Category Archives: Key West Real Estate Advice

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Mark Twain

Buoy

One week has passed since Hurricane Irma began picking a fight with our beloved island. We are glad to report that the bitch did not win. Life in Key West has not been easy for us over the past seven days. Together, we faced many challenges and overcame countless obstacles. We have witnessed the best of our island community: friends, neighbors and strangers looking out for one another.

Our 1890’s cottage on Olivia Street suffered no damage—although waves of our neighbor’s trees are resting on our fence. As we checked on the places of our friends, neighbors and clients, we found intact homes waiting for their families to return. Texting them images of their standing strong houses brought us a joy we will never forget.

CNN may be reporting that 90% of Key West’s structures are damaged or destroyed, but that is not true. Very, very few of the island’s buildings are in bad shape—and most have gone unscathed. Trees are down everywhere, but our endless summer will breathe new life into our once beautiful tropical canopy.

As our hearts ache for those in the Middle Keys that have lost their homes and livelihoods, the residents of Key West will be here to help them rebuild their lives. As evacuees begin their journey back home, we will welcome them with open arms.

Our corner of paradise might be temporarily down, but it is not out. As Mark Twain said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

—Dean & Keith Townsend, Grateful Key West Citizens

Irma Sign

SUMMER: KEY WEST’S NEW HOME SELLING SEASON

KW Summer

If you were to ask most Key West real estate professionals what’s the best time of the year to sell your charming Victorian cottage, historic Old Town estate, or convenient oceanfront condominium, one definitive answer would prevail. Almost every REALTOR® would declare that high season (Christmas through the middle of April) is the best time to list your home for sale. If you ask us, we would tell you that summer is the most opportune season to market and sell your Key West home.

Before the internet changed the way that people shop for real estate, winter and early spring were unquestionably Key West’s premier home buying seasons. In the not-so-distant past, tourists and snowbirds flocking to our tropical paradise in the winter and early spring could only shop for the Key West home of their dreams while they were on the island. Images of shoppers and dreamers peering at the FOR SALE flyers taped to the window panes of Duval Street’s realty offices still linger in the minds of long-time island REALTORS®. Visiting buyers once combed through a plethora of real estate ads in every edition of the Key West Citizen and showed up at Sunday open houses in droves. The job of matching buyers with properties fell primarily to real estate professionals working from printed listing books. REALTORS® took their clients on showings to introduce them to properties. Today’s technology has certainly changed the Key West buying and selling real estate equation.

With the proliferation of smart phones and real estate websites like Zillow.com and Realtor.com, buyers now have a real estate assistant in their pocket. Armed with the ability to keep up with Key West’s real estate market in real time, with a touch of the finger, our clients become educated on our market and have a list of properties that strike their fancy before we ever set up the first showing appointment. Current technology has opened the Key West real estate market to buyers around the country and around the world—365 days a year.

Home buying culture in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Georgia is not firing on all cylinders during the winter and early spring. In most cities and towns across the United States, buyers are accustomed to searching for homes in the late spring and summer months when residential sales kick into high gear. They bring this engrained home buying behavior to their quests to purchase their Key West dream homes—looking to buy outside of our traditional buying season.

It is not as if Key West boards up its windows for the summer. From Hemingway Days, to the Key Lime Festival, to Bone Island, to Lobsterfest, numerous festivals and events keep people coming to the island throughout the summer months. For most Americans, escaping to the beach is not a winter activity. These summer visitors to Key West are summer home buyers.

Throughout the year, Island Hunters, Caribbean Life, This Old House and other extraordinarily popular real estate and home improvement shows are keeping Key West in the mind’s eye of those looking to invest in an island home. As they turn their historic Old Town property into a modern island retreat, NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife Amy Earnhardt will be shining the spotlight on Key West with their new four-episode home renovation series airing early next year on the DIY Network. These television series are helping to build Key West’s growing summer real estate market.

