Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Executive Bay Club Story

                                                The Executive Bay Club Story
                          Written Oct 2, 2011, and rewritten 04/13/2016 unedited
                                                             Howard Yasgar

      This short story was written to record the history of a Condominium townhouse no T6, located at the Executive Bay Club at Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
      Besides from the history aspect there were several humorous incidences that I have written about, although they were not humorous at the time they happened. The story also touches on a delicate subject regarding some very illegal activities practiced by a very unscrupulous real estate company that we had the misfortune of using in the Florida Keys.
     Everything that happened took place once we purchased Unit T6 at the Executive Bay Club located at mile marker 87.5 on the Overseas Highway. The actual address of Executive Bay Club is 87200 Overseas Highway, and unit T6 is a lovely two bedroom one and a half bath townhouse Condo with a spiral staircase that leads to the second floor.
     Our involvement began in 1984, but the original 200 unit development had been started sometimes back in the late 1970’s and into the early 1980’s, and they went bankrupt, much like most condo projects do in the Keys. The bankruptcy left all the units unfinished, with the steel spiral staircases all piled up on the next door lot, all being exposed to the weather for several years. Eventually the project was taken over by another developer and completed. The new developer changed the design of the units, slightly and instead of a second floor rear balcony, the master bedroom was enlarged, almost making it big enough to play basketball in. The original spiral staircases were salvaged, sandblasted, painted and then installed and they looked pretty good.
      In 1983, Unit T6 was purchased by a friend of ours named Joel Friedman. Joel was a business acquaintance of ours as well as a friend. Joel had told us he was dabbling in buying and selling real estate, and because I had very little real estate experience myself, I enjoyed listening to Joel tell me about the various real estate deals and the projects he was involved in. So somewhere along the line Joel mentioned something about his purchasing a two bedroom, 1-1/2 bath townhouse condo unit at Executive Bay Club in the Keys. He said he was upgrading the unit with nicer tile on the first floor and he was having the exposed beam ceilings on the second floor painted antique gray, and also his wife Marla had ordered a coconut palm tree to be planted in front of the unit.
     In 1984, my partner Don and I were told by our accountant that we needed to develop some business tax shelters. He suggested that we should buy some real estate that we could use for the business. He said real estate could also be used as an investment and when it was used by our business we could deduct some of it as a business expense.
     We gave it some thought and it sounded like it could be a smart move, especially if we could buy a property that we could both enjoy, and we could use it to entertain our customers. Thus we discussed it with the only person that we knew at the time who was involved in real estate, it was our friend and customer Joel Friedman.
     We told Joel that we were interested in possibly buying a business related vacation home somewhere, but we had not as yet decided what or where to buy, we wanted a place where we could entertain our out of town customers when they came to Miami, and did he have any ideas.
     I mentioned to Joel that I personally was interested in the Florida Key's, because I liked the tropical laid back atmosphere there, and I also liked to go boating and the Florida Keys was considered the fishing capital of the world. But my partner Don, who didn’t boat or fish preferred Marco Island on the West Coast of the state, he liked Marco Island as he thought it was more sophisticated.
     Shortly after our speaking to him, Joel came over to see us, and he said that he had a bit of a problem, but his problem could help us. Joel said he had purchased two new Condo units in a high rise building being built in downtown Miami. He had purchased the units at cheap pre construction prices. That meant the units had not been built yet, but he had put a hefty deposit down for the two units, one unit had an ocean view and the other was a corner unit with a partial ocean view, he said both were outstanding units. However, about a week ago he had been notified that the developer had gone bankrupt and the building was in foreclosure. Then he said, he was again notified that the entire project had been purchased by the prestigious “Miami Jockey Club”, and the value of his two units had now doubled. However they informed him that if he wanted to keep the two units he was going to have to deal with the Jockey Club, and come up with a lot more money, and he needed to do it right now. So Joel said he was in the process of liquidating some other properties that he owned, including the townhouse condo he owned at Executive Bay Club in the Keys. So Joel proposed to us, that we buy his unit at Executive Bay Club in the Florida Keys. He said we could buy it at his cost. I assumed that meant what he had paid for it. After all, we would be doing him a favor, he needed money fast and we would be helping him out. My partner Don, and I, both thought that as Joel was a fairly good friend, and he wouldn't take advantage of us. Turns out we were a little naïve in that respect. But as we were ready to invest our money anyway, so we told Joel that it sounded like a good idea.
     As it happens, Joel's real estate Attorney was Roy Lustig, who was our attorney as well, so we told Joel to have the Roy draw up the papers and we would purchase the unit from him, Joel said his cost was $87,000.00.
