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5 Reasons You Should Buy A Duplex in Key West


If you’ve been struggling with how to break into the realm of real estate ownership consider this:  purchase a duplex.  A duplex is defined as a house divided into two apartments, with a separate entrance for each.  It is also what I consider one of the best investments that a homebuyer can make.




  1. Duplexes qualify for FHA financing, which means that you could purchase the property for as little as 3.5%% down. For a list of my preferred lenders, click here.  (if you are in Key West you could also qualify for 0% down financing, contact me for additional information about the financing programs that are available locally.)


  1. You can use the rental income from the unit that you rent out to help you qualify for the mortgage to purchase the property


  1. Hellllllo Tax Write Offs – It’s no secret that owning a property provides many tax incentives that you don’t find as a renter. If you buy a duplex and rent out the other side you can write off all the costs that take place including costs to market and rent the property as well as repairs and shared expenses.


  1. Welcome to the World of Landlording – Real estate is one of the most lucrative investments you can make.  If you’ve ever thought about investing in real estate this is a great way to start.  Start small with your one unit and then grow your portfolio.  You’ll have a vested interest in the quality of property and tenant that you choose because you will be neighbors.


Let’s take a look at 1610 Dennis Street.  A duplex located in Mid Town Key West and currently listed for $385,000 (one of the best deals on the market I think!)

FHA 0% 3.50% 5% 10% 20%
Mortgage $2490 $2415 $2405 $2222 $1856
Taxes*  $324 $324 $324 $324   $324
Insurances** $425 $425 $425 $425 $425
Sample Total Monthly Payment $3239 $3164 $3154 $2971 $2605


Now.  Divide that Sample Payment by 2.  #boomshakalaka, you could OWN a home in Key West for as little as $1300!

Let’s make it happen.

* Taxes are based on your purchase price and are a little bit less than 1% of your purchase price.

** We estimated that the insurances for this home will be about  $5100 for hazard, windstorm, and flood insurances.








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Key West Flood Zones & Insurance Explained

duval-street-floodFlood insurance is one of the most asked about topics in Florida real estate, especially in The Florida Keys and Key West.  Flood insurance requirements and premiums are dictated by the flood zone in which your property lies.

To understand flood zones you will first need to understand BFE; Base Flood Elevation.  BFE is a reference height for building elevations and flood insurance.  A building below BFE is a building below the flood level for that site.  Building codes require most new and Substantially Improved buildings be at a minimum height of BFE +1′.


Types of Flood Zones:

“A” Flood Zone:  These zones are more inland from the coastline, where a static rise in water levels can be expected.  This is the most common flood zone in Key West.

“V” Flood Zone:  These zones are close to the shoreline.  The “V” stands for “velocity,” or breaking waves with a force that’s considerably more damaging. As a consequence, building standards are much higher within “V” zones.

X Flood Zones:  These zones are areas where the elevation is higher than the minimum expected flood levels.  Buildings in these zones are not subject to enhanced building codes to prevent flood damage.  Flood insurance is available in these zones at a considerable discount. The elusive X flood zone is typically found in the Solares Hill and The Meadows neighborhoods of Key West.

*Note:  Type “V” and “A” zones appear on flood maps as “AE-#” and “VE-#.  The “E” denotes this flood zone has an elevation level assigned to it, and is expressed as “AE-6” or “VE-9,” with the trailing number indicating the Base Flood Elevation or BFE for that zone.  That BFE number notes the height above sea level flood waters can be expected to rise… at a minimum. For example, if a property falls within the flood zone “AE-6”, the structure would have to be elevated 7 feet above the BFE (6 feet as specified in the flood zone + 1 foot)

Don’t let flood insurance scare you, let me help you navigate the ins and outs of the insurance requirements for your Key West home.  I am a full time real estate agent with Preferred Properties, Contact me or 305-394-4073.

Source:  How to Read Flood Maps. Retrieved from //

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5 Homes Under $529K Stock Island & Lower Keys


A couple of days ago I posted a blog post that featured 5 homes that were under $529K (the Monroe County FHA limit) and for sale in Key West, Florida.

