upper keys buyers information

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Things to consider when buying any waterfront vacation home.First off, congratulations at looking to the Keys for a possible vacation home. The good news about the Keys from an investment angle are:

  1. There is only so much waterfront or Coastal property available.

  2. The Keys have strict environmental laws that affect building permits. This means there are only so many homes and always will be a limited number of homes here. One big reason for this is there is just ONE Highway in and out of the Keys. (US1) If there is an emergency, people need to have the ability to leave quickly and so for this reason alone, the Keys will never be California. The other main environmental consideration is the water quality. The Keys main attraction are water sports and Monroe County is going to make sure that our waters are clean and usable.

To consider when purchasing any waterfront vacation home and how the Keys measure up:Is there a view?
Views really do matter. An unobstructed Ocean view adds as much as 60% to the value of a home per the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics. Proximity to Golf courses or a park can add as much as 20% to a homes value.  This is per an article by a much published author named Soren Anderson,  a writer from Manchester College.Consider the recreational activities…
The What and the When.
For example in a Ski resort area, your options are limited due to weather considerations and the total amount of activities available is definitely less.
*In the Keys, about the only thing you cannot do year round are mountain climbing and white water rafting.Boating access and controlling depth
Is there direct boating access on the property? If so, how large a boat can you have behind the home? This is determined by what we in the Keys call controlling draft or depth. For example: If a boat is under 30ft in most cases 3 ft draft is OK. Draft means...what is the lowest water depth you have to go through to get to open or deep water.If you have a sailboat or 50 ft boat you will need deeper draft such as 5ft.
Now..obviously if you have a 50 ft sailboat behind your home, the canals or waterways have to provide you with turn-around room.
If the access is deep draft, then expect prices to go up. If there is no water acess at the home or the draft is for kayaks only, in most cases expect a drop in price.
If there is no direct water access...how far is the nearest boat ramp or is there a boat slip available? If so, is it included and what is the draft out of the boat slip.
So the boating issue has a very direct effect on pricing here. Neighborhoods with bigger canals and deep draft boating are generally home to the Million dollar and plus homes.

Nearby Medical and shopping options
These are very important considerations. If there is an accident, how far away is a hospital?
In the Upper Keys we have Baptist hospital in Tavernier which is an excellent option.
If you need groceries or restaurants, what is nearby?
Oftentimes vacation properties can be secluded and don’t offer easy access to the above. At first being remote can seem as desirable, but in the end it can grow old quickly.
This also affects home values by the way. If you can have the vacation feel and recreation, yet have amenities nearby, the prices go up.
On thing about the upper Keys is that Miami and South Beach are just about an hour away and World famous Key West, 2 hours.How much room do you need?
If you own a home with nearby recreation and sightseeing, expect people to come out of the woodwork. Everyone will be your friend. Larger homes, with more bedrooms, a 3/2 and up always rent better. So if you can, get a home with extra space. Type of Construction or is it built to last.
The age of the home will determine the building code that it was built to. In the Keys newer homes have to be built to strict specs as to wind handling characteristics.
Also, look for low maintenance homes.
Lots of homes in the Keys are made of concrete block and have pea-rock for yards and the outside is stucco over concrete or frame. This means lower maintenance, which is very important for an absentee owner.Finding renters
Does the home have good rental potential and is there local rental management available?
This is a very important consideration, both for long term and short term vacation rentals.
Remember, even if you don’t want to rent, this can be an important consideration for a future buyer or if your situation changes.Home maintenance.
Are there nearby electricians, plumbers, appliance stores and general contractors.
If anything does happen, the prices to have things repaired or replaced will be less if there is competition and service people are nearby.
Check with the REALTOR you are talking with to get a Vendor list of who the Real Estate company uses to service their rentals and offices.
Rules and Regulations

Make sure you are clear on and have copies of any deed restrictions or condo docs as to what is allowed and what is not. Too many rules can be appetizing for some but a turnoff for future buyers. For example if you have children who will want to use the property in the future as a college break, lots of communities can prohibit it.In conclusion, the upper Keys offer good investment potential from an appreciation aspect and income potential from renters.
Regarding Appreciation.
Because Miami and Ft Lauderdale are a short drive away, people there look to the Keys as a getaway. Think New York and the Jersey shore. We sell a majority of homes to people from these areas.
Income potential.
About 50% of the vacation renters in the Keys are from Florida. They come here because the Keys are a completely different experience. This means as Florida grows (it is on pace to be the 2nd largest state in the USA by 2010) we will have more people looking to vacation here. This will drive prices up and make rental occupancy rates climb even more.
For more information please contact me …I look forward to helping you find the right situation.


