December 31, 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight- Venetian Shores in Islamorada, Florida

Venetian Shores - The premiere boating neighborhood in Islamorada, Florida Keys!

This neighborhood's location on Snake Creek provides boaters with immediate access to either Florida Bay or the Atlantic Ocean.

A good majority of the homes are located on wide, deep canals that accommodate large boats. Many have 100' of dockage while others have 75' of dockage.

Home that are not on the "open" canals are on plugged canals, which provide a nice backyard environment for swimming and kayaking for exercise up and down the plugged canals. These canals do not provide access to open water.  Many of these homes are members of the Venetian Shores Yachting Association, which provides them with a deeded boat slip at the bayfront marina.  These memberships and boat slips are connected to the individual homes and cannot be sold or transferred.

With homes starting in the mid $400's for the plugged side and extending up to over $2,000,000 on the open side, there is plenty of inventory available in this great neighborhood to choose from.  Take a look and find you new Islamorada home.

December 27, 2010

Real Estate Activity for December 18th to December 27th

Here is a summary of activity in the Upper Florida Keys over Christmas week.

 Click on any of the links above to view the properties.

If you're interested in knowing more about the real estate market or information on any particular area of the Keys including Key Largo, Tavernier or Islamoradacontact me!

These links will remain active until January 26th, 2011

December 24, 2010

The Florida Keys Then & Now - The Green Turtle Inn

Originally built in 1928 as OD King's Rustic Inn, a roadside cafe and inn, this quaint conch cottage has become one of the longest lasting icons in the Florida Keys history.

In 1947 Sid and Roxie Siderious purchased the property and transformed it into the now famous Green Turtle Inn. The "Turtle" soon became a local favorite of fishermen and Keys' visitors, and was known as a place where you could enjoy great food and a comfortable night's rest.  True to it's name, the menu included turtle steaks, soups and chowders.

Today, the Turtle is stronger than ever. Transformed once again by a complete remodel, necessitated by Hurricane Wilma, the Turtle retains it's casual Keys flair, but with a twist of sophistication.  Warm, rich woods make up the new interior, with numerous items from Turtle history lining the walls paying homage to the beginnings of The Green Turtle Inn as well as Islamorada itself.  There is always something happening at The Turtle. Most evenings include live music from well-known local musicians.

Located in the heart of Islamorada at Mile Marker 81.2, The Green Turtle Inn is a must-stop location on your travels in the Florida Keys.  learn more about them by visiting them online at

December 21, 2010

Real estate commissions - how do they work?

For the first time seller or buyer, real estate commissions can be a confusing thing.

To understand who pays real estate commissions -- whether it's sellers or buyers or both -- we need to look at how real estate offices and their agents are paid, and how they share cooperating commissions. 

How Real Estate Commissions Work
*  Real estate agents work for a real estate broker/office.

*  All commissions paid from a sale pass through the broker/office.

*  The real estate broker/office pays their agent a portion of the commissions the office recieves from the sale.

*  While sellers usually work with individual agents, the listing agreement is between the seller and the real estate broker/office.

*  The most common type of listing agreement between a seller and her agent gives that agent's broker the right to exclusively market the home. In return for bringing a buyer to the table, the seller agrees to pay a commission to the broker. Typically, this fee is represented as a percentage of the sales price and is shared between the listing broker and the broker who brings the buyer.

What is the Actual Commission Rate?

It is important to note that commission rates are not fixed and are negotiable but generally range from 5% to 7% of the sales price.  Real estate commissions and transactions vary from state to state, broker to broker and even locations within states can be different. 

When you begin to consider the sale of your home, be sure you fully understand the differences between the full services offered by Schwartz Property Sales and the lesser promises advertised by discount real estate brokers.

*  Consider the true risks in trusting the sale of your most valued asset to a company that offers anything less than going beyond the expected to provide you with an outstanding full service real estate experience.