The Key West real estate industry has been slow to respond to the evolution of its market. Clinging to the past like the yellow kitten on the 70’s Hang in There Baby poster, many of the island’s 350 REALTORS® have been slow to embrace the changing real estate environment. Many of them council their sellers to take their properties off the market at the end of the traditional selling season or to wait to offer their homes for sale until high season rolls around—sticking to the outdated model that no one buys in the summer. We often ponder if these real estate professionals simply do not see the new reality, or are they just reluctant to give up the extended vacation lifestyles, that the slower summers of days gone by, allotted them. Their loss is our gain.

As the summer solstice approaches, we are gearing up for our busiest time of the year. We wholeheartedly embrace the opportunities that Key West’s hot summer selling season presents. Each year, fifty percent of our annual business is generated from June until September. Knowing that summer buyers are actively in the market to find their own corner of paradise, we encourage our sellers to offer their properties for sale. With significantly fewer homes on the market, competition is significantly reduced. While listings may not see the number of on-site lookers, the tally of potential buyers viewing their home online will be much greater. When summer buyers schedule a private tour of a property, more than likely, they will be serious prospects. With the number of listings at historic lows, this summer will undoubtedly prove to be a strong seller’s market in Key West.

Don’t buy the line that the summer season is not the time to market and sell your Key West property. The exploding online marketplace for our island’s real estate attracts qualified buyers outside of the traditional selling season. With less competition, more exposure, and serious buyers, we believe that summer is a great time to sell.

—Dean & Keith Townsend, The Townsend Team

KW Landscape

SELLING YOUR ISLAND COTTAGE? COLOR IT KEY WEST!

Key West colors first entered the world’s consciousness in the 1970’s, when free-spirited locals began painting their historic cottages a spectrum of tropical hues. Today, buyers looking to purchase their Key West dream cottages expect them to be painted to match the colorful, idealized images that have been imprinted on their minds over decades.

Beautifully painted in Key West colors, the quintessential conch cottage at 1127 Packer Street radiates captivating curb appeal.

Beautifully painted in Key West colors, the quintessential conch cottage at 1127 Packer Street radiates captivating curb appeal.

We have found that our clients respond less favorably to cottages that are painted in the traditional (white with black or dark green shutters) Key West color scheme. They immediately see dollar signs when they strongly feel the necessity to paint a home’s exterior to make it look like the “cute” conch cottage of their dreams.

1127 Packer Street before it was colored Key West.

1127 Packer Street before it was colored Key West.

Although buyers often make the declaration that they are purchasing a property because it makes financial sense, the overriding reason is that it makes emotional sense for them. Frequently used to represent and elicit emotions, colors connect with individuals on a subconscious level. The house colors of Key West have come to represent the island’s lighthearted and carefree lifestyle that is envied around the globe.

Key West colors not only enhance a cottage’s curb appeal, they greatly increase the home’s web appeal. Realtor.com and Zillow.com primarily utilize images to market real estate on the smart phone in the pocket of nearly everyone looking to purchase property. Bland, white or beige, shotgun cottages—that look like they could be easily transplanted anywhere—do not capture the attention of online shoppers looking for their island dream home.

If you are planning to sell your conch cottage, wander around Old Town snapping pictures of the quintessential Key West cottages sporting color combinations that speak to you. The coastal colors that garner a positive response from you, will undoubtedly grab the attention of buyers as well. Pickup a selection of paint chips (with HARC approved historic colors) at Strunk Hardware and play with color combinations over a glass of wine with friends and neighbors. Once you have decided on the perfect color scheme, head over to City Hall to get the painting permit process rolling.

The former white and dark green color scheme on display at 1711 Von Phister Street did not command the attention of potential buyers.

The former white and dark green color scheme on display at 1711 Von Phister Street did not command the attention of potential buyers.

Painted to reflect the scolors of Key West, the cottage's personality shines.

Painted to reflect the soft tropical colors of Key West, the cottage’s personality shines.

When successfully selling any product, you must give buyers what they want. Key West cottage buyers want them to look like their fantasy. Reflect the tropical hues of the island’s sea, sky, and flora in the exterior colors you paint your home, and you will not only capture the imagination of eager buyers, you will get your cigar maker’s cottage sold quickly and for the best price.

We strongly encourage our sellers to color it Key West before they offer their cottages for sale. A tropically painted island cottage makes a winning first impression every time.

—Dean & Keith Townsend, The Townsend Team