FHA is offering their 203(h) program to buyers that lost their home or space they rented due to Hurricane Irma.  Borrowers utilizing the 203(h) program are eligible for 100 percent financing and closing costs (up to 6%) can be paid by the seller.

Below is a link to 5 homes in Stock Island and Big Coppitt  that are for sale for $529K or less.


Let’s take a closer look at one of my personal favorites in this list:  50 Riviera Drive, Big Coppitt.  This home is listed by Key West Property Sisters for $450,000 and is move in ready.  It features granite counter tops, 10 ft ceilings and and en-suite master with a walk in closet.  Taxes are less than $3500 per year for ALL THREE (windstorm, flood, & hazard)

If you’re wondering how this translates to a monthly mortgage payment let me break it down for you:


0% 3.50% 5% 10% 20%
Mortgage  $2,504  $2,416  $2,405  $2,235  $1,797
Taxes  $350  $350  $350  $350  $350
Insurances  $291  $291  $291  $291  $291
Sample Total Monthly Payment  $3,145  $3,057  $3,046  $2,876  $2,438


This is “On the Rim & Out the Door” pricing so all of your taxes and insurances will be rolled right into your mortgage payment and your mortgage company will take care of making the yearly payment on your behalf.

Call, text, or email me (305-394-4073 or for additional information about these home as well as additional options that are available.  I am a full time buyers agent with Preferred Properties and ready to assist you in purchasing your Florida Keys home!


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Financing, Pre-Quals, and Approvals, Oh My!


One of the most important and intimidating steps in your home buying process is getting a pre-qualification from a lender.  In this blog post I’m going to break down the pre-qualification process and help set you up for success when approaching this step in your home buying journey in Key West.

Let’s start by defining “pre-qualification”.

Pre-qualification is a letter from a bank that states the loan type (conventional, FHA, VA, etc.) and amount you have been approved to borrow based on the financial picture you provide to the lender.  It does NOT include an analysis of your credit report/ score.

This is how you see what your buying power is and is a crucial step in being successful in your real estate search.   Many people over and under estimate their buying power, which is a total time waster for everyone involved.  You don’t want to spend time looking at $500K houses when your purchasing power is $350K and vice versa.

Below are four simple steps to help you take the leap into getting pre-qualified.  Side note:  just do it already!

  1. Make an appointment. Reach out to your bank and ask to meet with a loan officer.   You can also ask your real estate agent for recommendations as well, they always have preferred contacts and suggestions if you don’t know where to start.
  2. Know your number(ish). One misconception of the pre-qualification process is that you need to pull your credit report to be pre-qualified which is completely FALSE.  That’s right, many people think that you do but you don’t.  You should have an idea of what your credit score is though  to be sure your pre-qualification is as accurate as possible and I recommend using Credit Karma to find out.  Credit Karma is my go to app and website for credit checking and monitoring and it’s FREE!
  3. Get your sh*t together. No for real, get it together… get a copy of your most recent tax return, a recent pay stub, and a couple of months of bank statements together.  The more information you can provide the more accurate your pre-qualification will be.
  4. Take your pre-qualification letter and give (or email) it to your real estate agent.

Once you’ve given your agent your pre-qualification letter they will adjust your real estate search accordingly and you will be on your way to finding your dream home!

I am a full time buyers agent in Key West, Florida and am happy to help you in your real estate search.  Please contact me at 305-394-4073 or and let’s talk real estate!

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5 Homes Under $529K For Sale in Key West


If you’re on the fence about purchasing a home right now let me help you with your decision:  0% DOWN FHA Financing IS Available.

The FHA 203(h) loan program is for those that lost their home or space they rented due to Hurricane Irma.  The borrower is eligible for 100 percent financing and closing costs can be paid by the seller (up to 6%).  This means that you could move into a home in Key West for the cost of an inspection.

