Florida Keys Real Estate News

Coastal Realty of the Florida Keys is proud to be affiliated with Military on the Move (MOM). There is never enough "thank you's" to give to our Military, a group that sacrifices more than we can ever imagine.  Coastal Realty of the Florida Keys is owned by a veteran, my parents met in the military and I have family who still continue to serve.  I truly appreciated my freedom every single day and would be honored to give back to someone who has given so much for our country!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on December 13th, 2018 10:42 AM
Islamorada is known as the "fishing capital of the world" because of the variety of fish that can be caught in the backcountry and offshore waters.  This town is not only made up of fisherman, there are sailors as well!  Ocean breezes offer many great sailing days.  When you take on the peacefulness of sailing, you soon realize a sailboat is not a fast mode of transportation.  Sailing is a journey that allows you to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.   

This past weekend, we took our sailboat to Cape Sable in the Everglades National Park. The beach stretches on for miles and is only accessible by water.  With the estuaries behind the beach, it is teaming with much wildlife.  This is not an area where one will swim due to the many sharks and alligators / crocodiles.  

As we were pulling up close to the shore to anchor, we snagged some rope around one of our props.  Before my husband dealt with the issue, we decided to go ashore and venture up the beach.  Along our walk, we notice a HUGE alligator swimming by <gulp>.  We talked with a camper on the beach, who proceeded to tell us about a shark feeding frenzy he witnessed that morning.  Nothing was going to stop my husband from freeing the prop so back to the boat we went and formulated a plan.  My husband geared up, quietly slipped into the water, and swiftly cut the line away from the prop.  He literally could not see the hand in front of his face and luckily no incident with any sea creatures.  

Cape Sable is about 30 miles from our home on Lower Matecumbe Key ~ it took us about 4 hours to sail there.  The journey did not disappoint ~ saw dolphins, birds, had family fun and just relaxed in the beauty of bay.  

The Florida Keys offers a lifestyle of relaxation, laid back atmosphere and clear blue waters. If you are considering purchasing a home in the Upper Keys, please give me a call.  I have been selling real estate in the Florida Keys since 2003.  Whether you are looking for a direct ocean / bay front home, condo, canal front home, non waterfront home or vacant land - I can help you navigate through the home buying process.  

If you are considering selling your property in the Upper Keys - call me to schedule a meeting to go over my contract management, transaction management and comprehensive marketing plan.  The Upper Keys is experiencing low inventory and a steady increase in property values.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 5th, 2018 4:46 PM
It has been five months since Hurricane Irma and real estate in the Upper Keys is going strong.  Statistics show a seven percent (7%) increase compared to last January, our inventory is down about three percent (3%), and the list to sales price remains around ninety-four (94%).  The Florida Keys real estate market is still a Sellers Market.  If you are considering buying a home here, know might be a good time before interest rates continue to rise.  

With the continues closings, it shows that many people still yearn for the warm winter weather and laid back atmosphere of the Florida Keys. Today would be a great day to get on, in and under the water.  Our islands may be small but our love of the water is ginormous.  There is a water-sports activity for everyone!  

Team up with me to help you find the perfect island, that will fit your lifestyle! Having lived here for over twenty years and selling real estate in the Florida Keys for over fourteen years, I believe I know a thing or two (to toot my own horn) that could benefit you!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on February 7th, 2018 11:16 AM
What's in a wave?

When you live in a small town, you can't help  but know many of the people ~whether you frequent the same restaurants,  Chamber functions,  sandbar sightings, driving in your neighborhood and so on.  We wave! 

Many people may not realize what a small town the Florida Keys are because of the tourist population is huge during season.  We have over a million tourists come through this tiny island chain. Islamorada has a population of about 8,000, Key Largo has a population of about 12,000 and the entire Florida Keys has a population of approximately 80,000.  We have one main road that travels from Key Largo to Key West, we often frequent the same spots and so you tend to see the same people.  

So what is in a wave?

Waving at people when driving through subdivisions can mean different things ~ waving to a friend or waving to say "I see you /  I am keeping an eye on you." Then you have the ones that wave because you are driving too slow or not paying attention ~ sometimes those waves are just a simple one finger wave! You might find this type of wave more on the highway.  

Waving at people while boating ~ again, could be to friends or just a wave because you are both doing a similar activity that is enjoyable.   A wave could be to say "i'm having a great time," like the wave in the video with my little girl!

