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Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent

Susan Taylor Martin

For someone who doesn't particularly care to fly, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin has logged a lot of hours in the air — in the past decade she has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China. She covered the invasion of Iraq, the war in Kosovo and the war against terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On 9/11, she and two other Times staffers got in Martin's aging car and drove 24 hours nonstop from Tampa Bay to New York City, her hometown. Among the other breaking stories Susan has covered were the death and funeral of Princess Diana, the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein and the handover of Hong Kong to China. There have been lighter moments, too. Martin has written about a restaurant in Jerusalem dedicated to Elvis Presley's memory; a Scottish hamlet that finally got TV and hated it; and the gay and transvestite scene in Turkey, a conservative Muslim country. Her hobbies include figure skating, antiquing, flea-marketing, and rooting for the Blue Devils basketball team of Duke University (her alma mater).

Martin has won numerous state and national journalism awards, including the 2007 Paul Hansell Award presented by the Florida Society of News Editors for distinguished writing and reporting.

Phone: (727) 893-8642

Email: susan@tampabay.com

Blog: Hot Spots

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  1. Is sinkhole damage sinking Tampa Bay property values?

    Real Estate

    On a scale of desirability, the house for sale on Whittner Drive in Land O' Lakes would rank fairly low. It's a short sale; it sits on an unstabilized sinkhole and it's within a few miles of two houses that collapsed into a gargantuan hole July 14.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: As Pasco sinkhole widens, more homes put on alert ...

    A gated community in Hernando's Spring Hill area, Pristine Place has long been susceptible to sinkholes with nearly a third of its houses with documented sinkhole damage by 2012. Today, however, many houses with repaired sinkhole damage are selling for more than houses without any issues. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times file photo]
  2. Good news: Tampa Bay no longer a major foreclosure capital of the country

    Real Estate

    Once in the top five nationally for foreclosure filings, the Tampa Bay area no longer makes even the top 25.

    As bay area home prices and values continue to rise, the number of homes in foreclosure plunged 42 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2016, ATTOM Data Solutions reported today.

    As of June 30, Pinellas had the fewest percentage of homes in some stage of foreclosure — one in every 276. That was followed by Hernando (one in 203), Hillsborough (one in 179) and Pasco (one in 178)....

    A few short years ago, Tampa Bay was a national hub for foreclosures. Not any more. [Getty Images/iStockphoto]
  3. Downtown St. Pete's Coronet Apartments sold for nearly $6 million

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The owner of the Cordova Inn and The Station, a popular coworking spot, has bought another vintage downtown building for $5.975 million.

    Steven "Flip" Gianfilippo's 300 Central LLC closed this month on the 10-story, 40-unit Coronet Apartments at the corner of Central Avenue and Third Street S. Though the 82-year-old building is nondescript, it sits in a prime downtown location between a planned mixed-used tower to the west and the ONE St. Petersburg condo tower and Hyatt hotel under construction to its east. ...

    The300 Central, a 10-story apartment building in downtown St. Petersburg, has sold for $5.9 million. [Smith & Associates]
  4. Trendy downtown St. Pete townhome project scrapped, permitting delays blamed

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — In September, developer James Landers said almost two dozen buyers had contracted for townhomes in the planned 801 Conway project in St. Petersburg's trendy Edge District.

    But now the project is dead, a victim of permitting delays and rising prices sparked by the city's frenetic building boom.

    "No doubt it's a hyperactive market, and the further we go in the cycle, the higher prices get," Landers, head of Aspen Venture Group, said Monday. "So certainly the core issue was delays in permitting but that leads to higher prices and makes the project more difficult from a financial standpoint."...

    For the time being, the site of the scrapped 801 Conway townhome project will remain a vacant field in downtown St. Petersburg's Edge District.
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN   |   Times]

  5. How accurate are those Zestimates from Zillow? We put them to the test

    Real Estate

    When people decide to sell their homes, the first place many of them look for an estimate of value is Zillow. That drives real estate agents batty.

    "I fight these on a daily basis,'' Dunedin agent Joe Demo says of what the popular online database calls Zestimates. "When people bring it up, I tell them, 'In my opinion you've got a room full of drunk monkeys throwing darts to come up with these.'"...

    This house in Cheval East in Lutz sold in June for $537,500, or 7.4 percent below the $580,081 Zestimate.
[Courtesy of Vincent Arcuri]
  6. Emergency motion: $458,000 condo sale should be voided because of fraud

    Real Estate

    The $458,100 foreclosure sale of a gulf-front condo in North Redington Beach should be set aside and the money returned to the bidders because of "unauthorized conduct, misconduct and fraudulent acts" leading up to the auction, a new court filing says.

    In an emergency motion filed this week in Pinellas County Circuit Court, an attorney for John and Christine Houdes' Orlando Realty Group LLC asks a judge to vacate the June 8 sale because of a "well-executed and sophisticated scheme" to deceive bidders in order to obtain a "windfall" profit....