Building a Home in the Florida Keys

Buying a lot and building your dream home may be the way to go. The cost of building will vary widely from $50.00 per square to $300.00 and up.
Basically lots in Florida as far as price goes will run as follows.
Most expensive
• Open-water—Atlantic or Gulf
• Open-water Inter-Coastal  or other Rivers-Lakes
• Canal Homes with Open water views (Bay or Atlantic-Gulf)
• Canal homes-Boatable and quick access to open-water
• Dry Lots—price varies widely, based on the community and area.
*As to canal lots and how boat ability affects prices.
If the depth of the canal and the width allows for a 50ft boat or sailboat-it will be more expensive than a lot on a canal that is shallow and usually not as wide. The bigger the boat, the more room needed to turn around.
*Access to open water is another factor that influences prices.If you’re only minutes (half hour) to good fishing-diving, expect to pay more.
Also homes on shorter canals will generally have better water quality. In the Keys we call these swimming canals. The tides flush them out easier and the water is clear.
As of September 2005, per an MLS search,
Vacant lots-Location-Number available and starting price.
• Key Largo, 89 starting at $30,000
• Marathon, 446, starting at $35,000
• Key West 20, starting at $275,000
For prices on the individual keys please contact me. The prices will vary depending on depth of boating etc—see information below.Permit prices and restrictions will vary in each community. Generally the more environmentally sensitive the area is, the more restrictions there are in getting a permit. (Since the water is one of the main reason people want to be here, the state and the communities want to keep it that way.Important:Regarding pricing. The closer to the water and the deeper the boating,(boat draft-a 50 foot requires deeper water and wider canals than a flats boat) the higher the prices.Another thing to do is find out what flood zone the property is in per FEMA maps and then talk to a local insurer on how that will affect your rates. Do this ahead of time.#In all cases if you find a lot that you like, my suggestion is that you ask for a letter of build ability from the local zoning commission as a clause in your sales contract. Always-always, talk with the county yourself to get the update on the laws.So, yes, you can build here and it’s done all the time, but make sure you ask all the necessary questions and if you can, get it in writing.See the Biz directory for builders if that’s the way you want to go. If you want a new home contact a residential agent.REGARDING BUILDING Ask the REALTOR that you pick to help find you a good builder that will respond quickly. Another consideration is to buy a lot and build later (be careful here as building codes and laws can change due to density controls) I would first see how long it takes to get a building permit and then if you get one how long you can wait. In the Keys when you get a permit there is a limit of a couple years during which time you have to at least start the process (bring electric to the site-do a septic check etc)Since all this varies widely make sure you get all the answers, Probably best to go the the permit department yourself and have a discussionMonroe County permitsYou will probably need a building permit if you are:
• Building a new building or Adding to an existing building
• Renovating an existing building
• Demolishing an existing building
• Constructing a prefabricated structure
• Moving or installing a mobile home
• Installing/Modifying other miscelaneous structures
• including fences, pools, decks, fireplaces, etc.
You probably also need a permit if you are working on your structure's:
• Electrical System
• Plumbing System
•  Heating or Air Conditioning
•  Ventilation Systems
State and or Municipal Licenses required
• Plumbing
• Electrical
• Asbestos Abatement
• Roofing
Building Departments
• 2798 Overseas Highway
• Suite 300
• Marathon, FL 33050
• 305289-2501
• fax: 305 289-2515
• 88800 Overseas Highway
• Tavernier, FL 33070
• 305852-7100
• fax: 305 852-7103
• Juvenile Justice Building
• Room 2030
• 5503 College Rd.
• Key West, FL 33040
• 305295-3990
• fax305 295-3994

