Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The William Pope Crawl

In our small town of Key West, one street remains the most popular tourist destination on the island. Packed with bars, restaurants and shops, the mile long stretch is a must see for the millions of tourist who continuously stroll down its sun covered sidewalks. Sure, many can say they’ve thrown back Margaritas and beers in some of the most famous bars in the world, but how many can say they know who the street is named after?

That man was William Pope Duval, adventurer, lawyer, cavalry man and former state governor. He was born in 1784, a boy who seemed to get in a lot of trouble ran away from home in Virginia at 14 to the frontier of Kentucky. He carved a successful life and was admitted to the bar when he was only 20. In the following years, he rode as a cavalry officer and served as a congressional representative for Kentucky. In 1822 he became Florida’s first territorial governor, appointed by President James Monroe. At that time Florida had no seat in which he could govern. Until the new capital was constructed in the small Indian town of Tallahassee, Duval governed from a boat docked at St. Marks. He was a popular governor, serving for 12 years and known for his peaceful dealing with the Native Americans.

So the next time you’re throwing back some drinks at Sloppy Joes or doing the Duval crawl, remember William Pope, a man’s name eternalized in down town Key West.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Key West Real Estate Moves Back in Time with the Smurfs

We all know that our real estate market has been a roller coaster ride this decade. I find it interesting to go back and look at how prices have changed dramatically over the years in one Key West neighborhood.

Any one who has spent much time in Key West off Duval Street probably has heard of Key West Estates nick named "Smurf Village". Why the Smurf moniker? Some say that the mansard style roofs make them look like mushrooms where the cartoon Smurfs makes their homes. These homes, in New Town on Duck, Eagle and Harriet Ave, four to a building have been popular entry level homes for Key Westers since built in the late 80's.

When built they were all the same size 1040 square feet, 2 bedrooms and 1.5 baths. Over the years there have been many transformations. The owner has a yard, owns the land and can make many improvements, adding a pool, an addition, enclosing a porch, etc., but it is always a "Smurf".

In the 90's I remember being in discussions with other Realtors, while on caravan if we thought a Smurf House would ever sell for more the $100,000. The collective answer was "no way” shows how savvy real estate agents are. In 2004 one of these town homes sold for $519,000. That was the last sale in 2004. The first sale of that year was $345,000. That is a 50% increase in one year! Where are we now? With a scourge of foreclosures and short sales the average Smurf sales price in 2009 is $166,106. How many years ago was that the average price? The closest that I can tell is 2001, the year of the attack on the World Trade Center. We have stepped into the time machine of real estate travel and gone back 8 years. The good news is that you cannot buy a Smurf house today. They have all been bought. The last several that came on the market had multiple offers within days (a bidding war). This tells me that we will see an increase in prices to satisfy demand. Yes in Smurf Village they have hit bottom and the upward movement of prices is now here.