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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tales from Key West Real Estate - No. 1

The normal practice in Key West is for the Listing Agent to show his/her property to the buyers and his/her agent. This is because many of our properties (especially in Old Town) are unique.

One day several years ago my customers and I were looking at fairly expensive home that was being rented on a long term basis. The tenants were single young adult Europeans. I assume they worked in restaurants.  They were too well groomed to do any manual labor.

The agent first opened a shut bedroom door and took us into the room where the drapes or blinds were shut. We were told to "Sssh!" so as to not disturb the pretty blond girl asleep on the bed. This was early afternoon. 

Next we went into the adjacent bedroom. Nobody was in that bed. The window coverings were open. I remember the place being ablaze with light. We stood inside several minutes discussing the unit. Then the bathroom door opened.  A brief blast of  bathroom humidity burst into the room. A tall blond Adonis walked out wearing a black bikini.  He didn't seem a bit phased by finding us in his room.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Harvey Hurricane Relief

We have all seen things in the past few days that most of us probably never expected. Hurricane Harvey has forced thousands upon thousands of people from their homes with only the clothes on their backs. The storm is not over, and it will take weeks to even obtain a semblance of the physical damage to the homes, businesses, infrastructure, and, most importantly, to the lives of those who have been impacted by this storm. If you have not been affected by a hurricane, consider yourself lucky.  You have no idea how demoralizing it is and how even the word "hurricane" stirs recurring images in your head. The four million people in Houston and environs lives will never be the same.

Like many of those of you reading this blog, I have often given money to the American Red Cross in response to tragic events I saw on television. I could see the need and I felt it necessary to give something to help others impacted by whatever event triggered my need to give.

Key West was devastated by Hurricane Wilma in 2005.  I remember an aid worker from the AMERICAN RED CROSS who came to my door asking if I was okay and if they offer me assistance.  Those workers went from door to door throughout Key West offering aid to rich and poor alike.

How odd it was for me to be contacted by the American Red Cross to ask if they could help me.

I urge everyone who reads today's blog to contact the AMERICAN RED CROSS and give something.  We all have more than we really need. It is time to help others.

CLICK HERE to go to the official American Red Cross website and make a donation.  You can donate by credit card or send a check.  You can even designate where you want your money go.  If you send in a check you can avoid getting on a pesky email solicitation that seems to never stop once you do give.

Monday, August 28, 2017

425 Frances Street Unit 2, Key West -Condo that Feels Like a Single Family Home

Just Listed425 Frances Street Unit 2, Key West, Florida. The listing Realtor describes the property this way:
" This 2 BD/2 BA condo blends modern tropical charm with the historic beauty of Old Town Key West. High ceilings and lots of natural light accentuate the living space. Choose to relax in your own private backyard and swimming pool, or use the larger community pool and common area shared with just two other units. It's conveniently located less than two blocks from the Historic Seaport and just six blocks from Duval St., walking distance to some of Key West's best restaurants, bars, and galleries. This Old Town Gem is the perfect vacation home or rental property."
I dug down into my old shoebox and found two photos which show 425 Frances Street as it appeared in 1965.  The first thing you will notice is that the house did not have a wrap-around second floor balcony. The photo just above shows the neighboring house at 415 Frances Street which shows a portion of the second floor stairway at 425 Frances Street. This leads me to believe the second floor was used as an apartment for several years before the building was renovated in the late 1990s or early 2000s when the building had three separate apartments. Later those apartments were converted into condominiums and sold off separately.

The Monroe County Property Appraiser shows this property was built in the 1930s. We know that's not correct because Key West was in financial ruins during the Great Depression and no big houses or small houses were being built then. I checked the Historic Sanborn Fire Maps and learned that that 305 Frances Street existed on this site as early as the 1889 Map and was re-numbered as 425 Frances Street on the 1892 Map. In other words 425 Frances Street existed at least to 1889. I could not find any reference to the building as having been either a single family home or a multi-family residence. The top black and white photo show us it was used as a multi-family residence at least 1965 and probably earlier. 