Florida Building Codes
The purpose of the Building Code is to protect the safety, health, and general welfare of the citizens through structural strength, stability, sanitation, adequate light and ventilation, and safety to life from hazards attributed to the built environment. This is accomplished through the implementation of building, plumbing, mechanical and electrical codes along with various state and local codes and standardsInformation on Complaints Against Contractors:
Don't get nailed! Many citizens in Florida have fallen victim to dishonest, unlicensed or improperly licensed contractors. Florida Statute 489 requires all construction contractors to hold a valid contractor's license prior to engaging in contracting. Always require that a contractor show you a valid contracting license before you sign a contract. Some indications that a contractor may be unlicensed are: the contractor requests a large deposit or all of the money up front before any work has commenced, the contractor asks you to pull a "homeowner permit", the contractor pressures you to sign a contract "today or I can't give you this special price." To verify licensure of a contractor, you may call the State of Florida Dep't of Professional Regulation at 941 338-2373 or search their contractor licensing database. The City requires proof of licensure from contractors who pull permits for properties located in the City, so be sure to require that the contractor pull the permit in his name, not your name
So always play it safe and do it right. This will certainly help you in the Insurance area also---The extra structural costs for doing it better really pay off if a Storm hits and or you decide to sell#The information above is based on my experience in the Florida keys, which is highly regulated due to environmental concerns. With regard to making any decisions, be sure to check with local and state permit and zoning authorities and/or a Real Estate attorney

Florida Homestead Exemption

New 2008 property tax Reforms:
In a January 2008 ballot measure, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that introduced several changes to our state's property tax system. The four changes may affect the amount of tax you owe:
Increased Homestead Exemption: If you're currently receiving a $25,000 homestead exemption on your property taxes, you will automatically be upgraded to a $50,000 exemption this year. If you are a homeowner and do not currently receive the exemption, you may file your application in person along with a $15 late fee, through mid-September.
Save Our Homes Portability Cap: You may now trasfer up to $500,000 of your property tax cap to a new home when you move. To take advantage of this benefit, you must file a Homestead Exemption and Portability Application.

Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption: If you're required to file a Tangible Personal Property Tax Return, you're entitled to a $25,000 exemption on business equipment.
Non-Homestead Cap: Beginning next year, those properties not eligible for a homestead exemption may apply to receive a 10% cap on property tax increases.

Homestead Exemption Overview:
Florida law requires that application be made by March 1st to be eligible for the $25,000 Homestead Exemption. Only new applicants or those who had a change of residence need apply. Automatic renewals are mailed in January each year.

In Florida, $25,000 of the assessed value of your home is exempt from real estate taxes, but you have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the exemption. First you much have the title or record to your property as of January 1, and reside on the property. You have to be a legal and permanent resident of Florida as of January 1. When applying for the exemption status, bring along a copy of your deed or tax bill, and a Florida county voters registration or Declaration of Domicile. If you drive, you must also bring your Florida driver's license and automobile registration. New applications must be submitted in person at the appraiser's office, but renewals may be done by mail. For further information, consult the County Property Appraiser's Office.

Real Estate Taxes

All residents are subject to county taxes, but each city or special district levies taxes within its boundaries. City, special-district, and county taxes are combined in one tax bill. Real estate taxes are assessed as of January 1 each year. They are due and payable on November 1 and become delinquent if not paid before April 1 of the following year. Florida law holds the taxpayer responsible for receiving and paying tax bills in full. For additional information contact the County Property Appraiser's Office.

Establishing Residency

To establish residency, you may register to vote or file a Declaration of Domicile, which is an affidavit available at the CountyCourthouse. Filing one copy with the Circuit Court provides a record of your intention to make Florida your home. Simply moving to the State does not guarantee legal residency. For more information contact the County's Clerk of Circuit Court.

What is Homestead Exemption?
Florida Law entitles every person, who has legal or equitable title to real estate and maintains it as his/her permanent residence, to apply for a $25,000 homestead property tax exemption. A partial exemption may apply if the ownership of the applicant is less than 100%.