We ride motorcycles ~ the wave is low and to the side, sometimes a two finger wave.  I'm sure if we could high five, we would!!   

SaylorCurtSnorkelingWavingtIMG_5100 from Claire Johnson on Vimeo.

Waving is a friendly gesture and it makes you feel good.  It's nice to be recognized and acknowledged.  Since graduating college, I have only lived on islands and so waving is part of the island life.  Are you ready to become a local waver?  Finding the perfect island for you is something I can help you with.  I have been living in the Keys since 1996 and have perfected my wave!  Give me a call, so we can too get you waving.    

Posted by Claire Johnson on November 2nd, 2017 1:06 PM
Why not get to know Claire Johnson, me, on a different level!  Although my career is a Realtor and I've been selling Florida Keys real estate since 2003 - I do like to take a break from wearing my business hat!  Here is a different side of me... on a more personal level. Our love is the water, we love island life, we love being on, in and around the water but we also like to get dirty! My husband grew up in Missouri and started riding dirt bikes at a young age.  A few years ago, we went to Durhamtown with some friends.  Men are on the dirt bikes and mom's are with the kids in the side by sides.  
Although on "vacation", I was still having to work.  Commission lifestyle takes no breaks.  The definition of vacation for me is working from a different location than the Florida Keys.  This vacation was in Durhamtown, GA - about an hour north of Atlanta.  The weather was perfect, the terrain amazing and the company superb.  

I hope you enjoy the video - we sure had a great time!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on October 25th, 2017 9:44 AM
A month has passed since Hurricane Irma came to town.  Debris mounds are accumulating on the side of the highway and are being trucked out of the Keys as quickly as possible.  The subdivision streets are being cleared and we are starting to see some normalcy return.  The homes that were affected the worst are being worked on at a steady pace to get them back in shape.  Most businesses are open and the tourists were allowed to return!  Fantasy Fest in Key West is gearing up to rock the streets at the end of this month.  

Islamorada, Florida Keys ~ Dolphins Riding Bow from Claire Johnson on Vimeo.

The real estate in the Upper Keys is moving forward ~ I am seeing properties being put under contract, deals are closing and buyers are still coming down.  I am showing property this afternoon and all day tomorrow!  The Upper Keys real estate values ~ Key Largo and Islamorada ~ should not be affected by the storm.  The inventory and absorption rate slowed more due to the Presidential election than it has to the Hurricane at this point.  The fall months are customarily our slower months.   

Many investors are ready to find that "deal" but the homeowner's are still waiting for the insurance companies and adjusters to put them on their schedules.  There will be some residents who throw in the towel and leave the area but I have a feeling most will rebuild.  There is no other place like the Florida Keys. Our community is amazing, our waters are like no other in the United States, we have all moved here for a reason ~ a category 4 hurricane is not enough to scare most of us off!

The Lower Keys were hit harder than the Upper Keys.  They are still in need of help to remove debris from their yard and find a place to live.  Please continue to send you support, love and prayers to them.  Every single island in this chain make up the Florida Keys - we won't rest until we are all back as one.    

Posted by Claire Johnson on October 12th, 2017 1:14 PM

Florida Keys Lifestyle from Claire Johnson on Vimeo.

It has been a little over a week since Hurricane Irma (category 4) passed through the Florida Keys.  I am not going to show any pictures of destruction because we are now on the road to recovery. I am speaking about the Upper Keys ~ Islamorada and Key Largo.  

The Upper Keys has a population of about 20,000.  Although the Florida Keys has millions in visitors, when you take them out of the equation it leaves us with a small town.  This small town is all I have known for the past twenty years.  When tough times fall upon the Florida Keys, is when you truly understand the closeness of this community.  The residence that stayed and danced with Irma ~ were the first responders in starting to clear our roads, help their neighbors and check on properties for ones desperately wanting to know if they still had a place to call home.  They were not doing this for notoriety, their time was given freely and without hesitation ~ this IS the foundation of the Florida Keys.  

The Upper Florida Keys could not have recovered as quickly as we are without additional help. The infrastructure is being put back together at a fast pace because of the outside help ready with their skill set ~ and this is what makes the United States of America an amazing place to live!  