$529,000 is the FHA limit for Monroe County, FL.  Below is a link to 5 homes IN Key West that are for sale for $529K or less:


Please contact me for additional information and options.  I am a full time buyers agent with Preferred Properties and happy to help you in your home buying journey. or 305.394.4073

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SBDC Bridge Loans & SBA Loans

City Hall Meeting 9/27 Recap 4:00pm

Yesterday Kelly Penwell and Julie Brown of the SBDC along with Tracy Ray Harbor from the SBA in Miami spoke to the business owners of The Florida Keys about the options that they have available to them.  Below is my recap of the meeting for those who were unable to attend.

Initial Steps each Monroe County resident should take if you haven’t already: 

  1. Contact your insurance agent/ agency
  2. Register with FEMA
  3. Apply for the SBA loan

SBDC – Small Business Development Council

The SBDC is an organization sponsored by the SBA to provide local help and assistance to business owners in Monroe County.  Their office is located at FKCC.  The SBDC is offering up to $50K in bridge loans to business owners in Monroe County.  These loans are 0% for 6 months and intended to keep businesses afloat while they are determining what their long term needs are.  You can use the bridge loan for repairs or working capital.

Since last week the SBDC has already closed two of these loans (which means that they will have cash in hand this week!) and expects to have 12-15 more loans closed by next week.  The process is fast!

One of the questions that you will be asked in the application process is “Do you intend to pay off the bridge loan with an SBA loan?”  The answer can be YES!  This means you can take advantage of the 0% bridge loan while you are waiting for your SBA determination which averaging about 4 weeks according to Harbour.

To qualify you must have more than 2 (you can include yourself) but less than 100 employees.  You will also need your personal and business tax returns for the past two years to submit with your application.  The deadline to apply for this loan is October 31st, 2017.

To apply please contact Kelly Penwell ( or 516-903-7561) and Julie Brown (  They are available to answer questions or help you get your application rolling.


SBA – Small Business Administration

The SBA is a government agency that promotes and supports small businesses.  The SBA loan is for any business owner, homeowner, or renter who has suffered a loss due to Hurricane Irma.  This includes:  home based businesses, rental property homeowners, and sole proprietors.

Business Owners:

SBA is offering loans for as low as 3.03% and up to 30 years for businesses impacted by Hurricane Irma (either with physical damage or economic damage).  If you are approved you can put the loan on hold for up to 6 months until you decide what your long term needs are.  Your first payment is deferred for 12 months.

Homeowners/ Renters:

The SBA is offering loans for as low as 1.75% for 30 years for homeowners/ renters impacted by Hurricane Irma.  You can use this SBA loan to make repairs to your home, replace damaged contents, as well as mitigation against future damages.  The SBA will increase the loan by 20% of the loan amount to help mitigate your property against future damages.

If the SBA denies you then you will be referred back to FEMA for additional options and grants.   The processing time is about 4 weeks for a determination.

If you have additional questions or would like additional information I recommend visiting one of the disaster relief centers so that you can receive one on one coaching with an SBA loan officer.

3 Ways to Apply for the SBA Loan:

  1. Phone: 1-800-659-2955
  2. Online:
  3. In Person: Visit a disaster recovery center. Click here for a link to the FEMA recovery center locator.  As of today (7/28) the center behind the new fire station on Simonton & Angela is open 7 days a week from 7am – 7pm.  There is an air-conditioned tent to sit in if you like but be prepared to wait.


Additional Assistance Available:

If you do not qualify for the SBDC Bridge Loan Kelly Penwell suggests reaching out to Accion Loans for additional lending options //

Locally the following banks are offering assistance, please contact them directly for additional information about the programs they have.

Keys Federal Credit Union:  $5,000, no collateral

First State Bank:  $10,000 for individuals and up to $50,000 for businesses.



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Hurricane Irma Aftermath: 3 Types of Mortgages You NEED To Know About

It’s been almost 3 weeks since Hurricane Irma roared into the Florida Keys leaving lots of devastation behind.  We in The Keys have a long way to go for our recovery and housing needs are certainly a top priority.  There are a couple of mortgage options that I want to be sure that people are aware of for both purchase and refinancing:  FHA 203(h), Repair Loans, and Rehab Loans.