I believe the wrap-around porch and revamped stairway were added when the apartments were made into condominiums. Today the building has three separate units. The first floor front unit occupies about 50 percent of the first floor living space. Unit 2 is located at the rear and has a private entrance off the walking path on the north side.  The third unit is located on the second floor and is accessed by the exterior stairway. The carport shown in the black and white photo above was removed. That are now has a pool and garden which is shared by the three unit owners. Unit 2 has a separate private pool.
Private Pool for Unit 2
Guests walk down a path on the north side of the building to enter into Unit 2 which has a small foyer.  The guest bedroom is at the right of the foyer entrance. The great room is located a few steps further. I think any person who enters this space will be amazed at the size of the room at least for the first visit. The room seems very wide and that is magnified by the cathedral ceiling. Multiple sets of French doors look out at the private pool and the private garden at the rear. If it weren't for the shared party wall with the unit in the front, this unit looks and flows like a single family home. 
Shared Pool and Garden
 I think buyers who are looking to purchase a single family home or a condo should take a look at this particular property. The privage pool and garden are something totally unique to this place. It really feels like a single family home. And if you compare the size (indoor and outdoor space), it offers more value than just about any other condo available anywhere near the asking price.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS datasheet for 425 Frances Street Unit 2 which is offered for sale at $750,000. Then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a private showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Regrets, I've had a Few

Last May I wrote a blog about directions not taken. An ex read it and thought it was about him. Exes think like that. It wasn't - mostly.  There are several places I go on the internet when I get up each morning including the Monroe County Sheriff website to see if I know anybody who got arrested the day before; the Key West Citizen news to find out who is getting taxpayer money for some private deal and if I know anybody who died; and the Denver Post Obituary to see if anybody I knew as a kid or young man had died. I have found too many names of people in the Post that have brought me to tears. This is what happens as you get older.

The above 1959 Mercedes Benz 300 SL red roadster belonged to me for a couple of months in the early spring of 1979. I worked in a bank in Denver where the consumer lending department was auctioning off this car along with two others that were repossessed. I was the low bidder of the three people who submitted secret written bids. The first guy backed off. The second guy couldn't come up with cash to pay for it. I got it by default. For $10,500. For Real!

I remember driving it home.  I left the bank parking garage and headed home. I was getting looks from everybody but mostly guys in cars - admiring.

On another day I drove it on the West Sixth Avenue freeway almost to Golden, Colorado. I turned it around and headed back to Denver. When the coast was clear, I floored it. I had it over 100 MPH in no time. Wow!  I got over that pretty quickly and went back to normal speed. I actually remember stopping at a red light at the corner of Speer Blvd at Sixth Avenue. A guy in the right lane looked directly at me and smiled - not at me but at my car. That reminds me of a lesson I learned in college. I was at a park sunning myself.  A good looking guy arrived at the park and brought his puppy. Several different girls had to go over and talk to this guy. Puppies are chick magnets. My roadster was a guy magnet.  

I had recently split from my first partner with whom I purchased the house behind the hedge in the photo. I had a 1976 Mercedes 450 SL in the garage that I was still making monthly payments on.  I couldn't really afford two cars and the house payment. My intent was to re-sell the roadster and make some easy money.

I had no idea what the roadster might be worth. By chance one day during the lunch hour I was in a magazine store where I found an automobile magazine with an almost identical car as its cover photo. I bought the magazine to try to figure out how much my car was worth. I knew about the Blue Book but don't recall if I had looked at it or not.

I divined the asking price of $16,500.  I put classified ad in the Denver Post. I had several tire kickers come be my house. They wanted to see it, but not to buy it. A couple of weeks went by and I was getting nervous about having to pay for this big red car. I decided to put a classified ad in the Los Angeles Times for the following Sunday.

Around 9:00 AM on Easter Sunday I got a phone call from a Continental Airline pilot in Los Angeles who asked me a bunch of questions about the car. I remember the time because it must have been around sunrise out there. He said he would fly to Denver in a couple of days and begged me not to sell it. I said I wouldn't. He called later to confirm the exact time he would be at my house.