A week after the storm, most of the businesses are open and fully functional.  Tourists are allowed back into the area starting October 1st.  The debris on the side of the roads are being cleared and people are starting to rebuild.  The hardest hit areas in the Upper Keys are mostly on the ocean side ~ they are moving at great speeds to get back to normal.

Many people are talking about real estate values in the Florida Keys ~ I will specifically talk about the Upper Keys (Islamorada and Key Largo).  Here at Coastal Realty of the Upper Keys, we are telling our customers not to panic.  Our community is bouncing back quickly; lets let the coral dust settle so we can truly evaluate the situation.  So far, what we are finding is most properties faired well in this area.  Property owners need to work on getting their homes in order, talk to your insurance companies if needed, hire a PRIVATE insurance adjuster if needed (but you must first notify your insurance company or your situation) and continue clearing / cleaning up your properties.  I am seeing deals close on a daily basis this week and that will continue.  

Call me if you have any questions regarding Upper Keys real estate - we will recover and be better than ever!  Very blessed to live in such an amazing community.  
Posted by Claire Johnson on September 28th, 2017 8:37 AM
Hurricane Irma has just paid a visit to Florida, impacting the area that I call home ~ the Florida Keys.  My family and I held strong to our word, that we would not ride out any storm over 100mph winds ~ and so we left to stay with family in the center of the state.  We did receive word that our house faired the storm well and have been in contact with many of our friends back home.  My husband left this morning to head back home, with a Uhaul and supplies, to help our neighbors.  The Upper Keys will be back in full swing in no time ~ we continue to pray for the middle to lower Keys.  The Keys are strong and this is the time when you understand what it is like to be a "local" in a tourism filled industry.  This is why I love my community!

With all the recovery that is taking place in the Florida Keys, there is still business that needs to be addressed.  That is what has prompted me to write during this time.  If you have a real estate deal in the Florida Keys (or in the state of Florida) there is a provision in the contract that addresses such an issue.  The section is called "Force Majeure" which refers to an Act of God.  

Force Majeure
 (French for “superior force”) is a contract provision that relieves the parties from performing their contractual obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise, making performance inadvisable, commercially impracticable, illegal, or impossible.

I am addressing this because Realtor's have a fiduciary responsibility to their customers.  Review your contract and read the clause in its 
entirety.  There are many places that are still without cell service, internet or utilities ~ being able to contact your Realtor might be a temporary set back.  Hope this helps.  

Please continue to pray for the areas affected by Irma and it is not just in Florida. 

Posted by Claire Johnson on September 14th, 2017 9:38 AM
Florida Keys Flood Zones

The "bell" of the street - 124 Villa Bella Dr. Venetian Shores Islamorada, Florida Keys from Claire Johnson on Vimeo.  This house is ALL above flood - owners went thru great lengths to raise the lower levels - all was done with permits!

When searching for Florida Keys real estate there are a number of factors to consider - one of them being flood zones.  The entire Florida Keys is located in a flood zone; there are limited areas in the Florida Keys that flood insurance is not required ~that is the X flood zone.   There are three flood zones in the Florida Keys - X, AE, and VE.  
X flood zones do not require flood insurance because by standing on the ground, you are already above flood.  If you do opt to purchase flood insurance, it is very minimal.   It is somewhat safe to say that any ground level home built in 1975 and onward, is above flood. But not all of these homes are going to be in an X flood zone. There are some ground levels homes, that are above flood, that are in an AE flood zone.  

AE and VE flood zones will have a number associated with it (i.e. - AE 8) - the number will signify how high the home has to be above the flood zone.  The "E" in the flood zones denotes that this flood zone has an elevation requirement (has a base flood elevation - "E" for short).  An elevation certificate will determine how high the property is above flood by just standing on the ground.  Once that number is determined, then you know how high to elevate the home.  Most homes are elevated higher than necessary to utilize the parking / storage underneath.  For example, I live in an AE 8 - the land my house is built on is 4' above the flood zone, my house was built on 4' of fill - which gets me the 8' needed to be built above flood.  AE flood zone is inland from the coastline.  

VE flood zones are located on the coastline - your direct ocean and bay front homes.  "V" stand for Velocity.  Homes that are located in the VE zone - flood insurance will be Very Expensive.  It is only if the home is located in this zone, not the land.  You could have a property that is located in multiple flood zones.  