     We found out later that Joel had paid $64,000.00 for the unit, and even with the upgrades he had done, his costs were nowhere near the $87,000.00 he charged us. Anyway, for us it was still a good investment for our company, so we went through with the purchase of the unit at Executive Bay Club anyway.
      For us, it was all very exciting as we had never even seen what the place looked like, so after the closing, Don and I drove down to the Keys to see what we had bought. When we saw it, we felt it was a perfect place to bring our customers.
     The location of unit T6 was right in the center of the Executive Bay complex with parking in front, and extra parking spaces available across the way. It was just a short walk of a few hundred yards down to the beautiful swimming pool and club house. There was even a nice man-made beach and roped in area for salt water swimming and there was a beautiful long T shaped wooden dock used for tying up the residents boats, as well as for fishing.
    Once we purchased the unit, my fiancée Katherine was anxious to get to furnish and use the place. So on a Saturday afternoon we packed our bags in Miami and drove the 72 miles down U.S. 1 to Executive Bay Club. It was Katherine’s first time ever seeing the place.
     Now at the time, Katherine and I had a dog at home, he was a 35 pound, well mannered, Schnauzer-Poodle mix, named Sammy. Thus, when we arrived at Executive Bay Club, we met our new neighbors, who just happened to sit on the condominium board of directors. So we asked him if pets were allowed on the property, and he said yes, he was sure the charter of Executive Bay allowed both cats and dogs. So we planned on bringing our little Sammy with us the next time we came.
     The first few weekends we went, we hadn’t as yet ordered a bed or any furniture, so we brought sheets and blankets and planned on sleeping on the carpeted bedroom floor. On Sunday morning we awoke in the upstairs bedroom to hear the front door unlocking downstairs. Then we heard voices and we really got concerned. So I quickly pulled on my pants and went down the spiral stairs, and there I met Mr. Kay the property manager, he was with two people that looked like tourists in tow. “Who are you”, Mr. Kay said, I’m the owner I said, and with that, he apologized and left with the people. Several months later we heard that Mr. Kay had been fired for renting out units that were owned by people living out of town. Appears that he was renting several units without the owner’s permission. What his intentions were in entering our unit we will never know.
    Over the next few months Katherine and I had a lot of fun furnishing the condo, we bought a waterbed and dresser for the master bedroom from Waterbed City in Miami. At the time waterbeds were supposed to be the “In thing” to buy. But I don’t think we ever got a good night’s rest on it. Getting the furniture up to the second floor was quite a trick, the railing on the front balcony of the guest bedroom opened up and the furniture was handed up from the ground onto the small balcony, then into the glass sliding doors and down the hall to the master bedroom. Luckily there was a group of young, and husky tourists around to help us. Then for the guest room we found a discontinued round bed in Miami and bought it. We always got a good night’s sleep on that bed.
     Setting up the condo was all a new adventure for us, I was driving a yellow 1978 Corvette so it  really must have looked strange when we drove up with furniture items sticking out from the roof,  It was fun, and I don’t know how we ever got some of the items into that Corvette.
     Each Unit at Executive Bay Club had a four foot wide by 8 foot tall window above the front entrance door. Most of the condo residents put up something nautical on display in the window, but not us. We had bought a four foot tall gorilla eating a banana, so I built a wood swing for him hanging from the ceiling, and sat him on it, and with a little push he would swing back and forth.
     One evening at about eleven, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, there stood the Executive Bay security guard. He asked, “Do you have a dog on the premises,” Our doggie Sammy was standing there right next to me, so I said yes I do, and he sternly replied, “You will all have to leave here immediately with the dog.”  I said, are you crazy, dogs are allowed here. “Not any more he said, the rules have been changed and you must leave immediately. I contemplated all my options, then I slammed the door shut in his face. But his message was clear, so the next morning we left for Miami with our dog Sammy. The next time we returned to Executive Bay, as we passed by the security
Guard’s office, I noticed a note hanging on the guard’s office wall. WATCH OUT, YELLOW CORVETTE UNIT T6 HAS DOG, we were now infamous.
     That afternoon I mentioned to a next door neighbor that we should both attend a board meeting of the condo association being held that day, and we should propose that they change the doggie rule. The neighbor agreed, he said he had two Doberman Pinchers he wanted to bring down. That’s all I needed was two Doberman’s barking next door to us, so I didn’t go to the board meeting. Instead I went to the hardware store and bought a sign “Beware of Dog”, and I put it in our window. That sign gave me great satisfaction.  
