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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Key West Real Estate - 2014 Mid - Year Sales Report

I just did a quick review of single family home sales for Key West for the first half of 2014. I used the Key West mls database as the source for my report. If you have read a sales report in some other media, you may have seen different numbers. Our local mls runs from Key West up to Big Coppitt Key which is 11 miles from Key West and in my view has nothing to do with what happens in Key West real estate. I therefore eliminated all Big Coppitt sales from consideration.

The first half of any sales year tends to have the greater number of sales as compared to the second half because much of our real estate market is driven by second home sales. Second home buyers typically buy houses when they visit Key West between Christmas and the end of May. This is our prime sales period.

There were 154 single family home sales in Key West in the first half of 2014 which sold for an average sales price of $506 per sq ft. The least expensive home was located on Stock Island. It sold for $220,000.  The most expensive home was a four bedroom beachfront home on Sunset Key. It sold for $4,800,000.

Most second home buyers prefer to buy houses in the Old Town, Casa Marina, and Meadows areas. They typically want to spend under $500,000. Some may be willing to spend additional money to renovate to achieve their ultimate goal type of house. Some but not all potential buyers may be willing to rent (or even aspire to rent) their new home to help off set costs of ownership.

Other buyers with more capital to invest look at higher priced homes hoping to find their dream home type property. There were 40 single family home sales in excess of $1,000,000 in the first six months in 2014 which sold for an average of $791 per sq ft.  

I've said before that I am no statistician. I barely passed algebra in high school. But I got an "A" by being able to distinguish "Up" from "Down". I know that the Key West real estate market is up - big time.

I then went back to compare sales from 2008, 2010, and 2012 to see how our market fared just prior to the market collapse which occurred in 2008, reacted to the BP oil spill in 2010, and dealt with the economic recovery in 2010.

There were 98 single family home sales in 2008 which sold at an average of $504 per sq ft.  The least expensive home was located on Fogarty Avenue in midtown. It sold for just $234,400. Not surprising, the most expensive house was located on Sunset Key. It sold for $4,667,055. There were 28 homes that sold over $1,000,000 at an average price of $732 per sq ft.  Remember these numbers because it took six years for our market to catch up to these numbers.

The BP Oil spill occurred in April 2010. That was like the nail on the coffin as Key West real estate responded to the Great Recession. We had so many short sales and bank owned properties to begin with and then the market got slammed with a threatened oil slick that never materialized. Several buyers walked away from their escrow deposits because they believe the malarkey they read or heard about oil spill gunk hitting our reefs. The least expensive house was a foreclosure in Bahama Village that sold for just $79,000. The most expensive home was located on Sunset Key. It sold for $3,295,000. There were still 124 single family home sale with an average price of $381 per sq ft. That's a $123 per sq ft drop from 2008.  The recession and market spiral downward took its toll. There were still 20 houses that sold over $1,000,000 at an average price of $620 per sq ft. That's down $112 per sq ft from the 2008 average.

In 2012 there were 125 single family home sales that sold for an average of $383 per sq ft. That's a $2 per sq price increase over 2010. The least expensive house was located on Fogarty Avenue (again). This house sold for $170,000 while the most expensive house was located on Sunset Key (again). That house sold for $5,000,000.  In 2012 there were 14 homes that sold for more than $1,000,000 with an average price of $679 per sq ft.

I watched the wave of fear that set in after the 2008 market collapse. I remember writing many times about specific properties being "buying opportunities" because prices were so low compared to their real market value once the market recovered. I remember one who reader used to comment on blogs.  He (or she) would warn of a second impending market crash and implore readers not to believe my hyperbole. It was as if I were the Wizard of Oz - or at least the Wizard of Key West. 
When Realtors get a chance to talk to each other for a couple of minutes they invariably ask "How are you doing? Staying busy?" or words to that effect. Most Realtors I know were very busy this past season. There was a huge demand for houses in Key West. There was, however, only a modest inventory.  And then we had the FEMA flood insurance policy change which made flood insurance costs significantly rise over prior rates. Eventually Congress responded to political pressure and eased flood rates for full time homeowners.

I think the Key West real estate market is back and that prices will be higher next season. I remind potential buyers that people are always dying, getting divorced, or moving away. In Key West we have our fair share of flippers who buy low and try to sell high (or high enough to make a decent profit).  We still continue to see new bank owned properties hit the mls because the Florida foreclosure laws allows bad borrowers to remain in place for years as the foreclosure works its way through our courts. And there are a few ongoing short sales that are slowing working through the machinations of big banks and asset management companies. The point is we will have more houses to sell come December - if not earlier.

