Category Archives: Key West Real Estate Advice


Dey Front Porch

In most cases you can change the exterior colors of your Old Town Key West home if you go about it the right way. The process may seem a bit complicated, but it will save you time and money if you follow the rules and procedures. You will have to submit a completed application for painting/repainting to the Building Department counter at 1300 White Street—by the parking lot entrance to City Hall—along with a current photo of part of the house that will be painted, a photo of the structure from the street/sidewalk, paint chips, descriptions of painting to be done and the $10.00 staff approval fee for residential painting.

You can download the required HARC application at

The painting of Key West’s historic homes is overseen by HARC (Historic Architectural Review Commission). HARC’s design guidelines in Key West’s Historic District are intended to preserve and protect the architectural environment and unique character of its historic neighborhoods—Key West’s #1 tourist attraction. There are many structures outside of the historic district that are contributing to the historic district and HARC has jurisdiction on all exterior changes to the buildings.

HARC’s Historic Architectural Guidelines for the City of Key West are available on the city’s website at To confirm if your home is under HARC regulation contact the HARC staff at


While most wood frame buildings in Key West were historically white or unpainted, the use of muted colors may be approved by HARC. The colors below are recommended by HARC as appropriate within the historic zones. Other colors may be used if supported by historical documentation, or by evidence of underlying paint.

Doors: white, black, red, dark green, natural finished wood
Exterior Siding or Body: white, pastels, light gray, beige, buff
Exterior Trim: white, off-white
Porch Ceilings: light aqua, light blue, white
Lattice: dark green, white
Foundations: natural, gray
Wood Fences & Gates: white
Iron Fences & Gates: dark green, white
Masonry Walls & Fences: white, beige, gray
Railings, Balusters & Porches: white
Metal Roofing: silver
Asphalt Roofing: gray, white, black
Shutters: white, black, gray, dark green

HARC suggests when choosing colors to try and select a combination that will highlight the architectural details of the building. Typically, one color for the body and one for the trim will bring the architectural details into focus. Additional colors may be appropriate for subtle highlighting for porch ceilings, porch floors, foundations, etc. HARC recommends saving paint chips of significant contributing historical buildings so that a paint analysis may be done to determine the appropriate historical colors. To help preserve the cultural heritage of Bahama Village, the contemporary addition of brighter Caribbean colors may be acceptable within this neighborhood of the Historic District. Colors for new proposed additions that stand out from a contributing building or its neighbors are prohibited. If a new addition for a non-contributing structure proposes colors different from the main building, the colors need to be harmonious and like ones found within the adjacent urban content.

If you haven’t decided on your Key West cottage’s color scheme, you might want to wander around Old Town snapping pictures of historic homes sporting color combinations that speak to you. Pickup a selection of paint chips with HARC approved historic colors at Strunk Ace Hardware on Eaton Street 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 and get the permit process rolling.

Dean & Keith Townsend, REALTORS®
Keller Williams Key West Compass Realty
333 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33040
305-942-1369 •

Dey Front Shot


Ask the TT Cropped

Since launching our weekly Facebook feature, ASK THE TOWNSEND TEAM, earlier this year, we’ve been answering the Key West questions on your mind. Your positive response has inspired us to commit to continuing the series for 2019. That’s 52 posts! What a challenge!

These six ASK THE TOWNSEND TEAM posts garnered the most attention in 2018. We hope you enjoy reading them and learning something new along the way.


While this strategy might have a positive ring for a seller, following it will likely result in a lower selling price. The most opportune time to sell a home is during its first few weeks on the market—when it attracts the greatest attention. When a property is overpriced, it competes with houses with more competitive features at that higher price level. Local real estate agents may refrain from showing the property because they feel it is priced too high. Consequently, the overpriced home is unlikely to attract an offer. The longer the home remains on the market the more likely potential buyers are to ask what is wrong with the property. Eventually, the seller will have to reduce the asking price. The fact that the home has had a price reduction after being for sale for an extended period will almost certainly be factored into an even lower offer for purchase.


Run don’t walk to the fabulous new Moondog Café & Bakery on Whitehead Street and our longtime favorite, The Flaming Buoy Filet Co., at its new location on Eaton Street! We eat out every night and consider ourselves to be less foodies and more professional diners—loving locally owned places with great food and welcoming environments. These two restaurants have captured our taste buds and our hearts. We bet you will enjoy them as much as we do!

Moondog Café & Bakery • 823 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040 • 305-741-7699
The remarkable culinary team behind legendary Key West eateries The Café and Banana Café has created the not-to-be-missed Moondog Café & Bakery. Located next to the historic Hemingway House, the imaginatively designed art-filled café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instantly becoming one of our go-to dining destinations, we’ve been working our way through Moondog’s delightful menu. We love the Seafood Omelette, Norman’s Huevos Rancheros, Fresh Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Grilled Caesar Salad, The Frenchman Burger, and Roasted Mushroom & Fontina Pizza.