If you want to work with a true "local" Realtor, contact me.  I have been selling Florida Keys real estate full time since 2003.  Let me experience and knowledge work for you!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on August 16th, 2017 6:43 AM

When looking for Islamorada real estate or Key Largo real estate, is it important to use "local" Realtor?  Yes, and here are my reasons why.

Florida Keys Lifestyle from Claire Johnson on Vimeo.

First lets define a "local" Realtor.  A "local" is someone who is full time and owns / rents a home in the Florida Keys for X amount of years.   A "true" local is someone who was born in the Keys.  Like so many of us though, we are transplants - "came down on vacation and stayed for the duration" a popular phrase!  When have transplants earned the right to call themselves "locals?" ~ that could be up for debate... is 10 years, 20 years and so on.  

In this article, I am discussing a "local" Realtor.  What has prompted me to write this is the presence of mainland Realtors who will drive to the Florida Keys and sell Islamorada real estate and Key Largo real estate.  Let me first say that my real estate license gives me the right to sell in the entire state of Florida.  In my opinion, it would be a disservice for me to sell real estate in an area I do not know.  Every area has their own intricacies, building code regulations, control depths, tidal changes, flood insurance requirements and so on.  Why would you entrust such an expensive purchase to someone who is not a seasoned, local Realtor?  

When working with a full time, successful Realtor - you will get someone who "will know enough to be dangerous" about many facets of purchasing or selling a Florida Keys home. Building codes, insurances, control depths, bridge heights, subdivisions and what they have to offer, vacation rental policies, able to compare various subdivisions - pros and cons, able to compare condominium complexes - pros and cons, mangroves, and so on.  A local Realtor will know who to direct you to to find out more detailed answers.  

When consumers are searching for Islamorada real estate or Key Largo real estate, majority will start their search online.  Zillow and Trulia will capture many of those inquiries.  When you enter your information on those real estate portals, it will be sold to different real estate agents who have paid for those leads - and those Realtors could be located anywhere in the state of Florida.  I have had Realtors call me from Tallahassee (9 hours away), Orlando (6 hours away).  I would think, one would presume, you are getting a "local" Realtor.  Why would you even consider that someone would sell in an area they are not familiar with?  

How to avoid working with an out-of-town Realtor -1. Ask questions -such as do you live in the Keys full time?  For how long have you lived in the Florida Keys? How long have you been a full time Realtor?  2.  Find a "local" Realtors website -  As a member of our Board of Realtors, we have the authorization to provide all the listings in the Florida Keys on our website.  My website, allows you to save properties that are of interest ~ this gives you the ability to easily track those properties in one location.  Upon logging in to my website for the first time - it will remember you for future visits.  

Shameless plug - I have been selling real estate in the Florida Keys full time since 2003.  I have owned a property in Islamorada (Lower Matecumbe Key) since 1997.  Being entrenched in this community has made my career successful.  I am at the point where referrals make up a big part of my business.  Let my experience and knowledge work for you.  

The Florida Keys is an amazing place to live and vacation.  When you take away our tourists, we are a small local community.  Islamorada has about 8,000 residents and Key Largo - about 12,000 residents.  We know each other, we work well with each other and we look out for each other.  

I will look forward to your phone call or you creating your own private portal on my website!  

Posted by Claire Johnson on August 14th, 2017 11:10 AM
The attraction of the Florida Keys is NOT the miles of beaches, it is the underwater world. The Florida Keys is made up of an island chain that stretches 106 miles long.  Many people think that Key West is the only island in the Keys but that is far from the case!  You will begin your paradise excursion the moment you drive over Jewfish Creek Bridge and come onto Key Largo.  If you drive all the way to Key West, you will have driven majority of the Keys and the various municipalities.  

Why don't we have beaches in the Keys that stretch on for miles?  Great question - we are surrounded by the largest living coral reef in North America - the reef system protects our shoreline from waves.  We do not have the musical sound of waves crashing on our shoreline -hence the sandy bottom is not being pushed up to create beaches.  

Can you find beach like places to hang out - yes, we call them sandbars!  There is nothing more enjoyable than immersing yourself in our crystal clear blue waters, socializing with friends and soaking up the Florida sunshine.  