There is a large base of cash buyers and people who have cash and credit to buy a second home in Key West that are just waiting to find a property that suits their needs. Some of these buyers are probably reading today's blog while they are at work. Some people live with Zillow or some other internet feed letting them know when a new listing hits the Key West mls.

If you are looking to buy a place in Key West, please consider working with me, Gary Thomas. I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Please call me at 305-766-2642 or send me an email at  Let me help you find your place in Key West where next year your home purchase will be a statistic for someone but a dream come true for you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Price Reduction - 405 Olivia Street - Key West

"The first and final thing you have to do in this world is to last it and not be smashed by it."
                                                                                                                          Ernest Hemingway

I came to Key West in 1984 for a vacation. Town was much different back then. There were not nearly as many tourists, or cars, or motor scooters, or trolleys, or delivery trucks. Dogs could nap in the street.  More houses were broken than were fixed, especially in Old Town.  I remember walking back the guesthouse late one night after a night on Duval Street.  I passed under an old giant Mahogany tree and stepped on a palmetto bug on the cracked sidewalk. Back then most of the sidewalks were cracked and heaving. Palmetto bugs were plentiful. Key West had an eerie feel in the dark of the night. I remember being on guard - not knowing what to expect.  Creepy walks in this foreign land with so many broken down houses and buildings made me suspicious of everything..
Many of the old houses appeared to have sat broken or neglected for years. Nearly thirty years later I would hazard a guess that maybe 20 to 25 per cent of the old houses remain untouched compared to back in 1984 when perhaps 10 percent had been updated. The real numbers don't matter to me that much. I have been able to watch this very quite little town change. I appreciate the changes to the old houses.  Some have been done much better than others. For the most part I like the houses that have been updated, but I don't like a lot of what has happened to our town. But that is for another blog on another day.
The house at 405 Olivia Street (above) is one of the houses that was broken down and pretty sad.  To use Hemingway's phrase, the place was smashed. Some prior owner attached a hideous lean-to carport against the house. The interior was "updated" with saltillo tile years ago - that's the tile they use in New Mexico, California, and Texas. Not Key West!  The floor on the main living level was not level.  The rooms were choppy. There was no "flow" between living areas. The updated kitchen (with cheap cabinets and cheap appliances was located at the back of the house. Unfortunately, the only bathroom in the house was located right off the kitchen.  The three bedrooms were located upstairs.  There was one saving grace to this house, however.  The house was and still is located across the street from the Ernest Hemingway House. 
405 Olivia Street has appeared in my blog a couple of times. It became a bank owned property (no surprise about that). The new owner hired a very well respected general contractor to renovate the property that is now available for purchase at the reduced asking price of $1,095,000. The listing Realtor, not me, describes this property thus:
"Even Hemingway would have loved this place!! Amazing renovation from top to bottom on this mid-1800's historic home located across from the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum."
I checked the 1889 Sanborn Fire Map for the City of Key West and found what I believe to be 405 Olivia Street. The 1892 Sanborn Map shows a rear addition. In more recent times a shed addition was added at the very rear. Today, the entire house has been totally rebuilt from foundation to the roof, from the second and first floor front porches to the shed at the rear, from the removal of the lean-to carport to the addition bricked off street parking for two cars and pool with adjacent cabana. Please look at the photos below that show the totally renovated property.
The front room could easily function as an alternative guest room. The main living area, kitchen and dining area follow at the rear.
There are now just two bedrooms plus a very nice bath located on the second floor. The front bedroom has access to the front balcony which has views of the Hemingway House.  The trees and tropical foliage at the old writer's house prevent Hemingway's ghost from peering into the second floor windows at 405 Olivia Street.
Both bedrooms now have separate en-suite baths. The old second floor hallway has new windows that allow more light into what was previously a mostly dim hallway. The front bathroom even has a stained glass window that provides diffused light during daytime hours off of the hallway. I've seen this done in some other houses. It works especially well here. The stained glass window turns a somewhat bland hallway into an interesting space and it certainly adds a lot of pizazz to the bathroom.  It is, however, the view out the second floor window that will make you feel mighty proud as you look down to your pool below. There's nothing so fine as looking down to see something nobody else, no matter how much money they have, can own.
If you buy this home you will need to understand that thousands of people will walk by your house over the course of each year. Some passersby will probably stop and take photos of Hemingway's neighbor (your home). Accept that. But remember you are the lucky one that gets be be the neighbor with the front porch that looks over to the Hemingway House. CLICK HERE to view more photos I took of 405 Olivia Street.
405 Olivia Street was built in the 19th Century. It was smashed and mishandled in the 20th Century. Now at the beginning of the 21st Century the old house has a new life. It offers 1380 sq ft of comfortable living space that includes 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, a bright great room and kitchen area, a beautiful pool, and off street parking that is located one block off Duval Street and across the street from Hemingway's house. This property would make a great second home. And I am confident 405 Olivia Street would could become a very successful vacation rental. The pool, the parking, the quality renovation, the Hemingway connection, and location assure success.  CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos.

