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Mini Lobster Season

One of the conversations that I’ve been having with locals is that Key West is moving closer and closer to no longer a seasonal town. Traditionally summer (June-Sept) has been the “slow” time of year but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that over the past 10 years the tide has started to change.  I realized it this month when I was waiting for 10 minutes to cross the street in my car because of the steady stream of tourists.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining!  I recognize that our economy is built on tourism so bring on the tourists!

July has become the 3rd busiest month in Key West (February & March being the first and second).  Why July you ask?  My theory has a lot of moving parts but I’ll break it down:

FACT:  It is less expensive to rent a house for a month than for a few days or a week.

FACT:  July is still considered “off season” in terms of the lodging/ hospitality calendar so the cost to rent a home in Key West for the month of July is less than ½ of the in season/ February/ March rate.

FACT:  Key West is a major Florida destination for Independence Day Celebrations.

FACT:  The summer is one of the best times of the year for fishing in The Keys.  The water is calm and smooth as glass and the fish are plenty.

FACT:  Mini Lobster Season is the last full week of July and is a period of  2 days where locals and tourists can go lobstering (limit 6 per person) before they open the waters to the commercial fishermen and regular lobster season on August 6th.

*This year the mini season falls on July 25th and 26th (make sure to always verify dates and regulations with Florida Fish and Wildlife). It begins at 12:01 am on Wednesday and ends at 12:00 midnight on Thursday. The regular 8-month lobster season is always August 6 through March 31.

Combine all those and you’ve got one hell of a reason to make Key West your July destination!  And if you follow me on social media you know that one of my favorite hashtags is #livewhereyouvacation so let me get to work for you!  If you’re looking to buy in the Florida Keys please give me a call or shoot me a text at 305.394.4073.  I am a full time Realtor with Preferred Properties and am ready to help you find your Florida Keys Home.

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Sunset Celebration

One of my favorite sayings is “Celebrate Everything”.  That’s also one of the unofficial mottos of the City of Key West because we sure do like to celebrate the heck out of holidays! This week is Capture the Sunset Week and in it’s honor I’ve got my top 5 places to catch the sunset in Key West.

 

My Top 5 Favorite Places to Watch the Sunset

 

The Galleon (617 Front Street) – The quintessential tiki bar tucked away inside of the Galleon Resort.  Cocktails, beer, wine, and live music on the open water, you just can’t beat it (if you can find it!)

 

Fort Zachary Taylor (601 Howard England Way) – Take a bike ride down to the Truman Waterfront and follow the signs that point you to the beach.  Fort Zach, A Florida State Park, is home to lush pines, sandy-esque beaches, and one heck of a sunset view.

 

Latitudes (Sunset Key) – Treat yo’ self.  For the special occasion sunsets hop on the ferry and head over to Sunset Key.  You can pick your seating, inside or out, but I’d recommend requesting a table outside on the beach if you really want the full experience.

 

Mallory Square (400 Wall Street) – More of a tourist favorite than a locals favorite but you can’t talk about Key West sunsets without mentioning this spot, home of the famous Sunset Celebration.  Every night local artisans and performers head to Mallory Square to celebrate the sunshine.

 

From a boat (Middle of the Ocean) – If you’re coming to Key West I always tell people to really make it a point to get out on the water.  I’d venture to say that having the crystal blue ocean as our backyard is one of the main reasons us locals choose to live here.

 

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Set Yourself Up for Success. 

Set Yourself Up for Success.

 

This is one statement that I have really been working on in 2018.  One morning last year I woke up and I remember everything just seemed off.  I had fallen asleep on the couch and woke up in the middle of the night to move to my bed.   When I woke up, an hour later than I had planned, I realized I had overslept because my phone was dead and I had forgotten to plug it in when I relocated in the middle of the night.  I got dressed, grabbed my computer, and headed to the office.

When I arrived my client was waiting for me and I quickly ushered them into the conference room while I fumbled to get my computer up and running  (it too had died overnight and if you’ve ever worked with an overworked and overloaded 5 year old computer you know just how slow time can move when you’re waiting for everything to boot up!)

The meeting was successful and I had signed my buyers agent agreement but when my client left I still found myself behind the eight ball for the rest of the day.  My phone kept dying because of the insufficient charge the night before and I went home feeling defeated.  That was the day I decided to really put into practice what I preach, being proactive instead of reactive.

