Buyers Guide
Financial Info
Buying a Vacation Rental
Buyers Guide

Upper Keys Real Estate Buying Guide Bookmark and Share

As you may be aware, the environment that makes the Keys so attractive to thousands of people is a fragile environment the requires considerable attention to protect its health and beauty. This fact has created a requirement for close management of all activities that have or might have negative impact on the environment now or in the foreseeable future. The result is a number of “unique to the Keys” regulations and procedures concerning property ownership. They are provided for information purposes of broaden your understanding of what is invalided when purchasing property in the Keys.

Flood Insurance: 
The buyer must determine the insurability of the property against flood damage by seeking the advice of a qualified insurance agent. Structures built before January 1, 1975 (pre-firm) are subject to rules governing substantial and non-substantial improvements to pre-firm structures which may limit the reconstruction, rehabilitation or addition to the pre-firm structure. Structures built after January 1, 1975 that has enclosures below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) are typically not habitable. The existence of habitable space below the BFE may require demolition or an increase in insurance premium. Buyers should contact the Monroe County Federal Emergency Management Coordinator or the City of Key West, City of Key Colony Beach, City of Layton, City of Islamorada and City of Marathon to ascertain how these rules may impact on the property of interest.

Coastal Barrier Resources System Act (CBRS): 
Certain properties in Monroe County may be affected by the Federal Coastal Barrier Resources System Act or proposed amendments. For information contact the United States Department of the Interior, the Monroe County Planning Department or your legal representative. Property so designated is not eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance as well as other benefits.

Land Use Disclosure: 
Due to the unpredictable and constantly changing status of the municipal, county and state regulations for property developments in Monroe County each buyer should contact the appropriate local government department(s) to determine how the subject property may be affected by the Comprehensive Plan and the action necessary to ensure compliance with the plan. Additionally, a property may be affected by restrictive covenants in the form of deed restrictions, Homeowners Association Rules & Restrictions, etc. Every Buyer needs to inquire about them. They also should inquire into state and local governmental zoning and land use regulations and restrictive covenants to determine whether the subject property is in compliance with all state and local government laws, codes and ordinances, and restrictive covenants.
Monroe County Growth Management Division, 305-289-2500 Key Colony Beach Building & Zoning, 305-289-0247 City of Key West, 305-295-1000 City of Layton, 305-664-4667 City of Islamorada 305-664-2345 City of Marathon, 305-289-2501

Monroe County Year 2010 Comprehensive Plan:
The use of the property may be affected by the Land Use Plan, enacted September 15, 1986, revised 1/96 with subsequent revisions due every five (5) years hence or the availability of utilities and sewage disposal now or in the future. The transient rental of single-family residences in I.S. districts has been questioned by Monroe County and regulation by Local or State government may restrict such rentals in certain areas. Properly functioning septic tanks are the minimum permissible on site sewage disposal systems (OSDS). An allocation ordinance exists which limits the number of building permits issued for residential dwelling units. Prior to signing a contract, seek legal counsel or consult with the Monroe County Planning and Zoning Departments. Monroe County is an area of State Critical Concern that heightens the degree of regulation by the State of Florida.

City of Key West Land Use:
The City of Key West has debated the definition of vacation rentals and implementation of legislation to regulate, license, permit or prohibits within the City limits of Key West. If a Buyer is considering renting their property they should discuss the status of this issue with the Key West Planning Dept. to understand its impacts on the Buyer’s proposed use of the property.

Structures and uses that do not conform to uses provided for in the land use category that the property or use is located in are considered non-conforming. Such uses and structures are currently allowed to continue but they are not allowed to be expanded, enlarged or continued if substantially destroyed (more than 50% of the value of the structure). Zoning together with the uses provided there under which do not conform to the future Land Use Designations are considered non-conforming. Furthermore, non-conformities are jeopardized if abandoned. Buyers should to seek legal counsel or consult with the Monroe County Planning and Zoning Department to determine whether a property is non-conforming today or may be in the future.
Radon Gas: 
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it has accumulated in a building in sufficient quantities, may present health risks to persons who are exposed to it over time. Levels of radon that exceed federal and state guidelines have been found in buildings in Florida. Additional information regarding radon and radon testing may be obtained from your county public health unit. Pursuant to 404.056(8), Florida Statutes.
Energy Efficiency Rating:
The Purchaser may have the Energy Efficiency Rating of the building determined at buyers expense by a person certified by the Department of Community Affairs.
Concrete Disclosure: 
Various concrete structures in the Keys have been found to contain excessive levels of Chloride. This has caused a condition known as spalling which results from the rusting and expansion of steel rebar which reinforces the concrete.
Sewage Disclosure Form: 
The City of Marathon and unincorporated Monroe County have taken steps to upgrade to central sewer systems. For questions regarding the timing of the upgrades or estimated hook-up fees, contact:
Monroe County Health Department
3333 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050
(305) 289-2450
City of Marathon
10045-55 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050
(305) 743-0033