Are you wanting to join our way of life?  The Florida Keys lifestyle is one of laid-back attitudes, community camaraderie, and island charm.  We like a stress free environment, with lots of laughs.  Many people come down on vacation and figure out how they can stay for the duration.  If you are interested in relocating to the Florida Keys, contact me.  Having lived here since 1996 and becoming a full time Realtor in 2003 - I have immersed myself in the community.  Whether you are looking for Islamorada real estate or Key Largo real estate, I can help you find what you are looking for.  Let me research the Islamorada homes for sale or the Key Largo homes for sale.  I know the subdivisions, I will give you my opinions on the area - the pros and cons, I understand the importance of control depths and boating needs. I know enough to be dangerous on building codes, insurances and loans - I will connect you to the right people.  While I do all the work - you can enjoy the beauty of the Florida Keys until I call on your to preview properties.  What are you waiting for - contact me - 305-731-4602; flkeysclaire@icloud.com

Posted by Claire Johnson on August 8th, 2017 1:45 PM
I enjoy looking at the FLA-Keys YouTube channel - they create stunning commercials of life in the Florida Keys.  When you are exploring the Keys and immersing yourself in nature - it makes it easier to put the electronic devices away.  A family that plays together, stays together.  

Are you ready to make this your playground?  We experienced a little slow down during the last presidential election but the real estate market is now continuing to thrive.  Whether you are looking for a non-waterfront home, waterfront home, condo or land - let my 14 years of experience work for you.   It is not only about understanding the home purchase but understanding the local waters.  We are a boating community - whether you are sailors, fishermen, kite boarders, paddle boarders / kayakers, divers / snorkelers, or just like to cruise around on your boat - it is important to get with a Realtor who knows the waterways. 

Enjoy the video - "there is no app for that!"

Posted by Claire Johnson on August 1st, 2017 1:21 PM
Key Deer are located mostly on Big Pine Key, Florida Keys.  The National Key Deer Refuge is approximately 8,500 acres on Big Pine Key and No Name Key.  Key Deer are quite small - weigh up to 75lbs and all of 30" tall.  Early writings of the deer where in the 1500's!  When exploring Big Pine Key, please obey the speed limits to help protect our deer!  

Key Deer, Big Pine Key, Florida Keys from Claire Johnson on Vimeo.

Posted by Claire Johnson on June 29th, 2017 9:46 AM
Palatial Port Largo
397 Laguna Ave, Key Largo, Florida Keys? 

Three floors encompass this spacious home. Children can play endless games of hide-n-seek, adults can escape to a quiet place, or all gather together to create memories. Immense outdoor living space for all to enjoy!  Screened porch houses the hot tub and overlooks the pool, which is surrounded by a privacy fence;  75’ concrete dock is just steps away and over 5’ control depth at canal entrance.   As you enter into the foyer, this first level (with over 1600sf of enclosed space) encompasses permitted storage, locker room and playroom, which overlooks the pool and canal.  The interior staircase leads you to the enormous main living part of the house, with 2,992 sf of spacious living - 4 bedrooms / 3.5 bathrooms.  A generous size kitchen, dining room and living room - all three rooms open onto another screened porch. This porch hosts a bar and more views looking down on the pool and canal.  The 3rd level is all Master suite, with its own private balcony and sauna.  Enjoying the outdoors is pivotal for the Keys lifestyle. Conveniently located to the Key Largo Park with more outdoor activities - Pirate Ship pool, diving boards, tennis courts, ball fields, jogging trail and much more.  This home is perfect for entertaining or to use as a vacation rental.  You can do so much with this house - your imagination is your only limitation! Come down and make it yours.

Port Largo is located at Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo, Florida Keys.  This subdivision is known for its deep control depth at the entrance of the canal - approximately 6'.  Many canals entrances average about 4'. Port Largo's canal system exits directly into the Atlantic Ocean - within minutes you are cruising at full speed to reach your destination.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on November 1st, 2016 5:19 AM
Buying a home in Islamorada gets you one step closer to easy living and a laid back lifestyle. It is a place for family and friends to gather and create lifelong memories. Sometimes it it not about having a spacious house but providing a retreat that can house many guests.  Coastal Living has provided some fantastic ideas for bunk bed rooms.  When searching for Islamorada real estate and Key Largo real estate imagine the possibilities of a home and make it happen.  We are in a Seller's market; properties are limited and can sell quickly.  If you find something you like, it is best to move sooner rather than later.  I have been a full time Realtor for the past 14 years.  I can help you find your piece of paradise.  