The day arrived. We took the car out on the road. We returned to my house and made a deal. Even though I made deals every day of my life for the bank where I worked as a mean son-of-a-bitch commercial loan workout guy,  in real life I am a pretty decent guy. I ended up selling the roadster to the pilot for around $15,500. He asked and I let him sleep in my guest room. He was a cheap-son-of-a-bitch.  But I got what I wanted, and he got what I wish I had not sold.

This is one of the biggest regrets in my life. I deal with people all the time who have dreams about buying a place in Key West. So many of them dream but have difficulty letting go of their money. They, like me, only see future expense.  They don't think about future enrichment.  My experience has as a Realtor has taught me that home prices in Key West appreciate year after year at ta higher rate than most of the United States. And like a fast red car, you can use it.

I used my gains on the sale of the red roadster to pay off my Ready Reserve account at the bank and pocketed the rest. I achieved my goal of selling the car at a profit.  Readers may wish to GOOGLE 1959 Mercedes 300 SL to see what that car is worth today. 

If you are looking to take your life in a different direction by purchasing a place in Key West, please consider working with me, Gary Thomas, 305-76-2642 or contact me by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. The only regret I have about moving to Key West is that it took me so long to do it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

618 White Street, Key West - Just Listed

The cute house located at 618 White Street was just listed for sale.  I previously listed this same home a few years ago and was excited to see the updated house which the current broker describes as:
"Built in the late 1800's this charming conch home was fully renovated in 2006. Classic wood frame with two bedrooms and one bath on the first floor as well as an expansive loft with living area, sleeping area and office space. The spacious main floor features beautiful bamboo floors throughout the open floor plan. The kitchen boasts many special features and extras. The high copper ceiling is the focal point along with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, pantry, gas stove, garbage disposal and trash compactor. The new renovated bathroom is classic and modern with white tile work and glass enclosed shower. Outdoors is your oasis with privacy fence, lush and mature landscaping surrounding the new heated pool (built in 2013) and large travertine deck. Don't miss this Old Town gem."

When I first entered this house it felt the same as before - only fresher. Everything about the house is fresh and clean. There a "newness" to the "oldness". I remembered the open houses I held here and the comments from prospective buyers - they all loved. One of the most unique features is the updated kitchen with the copper barrel ceiling. It is a neat variation on a vaulted ceiling which makes spaces that are typically constrained into subjects of discussion.
I am going to discuss the history of this once smaller home, but direct your immediate attention to how it now functions. There are two bedrooms on main floor separated by a sparkling bathroom placed between. The rear bedroom is my choice for the master because it has French doors which open out to the new pool.  There is a stairway located midway thru the living area that provides access to the renovated loft area. Once up in the loft, there are two separate areas. The front area (photo immediately above) is pretty crafty construction. A prior owner extended the living area over the front porch below. That added about six feet in depth of living space which ultimately made the second level more usable. There are knee walls on either side which provide a lot of storage space. The area at the rear offers space for a small office or reading area.
The current owner added the new pool. It looks great!  The photos were probably taken around 10:00 AM as they show shadows from the east. I saw this pool around noon and the area was ablaze in sunshine.  The owner added an outdoor shower just off the kitchen.  
I dug deep into the old shoe box and found a photo that shows how this house looked back in 1965. The photo has a note that says the house was built in 1890. The other houses on this block were all built at the same time and all originally looked the same. I was told this group of houses were homes of cigar workers that worked at a cigar factory on nearby Newton Street. I dug deeper in the shoebox and found an old postcard that shows the historic Armory building located five houses to the north that shows the neighboring homes as they appeared in the 1920s.  I am sure whoever lived in 618 White Street in the 1890s would marvel at all that has changed but still appreciate that the fact that so much of Old Town Key West has been maintained. Progress, yes. Respect for our past, for sure.

