Buying a waterfront Home in the Keys

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:

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