Coastal Living
Posted by Claire Johnson on June 21st, 2016 8:29 AM
Thinking of purchasing a home in the Florida Keys? Wondering what activities are available on a chain of small islands?  Here are some great activities to keep in mind when exploring around the island chain.  When teaming up with a Realtor, you will be guided through the process of determining which area of the Florida Keys will work for you and your family. Whether you are looking for Key West real estate, Lower Keys real estate, Marathon real estate, Islamorada real estate or Key Largo real estate - I can help you narrow your search and find that perfect piece of paradise!  My 14 years of experience in selling real estate in the Florida Keys will be used to your advantage.  Thinking outside the box, pointing out the pros and cons of an area or a home is what sets me apart.  My job is to understand and look out for your best interest.  

Video by FloridaKeys.TV and Fla-Keys.com 
Posted by Claire Johnson on June 20th, 2016 9:38 AM
Staying alert when navigating the waters around the Florida Keys is a must.  Although most areas are marked with channel markers, there are areas that require local knowledge.  The tidal difference between high and low are a couple of feet.  Except for twice a month, when there is a new moon or a full moon - then the tidal difference is known as an extreme high tide or low tide - which could add another 6' - 12' on top of the normal tide.  Here is a little rhyme to help you navigate the waters - 

Brown, brown run aground
White, white you just might
Blue, blue cruise on through

In my opinion, Islamorada has the best boating!  There are a number of bridges which offer cut throughs from ocean side to bay side.  To navigate from one side to the other is only a matter of minutes no matter where you are.  Where Islamorada has 4 habitable islands, that are approximately 4 miles long each, Key Largo offers a different scenario. The island of Key Largo is approximately 16 miles long.  There are 3 cut throughs - Jewfish Creek on the North end, Adams Cut located at mile marker 103 and Tavernier Creek on the South end. When looking for Key Largo real estate keep in mind the boating time to get from ocean to bay side or vice versa.  Call me to help you navigate through the home buying process.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on June 7th, 2016 9:28 AM
Looking to sell your home in the Florida Keys?  I offer an opportunity to get connected locally and globally. Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (Leading RE) / Luxury Portfolio International is the largest Realtor network.  The Leading RE network level of excellence is unmatched.   This is an invitation only network. Brokerages have to be independently owned and top producing.  Leading RE / Luxury Portfolio has over 500 firms, 140,000 sales associates, in over 50 countries and a website that can be translated into 9 languages and continues with strong growth.  

Our affiliation with Leading RE / Luxury Portfolio International is one of many different avenues for getting great exposure for your home.  The global focus is unprecedented and our local presence is unsurmountable.  Freewheeler Realty is the oldest real estate company in the Keys that is still owned and operated by the original owners.  We are affiliated with Freewheeler Vacations which is the largest vacation rental company in the Upper Keys. Having access to thousands of potential prospects gives us the ability to find Buyers who are ready, willing and able to purchase a home in the Florida Keys.  Our marketing does not stop with these two avenues.  Thinking outside the box and creating a marketing plan that will work for your property is our speciality.  

If you are considering selling your home in the Florida Keys, call me to set up an appointment to discuss your marketing plan.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on May 10th, 2016 12:27 PM
Looking to build a home in the Florida Keys.  This Tavernier lot is located at the south end of Key Largo, conveniently located near the hospital, grocery store, schools, movie theater, restaurants and shopping.  Great location with access to the Atlantic Ocean, mostly cleared corner lot that is partially fenced.  You can launch your kayak, paddle boards or just sit and enjoy the view!  

Now is a great time to still get in the game down here!  This lot will eventually be put into ROGO (Rate Of Growth Ordinance) system to obtain a building permit.  It takes a few years to be allocated a building permit.  In order to get in the system, all requirements must be completed and approved... and then you wait.  If you are not looking to build immediately, purchasing a property without a building permit would be the most cost effective.  You can then hire someone to handle the permitting process for you or tackle it on your own.  As properties sit in the system, the market value continues to increase.  