     Unfortunately, my partner Don, and his wife Linda never took a liking to the Executive Bay Club, or to the Keys, he still preferred Marco Island, where he continued to go. So in 1991 we decided that we should sell the unit, and use the proceeds in our business.
     In November of 1991 we contacted a local well known husband and wife real estate team in the keys, and we listed the house for sale at $97.000.00, which was just below the market value. We also placed an ad in a local newspaper to sell the furniture separately, we were hoping we could sell the furniture before selling the house. Within a week we were contacted by the real estate agent with a low ball offer of $50,000.00 for the unit, and we informed them that we were not interested. I suspected that it might be the real estate agent themselves making the offer. Then at the time we informed them that we were running an ad in the local papers, to sell the furniture. After my conversation with the real estate agent, I had a bad feeling, something funny was going on, I thought that the agent was pushing too hard for us to sell the unit for too little money. In December of 1991, we closed our company down for our usual two weeks Christmas vacation, just as we did every year. Katherine and I always used this opportunity to travel overseas, to see some of our suppliers. When we returned on Jan 2nd, there was a letter from the real estate agents waiting for us. The letter stated that as we had not replied to their offer made over the Christmas holidays, and consequently they had lost the sale for the unit, and they intended to sue us for $3,600.00 as a lost sales commission. We had never heard of such a crazy thing before, as we had clearly told the real estate agents that the offer was too low and we wouldn’t consider it. We had also told them we were going to be overseas for two weeks in December. So I called them up to remind them of that previous conversations. They replied that nothing was written on paper, and they intended to sue. I had no idea as to what to say as I had never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. I then received confirmation from them by mail, that they were bringing a law suit. With the letter in my hand, I then proceeded to get the phone number for the “Board of Professional Regulation” that’s the Florida office that is supposed to oversee and protect people from crooked real estate agents. I thought they would handle this problem for us easily. Eventually I reached a secretary, and she said that said I couldn’t speak to the politically appointed head of the agency. I suspected the head of the office probably was never there. The secretary was very pleasant and she said, I should put my complaint in writing, and send it to them. They would do a thorough investigation immediately, so I sent them all the information, along with copies of all the letters, and I waited 30 days. Then as I heard nothing from the agency, I called them again, and the secretary said that a thorough investigation had been done and the real estate agents were within their rights. I asked how an investigation could have been done as I had never been contacted by an investigator or anyone. She didn’t answer me, and I then realized that the “Board of Professional Regulation” was just a joke. No investigation had ever been done, and I was just making a fool out of myself talking to her.   
    I contacted our real estate attorney Roy Lustig and turned all the information over to him. The hearing was to be in front of a judge in Islamorada Florida, and Roy had to drive for an hour and a half just to get to the Keys court house to represent us. Once he was at the Keys courthouse, Roy called me on the phone to say that neither the Judge, nor the opposing attorney, had ever shown up, so Roy asked me how long I wanted him to wait as he was charging us by the hour. So I told him to wait two hours more and if no one showed up, he should return to Miami. About an hour later, Roy called to say that the opposing attorney had eventually shown up and said that the judge had already ruled against us. Roy told me that he asked the opposing attorney how they could pull such a sham. The attorneys reply was, you would do the same to me if this were Miami.
     We then learned that the Judge was a Democratic appointee, and the head of the “Board of Professional Regulation” was also a Democratic appointee, and the real estate agents were active with the Democratic Party in Islamorada, and that pretty much said it all.
      We ended up paying the $3600.00 real estate commission, plus our attorney fees. But
The whole situation didn’t sit well with me, I wondered how the real estate agents could be so crooked. So every afternoon, when I had a little free time, I called a different real estate agent in the Keys, trying to find out if what happened to us was common in the Keys. After three or four calls I reached a women real estate agent in Key Largo, and before I even finished asking my question to her, she said she knew all about it. She said the real estate company I had used, did this all the time. They specialized in selling property for out of state people, and they probably sued every one of them. They had a real scam going on. Once they had a listing, they made cheap offers for the properties, and when they were refused they sued the owners for lost commissions. the property owners knew it was cheaper for them to settle rather than fly all the way back to the Keys, hire an attorney and go to court. It appears the real estate agents had quite a scam going.
     We didn’t end up selling the condominium, and because my partner Don and his wife rarely used it, my wife Katherine purchased my partner Don’s share.