Am I eligible to file?
You must meet the following requirements as of January 1st:

Have legal or beneficial title to the property, recorded in the Official Records of County
Residency on the property
Be a permanent resident of the State of Florida
Be a United States citizen or possess a Permanent Residence Card (green card)

When do I file?
The deadline to file an application for exemption is March 1st. Under Florida law, failure to file for any exemption by March 1st constitutes a waiver of the exemption privilege for the year.
Regular filing is January 2nd - March 1st.
Pre-filing for the coming year is March 2nd - December 31st.

How do I file?
Take copies of the required documentation to your Exemption Department:Generally at the County or City Court House

“Remember not making a decision is still a decision!

Buying a Home in the Keys and using it as a Rental

Renting your home out as a seasonal(vacation rental)or long term.
Long term renters are easy to find as there is a shortage of homes for rent. So, if you want to buy something for retirement or a vacation home and rent it out to help your payments-this is typically the easiest way. (Long term rentals are considered to be anything over 6 months, as the tenants don't pay the 11.5% Florida tax)
• Generally long term rentals should be unfurnished.
• Initially we do a credit check before submitting a lease to you, then with your approval of the lease, we collect the first and last months rent plus a security deposit which is typically a months rental amount. We are very proactive in this area and I assure you the home is handled professionally.
• As to utilities- The tenants take the lease to the water, electric, phone and cable people and have the utilities put in their name and of course they pay their own deposits. Garbage down here is included in your tax bill-so there is no garbage bill.
• Seasonal rentals. Currently we can only rent monthly or 28 days, meaning the owner can only rent the home out 12 times per year. This means about 5 months of income-Jan-Feb-Mar and July-August. There are some April and June monthlies.
• As to finding people to rent for the rest of the time! I deal a lot with navy transfers÷they generally need something for 2-3 months while they sell their home and buy another. So if it is the off season, I try to fill your home up this way. Another way to fill in the gaps is to Companies that come down here. Most of the major government and private building projects are done by outside firms. Their management people will generally want a nicer situation so they will generally rent homes at better than average rates.
• As to what is the best rental situation , that is size, which areas, views, pools, how water and boating accessibility affects rental amounts and the typical rental amounts for both long and short term, plus the fees involved, please contact me.
As to extra costs and what is necessary to have a Home as a Rental.
• When you rent your home out you need to license it through the County. This costs $25.00 and we handle the paperwork for you. The County and the Tax people want the home licensed so they know where there may be tax dollars coming in. When your home is used as a rental, in effect you are operating the same as a hotel or motel and so come under their safety guidelines.
• Every bedroom and the main living area must have a hardwired smoke detector and there must also be an escape light. This light comes on in case of a power outage-this also must be hardwired. (About $350.00 installed smoke detectors and escape light for a 2/2)
• There also needs to be a professional quality refillable fire extinguisher that is approved by the fire department (about $55.00). This would be the same as you'd find in a restaurant or hotel room. There needs to be a dead bolt on the door that works from the inside and is a different key than the main door. All of these issues help protect your liability in cases of fire/break in.
• When the home complies with all of the above and we have the signed contract, then it can go into the rental pool.SPECIFICS OF THE AGREEMENT
1 Coldwell Banker agrees to manage the home for a period of one year with the contract automatically renewing unless either side gives 90 day notice.
2 Our fee for vacation rentals is 20%---what is really important here are the following points.
• There are no hidden fees-such as credit card charges etc.
• We typically send you the money within 2 weeks of receiving it÷we do NOT hold it until the first of each month or split it out each month. We always collect cashiers checks from the renters so when the money is received, it is quickly processed through our main office and sent to you.
• There are no charges for going up on our Web sites÷5 in all.
• There are no charges for the pictures that are taken.
• There are no charges for any specific flyers, brochures or ads that we run on our rental properties.
• Please go to www.rentalsfloridakeys.com
• We actively and aggressively manage your home. Meaning we get the best customers (qualified) We play by the 2 people per bedroom limit, and we work to keep it filled other than your personal usage
• All of the computers in the 6 Coldwell Banker Schmitt offices throughout the Keys are linked. If a customer inquires about a home, it will show up on the rental agents computers.
• We have Handymen, Electrical, Plumbing, Landscaping, Pest control and appliance people that respond when there is an emergency.BOOKING THE HOME FOR THE OWNER.
This is very simple. You would call the rental manager and have him block out the home when you want to use it. We don't charge a fee for any of that. Generally you would have us arrange for the home to be cleaned after you leave.FLORIDA BED TAX Florida charges a 11.5% tax on all hotel, motel, home rentals. We collect the money from the tenant and disperse it to the tax agency.CLEANING SERVICE The tenants pay this fee which varies based on the size of the home. On average a 2/2 is $100 and a 3/2 is $125.00.PETS AND SMOKING If the home is no smoking, that is put in the rental file and the tenants are informed before they book the home. If the home allows pets, we collect a pet deposit which is added to the standard security deposit of $500How are emergency repairs handled?
• We have handymen available that can take care of small emergencies or updates, as the owner requires. Since our company manages over 300 rentals, we also have a good working relationship with Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance and Carpet, Tile people.What about Hurricane preparation?
• In the event of an impending Hurricane, the handyman or someone else can be hired to put up the storm shutters, bring in the lawn and patio furniture, etc for a fee-as we have too many homes for us to do them individually. This agreement should be set up in advance by the homeowner and the handyman. We will help you find someone to do this.What makes a good Vacation Rental
• A clean, well-maintained home on a canal or open water.
• Typically one of the bedrooms should have a set of twin beds if the renters are bringing children.
• Good linens and towels and a backup set. This is especially important for monthly renters.
• The washer, dryer and refrigerator should be newer if possible.
• A good Television hooked up to cable (about $35.00 per month) and a CD or tape stereo system.
• The kitchen must be completely outfitted. A microwave is also very important for renters.
• Patio and/or Lawn-Deck furniture. If there is an upper deck, a table and chairs plus loungers.
• On the water side, below a set of loungers and chairs.We get a lot of repeat renters÷if the renters have a good experience, they will come back. We see this especially with people that book two to three months a year.