Florida Keys real estate is on a steady rise.  Over the past few years, we have seen 5-10% market value increases.  I am available to answer your questions any time.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on April 7th, 2016 10:14 AM
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
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
Property in the Florida Keys remains on the upward swing.  The inventory continues to decrease while the property values maintain a steady market value increase.  On average the yearly increase is around 10%.   It flipped into a seller's market in 2014; prior to that it was a Buyer's market for almost 10 years.  If you are considering making an investment in the Keys, I would suggest acting sooner rather than later.  The statistics are for a first quarter comparison (although I know I am not at the end of March 2016 quite yet) for 2014, 2015 and 2016.  

Being a tourist based industry, the Florida Keys is comprised of approximately fifty (50%) percent second home owners.  The Florida Keys island chain only has so much land left to build out.  Hurricane evacuation is the deciding factor on the build out.  There is already discussions being held as to what to do with the vacant lots that have the potential not to get a building permit.  Once the land is built out, we will be in a new realm of property values.  The discussions estimate the build out to take place in about 10 years.  Of course, time will tell.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 24th, 2016 8:37 AM
We are so fortunate to have these gentle giants right in our own backyard!  Manatees can often be seen in various canals through out the Florida Keys.  This mama manatee was spotted with her newborn on Lower Matecumbe Key, Islamorada.  Females have one calf every two to five years.  The calf stays with its mother for two years, nursing off her teats - which is what I believe we are witnessing in this video.   Manatees are very gentle, skittish mammals.  They are air breathing herbivores who enjoy munching on sea grass, mangrove leaves and algae.  They are slow moving so please be on the look out when boating so you can avoid hitting these gentle sea cows.  Manatees have no natural predators but humans have played a large part in their risk of extinction.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 23rd, 2016 2:41 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

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
The colors of the Florida Keys waters continue to awe me everyday - and I have lived here for about 20 years.  I never get tired of seeing the water, being ON the water or being IN the water.  This was a perfect morning to go paddle boarding on the bay - calm, peaceful, and gorgeous.  There is always a way to get on the water and the paddle board gives me the opportunity to sneak up on critters that might be swimming by.  Every time I see a sea creature, the excitement is there as if it was the first time I saw it.  This post does not capture a sea critter but I will post one that does (as soon as I can find it in my videos!!) Are you ready to make this YOUR backyard?!!

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 14th, 2016 10:06 AM

Freewheeler Realty earned the position of being invited to join Leading Real Estate Companies of the World / Luxury Portfolio International.  Being a top producing independent brokerage in the Florida Keys has given us a leg up on our competition.  Leading Real Estate Companies of the World / Luxury Portfolio International has over 500 offices, in 50 countries with over 140,000 agents and growing.  This affiliation provides unprecedented GLOBAL reach, while allowing each brokerage to maintain their LOCAL connections!  Freewheeler Realty has sold over $98 MILLION in 2015 because of our dedication to our customers and our standing in the community.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 7th, 2016 9:12 AM
Here is a sneak peak of this Key Largo non-waterfront home.  It is located in an X flood zone, which mean no flood insurance is required, ground level, 3 bedroom / 2 bath, 1800sf of living space.  Vaulted ceilings add to the spaciousness of this CBS home.  Built in 2005 in a Key Largo neighborhood which offers a homeowner's park with a boat ramp; you can head ocean side or go through Adam's Cut to the bayside.  The master bedroom is huge with a large walk-in closet.  The two guest bedrooms are quite spacious as well.  Indoor laundry / storage room.  The vaulted ceilings add to the open feel of the great room.  Naturally lighting creates a light and airy feel to the home.  Plenty of parking out front, backyard is fenced.  

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 6th, 2016 7:01 AM
Here is a sneak peak of a Key Largo non-waterfront home that I just listed.  It is located in an X flood zone, which means no flood insurance is required, ground level, 3 bedroom / 2 bath, 1800sf of living space.  Vaulted ceilings add to the spaciousness of this CBS home. Built in 2005 in a neighborhood which offers a homeowner's park with a boat ramp; easy access to Atlantic Ocean side or go through Adam's Cut to the Florida Bay.  The master suite is huge with a large walk-in closet.  The two guest bedrooms are quite spacious as well.  Indoor laundry / storage room.  The vaulted ceilings add to the open feel of this home. Naturally lighting creates a light and airy feel.  Plenty of parking out front, backyard is fenced. Being offer at $549,000.00

Posted by Claire Johnson on March 5th, 2016 5:10 PM

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