So often we are in the fast lane of life and things are flying at us faster than we can respond.  We don’t realize how taking a second or two to set yourself up for success will impact your tomorrows until it’s too late.  Now when I turn in for the night I do 3 things:  plug in my iWatch, plug in my phone, and charge my computer.  This does 3 things to help me kick off my day on the right foot:  I wake up on time from my phone alarm, I track my calories and fitness progress from my morning work outs and when I get home from the gym I can get right to work without waiting 10 years for my ol’ Bessie of a computer to get with the gets.

I challenge you to take a look at your morning and nightly routines and ask yourself this question:  What is the one (or 3!) thing you can do tonight to set yourself up for success tomorrow?  Is it as simple as plugging in your phone?  How would packing your or your family’s lunch the night before make for a better, smoother morning?

If you really want to grab the bull by the horns and kick start your morning routine I’d highly recommend Hal Elrod’s book Miracle Morning but for those looking for a quick fix just remember to plug in your phone J

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Substantial Improvement: 50% Rule

So you want to renovate a house?  Great!  But there’s are two important questions you should ask yourself before committing to the process in Monroe County, FL.

  1. Is your home below the base floodline elevation (BFE)?
  2. Will the renovation costs exceed 50% of the improvements assessed value?

If the answer to question #1 is NO then proceed to renovation.  If the answer to question #1 is Yes, then proceed to question #2.  If this question is Yes then you should pause (and maybe stop) Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Monroe County Florida has a Substantial Improvement / Substantial Damage rule, more commonly known as the 50% rule.  This means that if the costs of the improvements/ repairs to your property exceed 50% of the improvements assessed value you must bring the property above the BFE.  In some cases this is not a big deal, in others, such as in a concrete slab house, this can be a huge and costly undertaking.

According to the county website The National Flood Insurance Program and Monroe County regulations require improvements to structures within a Special Flood Hazard Area must meet current construction standards including elevating the building to or above the 100-year flood elevation if the improvement is 50% or more of the market value of the property.

Substantial Damage – occurs when the cost of restoring the structure to the condition before the damage would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. (Note: The cost of the repairs must include all costs necessary to fully repair the structure to its “before damage” condition, including labor.)

Substantial Improvement – any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, for which the cost of equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the improvement.

This term includes structures which have incurred “substantial damage,” regardless of the actual repair work performed. The term does not, however, include either:

  • Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations of state or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions; or
  • Any alterations of a “historic structure,” provided that the alteration will not preclude the structure’s continued designation as a “historic structure.

In summary, if you are considering a renovation project in Key West or Monroe County be sure that you consult your real estate agent and discuss the possible ramifications of the 50% rule.

 

Source:  https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/693/Build-ResponsiblyProtect

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New Listing: 1015 Elgin

Historic renovation meets Old Town Charm in this 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home located on a quiet lane in Key West. Originally built in 1893 this home has been completely renovated. When you enter the home tall ceilings and an open living and dining area will greet you. The gourmet kitchen features top of the line stainless steel appliances, gas range, and granite countertops. There is a full pantry and laundry room. On the main level you will find the first floor master with an en-suite bathroom. Upstairs you will find an additional master bedroom as well as the guest bedroom, both bright and airy with ample storage. You will find original hardwood floors throughout and Dade County Pine walls. French doors from the living room open to reveal secluded backyard with lush low maintenance landscaping. There is an outdoor dining area, heated pool with Trex decking, and additional seating area. This property features off street parking for 3 cars with access from both Eaton Street and Elgin Lane.

This home is conveniently located in Old Town Key West, just 3 blocks from the historic Seaport and 6 blocks from Duval Street.

View a 360 view of this home here!

 

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Key West Holiday Happenings!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Some people have a little trouble getting into the holiday spirit here on the island, for me, it’s just the opposite.  There are a ton of great holiday events and traditions that both locals and tourists look forward to.

Below are a few of my favorites!

Friday, December 1st– Pet Pictures with Santa

Grab your favorite furry friend and head to The Seaport.  Under the nautical Christmas Tree located in the heart of the Seaport you can get your pets picture taken with Santa.  Photos benefit Boys & Girls Club of the Keys Area, Inc.

 

Saturday, December 2nd – City of Key West Holiday Parade

The annual Hometown Holiday Parade starts at 7:00pm with special guest, Santa!  The parade route starts at the intersection of Truman and White Streets.  The parade will then head down Truman Avenue and head to Eaton Street.

