Florida Keys Real Estate News

Many people here in the Keys are transplants. The story often goes - came on vacation, stayed for the duration. The love of the water is one of the determining factors of why we love the Florida Keys Lifestyle. On this day, my daughter and I took advantage of the light winds and headed out to Alligator Reef. We left our home on Lower Matecumbe Key, cruised up the bayside, navigated through the wheel ditch, under the bridge by Bud-n-Mary's and then straight out to Alligator Reef / Alligator Lighthouse. It was an epic day to enjoy the crystal clear waters. Jumping into the azul waters, enjoying the slight chill upon entering, we enjoyed just being in the moment. No rush to put on snorkel gear, we just wanted to chill. It was like swimming in a pool. We knew with the high tide the crystal clear waters would be amazing at the reef and it did not disappoint. The beauty of the Florida Keys continues to be breathtaking even after 23 years of living here. If you are interested in finding your home here, I would love to help. Having been a full time Realtor here for the past 18 years, I love the sell the Florida Keys lifestyle! Call me and let's start a conversation!

Posted by Claire Johnson on May 11th, 2020 11:39 AM

Having lived in the Keys for about 24 years now, I have accomplished some firsts during the pandemic. Being quarantined in such an amazing place has its advantages! When you live and work here, you don't get to spend as much pleasure time on the water! Truly grateful that Captain Ted Wilson and his wife, Shirley took me on a fishing adventure! The skill, persistence and patience of Capt. Ted Wilson allowed me to catch my first permit and tarpon. Truly grateful for this experience. Ted is one of those guides who will fish from sun up to moon down! He still loves what he does, over 20+ years later. I first met Ted when we both worked at Cheeca Lodge in the late 90's. 

I learned something new on our fishing trip - that off of channel 2 bridge south of Lower Matecumbe Key is "monster alley." This is where you have a great chance of catching BIG tarpon! I also learned that Ted has a few tricks up his sleeve. Although I did not witness this in person, the story was just as captivating. While fishing under Channel 5 bridge with a tarpon on and going under the bridge - Ted tied the rod to a float, let go and let the tarpon drag it under the bridge to where Ted was waiting! Unfortunately, the fish cut the line but the rod was recovered! Many more stories he can tell. You can find out for yourself by booking a trip with him -Captain Ted Wilson 

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 28th, 2020 5:55 PM

Welcome to Coastal Sol! Located on Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada. This home captures the ocean views and prevailing winds. Situated on a canal and at the end of the street, you will be in the Atlantic Ocean within minutes. This home has been tastefully updated and well appointed. The vaulted ceilings showcase the architectural beams and the tongue and groove ceilings. The openness adds for a more spacious feel. With 1800sf of living space, this 3 bedroom / 3 bathroom home offers spacious bedrooms and captures the ocean views from the living area. The pool is situated canal side and was added in 2016. All impact windows and doors, along with a metal roof, a 1 car garage and 75' of dockage.

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 20th, 2020 11:46 AM
Quick real estate market update for the first quarter in 2019.  Our season started a little slow this year but has gained momentum as we near Easter.  The real estate inventory has increased turning our market into a Buyer's market.  I believe this will be short lived but time will tell.  

What is a Buyer's market?  A buyer's market is when we have more than 6 months of inventory.  At the end of March, we had about 8 months of inventory and I believe the end of April will get the market closer, if not back, to a seller's market.  Many have seen a reduction in list prices, DO NOT confuse this with a decrease in market values.  Our market has seen a 9% increase in market value compared to last year.  Being a tourism base economy, we have seasons; which means real estate non the Keys has seasons as well.  We have to wait for the consumers to come down!  

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate, please give me a call - 305-731-4602!  Let my 18+ years of selling in the Keys, work for you!  

Thank you for watching!  
Posted by Claire Johnson on April 16th, 2019 5:07 PM
See my interview with Lisa and Greg Poland of Greg Poland Photography and my Florida Keys real estate market update.  

If you go to my Facebook Page - Florida Keys Lifestyle and answer the following question 
Where did YOU get married?

You will be entered for a chance to get 50% off of a 30-minute photography session from Greg Poland Photography.  

Your chance to win is good until the end of June 2018!!  