*  The limited services of discount brokerages could prevent you from selling your home quickly or getting the best possible price for your home.

*  Getting the best price often requires the expert negotiating services of a skilled professional who is educated in the intricacies of the most complex real estate transactions - but some discounters expect you to negotiate on your own.

*  Schwartz Property Sales monitors the entire process from initial contact through closing, keeping track of all obligations and promptly resolving any issues.

Tips on choosing a vacation rental investment property

The Florida Keys have long been a favorite vacation destination, so it's no surprise that many second homeowners choose to utilize their home as a vacation rental while they are not using the property themselves. Unlike other forms of investing, a well planned purchase of a home in the Keys is an investment you can use and share with others while it earns you income.

But to be successful, careful considerations must be made before purchasing.  Here are just a few points to consider.

Location is key. The old real estate cliche "location, location, location" holds true when picking out a vacation home. Not only will homes in more desirable neighborhoods rent better, but location within the neighborhood itself is important. Here in the Keys, most vacationers will want easy access to boating for fishing and diving. Having a home that provides quick, easy access to both the Atlantic and Bay side is preferred over a home that requires a long boat ride through a series of canals to reach the open water.

Property history or potential.  While looking at possible homes to purchase, find out if the home has ever been used as a vacation rental. If it has, ask for the history of the rental to see how much activity it has generated.  If the home has never been used as a vacation rental, find out if it will qualify. Some areas of the Keys have very restrictive property uses, so not all homes are created equal when it comes to using them as a vacation rental property.

Size matters. A lot of vacationers to the Keys that rent a private home over a traditional hotel or resort travel with family or friends.  To make things comfortable for everyone, homes that have 3 to 4 bedrooms will book more than homes that have only 1 or 2 bedrooms.  Be wary though of going too big. The bigger the house, the higher the rental rate. And just like higher priced homes for sale, high priced vacation homes generate fewer inquiries. 

Pay attention to details. The typical vacation renter chooses a private home because they want to have the comfort and convenience of home while on vacation. With this in mind, most travelers are looking for high quality furnishings that match their tastes at home. Fresh linens, ample towels, and comfortable, stylish decor should be provided. Appliances should be of a good quality but not so complicated that they cannot be easily figured out.

Maintenance is a must.  The Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay - two things that draw visitors to vacation home - are also two things that will make your home require regular maintenance, along with the inevitable wear from extended use of the home.  While it is important to maintain your property, it should not be looked on as a daunting task. A good property manager will pay attention to your home even while it is not being rented to keep you advised when cleaning or repairs are needed to keep your home in tip-top shape.

Owning a second home in the Keys that can help generate income for you can be a great investment. For more details on homes that make good candidates, call or email me today. To get you started, here is a link for condos and homes that will allow short-term rentals (14 days or less).

December 17, 2010

Real Estate Activity for the Week of December 10th to December 17th

Here is a summary of recent market activity in the Upper Keys for this past week:

13 new listings

15 pending sales

6 closed sales

Click on any of the links above to view the properties.

If you're interested in knowing more about the real estate market or information on any particular are of the Keys, call me!

December 15, 2010

Open Water Homes under $1,000,000

The Barenaked Ladies sang it best . . .

If I had a $1,000,000 /  (If I had a $1,000,000)
I'd buy you a house  / ( I would buy you a house)

Here in the Florida Keys, $1,000,000 would buy you a nice house, too. 

Here is a selection of open water homes in the Upper Florida Keys, all priced under $1,000,000. 

(Note: some listing agents have indicated properties with open water views as being open water homes, when in fact, it is only the view and not the property that is open water.)

December 14, 2010

Baby, It's cold outside!

Normally, the Florida Keys are known for their great fishing, diving and water-based activities. Today, the skies are bright blue with a nice breeze. But, with no offense to our northern friends, that island breeze is downright cold!

With morning temps in the 30's and today's high to be mid 50's, what today's buyer might want to find is a nice warm place to call home. Today's post features houses here in the Keys that have fireplaces.