 

Saturday, December 9th4th Annual Parade of Paws

There will be a dog parade starting promptly at 10am where all in the community are welcome to parade their pups (costumes encouraged!) followed by a Holiday Bazaar where local vendors will showcase their businesses.

 

SantaCon

Dig out your Santa costume and join the party as tons of Santas gather at Conch Republic Seafood Company for the annual event.

 

27th Annual Key West Lighted Boat Parade

The annual Key West lighted boat parade will start at 8pm.  Viewers can watch the nautical parade along the Harbor Walk of Lights in the Seaport or for the best spot in town, contact my girls at Lagerheads Beach Bar to reserve a private table.

 

Saturday, December 16th – Rudolph the Red Nosed Run

Join the Positive Step for their 10th annual 5K that leaves from the Southernmost Beach Cafe. A Positive Step is a community based non-profit organization dedicated to serving the highest risk youth and their families.

 

Wednesday/ Thursday, December 27th & 28th – Holiday Home Tours

Join the Old Island Restoration Foundation for the kick off of their 2017-2018 Home Tour season.  The home tours feature historic and renovated homes through out Key West each as unique as their owners!

 

Monday, December 31st – Ring in the New Year!

World famous for our New Year’s traditions, pick a spot on Duval and watch the fun unfold!  Sloppy Joes (200 blk of Duval) is where they will drop the Conch Shell

Christopher and the crew at LaTeDa (1200 blk of Duval) will “pop” a huge champagne bottle.  And of course, Sushi will come down in her red shoe over at the Bourbon complex at the 800 block of Duval.

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Transformation Tuesday: 3227 Pearl

We’ve talked about steps to purchase a house, how to get qualified & what happens after you have an accepted offer, now let’s talk a little bit about what happens after you close, specifically on a fixer upper!

I’m going to take you through each part of our renovation process, room by room I’m going to break down the vision, the obstacles, how we overcame the obstacles, and how choose and put the finishing touches on each space in the house.

When we were in the purchasing process we were deciding on what projects we were going to hire out and which we were going to tackle on our own.  If you remember we used hard money to purchase this property so time was of the essence.  We knew if we chose to take on the bulk of this renovation we would have to schedule it between our current full time jobs and it would end up taking twice if not three times as long.  That being said we chose to hire a contractor to do the majority of our renovation.   The yard was perhaps the easiest project of the entire renovation, which is why we chose to take it on ourselves.

key-west-gingerbread-house

Ya’ll, when we purchased Pearl Avenue it was in quite a state; to say the yard was neglected was an understatement.  Trees were overgrown, there was a huge portable carport staged within the yard for “extra covered storage”, plants and trees that should have been transported years ago to larger pots had sprouted legs and rooted into their now home, with their original plastic pot woven in to the roots.  In the far right corner was a pond that was mosquito haven and in the back right sat a tired old hot tub with a termite-ridden lanai.

The lower deck was rotted and on it’s last legs, the paint having worn off long ago. The lanai and hot tub had seen better days and there were two rogue outdoor storage sheds along the left side of the house.

Dream house right?

The first thing that we did after closing was figure out what was salvageable and sellable.  If you are working on your first flip or renovation project don’t forget this step.  We ended up making about $1000 from all of the things we were able to sell which in the long run helps our bottom line and also financed the purchase of a new chainsaw.

Since we were planning on doing a complete renovation we wanted to sell everything that we could.  The carport sold quickly along with the storage sheds (in hindsight I should have kept those!).  We had a buyer for the hot tub but it literally fell apart from being dry rotted when we tried to remove it from the property.

That weekend we loaded up the Sawzall, gloves and a cooler of beer and headed over and start thinning out the yard.  We took out every tree and shrub that was there with the exception of one that was supposed to be there.  All the others were not native and haphazardly left around the property.

Once the yard was clear it opened up the space tremendously, almost doubling the usable yard space.  We waited to put the finishing touches on the yard until after the contractors had completed their work.  The finishing touches included river rock, mulch, a custom flowerbed, Areca Palms, and partially new fence.