FHA 203(h):

This loan program is for those that lost their home or space they rented due to Hurricane Irma.  FHA is offering a 0% down FHA Disaster purchase loan.  To qualify you will need to prove that the buyer’s prior living area is non-livable.  The seller can pay their closing costs (if written in the contract that way), or the buyer can pay those on their own.

Here’s a snapshot of the program:

FHA Mortgage Loans for Disaster Victims (Section 203(h)

The program allows the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to insure mortgages made by qualified lenders to victims of a major disaster who have lost their homes and are in the process of rebuilding or buying another home.

Through Section 203(h), the Federal Government helps victims in Presidentially designated disaster areas recover by making it easier for them to get mortgages and become homeowners or re-establish themselves as homeowners.

Type of Assistance:
Individuals are eligible for this program if their homes are located in an area that was designated by the President as a disaster area and if their homes were destroyed or damaged to such an extent that reconstruction or replacement is necessary. Insured mortgages may be used to finance the purchase or reconstruction of a one-family home that will be the principal residence of the homeowner. One to Four Family Homes.

This makes recovery from a disaster easier for homeowners:
No downpayment is required. The borrower is eligible for 100 percent financing. Closing costs and prepaid expenses must be paid by the borrower in cash or paid through premium pricing or by the seller, subject to a 6 percent limitation on seller concessions.

The Fine Print:  //

Repair Loans: 

This is for the buyer that wants to purchase a home that is slightly in disarray, but not repaired yet. The seller CAN put up to $15,000 in “repair escrow” reserves at closing for the repair items that the house needs. Buyers can follow through on buying and not be held up on closing until things are completed this way. It is a bit of extra paperwork of course, but it’s nice because with contractors backed up on roof work, etc. this can help closings to keep moving. The buyer can buy and seller can move forward. (This is for conventional, VA or FHA loans).


Rehab Loans: 

This can be used for a buyer that wants to buy a home with more significant damage (than $15,000) AND can help current homeowners to refinance that need help financing repairs. These loans are much more paper intensive and require contractor quotes, references, license and insurance info, etc. but they are wonderful tools for properties that need a lot of love right now.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to start your home search.  You can also visit my Recommended Lenders for additional information and to discuss your financing options.



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Transient Vs. Non-Transient: The Real Key West Facts


One thing you need to know when considering investing in Key West real estate is that there are two types of vacation rentals in the City of Key West; transient and non-transient.

A property with a transient license can rent like a hotel, by the night.  A non-transient licensed property requires a minimum 30 day lease.

Transient licensed properties allow for more rentals per year and as a result you can expect to see returns of 10-12% on the gross purchase price. The City of Key West used to issue transient rental licenses for a nominal fee to those homeowners who wished to rent their homes by the night. They stopped issuing those licenses quite a few years ago, but grandfathered all licenses that were in existence.   The result?  Think NYC taxi medallions, but on a smaller scale of course.

As a result of the high demand and limited supply, transient licensed properties have been selling at a premium and even above asking price in some cases.

Non transient rentals are required to have a month long lease (minimum 28 days) and can expect to see 5-6% return on their gross purchase price.  Although non-transient rentals can expect to see a bit less in rental income they also come with a lower price tag.  You are probably asking yourself if there is even a market for month long rentals in Key West.  The answer is yes, absolutely!  Technology has made Key West not only a popular spot for the retired snowbirds but also a go to get away for those who have a little more flexibility and prefer to work pool or beach side.

The type of vacation rental you purchase depends on what your needs and wants as a homeowner are.  Whether you are looking for maximum return, a seasonal home, or both I am uniquely qualified to help you choose the perfect home for your needs!  Contact me today to talk more about investing in Key West real estate.

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8 Feel Good Things From Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma brought a lot of devastation to the Florida Keys there’s no doubt about it.  But in the wake of Hurricane Irma the Florida Keys community is coming together as they always do.  Here are 8 awesome things that have happened in the in the Irma aftermath:

The prosecutor from Miami who drove to the Florida Keys with his own grill and 300 pounds of chicken to cook for all the military and first responders helping with the Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

The guy who gave his beach umbrella to the National Guard so they could have some shade while handing out FEMA supplies.

