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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Bottom-Feeders, Please - Key West

77 Lb. Black Grouper (a Bottom Feeder) caught in Key West - 1995

The listing agent at Preferred Properties (that's where I work) added this comment in the agent remarks section to the listing at 925 Eaton Street "And, lastly, the price is firm. No bottom-feeders, please."

925 Eaton Street - Old Town - Key West - 2011
925 Eaton Street as it looked in 1965

Before that he described the 4 unit money maker at 925 Eaton Street in Old Town Key West this way:
"Legal four-unit property consisting of an historic main building with three units and a secondary non-historic cottage. Projected $47,000 gross annual income (2011 -2012) and tenants pay all utilities, including sewer and trash bills. Expenses are Fire Insurance: $1,879 Windstorm Ins: $2,320 Flood: $2,075 Taxes: $3,634.00 Due to the extraordinary cash flow, the owner is FIRM on the price."
I have shown this property a few times during the past couple of years. The listing agent discussed "potential income" when showing the place. That always suggested the new owner would need to spend some time and some money to goose up the revenue. The agent got the seller to do some of the suggested updating and now the income property is listed for sale at $405,000. CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls database on this property and to view several nice photos of the updated property. If you looked at this place before, it might be time to go back for a second look.

The guys and girls that work in the shops and restaurants or that man the fishing boats or sightseeing tours live in places like this. Places like this typically charge around $1,000 to $1,200 per month for an economy apartment. (The listing agent projects $47,000 annual income or $980 per month per apartment.) Small units normally have just one tenant but sometimes places are shared to keep costs manageable. The property at 925 Eaton Street requires the tenant pay the water and electric. That's good for a landlord especially because some tenants love to leave the air condition down way low when somebody else is paying the bill.

You will note that this property does not have parking nor a pool. You as an owner/landlord and the tenant would have to pay more for "luxuries" like that. But what is does have is a good location within easy walking or riding distance by bike or scooter to most of the Old Town area. That's the area where most locals work. So this location (and lack of amenities) is practical from a tenant perspective. Lest you feel sorry for the tenants, Dante's is just a couple of blocks away. You will find lots of locals that spend their days off lounging by the pool.

If you are looking for a small investment property in Key West, you might want to take a look at 925 Eaton Street. If so, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Open House - 630 Elizabeth Street - Old Town - Key West

I will be hosting an OPEN HOUSE on Sunday at 630 Elizabeth Street between 12:00 to 2:00 PM. I will be providing hard hat tours of this wonderful old Key West property that is ready for renovation. This property has received HARC approval to convert this current "legal duplex" into a 2300 sq ft single family residence.

Turn this OLD HOUSE into your NEW HOUSE

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back on the Market - 1800 Atlantic Condominium Unit A 208 - Bank Owned - Key West

I rarely do two blog posts in one day but this 1800 Atlantic Condominium Unit No. A 208 was just put back on the market today. It went under contract within a couple of days of being listed. The unit is a Bank Owned and is offered for sale an incredible price - just $272,250.

This unit, like just about every other unit in the complex, has two bedrooms, two baths and occupies 1357 sq ft of space. It is located in the west building and has tree top views of the adjacent mangroves. The mangroves are protected. So the view you see today will be there forever. No need to worry about some new high rise being built there. It will not happen.

This is how the listing Realtor describes the property:
"Bank Owned Property in Key West in the sought after location of the A building in 1800 Atlantic condos. This unit has ocean views and bird sanctuary views. This is going to move fast so call for a showing today. The complex has an Olympic size pool overlooking the ocean, saunas, 3 tennis courts, one assigned garage parking spot and storage unit as well as security on site. 3% towards buyers closing costs available for qualifying buyers."

1800 Atlantic Condominiums have a great reputation. Guests return year after year because they know exactly what to expect. The love the ocean, the huge Olympic pool, three tennis courts, and proximity to Smathers Beach. The condos are close enough to town to bike but far from the madding crowd when distance is held dear.

CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls listing datasheet. Better yet please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at and request more information. I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West.

