ST. PETERSBURG — Ron Martin was tired of working for others.
A new career of flipping real estate seemed foolproof.
The Texas home builder purchased a small house in Childs Park in April at a tax sale before he toured the property.
He staked a "For Sale" sign outside the boarded-up house and waited for bidders. Weeks passed. His tax bills piled up; his dreams of self-made riches started to fade.
No one wanted to buy the house.
Martin couldn't even give it away.
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Months shy of his 50th birthday, Martin was laid off by a construction company after 10 years on the job. Like millions of Americans, he had gambled his future on years of steady, loyal work and lost out to a comatose economy.
A course on how to make money on houses sold during tax deed sales brought him to Florida last year after he was told that Florida real estate was the best investment. He purchased the Childs Park home for $7,300. A steal, he thought. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office valued it at $57,700.
"I was hoping to sell the house quickly for a small profit, not to make a killing or anything," he said.
Martin thought Childs Park was an up and coming neighborhood but soon learned of the area's reputation as a drug haven.
When there were no takers, he offered to give the house to some investor friends. They declined.
He sent a letter to the city last month: "My company, RSM Ventures, LLC, is going out of business and I would like to donate a residential property to the city of St. Petersburg. ... If the city is unwilling to accept the donation, I would appreciate any referrals you could provide for any organizations that might have interest."
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The brown house at 3468 17th Ave. S has boarded-up windows and doors, a few shattered windows and a wide front porch. It's infested with fleas and barely 330 square feet.
The back and front yards are small, but big enough to host a family barbecue or pitch a tent for the kids.
From the street, it looks like one of the nicest houses on the block.
St. Petersburg will occasionally get requests from desperate property owners looking to unload bad investments, said Bruce Grimes, the city's real estate and property management director.
"There are people from out of the area who on occasion will buy properties and they don't really know the status," he said. "It may become more commonplace now that this market is not as quick for people to buy them and rehab them and sell them."
Grimes said he doubts the city will accept the troubled property. A new owner would have to pay to demolish the house and obtain a clear title because it was purchased in a tax deed sale. Besides, "it's a small house," Grimes said.
Martin turns 51 next month. He no longer dreams of a future in real estate.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.