It's like having the best of both worlds - beautiful blue skies and water vistas, with the coziness provided by a nice crackling fire.  From magnificent oceanfront homes to cozy conch cottages, there is something here to keep you warm.

December 12, 2010

May The Schwartz Be With Me!

We may be coming to the end of the year, but I've had a new beginning. I'm proud to announce that I am now affiliated with Schwartz Property Sales as a full-time Realtor.

A real estate company is really about the customers that it serves. At Schwartz Property Sales, Inc., Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, we are attuned to the knowledge that our success lies in direct proportion to our ability to deliver successful real estate transactions to our clients who trust us with their real estate needs. We pride ourselves on providing professional home finding, home selling, tenant acquisition and residential property management services It is our desire to deliver unequaled customer service that has been the impetus to creating our exclusive Premier Marketing and Pinnacle Service plans; both designed to deliver maximum assistance through our professional team of Sales Partners. - Premier Marketing, Premier Service, Premier Agents - a Schwartz advantage that our customers rely on.

With offices in Key Largo, Islamorada, Big Pine and Key West, we are truly a Keys-wide company.  Call me - I look forward to assisting you with all of your real estate needs.

September 29, 2010

Homeownership - Is it still "The American Dream"?

There has been a lot of press lately about whether or not owning a home is still part of the American Dream. Time Magazine published an extensive cover story "Rethinking Homeownership" stating that "homeownership has let us down".  The Washington Post proclaimed "The relentless promotion of homeownership as the embodiment of the American Dream has outlived its usefulness."


Yes, there are many people who are suffering because housing took a sharp downward turn. But what are the reasons behind the suffering?  Have they lost their job and can no longer afford their mortgage? Were they innocent victims of mortgage fraud?  Or did they simply over leverage themselves when they bought more than they knew they could afford in the first place?

The meaning behind the American Dream has changed dramatically over the last several years. In the past, it meant having a good job, owning a home, and providing for you and your family. It meant road trips cross country, usually in the family car, to visit relatives or discover new places.

Then the greed set in.

The American Dream soon came to mean luxury McMansions, exotic trips overseas, expensive imported sports cars and luxurious designer clothing (which was often imported as well).  In fact, there was very little "American" about the American Dream. It was no longer enough to merely keep up with the Jones' - to be successful, you had to surpass them in every conceivable arena.

Now that we are beginning to see housing figures stabilize (at least in some markets), perhaps it is time for a new American Dream. One that includes responsible, long-term homeownership. This will require buyers to know what they really can afford each month, a figure based on their current assets only and not based on "what if" scenarios.

There are ample opportunities today to own a first or second home. Interest rates are low and inventory is high.  There are a lot of good values to be found in the market. There's never been a better time to buy. The American Dream  - the new American Dream - can and does include owing your place in the sun.

August 11, 2010

Own a Piece of Florida Keys History!

Beyond the custom-designed, double-gate, spectacular, ocean views await. The canopy of mature trees leads to this private, quiet oceanfront oasis with balmy ocean breezes. Four + acres with 197 feet +/- of oceanfront property. Charming Red Cross house, built in the early 1930's by The American Red Cross for families that lost their homes in the 1935 hurricane, is a part of local Florida Keys history. Mooring buoy and fabulous views of Tavernier Key. Dock permit is approved. With ample acreage, this is a perfect property to build an oceanfront estate while preserving the Red Cross house as a guest cottage or pool cabana.

For an appointment to view the property, contact me and I will be happy to assist. Direct line 305-522-3812 or email


Sales for the month of July, 2010

Residential sales in the Upper Florida Keys for July 2010 included 35 listings with sales prices ranging from $1,229,999 on the high end to $28,000 on the low end.  