Better than looking at photos on the internet, please call me, Gary Thomas, 305-766-2642 to set up a private showing of this new property.  I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West. Let me help you find your place in Paradise.

Monday, July 28, 2014

809 Eaton Street - Historic Old Town Luxury Residence - Key West - Lower Price

809 Eaton Street in Key West dates back to circa 1840 when it was built for Henry Lowe. The house was totally restored and enlarged in 2005 when it was featured in the Old Island Foundation House Tour.  Today this home is one of the finest examples of a Bahamian styled home located in the Old Town Historic District.
Many of the Key West's founding fathers were expatriates from the Bahamas. They brought with them the architectural style and construction techniques with which they were familiar.  Bahamian styled houses were placed on piers and had wood frames and had tall ceilings and large windows with Bahama shutters which permitted air to circulate through the house to provide natural cooling. The houses were built with wood clapboard siding.

I dug deep into the old shoebox and found a photo of the roof of 809 Eaton Street (black and white photo immediately below) that was taken in 1914.  I just love the look of Key West back in the day. You can see that the Historic Seaport is only a couple of blocks away. Note all of the smaller buildings which back then were cook houses or privies.  I found another photo of 809 Eaton Street that was taken in 1965 (black and white photo second below). The house would have been about 125 years old when that pic was taken. Nearly half a century later the renovated home looks as prominent as ever (color photo below).
I recently found a photo of 809 Eaton Street that was taken in the 1960's from the Island City House located across the street. The outline of a man standing on the porch reminded me of Freddy in the Nightmare on Elm Street. I took a photo from the same location just to prove a point that what was once is often still the same on our little island where historic homes are preserved - not destroyed.

The listing Realtor at Preferred Properties, that's where I work but this is not my listing, describes 809 Eaton Street this way:
"Classic 1800's Old Town property which is a combination of the Henry Lowe House and the Samuel Kemp House, built in 1840. This 5 bedroom / 4.5 bath 3 story home with 1 bedroom / 1 bathroom guest cottage has all the amenities you're looking for! This historic home offers a spacious living area with large open kitchen which is great for entertaining. Additional features include large porches throughout, high ceilings, Dade County Pine, hardwood flooring, large covered deck, fantastic pool and Jacuzzi and off-street parking. Converted cistern as wine cellar. There is also a 60,000 watt generator so you're never in the dark. On the National Registry of Historic Places."
This house has 4712 sq ft of living space in the main house and guest cottage. The lot is an irregular rectangle of of 6079 sq ft (approximately 57' x 125'). The main level includes a spacious living room, dining room, family room and extra large kitchen and pantry. The master bedroom with en-suite bath is also located on the main floor at the left rear of the home.  Multiple sets of French doors line the back of the house and open onto a rear loggia that overlooks the long rectangular pool.
A gracious staircase leads to the second floor where there are two large bedrooms and baths. These bedrooms open onto the wrap-around second floor porch. A smaller staircase leads to the third floor which has a dormitory style bedroom plus a wonderful bath at the rear which as a view looking toward the Gulf of Mexico. You can see the pool, guest cottage, and garden.This is the kind of view that people who accomplished great things in life get to enjoy.
The interior finishes and materials are all of the highest quality. While the house is rich in history and the house itself has several formal living spaces, most of the living areas on the inside and outside are quite relaxed. The combined family room and kitchen provide area for family and friends to enjoy this incredible home.
It is the outdoor living area that will probably entice that special buyer to select this home. The covered rear deck overlooks the lengthy pool and spa which is surrounded by bricked walkways and sunning areas. The guest cottage on the west side was built as part of the 2005 restoration and expansion. The cottage has a separate designer kitchen and bath plus bedroom each of which looks out to the pool. (Your guests will never leave.)    

The property has two off street parking spots-one adjacent to the front entrance and a second at the rear.  The whole house generator will provide electricity to keep you comfortable and cozy in the event of power failure elsewhere on the island. CLICK HERE to view more photos of this incredible Key West property.

This is a very large house with an extra large guest cottage. You can see it has a great outdoor entertaining area with an extra large sunny pool. The property is located two blocks south of the Historic Key West Seaport and only four blocks from Duval Street. This place would make an incredible vacation rental.
Nearby Key West Seafood Market
CLICK HERE to view the Key West mls datasheet and listing photos of this special Key West home which is now offered at $2,295,000. If you area qualified buyer and would like to see this special home, please call me, Gary Thomas 305-766-2642 or send me an email at I am a buyers agent and a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties Key West.


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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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.