place will get purchased quickly. 


The information on this site is for discussion purposes only. Under no circumstances does this information constitute a recommendation to buy or sell securities, assets, real estate, or otherwise. Information has not been verified, is not guaranteed, and is subject to change.


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.