Sales activity seems to be inching upwards, but sales prices still have not seen any dramatic increases.  There does seem to be an improvement in the number of buyers looking at property, based on calls to the office and walk-ins as well.  Properties that are priced competitively are selling quickly - some in just a few days - reinforcing the fact that there are buyers are out there, but that they look carefully at the price of a property before purchasing.  Buyers today often use the internet to compare listing prices of properties they are interested in, often before they even consult a Realtor to view the properties.

July 20, 2010

Toll Roads on The Overseas Highway?

US 1 toll back on agenda
Commissioner seeks source for sewer funding

Key West Citizen Staff

To toll or not to toll, that is the question. 

So far, the answer has been no, but the question of charging a toll on vehicles entering the Florida Keys will come back before the Monroe County Commission when it meets Wednesday in Key West.
The county now charges a $1 toll on Card Sound Road, but U.S. 1, the primary artery connecting the Keys to the mainland, is a free ride.

County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, who has been unsuccessful in lobbying her fellow commissioners on the toll idea, is concerned the Keys will not be able to raise enough money to pay for state-mandated sewer projects through property taxes alone.

She also said it is not fair to have residents pick up the full tab for wastewater systems, as millions of tourists use those services too. Carruthers has called for a discussion about placing a tollgate on U.S. 1 at the entrance to Monroe County, and to give county staff direction to further research the proposal.

The state Legislature has given the Keys until December 2015 to upgrade wastewater treatment throughout the county. The Legislature this year reauthorized a bond that could bring $200 million to the Keys for wastewater projects, but the money has yet to be allocated. With the state struggling to balance its own budget, there is concern that it could be years before that money reaches the Keys.

Legislators recently balked at a plan to allow the county to add an additional cent to its sales tax for wastewater projects. Without state support, additional sales tax or toll revenue, some Keys homeowners face as much as $20,000 in sewer connection fees.

"We can't rely on just ad valorem taxes," Carruthers said Monday. "The state won't consider a one-cent sales tax, and we have to pursue other options."

The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce has opposed a toll on U.S. 1, fearing it would reduce the number of visitors to the Upper Keys and would be unfair to commuters who live in Florida City and Homestead.
Earlier this year, the chamber posted a poll on its website asking people whether they supported a toll. Of the 209 people who responded, 70 percent opposed the idea, according to the chamber.

"The chamber appreciates Commissioner Carruthers' willingness to explore all possible revenue options in these days of decreasing property taxes," said chamber President Jackie Harder. "We still have questions that would have to be resolved before we could support it -- particularly on how such a toll would impact local businesses and their employees, many of whom commute daily from the mainland."
Carruthers said SunPass and other technology has made paying tolls more convenient, and keeps people from having to stop. 

Tollbooths were placed on Big Pine and Lower Matecumbe keys in 1938 to pay for road and bridge work after the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. They were removed in the 1950s once the bond was repaid, according to Keys historian Tom Hambright.

Reprinted with written permission of the author, Timothy O'Hara, Key West Citizen Staff 
To learn more about the history of The Overseas Highway, visit

July 12, 2010

Open Water Homes under $1,000,000 in the Florida Keys

Back in the real estate boom in the Florida Keys, open water homes were priced well above $1,000,000.  In today's market, however, there are several homes to choose from priced at $1,000,000 or less.  There are 152 homes in the Florida Keys being marketed as open water. They range in price from $159,000 (a small mobile home in Key Largo) to $1,000,000. The average list price is $719,824.

Click here to view the listings.

* Please note, that some of the listings may have been entered as single family when they are in fact, mobile homes. Also, one or two listings on large open canals have been marked as open water when they are actually canal-front homes. You can tell properties that are true open water by looking at the photos and the maps.

July 07, 2010

Distressed Listings - What percentage of the market do they represent?

It's no secret that there are several potential short sale listings and bank foreclosures being offered in the Florida Keys real estate market.  Different property categories show different percentages of distressed properties. For instance, of the 185 open water homes currently listed in the Upper Keys, just 9 of them are being marketed as potential short sales and none of them as being marketed as bank owned, giving distressed properties in that category just 5% of the overall market.  Dry lot homes on the other hand show dramatically different numbers: of the 228 dry lot homes on the market, 56 of them are potential short sales and 7 of them are bank owned, giving distressed properties in that category 28% of the market.