620 Frances Street - Old Town - Key West

620 Frances Street - Old Town - Key West - Built circa 1889

If you have been looking for that "special" house - the one that will cause your friends to raise their eyebrows with envy when you announce you bought a house in Key West - then look no further. The classic eyebrow house at 620 Frances Street is offered at $1,587,500. The listing Realtor describes this beauty thus:
"This beautiful eyebrow house was built over 100 years ago but has been restored and renovated and with all modern conveniences. A wonderful floor plan with a gourmet kitchen, dining room with French doors to the side yard, a living room with two sets of French doors, a 15 X 17 foot covered porch and heated pool and sun deck beyond. 4 BR and 3 1/2 BA includes a master bedroom ensuite with handsome coffered ceiling on the first floor, another bedroom en suite on the first floor and two bedrooms and full bath on the second floor with access to a large open deck with private treetop views. Brazilian cherry flooring,architecturally beautiful, this is a must see."
Bricked Off Street Parking

I have previously written about mistakes I made in Key West real estate. Not buying this house when it was for sale in 1995 was one of them. I loved it then, and I love it now. The agent I was working with at that time convinced me I also had to buy the house behind it on Catholic Lane to use as a guest house for my friends. The added cost stopped me from buying the Frances Street house. Over the years I have watched this house and mused about what might have happened had I bought this place.

620 Frances Street is located on one of the best streets in Old Town. It is within walking distance to Duval Street and the Historic Key West Seaport, but it is not near either so there is less noise and commotion. Five Brothers is located one long block away. Cafe Sole is down on the corner at Southard Street. The old Key West Armory (now THE STUDIOS OF KEY WEST ) is a block to the east on Whitehead Street. That place has become a great gathering spot for locals. There are several nearby yoga places, two gyms, and art galleries plus some economical neighborhood dining places on White Street. The location makes walking to nearby local hangouts and Duval hot spots easy. You can get where you want within a matter of minutes. You don't need to drive your car. You can leave it in the bricked driveway instead.

The Studios of Key West is a little over one block away

CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet on this wonderful Key West property. If you would like to see this house that I regret not buying many years ago, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642. I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. Don't make the same mistake I made and live to regret not having bought the perfect house in a great Old Town location.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Second Chance - 1222 Johnson Street - Casa Marina Area - Short Sale - Key West

The legal duplex at 1222-1224 Johnson Street in the Casa Marina Area of Key West just went back on the market. It is a short sale. The previous buyer (or non-buyer) did not close the deal. So those of you who missed this truly great buying opportunity get a second chance.

1222-1224 Johnson Street - Key West

Want to have your cake and eat it too? The cute legal duplex located at 1222-1224 Johnson Street in the east area of Casa Marina may be the answer to your dream of having a place in Key West that you can use for yourself and also legally rent to pay part of your mortgage costs. The property is priced to sell at $429,000. The listing Realtor says this about the duplex:
"Legal duplex with a spacious 2/1.5 and a studio. Good condition with some nice upgrades in the large unit. Each side has a walled yard and parking. Great location near the beaches & White St. pier. Short sale subject to bank approval."
Walk to the beach from your house - maybe five minutes or ten if you are slow

The key words or phrases in the description tell us that (1) the duplex is 'legal' as opposed to a mother-in-law that may not be legal; (2) the space you could rent (or retain for self-use) is small (expect rent of $800 on the small unit); (3) it is in good condition-meaning a new owner will not be required to do a lot of deferred maintenance; (4) it's got upgrades like travertine marble floors and nice cabinets; (5) each unit has private outdoor space (living in Key West is much nicer if you have actual private outdoor space); (6) it has private parking for two cars; and it's located near the White Street pier and the beaches. checkout the Key West mls database and to view more photos of this property. Click PHOTOBUCKET to see lots of interior and exterior photos.

CLICK HERE for a GOOGLE MAP aerial view of the area. The above photos do not do the location justice. There are some really nice large Casa Marina homes located east,west, north and south of this property. The photo immediately below is the large home next door to the west and below that is the house across George Street to the east. Not bad company!

Next door immediately west

Across Georgia Street on the corner

Off street parking for two cars

Private yard for the larger unit

Separate private yard for the smaller unit

Don't let the term 'short sale' scare you away. The lender that has the mortgage on this property is a local bank that can make a relatively quick evaluation of any short sale contract.