Due to budget limitations we couldn’t afford to do the whole yard rock so we opted for half rock, half mulch.  We worked with Mama’s Garden Center and chose ¾ inch River Rock.  The rock was dropped on the side where the carport had been previously… on the other side of the fence.  So after shoveling, by hand, the rock from the outside of the fence to the inside of the fence, we used a rock rake to spread it evenly.  That portion of the yard was on an odd slope so we also used the rock to even out the terrain although we did keep a slight slope so that water will continue to drain properly from the property.

The fence on the left side of the property had seen better days.  The wood was rotted and we chose replace the left side of the fence with standard pickets from Home Depot.  Once the fence was installed it was painted white along with the rest of the fence along the perimeter of the property.  We used Sherwin Williams exterior paint.  Also along the left side of the fence is where we installed the custom-built flower box.  Perfect for gardening or landscaping.  We installed 4 Areca palms within the flowerbox, they grow like weeds and provide a lush landscaping option for small spaces.  They also work well in containers so as a finishing touch we added an extra potted Areca palm to the side of the steps to the deck.  The pot only set us back about $35 (again, Home Depot for the win) and compliments the rest of the space.

The right side of the property was filled in with dark mulch.  We had the mulch delivered from Manley Debeor and spread it ourselves.  You should have seen the look on my face when the delivery guy pulled up.  The pallet was 2 bags wide by 2 bags deep and stacked at least 15 feet tall.

key-west-investment-renovation

I envisioned this side of the yard having some Christmas Tree Palms as well as some Arecas for lushness; however due to budget limitations we forwent this option and opted to drop the mulch so that we (or perhaps a buyer) could continue the vision down the road.

The final touch was replacing the house numbers with a new modern option, again from Home Depot.  Full disclosure, I wanted the silver option but they didn’t have all my numbers in that finish so I went with black, which I was very happy with in the end.  Also, if you go this route, the little metal risers that are included are tricky and break easily, use caution!

Stay tuned for the next edition of Transformation Tuesday where I will talk about our adventures in roofing.  A hot topic right now, especially in the Florida Keys post Irma.

If you are thinking of taking on a renovation project or are interested in purchasing real estate in Key West please text, call, or email me (305.395.4073 / krystalthomasre@gmail.com).  I am a full time real estate agent in Key West and happy to help you on your renovation and/ or home buying adventure.

 

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Ten Truman Annex Treasures

Truman Annex is an exclusive neighborhood in Old Town Key West.  The former Truman Naval Station that was once a destroyer and submarine base is now a gated community of homes and condominiums and the Harry S. Truman Little White House. It is also where you will find Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park and the Truman Waterfront.

Below are 10 Truman Annex properties that are currently on the market, many of which have transient rental licenses!  This means that the property has the potential to generate a 10-12% return on the gross purchase price.

https://www.flexmls.com/share/198jU/Selected

Many of these homes are in existing vacation rental programs and already generating significant rental income.  Call, text, or email me (305-394-4073 or krystalthomasre@gmail.com) for additional information about these homes as well as additional investment options that are available.

I am a full time Realtor with Preferred Properties and ready to assist you in purchasing your Florida Keys home!

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You’ve Got An Accepted Offer – Now What?!

So, you’ve gone to see your lender and been pre-qualified.  You’ve searched for weeks for the perfect home and you’ve found it.  You’ve chosen a savvy real estate agent and have negotiated the perfect offer and to your surprise, it’s been accepted!

Now what?

Well, first of all Congratulations!  Now get ready.  Things will start to move quickly.  Your agent will provide you with a list of critical dates that pertain to the contract and you will get to work.

Your lender will send you a list of required documents and it’s your job to get these documents/ requested information back to your lender in a timely manner.  Timely means quickly!  The longer it takes for you to get these items back to your lender the longer it takes to submit your loan to underwriting and the longer it takes to be approved for closing.

Escrow Deposit:

Get this to your Realtor or title company ASAP and be sure to keep a copy of the deposit for your records.  This deposit is refundable through the inspection period and will be applied to the final amount that you will need to bring to closing.

Inspection Period:

Typically the first 10-15 days from your date of acceptance are your inspection period.  This is your opportunity to inspect the property and not just on your own.  Your real estate agent will have a home inspector recommendation and you should work to get this scheduled as soon after the acceptance date as possible.  The home inspector will inspect every part of the home that he/ she has access to and will give you a nice little report including photos and descriptions to review.

This is also your opportunity to call in any contractors or additional inspectors for estimates on repairs that will need to be made.  All of this information is very important when determining if you will move forward with a purchase.  Do the numbers still work once you add in the costs of all the repairs?   If yes, proceed to the next step.