It's important to note that not all properties being marketed as potential short sales actually are short sales.  Sellers and their agents often choose to market them as short sales when in fact it is not known if the seller's lender would even approve the short sale process for the property.  When considering purchasing a listing marketed as a short sale, it is important to determine if the current lender has approved the seller and the property for the short sale process. Be sure to ask the Realtor working with the seller if the hardship package has been submitted to his or her lender.  If it has not been submitted and/or approved, the sale of that listing could be delayed several months, or even denied, costing a buyer time and added aggravation during the home buyer process.

Here is a look at the numbers for all segments of the market: (Click on the image to enlarge.)

These numbers are for properties located in the Upper Florida Keys, which includes the areas of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada.

July 06, 2010

1st and 2nd Quarter of 2010 compared to 2009

When comparing the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2010 to last year, 2009, there are a few surprises.  Three things about these stats stand out from the rest:

1. Open water homes saw an increase in both number of closed transactions and average sales price
2. A large increase in the number of dry lot homes sold in 2010 than in 2009
3. An increase in closed sales for 2010 in every segment of the residential  market compared to 2009

The reason for the increase in the number of dry lot homes sales is most likely tied to their decline in price and an abundance of inventory.

We're seeing longer marketing periods for some types of properties, mainly open water homes, but overall, the numbers are promising.  Here is a look at the chart (double click to enlarge):

All data is provided by the Florida Keys Multiple Listing Service - FlexMLS, as of July 5th, 2010. Properties are from mile marker 74 to mile marker 106, Upper Keys only.

July 04, 2010

Pending Sales in the Florida Keys

Curious to see what's selling in the Florida Keys? We've put together a list of properties that are currently pending in Upper Florida Keys by category.

These links are live and automatically update as properties go into pending status. 

June 17, 2010

Islamorada Chamber of Commerce Oil Spill Town Hall Meeting

The Islamorada Chamber of Commerce will host an Oil Spill Town Hall Meeting as an informational platform for local businesses and residents.  The meeting will be held Tuesday June 22, at 6:00pm at Island Christian Church mm 83.4. 

Participants will leave the meeting with concrete “how-to” information they will need to protect themselves, their businesses and our local marine mammals. 

Presenters include:
  • NOAA - trajectory
  • Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) - Marine Mammals in distress.
  • Hershoff, Lupino and Yagel – an outline on the claim process and evidence you can gather to protect your claim.

For more information, contact the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce 305-664-4503.

National Flood Insurance Program Update

We are all eager to hear anything we can from Washington about the extension of the Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) but Congress is moving at a snail’s pace.  The NFIP extension is part of a much larger “extenders” package so there is plenty of controversy with various provisions. 

The big problem right now is getting 60 votes on the extenders bill and Senate leaders are offering a third compromise as we speak in an effort to get those 60 votes necessary for passage.  We should probably not expect a Senate vote until Friday and then the bill will have to go back to the US House for a vote.  It is looking more and more likely that the House vote and then the President’s signature won’t come until early next week.  Very frustrating!

In VERY good news, an amendment was added to the package to extend the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit to those who were qualified and were under contract as of April 30th but haven’t been able to close yet (obviously many buyers are involved in short sales that are taking longer than expected and others can’t close because of the lapse in flood insurance).  With this Senate amendment the tax credit would be extended from June 30 to September 30, 2010 (but again, only for those who were under contract by April 30, 2010, not for new buyers entering the market today).
Publish Post

June 07, 2010

Foreclosures in the Florida Keys

Bank Owned Property

Bank owned properties, also know as REO's have begun to appear across the nation and the Florida Keys have been no exception.