Lead Base Paint Warning: 
For homes, apartments or condominiums built prior to 1978. Every purchaser of any interest in residential real property on which a residential dwelling was built prior to 1978 is notified that such property may present exposure to lead from lead-based paint that may place young children at risk of developing lead poisoning. Lead poisoning in young children may produce permanent neurological damage, including learning disabilities, reduced intelligent quotient, behavioral problems and impaired memory. Lead poisoning also poses a particular risk to pregnant women. The seller of any interest in residential real property is required to provide the buyer with any information on lead-based paint hazards from risk assessments or inspections in the seller’s possession and notify the buyer of any known lead-based paint. A risk assessment or inspection for possible lead-based paint hazards is reconverted prior to purchas


Florida Keys Mortgage LendersBookmark and Share

Capital Bank
Contact Rich Tompkins,Senior Residential Lending Consultant, 2348 Overseas Highway, Marathon Fl, 33050 at (305) 289-7002, 305-743-9473, Cell 305-393-3926,
Email Website

Centennial Bank
Contact Michael Kiraly, Loan Officer Residential Lending, 11290 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL, 33050, at 305-876-3019, Fax 305-396-5679.
Email: Website:

First State Bank
Contact Jason O’Brien, Residential Lending Specialist, 24794 Overseas Hwy., Summerland Key, FL 33042, at 305-745-2514 or Cell 305-942-1443, Fax 305-745-8773. Email: Website:

Home 1st Lending
Contact John Mendoza, Licensed Loan Originator, Cell: 305-906-2178,
Toll-free: 1-888-466-3178 X 2101, Fax: 305-906-2178. Email Website:

Keys Federal Credit Union
Contact John North, Mortgage Loan Originator, 3022 N. Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040 at 305-293-6071 or Cell: 305-393-7210. Email: Website:

Mortgage Lending Solutions
Contact Carolyn Frey SVP Co-owner, Office: 305-735-2524. Cell: 614-264-8189. Email:

Sanford Mortgage Corporation
Contact Julie Wallace, President/Owner, Florida Keys office: 305-296-3333, Cell: 407-416-8255, Fax: 407-982-7086. Email: Website:

Ken Nyman
East Coast Mortgage Lenders
Key Largo, FL
Phone: 305-394-0841

Claudia Stober
Mortgage Choice, Inc.
dba Horizon Mortgage Services
Islamorada, FL
Phone: 305-664-4664

Heather Roberts
Iberia Bank
Key West, FL
Office: 305-296-0016
Cell: 305-879-1092

Lisa Feliciano, Manager
Mortgage Consultant
Community Bank Financial Center
Tavernier, FL
Office: 305-852-0516
Cell: 305-766-0643


Upper Keys Moving Guide & Checklist:

This checklist has been carefully designed to help get you organized and ready you’re your upcoming move.
8 Weeks before move:
Look into getting moving and/or storage insurance to cover your items during the move. Begin to get estimates from moving companies. Shop around as much as possible to get the best rate. Remember to be as accurate as possible when giving information for your estimate.
If you plan to move yourself, now is the time to reserve a rental truck. Again, it pays to shop around
Get estimates for shipping your car.
If you are moving overseas, check on possible quarantine and/or vaccination requirements for your pet.
If you have small children, be sure to research child care options in your new area. Select and register children for local schools in your new area. Arrange transfer of immunization and records and transcripts.
7 Weeks before move:
Make a Moving File to store receipts, records, and important papers related to your move.
Check with accountant about which moving expenses are deductible.
Begin removing unwanted or unneeded items from your attic, garage, basement, or storage.
Plan to donate or sell.
Check to make sure you have returned all borrowed items including video rentals and library books.
Gather important documents (birth certificates, immunization records, insurance documents, etc..) and place them in a briefcase, strong box, or other secure place to insure that they do not get misplaced during the move.
If you’re using a mover, get in touch with your chosen moving company and set a date for the move. Fill out any necessary paperwork, and be sure to get moving insurance if you need it.
6 Weeks before move:
Check that your car registration and driver’s license are up to date.
You may also need to notify your auto insurance.
Make item donations, and collect receipts for tax purposes. Or, try selling your unwanted items online.
Have garage sale.
Notify your doctor, dentist, veterinarian, accountant, and financial planner of your move and ask for referrals in your new area. Collect records from them.
Be sure your medical insurance covers the professionals in your new area.
___Forward or cancel any monthly services, subscriptions, or memberships.
5 Weeks before move:
Contact current utility companies to cancel or transfer accounts to lower Keys utilities.
Decide where you are going to stay your last night in town after all your items are packed for moving.
Make sure you have transportation arrangements for your pet.
4 Weeks before move:
Fill out an official change of address with USPS online.
Notify all important business and personal contacts of your new address.
Fill out changes of address for creditors and magazine subscriptions.
Leave a forwarding address with the next owners or tenants of your home if possible.
Buy boxes and packing materials if you are moving yourself.
Reserve elevator, if necessary, for moving day.
3 Weeks before move:
Start packing! Begin with rooms of the house you don’t use often and finish with the kitchen.
Choose a room of the house to serve as a temporary storage area for packed boxes.
Make an inventory of important and/or expensive items in your home as you pack. Try to take photographs of these items, if possible. You may need this inventory for insurance purposes in the event items get lost or damaged in the move.
Check into storage options for those items you cannot move immediately and may need to store temporarily.
Start involving your kids in the move. Make it exciting by having your kids pack some of their own things. Give them their own box to pack. Let them figure out new layouts for their rooms.
If you have young children, arrange for a babysitter on moving day. You can concentrate on the move knowing your children are being cared for safely.
2 Weeks before move:
Close any local bank accounts and open new ones in your new location. Try to get checks printed with your new address as soon as possible.
Drain gas from any gas powered equipment before you pack it up. Try to make disposal arrangements for any oil, gas, old paint cans, or other hazardous substances you will not be able to move, use, or give away.
Verify schedules with Realtor.
Arrange to have your new home cleaned before movers arrive.
1 Week before move:
Make backup copies of important files on your computer before packing it up.
Service your car, especially if you’re driving to your new place.
Donate food items you don’t consume to a shelter or food bank.
Cancel newspapers.
Confirm any travel plans or reservations you may have made for moving day (flights, hotel, rental cars, etc.)
Confirm arrangements with your moving company.
Give plants a loving home
Return cable boxes for TV.
Moving week:
Be sure to have some cash on hand for the day of the move. You may need it to tip movers, buy snacks, etc. Keep in mind that many businesses do not accept out-of-state checks.
Begin cleaning your house. Make sure you defrost your refrigerator and freezer.
Pick up your rental truck and any moving equipment you may need (dollies, carts, furniture pads, etc.).
Keep your pets confined on the day of the move. Make sure they are in a safe place away from the hubbub of the move with plenty of food and water.
When you’re finished, do a final walk-through of your old residence, checking closets, drawers, etc.
Turn off all lights, turn off hot water heater, lock all doors and windows.
___A wall phone.
___Cell phone and charger.
___Extension cords, batteries.
___Tools-hammers, screwdrivers, nails, screws, scotch tape, duct tape, and a tape measure.
___Address book or PDA.
___Suffiencit cash or traveler’s checks.
___Personal ID – driver’s license.
___Cleaning materials-especially paper towels.
___Hand wipes and toilet paper.
___Light bulbs, a small lamp, flashlight.
___Alarm clock.