The Flaming Buoy Filet Co. • 424 Eaton Street, Key West, FL 33040 • 305-295-7970
After way too long a wait, Scot, Fred and their extraordinary team are back with their stylishly funky and fabulous new Flaming Buoy on Eaton Street. We were thrilled to be invited to rub elbows with Key West celebrities at their soft opening last Saturday evening. We loved the amazing new décor and our all-time favorites, the Seafood Mariana and The Filet Co. Three Way. It is great to have The Flaming Buoy back and better than ever!


As long as your creditworthiness qualifies you for the mortgage loan you are seeking, The Equal Opportunity Credit Act assures that you will not be charged more or denied a loan because of your age. So far this year, we have had an over-eighty customer finance the purchase of his Key West by the Sea condominium and a first-time home buyer over seventy purchase her Old Town cottage. The driving force in both of their decisions to buy was a desire to not have to move again.

It is never too late to live your Key West dream as a homeowner. As Judy Blume said, “You’ll never grow old in Key West, you might die, but you’ll never grow old.”


Unless your Key West property is part of a condominium or homeowners association with rules governing vacation rentals, with the correct City of Key West license anyone can offer their home as a vacation rental. There are two types of vacation rental properties in Key West: those with transient rental licenses and those with standard rental licenses.

Most Key West transient rental properties are located within half a block of Duval Street, on Truman Avenue, and along Eisenhower Drive. There are properties with transient licenses in the 1800 Atlantic, Key West Beach Club, La Brisa, Sunrise Suites, and Marriott Beachside developments. Truman Annex homes may have a special transient license that is subject to a weekly minimum and has a sunset clause attached. Additionally, there are grandfathered-in transient properties peppered across the island. A typical transient license allows a property to be rented nightly, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Transient licensed homes can be operated much like a hotel. While they require higher levels of management, they offer greater flexibility and the potential for high returns. Since transient rental vacation properties often attract short-term visitors that are coming to Key West to party, they can suffer more wear and tear than long-term vacation rentals. Homes with transient licenses typically sell for $75,000 to $100,000 more than like-kind properties that do not have a transient license. Transient licenses can be bought and sold but can only be placed on receivership sites designated by the city.

A standard City of Key West rental license allows for a home to be rented for 28 days or more (think monthly, with February being the shortest month at 28 days). Those renting for a month or longer are typically older couples that have the time and money to vacation in paradise for an extended period. Even larger properties are usually occupied by a couple for most of their rental period, with friends and family joining them for short visits. Consequently, long-term vacation rental properties suffer much less abuse than transient rentals. When they are staged to feel like a home, rather than a hotel room, long-term vacation rentals tend to attract repeat visitors and higher occupancy rates.


Florida law is clear on the subject. It states that if your property was the site of a death, homicide, or suicide it is not a material fact that must be disclosed. Further, according to Florida law, HIV and AIDS status are not material facts that must be disclosed in a real estate transaction and no cause of action arises against a homeowner or REALTOR® for failure to disclose that the occupant of a property is infected with HIV/AIDS. Interestingly, Florida law is silent on haunting. If you believe that your house is haunted, it would be best to consult your legal counsel and perhaps a medium.


In a nutshell, the note is the borrower’s promise to pay back his or her loan, the mortgage is putting up the property as security for the note, and the deed transfers ownership of the property.

The promissory note (note) is the borrower’s promise to pay. The closer presents the note for the buyer’s signature. The note shows the principal balance, number of payments, and the dates and the amount of the payments. The amount will be for principal and interest only. The first payment date will normally be the first day of the second month after closing. The note is not witnessed or notarized. If a signature appears on the face of the note along with the borrower’s signature, that person becomes a cosigner on the note.

The mortgage is the security for the note. It is the document that may require the borrower to pay 1/12 of the ad valorem taxes, hazard insurance, and mortgage insurance premium along with the principal and interest required by the note. It requires that payments be made on time, taxes be paid, and the property be covered by insurance. It also describes payment options and probably states that a transfer of the property will make the loan due immediately.

The general warranty deed (deed) is the document that transfers ownership of the real property. The general warranty deed is the most common deed, with the seller’s guarantee to the buyer that he or she has good title, without material defects or encumbrances, and will stand by the guarantee forever. Special attention should be given to names, legal descriptions, and any items in the “subject to” section, such as restrictive covenants and mortgages.

Townsend Ocean-Cropped

Do you have a question about buying, selling, or investing in Key West real estate? Are you pondering the ins and outs of living on our tropical island? Wondering what’s new in Paradise? Email your questions to and look for our responses every Wednesday on our Townsend Team Facebook page.

Dean & Keith Townsend, REALTORS®
Keller Williams Key West Compass Realty
333 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33040
305-942-1369 •


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 turnkey 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 and, 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. NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his designing wife Amy are shining the spotlight on Key West with their new four-episode home renovation series, Renovation Realities: Dale Jr. & Amy, currently airing on the DIY Network. These television series are undoubtedly building Key West’s 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.

With summer’s arrival, we are geared 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 through 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 homes 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, serious buyers, and low inventory we believe this summer is an excellent time to sell.