It just didn’t feel right seeing the National Guard in full uniform standing out in the middle of a field in Bahama Village handing out MRE’s, water, and ice with no shade.  One Key West man took them over his beach umbrella to offer a little bit of shade and it wasn’t long before the troops were taking turns under the small shady refuge.

UPDATE:  Additional tents and umbrellas were added as the week went on. 

The little girl who went to a disaster relief center in Orlando and donated her bunny to the cause.

We were waiting in line at Publix and a police officer came up to us.  There was a little girl in one of the Orlando drop off centers for Key West relief and she wante to give her bunny to a little girl in Key West who was affected by hurricane Irma.  The officers promised the little girl and took the bunny to Key West.  It was her most favorite stuffed animal that she slept with every night.  Our niece was the lucky recipient of the bunny and she is in good hands.


People of Key West hosting block parties and sharing Irmageddon stories and a hot meal.

Last Thursday night there was a block party in Bahama Village.  Bradley Garrison said the locals were “serving up strip steaks and lobster tails to some great people.  Beautiful stuff.  Wouldn’t wanna be anywhere else.”


801 Bourbon hosted a “Get off your ass and help” block party.

801 Bourbon Bar was one of the first businesses to open back up after the storm had passed.  People needed to get out of their houses and shelters.  They needed a place to go that had people they could share their experiences with and also a laugh and a cold drink.  801 Bourbon rose to the occasion.  The Red Cross delivered hot meals outside of their bar and they hosted a “Get off your ass and help” block party where locals got together to clean up Duval Street proving that block by block, Key West will rebuild.


The Conch Republic Recovery Corps was born.

Craig Wynn of CrossFit Mile Zero in Key West created a group on Facebook called The Conch Republic Recovery Corps.  “The purpose of this group is to coordinate recovery and relief volunteers and efforts in Key West and the Lower Keys.  The damage by Hurricane Irma are extensive and all available help will be needed for our island community to recover.”

“If you would like to help with general clean up, repairs and maintenance, relief aid distribution, or any other specialty jobs that may need to be fulfilled please join this group.”

Recovery needs are posted within the group and if the members have any specialty skills, trade craft, or tools they state so in the comments.  It’s really been wonderful to have a place to go to see needs in the community and be able to immediately respond.



“Service Above Self”

The City of Key West and The Lower Keys felt the power of the Rotary Clubs their motto “Service Above Self”.  Several of the District 6990 clubs put together the Rotary Disaster Relief supply chain.  On Monday, 9/18/2017, a DC-3 cargo plane that flew in the Berlin Airlift brought more than 5,000 lbs. of supplies to be dispersed in Key West. Additionally, Rotary club members from Key West to Marathon are coordinating distribution to reach those with the greatest needs.  Supplies were staged in an empty commercial space in Key West and the doors opened on Tuesday afternoon to a line of people waiting to get their essential items.  Diapers and coffee were the first to go.


This little golden pig that survived the storm. She’s weathered the storm and like all survivors probably has one hell of a story. 


If you have a feel good Irma story please share!  There are a lot of great things happening out there!


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State of the Real Estate Market: Q1 Key West


The average listing price in Key West* as of March 2017 was $823,045 which is up 11.99% from last years average listing price of $734,904.  The average sale price in Key West* also took a giant leap from last year with an average sale price of $760,804 compared to 2016’s $637,184; a 19.40% increase.

What about time on market, how long are these houses sitting on the market before going under contract? The average time on market was 119 days compared to 2016’s 132 days; a 9.85% decrease. Homes in the $350K-$650K range are “flying off the shelves”, accounting for almost half of the residential sales YTD for 2017.

Key West is one of the hottest vacation rental markets in the United States, topping Forbes list in 2015 as America’s #1 vacation destination.  While home prices have been on the rise in the Florida Keys there are still excellent investment opportunities available for the savvy buyer.  For a home with a transient rental license you can generally expect between 8-10% return on your gross purchase price.  For a home with a non-transient rental license you can expect between 4-5% return on your gross purchase price.