Where do our renters come from!
• If you're reading this on my web site you have the answer. If not most of our renters come through the Internet and one of our sites.
• www.floridakeysrealestate.com www.rentalsfloridakeys.com www.fkren.com
• All of our sites are linked to Key West or www.flakeys.com which averages over 500,000 views per month. Basically if anyone looks at Key West they find our sites.
• The balance come through National Advertising placed in magazines such as Island Living, Florida Sportsmen, Salt Water fishing and Dive magazines as well as regional publications and our own buyers guide.
• Also all of our computers are networked meaning if someone is looking for a specific situation such as open water it will show up on the computer immediately as to area, availability and price plus all other details.Who handles the renters?
• All of our offices have a dedicated rental manager whose job is to rent the homes.  In conclusion, there is a lot to discuss on rentals and this is used to just get you information regarding the main issues.BUYING RENTAL UNITS-DUPLEX-OR MORE UNITS
• There are Duplexes throughout the lower Keys and a few 3-4 unit complexes. The 3 to 4 units are generally in Key West or Marathon.In looking at the return, generally it runs around 10% in the Keys÷this includes the large guesthouses. When a return of 14% or more comes up they generally go very quickly.
DUPLEXOn the water generally start at $600,000. Nicer ones (maintained-updated appliances-tile) go for $775,000 and up. A dry lot duplex can start at about $550,000. These generally have the best return percentage.3 TO 4 UNITSGenerally in Key West or Marathon.
• In Key West, these can be good, especially if it's located in Old Town and one or more of the units has a transient license, meaning it can legally rent weekly.
• These type of situations run from about $850,000 and up. In Marathon from about $750,000 and up.MOTELS-MULTIPLE UNITS
• These are generally found in upper keys, Marathon and of course Key West. The more affordable ones ( one to two Million dollars) are generally from Marathon north to Key Largo. See Commercial section of my site. If there is a specific situation you want please let me know.