Insurance Shopping:  The Big 3!:

Start reaching out to your recommended insurance providers and getting quotes on the necessary insurances (click here for a list of my recommended insurance providers).  If you are financing a property in Florida you will likely be required to carry 3 different insurances:  flood insurance, windstorm insurance, and hazard insurance.  The bank will require you to prepay for the first year of insurances and then will escrow your insurances through out the year to pay the future years on your behalf.

Appraisal, Survey, & Elevation Certificate:

You will likely be required to have one of each.  The appraisal will tell you how much your home is worth in the current market..  The survey will be reviewed by the closing attorney to be sure there are no encroachments on your property and the elevation certificate will tell your insurance company how high off the ground the lowest point of your home is.  The appraisal, survey and elevation certificate will likely be ordered by the bank however you as the buyer will be responsible for the payment.  Generally, appraisals are pre-paid and the survey/ elevation certificate can likely be paid for at closing.

Taking care of each of these steps and communicating with your Realtor will get you to the closing table and on to the fun part and ultimate goal… homeownership!

Call, text, or email me (305-394-4073 or krystalthomasre@gmail.com) for additional information on how to purchase your first home.  I am a full time agent with Preferred Properties and ready to assist you in purchasing your Florida Keys home!

 

 

 

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Pre Qualification & Avoiding Analysis Paralysis

Although you may casually start your home search with a generic search in Google or Realtor.com the search really doesn’t start until you know what your purchasing power is.

Enter Pre-Qualification.  This is the step where you sit down with a lender to determine how much home you can actually afford and I’ll be honest with you, every first time home buyer says this is the scariest step.  Putting your financial background and information on Front Street is scary and intimidating but it doesn’t have to be.

Work with your real estate agent to find a lending partner that will fit your needs and make you feel comfortable.  This is the job of a lender.  To analyze your finances and income and help you determine what type of mortgage you will/ can qualify for.  They will also tell you how to get to where you need to be if you aren’t there yet.

Pre-qualification is the most important step in your real estate search because it saves you time.  You don’t want to be looking at homes in the $500K range if you can only afford $350K and conversely you don’t want to be limiting your search to $350K if you are approved for $500K.

In my case, the home I was purchasing would not have qualified for conventional financing. It needed a new roof, new siding, new floors (and subfloor), etc.; it was a complete mess.

As I mentioned, I’ve had the idea of homeownership on my mind for years and had been listening to a podcast called Bigger Pockets for about a year when the Pearl Street purchase opportunity fell into my lap.  If you are a real estate investor and haven’t listened to Bigger Pockets you are missing out.  Bigger Pockets is a podcast dedicated to helping real estate investors.  On the weekly podcast the hosts interview investors in various stages of the real estate investment spectrum, everyone from newbies to seasoned pros; one of the things that is so inspiring is that most all of them had to get creative to get their first deal.

So I figured out how much money I would need to purchase and renovate the house (I estimated $300K total, $240K to purchase and $60K to renovate) and pursued the avenue of hard money financing.

I thought long and hard and eventually worked up the courage to put up a post on my Facebook wall that read something like this:  “Investment opportunity available, seeking hard money financing for a home purchase.  Serious inquiries only, PM me for details.”  From this post I had 3 responses, and one of those responses worked out.  We were able to come to an agreement.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of hard money financing it is a loan typically offered by a private investor, and secured with real estate or some sort of “real” asset.   You are charged a higher interest rate and these types of loans are often interest only and for a short term (6months, 1year, etc).  In my case we borrowed $300K for a term of 1 year @ 10% interest only.

So now you’re thinking whoa!  10%, no way.  Yes way!  Sometimes you need to do what you have to do to get your foot in the door. As long as the numbers work, who cares what the interest rate it.  The numbers worked for us so we went to closing and started what would be our most challenging project to date!

That being said, where there’s a will there is a way.  The challenge we took on almost a year ago has grown $100K in equity and is a successful long-term rental in Key West with a positive cash flow.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, You’ve Got An Offer, Now What?!…=

Call, text, or email me (305-394-4073 or krystalthomasre@gmail.com) for additional information on how to purchase your first home.  I am a full time buyer’s agent with Preferred Properties and ready to assist you in purchasing your Florida Keys home!