     View of the bedroom. As the Times reported Monday, Outbidya, Inc., a company started by Clearwater lawyer Roy C. Skelton, bought the unit in the Ram-Sea Condominiums two years ago for $157,800 after the condo association foreclosed on owner David Kapes.
  7. Florida couple stunned to learn $458,000 paid for gulf-front condo may be for nothing

    Real Estate

    UPDATE: Emergency motion says $458,000 condo sale should be voided because of fraud.

    On June 8, a condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in North Redington Beach sold at a Pinellas County foreclosure auction for $458,100.

    The winning bidders, an Orlando couple, thought they had gotten a good deal on the 1,500-square unit in the Ram-Sea Condominiums with heated pool and Jacuzzi. Owners can use their condos as permanent homes or lucrative vacation rentals....

    Ram-Sea Condominiums in Reddington Beach [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  8. Boomtime developer poster boy Grady Pridgen is back, but lower-key

    Real Estate

    A few months ago, the newsletter of Tampa's Westchase Community Association ran a story about plans for 38 new townhomes. The project described was a modest one, nothing like the headline-making deals that once characterized its developer.

    Grady Pridgen.

    During the boom years of the early 2000s, no Tampa Bay developer had a higher profile than Pridgen. Every day, thousands of motorists on I-275 in Pinellas County sped by his Gateway Business Centre and a billboard featuring his Crest-perfect smile next to the slogan: "Not Just Another Pretty Place."...

    Developer Grady Pridgen and his family list this  former church and parish hall in downtown St. Petersburg  as their homestead although they also have a more conventional, lakefront house in Odessa. [Susan Taylor Martin  |  Times]
  9. Despite soaring home prices, Tampa Bay still an affordable market

    Real Estate

    Finally, some good news for Tampa Bay home buyers. Despite rising prices, the bay area remains relatively affordable compared to many other parts of the country.

    In the second quarter of this year, Tampa Bay's "affordability index" stood at 99 percent, meaning the median home price of $191,000 was almost exactly at its historic norm, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, parent of RealtyTrac. (The further below 100, the less affordable; the further above, the more affordable.)...

    Despite rising prices, the bay area remains relatively affordable compared to many other parts of the country. [Associated Press file photo]
  10. Claim: State pressured CFO, used secret recordings to shut down Universal Health Care

    Banking

    ST. PETERSBURG — The founder of St. Petersburg's Universal Health Care alleges that Florida regulators conspired with the company's chief financial officer to drive the once high-flying Medicare insurer out of business.

    In a response this month to a lawsuit against him, Dr. Akshay Desai says regulators pressured CFO Alec Mahmood into cooperating with them or face being blackballed from the insurance industry. The response says Mahmood "secretly and criminally" recorded at least 11 conversations with Desai and other Universal executives as regulators moved to put the company into receivership. ...

    In this 2011 photo, Dr. A.K. Desai poses for a portrait in his St. Petersburg office at Universal Health Care where he was CEO, president and chairman of the board of directors.
[CHRIS ZUPPA, Times file photo]
  11. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    The couple, who are divorcing, bought the three-bedroom, three bath unit in Parkshore Plaza in July 2015 for $1.036 million while Crist was considering what would be his successful run for the U.S. House. At a time when new congressional district boundaries were still uncertain, the couple also bought at house on St. Pete Beach that they sold in January for $1.030 million....

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]
  12. Crist puts Beach Drive condo on market

    Blog

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    The couple, who are divorcing, bought the three-bedroom, three bath unit in Parkshore Plaza in July 2015 for $1.036 million while Crist was considering what would be his successful run for the U.S. House. At a time when congressional district boundaries were still uncertain, the couple also bought at house on St. Pete Beach that they sold in January for $1.030 million....

    Congressman Charlie Crist in his Washington office.
  13. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Mediterranean-style home built on a canal in 2007 and purchased by Yzerman and wife Lisa in 2010 for $2.43 million cash has four bedrooms, five bathrooms and two half-baths in 6,265 square feet. Amenities include covered terraces with cypress ceilings, an outdoor kitchen with sink, grill and gas firepit and a heated pool with spa....

     Lightning GM Steve Yzerman 
[Times file photo]
  14. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    The Department of Business and Professional Regulation "is about as useless as a snowball in Florida," Di Nicolantonio says. "I'm sick and tired of filing complaints with them only to continuously be told it is out of their jurisdiction, my file has been closed or to go hire an attorney."...

    Condominium owners are battling new management of The Slade from converting the homes into apartments located in the Channelside district of Tampa.
[OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  15. Tampa Bay homes values continue to rise along with sales prices

    Real Estate

    For the second month in a row, Tampa Bay had one of the highest year -over-year increases in home values in May, Zillow reported today.

    The median value of a bay area home jumped to $184,900 for an 11 percent gain, tying with Dallas for the second biggest increase among the nation's 35 largest metro areas. Seattle was No. 1 as home values there shot up 13 percent to a median of $440,100....

    For the second month in a row, Tampa Bay had one of the highest year -over-year increases in home values in May, Zillow reported Thursday.
[Times file photo]