1222-1224 Johnson Street is a listing of Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. (that's where I work). Please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 if you would like to see this nice property neat the beaches.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

920 Pohalski Lane - Short Sale - Key West - Back on the Market

920 Pohalski Lane in 1965

920 Pohalski Lane with new addition as seen in 2011

Side view of 920 Pohalski Lane

Attention Bargain Hunters: The award winning Key West cottage at 920 Pohalski Lane was just reactivated as a short sale at the new asking price of $399,000 or $420 per sq ft. This is a bargain, Dear Readers. The Historic Florida Keys Foundation awarded this home its Award for Excellence. The listing Realtor describes the cottage thus:
"Beautiful historic home with unique floor plan. French doors open from the living room and kitchen to a wonderful private deck with spa/jacuzzi. Upstairs master suite. Home is fully fenced for privacy. Porch in the front and off street parking. This home received an Award for Excellence for the highest ideals and concepts of historic preservation by The Historic Florida Keys Foundation. Steps away from all that living in Key West has to offer."
It's worth looking at!

This is a cottage home with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 950 sq ft of living space that sits on a 35' x 55' (1925 sq ft) lot. CLICK MAP for a Google aerial view and then click for a street view. The aerial will show you that this place is located near Truman Avenue. The street view will show you it is opposite the Truman & White Chevron Station. So that will probably eliminate 95% of people looking for a nice and affordable Key West cottage. My advice: get over it. There are many really nice small cottages on this little one-way lane that runs north just off Truman Ave. to Olivia Street. Most of the other houses or cottages on this block are darling little places that would cost a lot more if they were located on one of the swank lanes such as Curry Lane or Carey Lane. They aren't and as a result they are priced much lower when it is time to sell. Superior locations cost more money. Cute and convenient can cost less.

The Coffee Mill is located next door to 920 Pohalski Lane

I wrote about the charming little place across the lane at 909 Pohalski when it was listed in December . It went under contract in a couple of days of being listed. I represented the buyer that purchaser that grabbed that little gem.

Another Key West blogger who pens his Key West Diary wrote about Pohalski Lane. CLICK HERE to read his take on this little lane.

As for me, I think being able to walk over to the Citgo gas station to buy the best friend chicken in Key West (seriously!), or to walk a bit further to Sandy's to get a con leche, or maybe walk up Truman a couple of blocks to workout at the Old Town Gym, or walk 20 feet to do yoga at the Coffee Mill (located next door), is the essence of living in Key West. I'll bet people from New York have their pet places that they measure by how close the places they use constantly are located from where they live. Key West isn't big in the first place. But having places you really use weekly, if not daily, that are located with a block or two of where you live makes living in a specific neighborhood more enjoyable. CLICK HERE to checkout the Key West mls datasheet on this property. Or you can CLICK HERE to view more photos that I took.

If you would like to see 920 Pohalski Lane, please contact me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or send me an email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. If you snooze on this short sale, you lose.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Non-Bargain Properties in Key West

405 Frances Street before Renovation

405 Frances Street nearly completed in May 2011

I sometimes get emails from Readers asking about "low priced" properties that I have never written about. They ask me what I think. I usually reply with some awful story about the property. Many potential buyers often equate low price with value. They are mistaken.

Low Price and Value are not synonymous-especially in a place like Key West where asking prices are typically higher on a per square foot basis than most locations in the United States.

While I was away a property I have showed a few times had a price reduction. Under normal circumstances I would have written about that property before and maybe encouraged potential buyers to consider it. But that place is not normal. I remember showing that same house maybe ten years ago when it was as cute as a button-the perfect Key West hideaway located in a charming compound of other similar cute cottage style homes. The present owner loves cats and has maybe a dozen of them that roam freely. The cats have overtaken the place and it reeks of cat pee.

I remember a similar house that I showed a few times in 1996. It was owned by a writer who loved cats. I recall that owner had about 19 furry felines in his house. The eventual buyer bought a great house at a good price because most buyers refused to consider it. The new owner told me the floors were sanded and refinished but the odor would not go away. The new owner had to rip out the original floors and install new floors and some drywall. The house is fine now. But the cost was unexpected and the bargain price ended up costing much more than anticipated.

I have not written about another current low priced listing that has limited access with no on site and no street parking. What looks like a nice place on the Internet is something quite different in real life.

I have not written about low priced houses located near popular restaurants because the odors and congestion are something a new owner would have to deal with every day for eternity. Why would I want to subject a potential buyer to something like that? Cheap, yes. Value, no.

There are some small properties located in Old Town that may appear to be affordably priced. Buyers with an itch to do a remodel might consider them. I expect most will require extensive renovation and that the eventual cost on a per square foot basis is just too high to justify the expense for even a small property unless the property has a great location or in an architectural gem.