We are now nine months since Hurricane Irma touched down on the Florida Keys.  Many have been waiting to see the affects that storm would have on our market.  There has not been any downturn in the Florida Keys real estate market values.  We are holding strong and it continues to be a seller's market.  I would recommend that if you are considering purchasing a home, now is a good time.  When 2019 rolls around and we are in the midst our busiest season, I have a feeling that home inventory will decrease.  All the hotels should be operational by then, which means more tourists / potential home buyers will be here in full force.  

Let's get you started at previewing homes so you can find the perfect one for you and your family.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on June 14th, 2018 4:43 PM
Looking for an Islamorada home for sale, that provides forever ocean views?   

THE BEACH HOUSE on Lower Matecumbe Key, Islamorada, Florida Keys,  w/ 100' of beach. Beautifully appointed 4 BD/ 4 BA home comes furnished. Forever ocean views to be enjoyed the moment you step into the Great Room. Vaulted ceilings w/ sky lights, enjoy the sunrise and the afternoon shade, built in 2005 / remodeled in 2013. Electric gate, circular drive, large garage, outdoor living space, room for a pool, protected anchoring out front.

Posted by Claire Johnson on February 10th, 2017 9:37 AM
Just listed this top floor, corner unit in Coral Harbour Condo.  Nestled among 10 acres of beautifully manicured lawns, this updated unit has breathtaking ocean views.  The ocean views can be enjoyed from the living room, master bedroom and screened in porch.  The unit has 2 bedrooms / 2 bathrooms, 1330 sf of living space, washer /dryer in unit, and located on Plantation Key in Islamorada, Florida Keys.  Coral Harbour has wonderful amenities - marina that offers fuel and ice, 2 lighted tennis courts, heated pool, club house with many social activities during the season, covered parking, car washing station, gated complex, and a point directly on the ocean to relax and enjoy the prevailing winds and the forever ocean views!  

Being offered at $499,000 - this unit is turn key.  Contact me for your private showing.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on October 4th, 2016 10:05 AM
The Florida Keys are a chain of islands that stretches over 100 miles.  Whether looking for Key Largo real estate, Islamorada real estate, Marathon real estate, Lower Keys real estate or Key West real estate - every area has there own nuances.  What is consistent about the Florida Keys is the beauty and laid back atmosphere.  We love our crystal clear waters and every opportunity is taken to enjoy our surroundings.  We are a small community that hosts a great deal of events and activities.  The annual Lower Keys underwater music festival is one of the many events.  FLA-Keys.com is a great source of information for all events taking place throughout the island chain.    

Video from FloridaKeys.TV

Posted by Claire Johnson on June 17th, 2016 3:17 PM
Being able to get out on the water in the Florida Keys is always a treat.  After two decades of living here, I am still mesmerized by its beauty.  On this particular day, my daughter and I were heading up to Plantation Key.  Since our home is on Lower Matecumbe Key, we travel through the wheel ditch and pass along Tea Table, which is where I shot this video. Although it was a little bumpy as the day progressed the wind laid down and the ride home was beautiful.  

What makes boating around Islamorada the best?  There are four inhabitable islands in the Village of Islamorada - Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key and Lower Matecumbe Key.  The islands are four to five miles long, which gives way to a lot of bridges.  In my opinion, Islamorada has the BEST boating in the Keys because of the easy access to the Atlantic Ocean or the Florida Bay.  There are two options for offshore fishing boats and sailboats to go from one side to the other - there is Snake Creek drawbridge, located at MM 86, and Channel 5 bridge with a 65' clearance, located at MM 73.  The ICW runs along the bay side, which will provide deep water for the larger draft boats.  

When you are considering buying a home in the Florida Keys, take into consideration the size of the boat you have or the one you will eventually be purchasing.  Knowing the control depths, bridge heights and your water activities are important to help decide which island location will fit your needs best. 