___Take doors off hinges, clear paths for movers.
___Have your REALTOR suggest a local food delivery service for lunch/dinner on moving day.
___Make sure you have a cooler of drinks and toilet paper available on moving day
___Check each item off your inventory that movers bring into home
___Send in claims for damages during the move
___Make grocery shopping list for new home
___Test security and smoke alarms
___Obtain local emergency numbers and post them
___Take back rental truck with full tank of gas
___Get a professional to set up appliances (gas, electric or plumbing)
___Change locks on all doors. Call Realtor for locksmith referral.
___Find the right cellular phone service for your needs
___Feng Shui your home
___Go to the DMV for new plates and registration of vehicles
___Get a new propane tank for the grill and fuel for gas-powered tools
___File real estate documents in safe place-copy closing statement for accountant
___Join new homeowners association if there is one
___Buy new plants and flowers
___Throw a house warming party
___Find a new veterinarian, doctor, dentist, hair and nail salons. Again, your Realtor is the best place to head for recommendations.

Financial Info

Financing Your new Upper Keys home:

Five Steps to Homeownership

Consumer Tools 1Prepare for the Process.

Learn how to prepare for homeownership – one of the most important decisions an individual or family can make. This guide readies you for the challenges in the homebuying and financing process and offers steps you can take as you prepare to buy your home.

Consumer Tools 2Evaluate Your Credit.

This handy guide provides insights on your credit rating and helps you understand how mortgage lenders decide if they will loan you money for your new home. Learn where you can find a free copy of your credit report and how to potentially improve your credit score.

Consumer Tools 3Shop for a Mortgage.

This guide contains important information on the new mortgage rules in effect as October 3, 2015. Learn how these changes, including information on the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure forms will impact the process and what you can do to prepare.

Consumer Tools 4Get the Facts on Closing.

You’ve found the house of your dreams, and a mortgage product that works for you…now what?. Learn about the closing process, types of paperwork and documents required, and what your new mortgage will include. Don’t be surprised by fees, taxes and deadlines and review this brochure to ensure your closing runs smoothly.

Consumer Tools 5Plan for the Unexpected.

Prepare. Even an experienced homeowner needs to plan and budget for unforeseen problems so that they meet their financial obligations. This guide advises you on ways you can budget for your new home, preparing for surprises and unknowns and learn how to work with your lender if unforeseen circumstances should arise.

Buying a Vacation Rental

Buying an Upper Keys Vacation Rental:

Why Waterfront Vacation Rental Homes make the Best Investment

Savvy property investors know and abide by one ever-present fact–they purchase vacation rental homes in locations where people arrive as destination tourists. This holds true to the age-old real estate adage of the three largest factors in a property’s value being “location, location, location.” No matter how many features and updates a home might have, if it isn’t located in a great, thriving, and often visited location, like Lake Gaston, North Carolina, it will never command a high rent, low vacancy rate.

Nestled along a beautiful reservoir, Lake Gaston offers some of the best fishing in the United States, which include such delights as bluegill, chain pickerel, blue catfish, striped bass, largemouth bass, channel catfish and walleye. The area is also home to many recreational activities year-round, from boating to sightseeing, to the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail. Visitors also come to hike, wakeboard, ski, and take part in the annual barbeque cook-off and seafood festivals.

Why Waterfront Vacation Rental Homes make the Best Investment

Income properties are great long-term investments for individuals and families wanting to expand their portfolio and be put on-track to increase their wealth. Such investments become substantial assets, gaining higher property value with increased equity. Experienced real estate investors commonly use these types of properties as leverage collateral for other purchases.

A common hesitation is the entry price, which is higher than purchasing a vacation rental property in a less traveled area. However, the return is considerably higher, what’s more, rental rates are also higher while vacancy periods are short and irregular.

Waterfront homes are prime real estate and enjoy year-round demand from tourists traveling to the area for vacation. These homes, like those in Lake Gaston, rent for two days to an entire week or even seasonally. Investors enjoy a passive income stream while vacationers cover the costs of maintenance, property taxes, mortgage and insurance.

Owning a vacation rental also means having a dedicated place to stay on your schedule. Often times, these homes are used as collateral for future real estate investments and in some instances, become primary residents for retiree investors. This greatly reduces the cost of living during retirement as vacation renters cover expenses while the property continues to appreciate and earn more and more equity.

Now is the time to purchase because of the market timing in the housing sector. Interest rates are near historic lows and lenders, still reeling from what economists estimate to be a total of more than $1 trillion in defaulted loans. This means loosed access