I have shown some properties that have undergone what I call staple gun renovation. I remember one place a few years ago that looked really sharp. It had a nice new kitchen with granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, cute Italian light fixtures but also uneven floors laid over an old concrete slab. I remember showing the house and looking at the front double door entry. I could see daylight coming in under one of the doors. I looked up at a newly installed accent window. Daylight showed through a gap on one side. I pointed out the noticeable flaws to my buyer and told her not to consider the place. It sold for a lot of money during the height of the market. But not to my customer.

The photos at top of today's blog show 405 Frances Street as it appeared after it sold for the bargain price of $216,500. It underwent a dramatic renovation process which I will write about and share photos of someday after the project is complete. You can probably buy a really nice house in most parts of the United States for $216,500. In Key West you can buy a fixer. Some properties and some locations are worth spending money on because the resultant house (after expensive renovation) justifies the investment of time and money.

CLICK HERE to search the Key West mls database. You do not need to fill out any forms or become the captive of some real estate agent to search the mls.

If you see something that interests you, please consider contacting me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 or by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. Let me help you find your place in Paradise. I'll do my best to help you find a real bargain and avoid buying somebody else's nightmare.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

1126 Washington Street - Casa Marina Area - Key West - Bank Owned - Buying Opportunity

This is a RAH RAH moment. I have been waiting for this one for a long time. The foreclosure took forever. The house at 1126 Washington Street in the Casa Marina Area of Key West is now Bank Owned. I am particularly interested in this property because I live nearby. This house has been an eyesore for at least 15 years, and now some new owner gets the chance to buy a real fixer with a huge lot in a truly great neighborhood at a great price.

Longtime Readers know I don't jump up and down about new listings very often. This is the exception! This is one of those times when buyers who want a really good deal need to act quickly. 1126 Washington Street is offered at just $369,000. I predict it will go under contract within a matter of a few days. The price, location, and ability to re-do or to create a new house in a great location make this property worthy of serious consideration.

There are two prime areas in Key West - Old Town and Casa Marina. Everybody knows Old Town because of the quaint old houses and nearness to dining and cultural events. Casa Marina is known for its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean (a five minute walk) and the extra large lots and larger homes - most of which are valued over the one million dollar mark. Some of the houses in the Casa Marina Area that have not been renovated may qualify to be razed because they are not located on historic maps. (You basically can't tear down in Old Town and must renovate-often on small lots.) Additionally, homes that are unsafe may be approved for demolition on their own right. The house at 1126 Washington Street is a likely candidate for demolition in my opinion. It is a nasty old mess that needs torn down, or it needs a really gifted architect and contractor to turn this old house into something special. CLICK HERE to view photos I took of this house for an out of town buyer.

1126 Washington Street as it looked in 1965

Exterior photo May 2011

Garage and huge parking area

East side of house has large yard and immense decks

Steel Posts and Beams added to Prevent Ceiling Collapse

Forget about how bad the house 1t 1126 Washington Street may look now and instead focus on the location, lot size, and ability to create your own private paradise on the 8304 sq ft lot (89' x 94'). While the size may not seem like a large lot up north, it is a very big lot by Key West standards. The Monroe County Property Appraiser says the house was built in 1938 and has 1539 sq ft of living space. I suggest that you consider the asking price of the land value which is offered at $44 per sq ft. Compare that price to the lot at nearby 1426 Reynolds Street which sold April 12th at $70 per sq ft (11,500 sq ft). The Reynolds property has an excellent location closer to the beach but it is also located across from the Casa Marina Hotel. CLICK HERE to read what I wrote about that property. I think most Readers would agree that $44 is better than $70 any day of the week. Of course there are pluses and minuses for any property and each offering or sale must be judged on its own merits.

I counted five different floor levels in this house and numerous kinds of windows, doors, air conditioning units, fans, odd light fixtures, glass block walls and mirrored walls in the bathrooms. There is no cohesive style. There are orange warning cones and yellow tape to warn of potential hazards. Since costs of renovation can often be much higher than new construction, I suggest that a new owner raze this old house and build a new two story house and take advantage of the large lot to create a wonderful pool and garden area.

If you are looking for a project property in Key West, give this listing serious and prompt consideration. If you are not working with another agent, please consider calling me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642, or contact me by email at I am a buyer's agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Coastal Realty, Inc. in Key West. Don't wait too long!


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.