What Your Home Inspection Should Cover Siding: Look for dents or buckling Foundations: Look for cracks or water seepage Exterior Brick: Look for cracked bricks or mortar pulling away from bricks Insulation: Look for condition, adequate rating for climate (the higher the R value, the more effective the insulation is) Doors and Windows: Look for loose or tight fits, condition of locks, condition of weatherstripping Roof: Look for age, conditions of flashing, pooling water, buckled shingles, or loose gutters and downspouts Ceilings, walls, and moldings. Look for loose pieces, dry wall that is pulling away. Porch/Deck: Loose railings or step, rot Electrical: Look for condition of fuse box/circuit breakers, number of outlets in each room. Plumbing: Look for poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots or corrosion that indicate leaks, sufficient insulation Water Heater: Look for age, size adequate for house, speed of recovery, energy rating. Furnace/Air Conditioning: Look for age, energy rating. Furnaces are rated by annual fuel utilization efficiency; the higher the rating, the lower your fuel costs. However, other factors such as payback period and other operating costs, such as electricity to operate motors. Garage: Look for exterior in good repair; condition of floor—cracks, stains, etc.; condition of door mechanism. Basement: Look for water leakage, musty smell. Attic: Look for adequate ventilation, water leaks from roof. Septic Tanks (if applicable): Adequate absorption field capacity for the percolation rate in your area and the size of your family. Driveways/Sidewalks: Look for cracks, heaving pavement, crumbling near edges, stains. www.REALTOR.org/realtormag Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® . Copyright 2003. All rights reserved

Taking advantage of a changing marketReal estate is a local issue.
Since the real estate climate in the Keys varies from subdivision to Island, it is important for you to know and understand how all the pricing fluctuations work here.
In addition, conditions can also change quickly, so you need the most up-to-date information available to make a well-informed decision. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, contact me for an overview of current market conditions. I can determine the value of your existing home or help you estimate the cost of a home in an area you may be considering.Over the past five years, the United States real estate market has experienced record sales and price appreciation. The real estate boom has been especially strong in the South East, with home values doubling and even tripling in some cities. Real estate is cyclical. In some areas, particularly those that have seen annual appreciation rates of 20 percent and more a year, the real estate market is cycling back to more normal conditions. The normalizing of home prices is a natural part of the real estate cycle. It’s also healthy for the market, serving to rebalance supply and demand, and to bring prices more in line with what consumers can afford. Remember that housing markets are all local. At the height of the real estate boom, some areas of the country experienced annual appreciation rates in just the low single digits. And even in regions that are seeing home prices moderate today, there are properties in highly desirable neighborhoods that continue to receive multiple offers. What’s important is how to make the best possible real estate deal in your market. That’s where I can help. Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a home, here are some strategies that will help make your real estate transaction more successful. Tips for buyers
Now is a great time to buy a home. Interest rates are low, and buyers have more properties to choose from, so there’s room for negotiation. If you play it smart, it’s the perfect time to buy that house you’ve had your eye on. Here are a few strategies for getting the most for your money. Know the local market
With the housing market in transition and prices fluctuating, it is important to understand what’s going on locally. Prices in some neighborhoods are being reduced; others are as hot as ever. I can do a market analysis of the communities you’re interested in and provide you with information on homes that meet your criteria. I will also look at comparable residences to determine the appropriate offer to make to the seller. In a changing market, it’s important that the data you look at is current. Properties that sold six months ago may not represent the value of a comparable home on the market today.Identify what you want
The good news about a moderating market is that there are more homes to choose from. Buyers have the luxury of being specific about what they’re looking for. Now is the time to strongly consider that Keys getaway.. Be ready to buy
While more homes are on the market than a year ago, attractively priced homes are still selling quickly. Make sure you’re pre-approved for a mortgage and have a home inspector lined up. If you find a home you just love, don’t wait too long for the seller to reduce his price. It’s better to get a fairly priced deal than miss out on the home of your dreams. One of the strongest benefits I offer buyers is my ability to negotiate on your behalf. Depending on the local market, we may be able to get price reductions and other concessions from the seller. I’ll work with you to identify areas in which we can negotiate so you get the greatest real estate value for your dollar.


sally stribling

Sally Stribling, P.A.
Top Sales Producer Year after Year!
Broker-Associate, Realtor

Coldwell Banker Schmitt Real Estate Company
& Coldwell Banker Schmitt Commercial
Visit my Website and the entire MLS
® Certified REO Specialist, representing Bank owned properties and special assets
877-289-0035 x7552
Mobile Number:305-283-2002
Fax:  305-451-1220
Email Address: keysproperty@bellsouth.net
Previews International Agent: Yes
Languages Spoken: Spanish
Personal Website: http://keysbestproperty.com/

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