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 27th, 2016 11:17 AM
Founder's Park in Islamorada, Florida Keys held another community event.  Island Fest, an annual Islamorada Chamber of Commerce event, is held in April.  The road parallel to the beach was lined with talented artists selling their masterpieces.   Local musicians filled the air with tunes for every age.  A sand castle was built by a professional and then the children were invited to sculpt their own creations! Lets not forget the tasty treats that the Chefs created from the local restaurants.  The Taste of Islamorada was held on Sunday - mouth watering, appetizer size portions were the talk of the town.  It is astonishing the number of events hosted by these island chains. You can find yourself having a new experience almost every weekend throughout the Florida Keys.  

If you own a home in the Village of Islamorada in the Florida Keys there is no cost to enter the park (unless there is an event being held there charges an entrance fee).  The park has many different aspects - soccer and baseball / soft fields, olympic size swimming pool that is temperature controlled, tennis courts, outdoor work out equipment, the path around the park is exactly one mile, playground, dog park, beach, boat ramp and marina.  To gain entrance to the pool is a small fee.   

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 21st, 2016 5:54 AM
Having lived in Islamorada, Florida Keys for the past twenty years, I can honestly say I never get tired of or take for granted the beauty in which I reside.  If I could just float in this water all day, I would!  Buying a home in Islamorada or Key Largo is an exciting prospect. Having been engrossed in the real estate market on a full time basis for the past fourteen years, I can help you navigate through the home purchase process.   From starting your search, being by your side while previewing properties,  pointing out the pros and cons of the different areas, being instrumental in coordinating inspections, being readily available and proceeding to the closing table.  Our relationship does not stop there.  My customers rely on me for contacts, real estate updates and more.  I am an out-of-the box thinker and love a challenge!  Continuously learning is empowering and we all know, knowledge is power!  

If you are looking for a well seasoned agent and one who will be completely honest with you, whether you want to hear it or not - contact me!  I would love to find you a piece of paradise, so you can enjoy the beauty as much as I do!  

The attached video is of Port Antigua Beach on Lower Matecumbe Key in Islamorada, Florida Keys.  Homeowner's in the Port Antigua subdivision are able to join the homeowner's association and take advantage of this beautiful area.  Hard sandy bottom, beach, tiki's, and boat ramp, easily accessible by a golf cart.  Port Antigua is an exclusive community, that boasts high end properties.  With over 6' control depth coming into the canal and Channel 5 bridge minutes away with a 65' clearance - allows for the sailboats and off shore fishing vessels to have an area that is accommodating to their size. There are other subdivisions as well that offer the same - call me and I will show you multiple properties that will fit your needs!   

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 18th, 2016 5:07 PM
Bedrooms come in all different shapes and sizes.  This is often a place where we can go to retreat and unwind.  When it comes to selling your home, the master bedroom is scrutinized the most because the Master(s) is making the purchase!  Whether the bedroom is on the smaller size, on a grand scale or a child's room, try and make the most of your space. Clearing clutter and organizing can make a room appear larger.  If you are on a budget, there are ways to freshen up a room without breaking the bank.  Many discount stores on the mainland can help with your project.  Keep it simple and clean.  

Larger bedrooms have an opportunity to take advantage of the space and create intimate sitting areas.  Again, keeping it more on the simplistic side.  We want Buyers to envision their furniture fitting into the home.  When you freshen up the walls with a coat of paint, don't necessarily hang all your pictures again.  Leave most of the walls untouched.  Buyers can imagine decorating the room with their personal items.  

Children's rooms can be a bit more challenging.  When you have decided to sell your home there is some preparation that needs to take place.  This is a great opportunity to have your child clear out their clutter or put most of it in boxes for storage.  The less they have to keep clean and organized, the less frustrating it will be on them and you.  When they unpack in their new home, it will be a great surprise to see all the toys they had put out of their minds. Which will make the unpacking on the other end a bit more exciting!