Call on us to sell your property for the highest price, in the shortest amount of time, and with the least amount of hassle. We don’t just list properties, we market and sell homes.

Dean & Keith Townsend, REALTORS®
Keller Williams Key West Compass Realty
333 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33040


In today’s digital technology driven real estate market, staging your Key West home is essential for successfully marketing and selling your property. Web appeal is the new curb appeal. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 100% of buyers use the internet to search for a home and 70% tour the inside of properties online. While a well-written online description is important in conveying your home’s selling points, high quality digital images of your beautifully staged home will speak volumes and garner the most attention. Before the photographer shows up to capture your home’s story in pictures, make sure it is ready to win the hearts of buyers.

Dedicating your time, energy, and budget toward staging your home will benefit your bottom line on closing day. Staged homes sell for 17% more on average than non-staged ones—and they sell 87% faster.

We have broken down the somewhat daunting task of staging your Key West home into ten fundamental elements that will help potential buyers fall in love with your property and make a winning offer.

Let the Sun Shine In

Key West plays a leading role in the Sunshine State with an average of 259 sunny days a year. Buyers are drawn to the island’s sunshine like Ernest Hemingway was to a whiskey & soda. When staging your home, let the light shine in. Clean your windows and doors: inside and out. Take down heavy window treatments. Throw open the curtains and pull up the shades. Replace burned out lightbulbs. Turn on all the lights in your home for the photoshoot and for every showing.


Buying a Key West vacation home is not just about purchasing a property, it is about embracing a lifestyle. Whether your property is a Victorian cottage, a Classical Revival estate, or a modern seaside condominium, adding elements that evoke our tropical island’s sand, sea, and sky will help buyers feel they are coming home. Casually placing a conch shell on a side table, featuring paintings and sculptures by local artists, and displaying orchids and tropical cuttings, will connect buyers emotionally to your property through a sense of place.


Grandma used to say, “Soap is cheap, and water is free.” Water may no longer be free, but the cost of water and cleaning supplies is a small price to pay for the payoff they provide. With a little elbow grease, a super clean home is easy to achieve. We have learned from experience that buyers will look past outdated kitchens and bathrooms when they are spotless, and they will see dollar signs when dust, dirt, and grime cover expensive finishes and furnishings. Cleanliness and staging go hand in hand.


If the exterior of your home needs a fresh coat of paint, color it Key West to capture the attention of buyers. When successfully selling any product, you must give buyers what they want. People dream of owning an island escape that looks like their fantasy. Reflect the island’s tropical hues in the colors you paint your home and you will harness the imagination of eager buyers.


In today’s chaotic world, people are longing for a simpler time—one of visiting with neighbors and spending quality time with family and friends. Placing both indoor and outdoor furniture in arrangements that are conducive to conversation creates a welcoming sense of home that elicits positive responses from buyers.


Declutter, declutter, declutter! Removing unnecessary items is essential to make your rooms feel tidy and spacious. Buyers can’t see themselves living in your home if they can’t get past an overabundance of knickknacks, art, furniture, or plants. You are going to be relocating anyway, so box up your beloved treasures and store them away, ready for your upcoming move.

Fix It Cottage

Don’t wait until the inspection period to make necessary repairs to your property. Potential buyers see every cracked window and broken fixture as a reduction to your asking price. The clear majority of Key West’s buyers are looking to purchase move in ready properties. Multiplying minor repairs can distract people from making the lasting connection that will lead them to purchase your home.

Frances Fab Pool

Indoor/outdoor living is one of Key West’s greatest marketing features. Staging your home to showcase a flow from inside to outside is an important component of selling our coveted tropical island lifestyle. Many buyers are coming from regions where, avoiding the elements, they spend much of the year indoors. They are accustomed to living in much larger spaces than are typically found in Key West. Painting the picture that your outdoor relaxing and entertaining spaces are a natural extension of your home is vital to help buyers overcome the sticker shock of living in paradise.


Unpleasant odors can tank a showing. Neutralize unwelcoming pet, food, bathroom, and musty smells. Ban smoking in your home. Avoid scented air fresheners, scented candles, and perfumes—you never know what will be a turn on or a turn off for buyers. Opening your home to the island’s clean fresh air is always a good bet. Don’t forget to take out the garbage before every showing.


Nothing is more inviting than a bed adorned with beautiful linens. Invest in the best bedding you budget will allow. Fluff your pillows and make your beds with freshly laundered, crisply ironed sheets before your photoshoot and for each showing. Make sure your bathrooms are well appointed with fresh towels. Create an environment that says luxury resort and buyers will want to check-in for a lifetime.

Ensuring that your home is ready for its close-up—before it is photographed and for every showing—is essential for getting your home sold for the highest price, in the shortest amount of time. Stage with the intent of empowering potential buyers to fantasize about living the laid-back Key West lifestyle in your home. Create a picture-perfect environment through staging and you will reap the rewards on closing day.

Dean & Keith Townsend, REALTORS®
Keller Williams Key West Compass Realty
333 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33040

635 William

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


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