Key West: Investment Real Estate Redefined

There’s no question that, like the rest of the country, Key West has gone through a sharp decline in real estate. In fact, the real estate recession probably had its impact on Key West sooner than in many other areas. However, it now also seems like Key West is seeing an earlier recovery as well. Some of the earlier signs were with a marked uptick in vacation rentals, at all times of the year, especially in summer. And now, we see an estimated 7% increase in average home purchase prices from a year ago. Inventory is down substantially from this time last year, and we are actually seeing homes being purchased at “above asking” prices.
Meanwhile, vacation rental homes have become a tremendous opportunity for investors. A well-located and nicely furnished home of any size with a transient license has the potential to generate 10-12% of its purchase price in gross rental income every year. An exceptional home with three or more bedrooms can generate even more, as much as 13-15% in gross income. Returns like this have changed the nature of real estate investment, which has always depended primarily on real estate appreciation. With rates and occupancy of vacation rentals presently growing every year, and the attractive tax benefits that come with owning an “active” rental, such a home could in effect pay for itself in less than twelve years. For more information, feel free to call 305.304.1933 or e-mail Chris Santry.

Transient Rental Licenses in Key West

The City of Key West used to issue transient rental licenses for a nominal fee to those homeowners who wished to rent their homes by the night. The City stopped issuing those licenses quite a few years ago, but grandfathered all licenses that were in existence. Rentals throughout the City are strictly monitored and enforced, with the perhaps unintended result that vacation rental rates have in recent years grown at double digit rates. Not surprisingly, homes that are transiently licensed have become especially valuable for investment purposes. An indication of just how valuable is the cost of purchasing a transient license on the secondary market, which in spite of the complications of effecting the transfer of rights from one house to another, has risen to as much as $50,000. Truman Annex homes may have what is known as a “Special Transient License”, which is subject to a weekly minimum and has a sunset clause attached. You can find out more by calling 305.304.1933 or e-mailing Chris Santry.

Avoiding Key West Vacation Rental Scams

Avoiding Key West Vacation Rental Scams

Although technology has advanced the Key West vacation rental industry tremendously over the last few years, allowing travelers from all over the world to shop for and locate Key West vacation rentals with ease, it has also complicated the vacation rental industry in a way many of us never imagined. It is the nightmare of our business to receive the news that unsuspecting travelers arrive in Key West to find that the vacation rental that they paid for online actually does not exist, or was not rented to them by the legitimate vacation rental manager of the home. This is unfortunately a story that is becoming more and more common in Key West, as scammers on sites like Craigslist steal and post photos and descriptions of beautiful homes like those that we manage, creating fake listings and luring in innocent vacation rental seekers to submit payment online – only to find upon arrival that their rental is not legitimate and that they have been scammed. For this reason, we have put together some tips for protecting yourself against vacation rental scams when shopping for your next rental.

Online Payments – Do Your Research

If a listing only accepts online payments, or requires a credit card via email or online to “hold the reservation”, a quick Google search may save you from being scammed. Legitimate vacation rental companies have their own websites for verification and marketing purposes, and very few private owners renting out their homes personally accept payment via PayPal or other online source.

If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

If you have read our blog post about Transient Rental Licenses in Key West, you know that very few homes in Key West can be rented nightly and weekly because of the strictly enforced city ordinances surrounding short-term rentals. The high demand on these rentals drives the nightly and weekly rental rates up, which makes it difficult to find inexpensive vacation rental lodging for less than a one month stay. Many have turned to sites like Craigslist to search for less expensive vacation home options, but the homes posted on these sites at $150 per night are generally scams. Even in the case that a private owner does rent their home through Craigslist, they will not be charging $150 per night. Not even on “extreme last minute special” – the truth is that most homeowners would rather let their homes sit empty than rent last minute for $150 per night. Do some research on market rates for rentals during your travel dates, and if you see pricing that is vastly below that – that should be your first red flag of a scam listing. The lesson here is: if the deal on the home looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Real Listings Pay To Post

Sites such as Craigslist are free to create accounts and post – making it easy and accessible to all. However, because these sites are free, anyone can post on them with zero investment. We do not list our homes on Craigslist or any other “free” listing site for that exact reason. We have chosen to advertise on paid listing sites such as HomeAway and VRBO, which require annual paid subscriptions to list, because we are then listed only among other legitimate vacation homes that paid to advertise there. For our company, the risk of being listed among scam rentals is not worth the return of additional traffic we may receive through those free sites. Avoid searching for rentals on listing sites that are free to post, and you will likely protect yourself from scammers who would not pay the subscription fees to post a fake listing on a paid site.

Look To Previous Guests

Most vacation rental homes offer some sort of outlet for previous guests to evaluate their previous stays, and finding reviews from past guests on a property not only assures you that the rental likely DOES exist (since others stayed there in order to evaluate it) but it also gives you a reference point for your decision besides the rental company’s description of the home. Reviews can be good, bad, and even ugly – but they will tell you more about a home than any advertisement can. We encourage all of our guests to leave guest reviews on our HomeAway and VRBO listings, and we urge our potential guests researching our homes to read those reviews to help them evaluate the homes they are reserving. In addition to providing legitimacy and evaluation for a home, the reviews often give great advice to future guests on local spots to visit close to the rental home, or things in the home to take advantage of such as a special feature that may not be listed in the write up. A listing and/or company with no reviews should be a mental flag for a researcher to ask more questions.

If you are ever in the final stage of a rental and want to check one last time for legitimacy, call the City of Key West Licensing Department at 305-809-3955 and ask for help in verifying the rental company and/or home. If you are the victim of a vacation rental scam, you can file complaints with the Internet Crime Complaint Center and/or the FTC. Finally, to be sure you are renting a legitimate 5-star luxury home with 24/7 concierge guest services, contact us anytime to discuss our available rentals.