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