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 5th, 2016 10:12 AM
Islamorada, Florida Keys is known as the fishing capital of the world!  We love to get on and in the water around this island chain.  When we are not on the water, we look for land activities.  Islamorada might be comprised of four small islands and approximately 8,000 full time residents but we have fundraisers, events and festivities on a large scale.  Believe it or not, we can always fill our time.  The residents take advantage of the island resources and we always know how to celebrate.  The Moose Lodge in Islamorada on Upper Matecumbe Key hosted a seafood festival that was abundant with incredible dishes.  The high end restaurants on this 4 mile long island are truly each one of a kind!  The chef's are top notch and the food is mouth watering.  The booths created incredible dishes such as fried hogfish with mango chutney, oyster shooters, shrimp key lime soup... all leaving the tastebuds begging for more.  Once our tastebuds were done dancing, the Junkanoo band paraded down the street and got our feet a-dancing.  Definitely put this on your calendar for next March!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 28th, 2016 2:32 PM
Freewheeler Realty has accepted the invitation to join Leading Real Estate Companies of the World / Luxury Portfolio International.  It is an honor to be chosen to join this amazing organization.  Leading Real Estate Companies of the World was organized back in the 70's, when a group of brokers came together to create a referral network.  This has morphed into an organization that has an unprecedented reach in the global arena.  Besides being a top producing real estate firm in a specific area, the brokerage cannot be affiliated with a real estate franchise.  What this has created is a powerhouse of top producing agencies all over the world.  When you want to be the best, you become affiliated with the best!  This advantage is then passed on to our buyers and sellers in the Florida Keys.  

Luxury Portfolio International was created for exclusivity.  They maintain their high standard of luxury by implementing parameters to be strictly followed.  Professional photographs are a must, minimum list price is $1,000,000.00 and the final step is approval from Luxury Portfolio International.  This is to ensure the brand remains untarnished and the quality of listings are vetted.  

Allow me the opportunity to show you the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World / Luxury Portfolio International advantage.   

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 25th, 2016 7:47 PM
It is that time of year again when the Florida Keys Electric Coop checks and makes repairs to our power lines.  One of the ways for this to be completed is by helicopter.  There is a lot of trust and skill in this line of work.  It is amazing watching this take place.  I happened to be sitting in traffic when FKEC was flying around with a man on the catwalk!  Never a dull moment in the Florida Keys!  Pretty impressive to watch these guys work.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 22nd, 2016 9:32 AM
I have often been asked, when you live in Paradise - where do you go on vacation?  Most of the time it is visiting family but on this occasion we met up with our friends and went to the hills of Georgia to get dirty!  Durham town is in the mountains and has miles and miles of trails for dirt bikes and Razors!  Saylor and I were in one Razor and my friend Andrea and her boys were in another; the men were on their dirt bikes.  Boy was this fun - we had a blast and got dirty! Although it is great to get off the rock, it is always wonderful to come back home to Islamorada.   

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 21st, 2016 8:26 AM

When looking for homes in the Florida Keys, you need to be aware of non-conforming downstairs enclosures.  This is essentially having living space below flood.

In this post, I will discuss flood zones and downstairs enclosures and how it will affect your flood insurance.

Let me take a moment to talk about flood zones and the importance of this when searching for Florida Keys real estate.  There are 3 types of flood zones in Monroe County - X, AE and VE.

1.  X flood is the best flood zone.  An X flood zone allows ground level buildings.  When standing on the ground, you are standing above sea level.  Typically with X flood zones, banks will not require you have flood insurance.  But if you do decide to get flood insurance, the cost if very little (approximately a few hundred dollars a year).

2.  AE flood zone.  This is the most common.  AE is followed by a number; ie) AE6, AE7, and so on.  The number will tell you how high above sea level you will need to build.  To determine how high you are above sea level, you will need an Elevation Certificate - which you will get from a surveyor.  For example, at my house when I stand on the ground I am 4' above sea level.  I am in an AE8 - which means my first floor needs to be built 4' up from the ground.  Most people will opt to build higher to take advantage of the covered parking underneath the house.   If you are looking at Florida Keys water front homes, you will be either in an AE or VE flood zone.

3.  VE flood zone.  The Florida Keys water front homes that are direct ocean front or bay front are more than likely in this flood zone.  VE will also be followed by a number just like AE flood zone.  The flood insurance costs on these properties will be the highest.

As mentioned above, homes in the Florida Keys would be built higher than required to take advantage of the underneath parking.  Here is where they would also build storage rooms.  Being the storage rooms were below flood, they were strictly suppose to be storage rooms but often homeowner's would convert them into living space.  Putting in bathrooms, kitchen, etc - all without permits.  Prior to 2000, there were no regulations on how large the storage rooms could be.  It wasn't until the beginning of 2000 that Unincorporated Monroe County (which is Key Largo and the Lower Keys) put a cap on how large a storage room could be - it is 299 square feet - to help eliminate these areas from being turned into living space.  Islamorada does not have a limit on the size a storage area can be.  