618 White Street, Key West ~ Pretty as a Picture

CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS for 618 White Street and then please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, to set up a showing. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

1126 Stump Lane, Key West - Tiny House Hunters Time to Act Quick!

Just Listed, 1126 Stump Lane, Key West.  Buyers who want a cute getaway place in the Florida Keys will probably need to act quickly to grab this adorable Key West Cottage. The last time it was listed for sale it went under contract in a matter of days. Let's consider what once was and what now is for this adorable cottage and this quiet location.
Stump Lane runs only one block long from White Street to the east to Frances Street to the west and is situated between Fleming Street to the north and Southard Street to the south. Click GOOGLE MAP for an aerial view of the location. In his book The Streets of Key West: a History Through Street Names, J. Willis Burke says "Running parallel to Curry is Stump Lane, once called Garrison due to its location near the Army barracks. Stump Lane is named for the Charles Stump family." [I think Mr. Burke is confused. I checked the Historic Sanborn Fire Maps from 1889 to 1912 to determine when 1126 Stump Lane first appeared on the map. This house was this lot as early as the 1889 map when the street was identified as Barracks Lane, not Garrison. The name Stump Lane first appeared on the 1912 map and referenced back to Barracks Lane as the prior street name.] The Army barracks were an integral part of the US military presence in Key West for decades preceding and after the Civil War. Many of the surrounding homes and small businesses related to the military in some fashion. The Key West Armory building (600 White Street) can be seen to the rear of 1126 Sump Lane in the above photo as well as the aerial photo below which was taken in the 1920s. The photo below that shows members of the Key West Armory in 1907.
I you walk or ride your bike down Stump Lane you will surely pause for a moment or two to listen to the sound of the fountain at front. The covered front porch provides a comfortable place to pass time with your neighbors - the few that there are on this slow lane of of Key West.
This cottage is set up similar to many of the cigar maker cottages you are used to seeing. However, it is different in that there is an addition on the right side. That addition created a covered entry from the porch into the hallway which runs from the front of the house to the living room with its cathedral ceiling. The size of this room is totally unexpected and welcoming. You just don't see this type of space in houses like this.
Fans of the traditional clear coated (natural) Dade County Pine walls will fall in love with the walls here. They are trimmed with bright white crown molding and baseboards. There is a built-in bookcase in the living room which provides space to display books, art, and TV. The ceiling is painted white which makes the Dade walls appear even richer.

The entire house (all 570 square feet) was thoroughly renovated in 2005 when the foundation and pier system were replaced (including piers, sills, center beam, joists, and sub-flooring).  At the same time much of the original framing and siding were replaced. The mechanical systems (water, sewer, and electric) have been replaced as well. The current owner added a new mini-split air conditioner in the past two years. And the roof has been replaced. The owner just finished replacing the deck.
The kitchen is located at the right rear and the bathroom is at the left rear. Both were replaced during the renovation. There is an outdoor shower located behind the house and adjacent to the covered laundry area.  Fans of gas cooking will appreciate the fact that this little home comes with a gas stove and gas hot water heater.
The bedroom is located at the front of the house. This is the only room with wood floors. The other rooms all have muted gray tone tile floors. The bonus room off to the right can be used as a bedroom space - it can accommodate a single bed. Or it could be used as a home office.
The outdoor space is amazing. The owner fabricated a custom iron gate located next to the side addition. A new AZEC deck system runs most of the length of the lot to the rear where there is a second fountain. was just added as well. This area gets sunshine for most of the day. It's private as well as compared to many places in Old Town. CLICK HERE to view more photos.
Everybody knows the value of location. This cottage home is located within easy walking distance to two neighborhood convenience stores, several restaurants, and many of the gyms and yoga studios near Truman and White. The Historic Seaport and Duval Street are about an eight to ten minute walk. The current owners have a scooter and zip around town and can get almost anywhere (even the big grocery stores and SEARS) within minutes. This location is the opposite of being near Duval - you won't hear the noise or listen to the late night lost souls lamenting their lives as they try to find their errant boyfriends or spouses or their way back to the hotel or guest house. Not much happens on this little slow lane and that works out just fine for the folks who call this place home.
CLICK HERE to view the Key West MLS data sheet on 1126 Stump Lane, Key West offered by Preferred Properties Key West at $549,000. I am the listing agent on this tiny gem. Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642.  It's easy to see. It comes fully furnished with some personal items excluded.


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.