      Katherine and I continued using the Condo every weekend to go fishing. We owned a 23 foot Mako center console fishing boat that we stored at the local Purdue Dean Marina. Every weekend we would load up our car with our fishing gear, then we would call the marina and they would put our boat in the water, by the time we stopped at the Marlin gas station for sandwiches, our boat would be ready for us to load up and go fishing.
     Around 1995 the rumor was circulation that Pete Perdue was selling the Marina property and we would no longer be able to keep our boat there. That’s when we decided we needed a house on a canal, where we could keep our boat up on davits. So we started driving up and down every street in the Key Largo, and Islamorada area looking to buy a house on a canal. But after several months of looking, we found all the houses were highly overpriced, and most were in real bad shape, needing lots of repairs. We were ready to give up, as we felt we would never find a decent canal home.
    One day we were shown a new house, by Bill and Betty Hammer, two very nice agents. The home was about 80 percent completed and was on a canal. The builder was a fellow that owned a bar in Miami, and he must have run into financial problems. We made a lower than asking price offer and it was accepted. The seller wasn’t too happy about selling it, but that’s how we bought the house located on 385 South Coconut Palm Blvd in Plantation Key Colony. The house was on a canal that led out to the Gulf of Mexico and it was right next to Tavernier Creek which would take us out to the Ocean if we wanted.
      So when we purchased the home in plantation Key Colony we put the condo at Executive Bay in the hands of a rental agency, and they always found yearly tenants for us. When the rental agency eventually closed, Katherine started using a real estate women who came highly recommended. The normal procedure was the agent would find a potential tenant and advise us. If we approved of them, they would then submit an application to the condo association for their approval.   
      In 2004, our unit at Executive bay was unoccupied, which gave us the opportunity to paint and clean up the place, so one afternoon Katherine and I came to the unit with all the supplies to  finish cleaning it up. We had had just painted the walls and installed new plastic levolors on the front and rear glass sliding doors.
      So we were kind of surprised to find a U-Haul trailer parked in front of unit T6, with people unloading furniture into the town house. As I stood there, a tall lanky fellow with a very dark complexion came around the U-Haul with his hand outstretched, so I asked him who he was. He said his name was Mohammed and he was with the U.S. Olympic swimming team. Katherine and I were sort of taken by surprise as we hadn’t been contacted by the real estate agent nor had we authorized anyone to occupy the unit.
      Katherine immediately contacted the real estate agent and she apologized and said that it was sort of an emergency. It appears that the U.S, Olympic swimming team, were going to be training in the regulation sized Olympic swimming pool at our local “Founders Park” in Islamorada. So, all the members of the swimming team, and their families, came to Islamorada only to find out there were no rooms available for them to stay. The money for the rent was supposedly being supplied to Mohammed by the U.S. Olympic Commission. But we never really knew where Mohammed was getting the money for the rent. It appeared that everyone in Islamorada was so excited to have the Olympic swimmers in their presence, that all normal procedures were simply forgotten.
     The real estate agent assured us that everything was in order and she would get the proper approval papers from the Condo association.
     We didn’t like it a bit, but it was the U.S. Olympic swimming team, and we felt we should help out. So we didn’t push the issue to check this guy Mohammed out. Mohammed, told us he was Arabic, and from Detroit. He then introduced us to his pretty blond American wife and their young baby.  
     Everything went well for a couple of months, then the first problem appeared. When the maintenance people patched a concrete walk-way in front of the town house.     Mohammed wrote lots of Arabic words into the wet concrete. When we saw what they had done, we were very disturbed, and so was the manager of Executive Bay Club. The next problem was that the rent stopped coming in, that’s when Katherine and I went to the condo. The unit was abandoned, the lights were not working, and there was lots of junky furniture left everywhere.  Most of the freshly painted walls had wax crayon scribbling on them, and there were round holes in the new levolors we had just installed. The electricity had been shut off for over a month, while Mohammed and his family were still living there. It appeared Mohammed and his wife had just suddenly left town without telling anyone. Katherine called their residence in Detroit to find out about getting our plastic access cards back, and when she spoke to Mohammed’s wife, Katherine asked her why they had let their child write on all the walls, and why they had made holes in the levolors. Katherine said that was no way to treat someone’s property. Mohammed’s wife said that Katherine’s questions were derogatory, however she did return the plastic access card and we never heard anything about them again. I still don’t know how anyone can puncture round holes in thick plastic levolors. To this day, I have tried to make round holes in levolors and unable to do it. Where had I heard the story of Arab Nomads folding up their tents and stealing off into the night?
     As of this writing in 2016, Unit T6 at Executive Bay Club is rented.

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