REO stands for Real Estate Owned and it refers to real estate property that was previously a security for a mortgage loan. The previous owner defaulted on the loan and the lending institution foreclosed on the owner and took ownership of the property.

Follow the link below to see a list of properties being offered in the Florida Keys that are currently REO being marketed in the Florida Keys MLS.

Click Here for Banked Owned Florida Keys Properties

June 04, 2010

Will Oil Spill in the Gulf Affect The Florida Keys?

All eyes are on Florida now as the oil spill that is still leaking from the Deepwater Horizon still floods into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Parts of the oil may already being enterting the loop current, a warm ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico that flows northward between Cuba and the Yucat√°n peninsula, moves north into the Gulf of Mexico, loops west and south before exiting to the east through the Florida Straits.

Shoreline property owners and real estate professionals are concerned the disaster could literally hit home by decreasing house values. There is no way at this time to tell what the depreciation - if any - will be on the property values in the Florida Keys. Far too many variables play a role in predicting the coastline(s) that will be affected by the spill.

Most oil spill experts say any oil carried by the Loop Current would be more dispersed and highly weathered by the time it gets to the Keys, making it highly unlikely that large “rivers” of heavy oil would impact the Keys.  The weathered and diluted oil would likely appear in the form of tar balls. While arrival of oil in any form is unacceptable, tar balls are “significantly less toxic,” according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole. It is also possible that some areas of the Keys could be affected and others not, or that the oil residues could remain in the Loop Current and Gulf Stream and miss the Keys altogether. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is providing oil slick trajectory maps regarding the oil spill and its proximity to the Florida Keys. Forecast maps are updated daily to plot and project approximate positions of the oil slick, and provide the latest available forecast showing movement in and around Gulf waters.  The map below was issued on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010.

May 17, 2010

Unique Bayfront Home in Islamorada - Just Listed for $1,699,000

An architectural beauty on the bay designed in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. This home offers a blend of copper, wood, stone and concrete to create an impressive, yet comfortable place to really relax, offering year round views of the awesome sunsets over the bay. The kitchen features stainless steel Bosch appliances, Silestone countertops, and glass tile backboards. Beautifully landscaped.

Discover Venetian Shores - Islamorada, Florida

Venetian Shores is a very popular subdivision in the Upper Keys located at Mile Marker 86 on the bayside. It is a very popular choice with boaters, as it boasts some of the widest and cleanest canals in the Upper Keys. 

Homes are divided between two sides of Venetian Shores. Properties to the South of Venetian Boulevard are on open canals, meaning that the canals provide open access to both the bay and ocean via Snake Creek. Properties on the northern side of Venetian Boulevard are on plugged canals. These canals do not open and do not allow access to open water, although many of them have deeded dockage in the bayfront marina, thus providing them access to boating. Homes on the open canals offer either 75 feet of 100 feet lots, allowing for ample dockage right at your back door. Behind canals on the plugged canals, it is not unusual to see kayakers out getting exercise, paddling up and down the clean canals. 

True to it’s name, most of the streets in Venetian Shores are named with a Italian influence. As in Venice, the emphasis here is on a lifestyle situated in and around the local waters. In this neighborhood, you’ll find everything from cute conch cottages to multi-million dollar estates. 

Click here to see what is currently for sale in Venetian Shores. If you’d like to get updates to new listings and sales in this subdivision, sign in after viewing the listings and create a customized personal account. Here you’ll be able to create and save searches, email listings to friends and more. All free, with no obligation and no bothersome emails except for market updates. You’ll find the Log In button towards the upper right hand corner of your screen.

Bank Owned Properties in the Florida Keys

Real estate foreclosures have become a presence in nearly every community nationwide. The Florida Keys have been no exception.  Although the percentages of properties on the market is lower in the Keys than other areas, there is still a wide variety of properties available. The display below contains a link to all of the bank owned properties currently listed in the Multiple Listing Service, from Key Largo to Key West. 

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