Also note that:

1.  In the 80's Monroe County did issue permits for bathrooms to be installed on the ground level - you will need to verify that it was permitted.
2.  Houses issued a building permit in 1974 or before, downstairs enclosures could be grandfathered in.  Keep in mind, grandfathered in properties go by when the permit were issued not when the Certificate of Occupancy was received.
3.  Today- if you have a swimming pool - there is a potential you could get a permit to build a bathroom below flood for the pool.
4.  As of 2013 - FEMA guidelines changed again - downstairs enclosures do not have to be brought into conformity but you will be paying a great deal of money to get flood insurance.  Key Largo does require an inspection of any downstairs area below flood.  

Your due diligence period is the time to investigate the validity of any Florida Keys homes with downstairs enclosures being used for living space.   The importance of this is for insurance purposes and future permits.

If you have a mortgage, you will be required to have insurances.  And the insurance companies WILL come out and inspect the downstairs to make sure it is not living space.  If they find that it is being used for living space, they will require you to bring it into conformity or they will cancel your flood insurance.  If the bank has to force place insurance on you, it will  be expensive.

At this point, if you pay cash and do not get flood insurance you can keep the non-conforming living space below flood.  But when you try and sell your home in the Florida Keys, it could be an issue for you.


Posted by Claire Johnson on March 18th, 2016 11:04 PM
Key Largo, Florida Keys home for sale.  This CBS home was built in 2005.  It sits in an X flood zone, which means by standing on the ground you are above the flood plain.  The home is spacious with 3 bedrooms / 2 bathrooms boasting over 1800sf of living space.  Vaulted ceilings in every room, all bedrooms have a walk in closet, large indoor laundry / utility room.  Plenty of room for a pool in the backyard.  Homeowner's park just down the street with a boat ramp.  Close to John Pennekamp State Park.  Adam's Cut is minutes away, which provides easy access to get to the Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park.  This home is well maintained and a must see.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 16th, 2016 1:07 PM
Islamorada is known for being the Sport Fishing Capital of the World!  Why is that? Living in an area where the Atlantic Ocean and the Everglades National Park located in the Florida Bay are just minutes from each other.  You have an opportunity, in Islamorada, to catch many types of fish.  Here is Caribsea Charters, located in Islamorada, catching a swordfish - during the day - a few years ago.  This video catches the excitement and anticipation of reeling in a 500lb + fish!  Caribsea Charters, owned by Kenny Spaulding, has fishing in his blood.  He is a multi-generational fisherman.  The young man narrating is Kenny's son and he is just as talented as his father, uncles and grandfather!  If you want to catch fish, call upon Caribsea Charters!  And call me, if you want to live in this magical place and get your FISH ON!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 7th, 2016 1:34 PM
A sneak peak of another one of my listings.  Well maintained, turn key canal front home.  This single wide has a frame addition that makes it feel like a home not a mobile home! Vaulted ceilings, spacious kitchen with 2 sinks, 2 bedrooms / 2 bathrooms, indoor laundry room, screened in porch, pavers in the backyard for easy maintenance, 2 utility sheds.  61' of concrete dockage and seawall, davits and easy access to the bay and quick boat ride to the Atlantic Ocean.  This home is a located on a hidden jewel of a street. Call me today to set up your private showing!  Canal front home being offered at $440,000.00.


Posted by Claire Johnson on February 29th, 2016 11:30 AM
Looking to purchase a home in Islamorada, Florida Keys.  Here is a sneak peak of one I just listed in Port Antigua.  Beautiful ocean views, large boating basin, 6'+ control depth, 3 bedrooms / 2.5 baths, CBS 1/2 duplex with concrete roof, 52+ concrete dock w/ davits. This home is well maintained and is turn key.  Has impact windows and doors on most of the house; the other windows will have accordion shutters.  Nestled on the cul-de-sac, this is a must see!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on February 23rd, 2016 10:55 PM

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