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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. Whatever happened to the Trump Tower Tampa site and other big projects planned for the bay area?

    Real Estate

    A 35-story apartment tower in downtown St. Petersburg. Two huge new communities with sunset views of Old Tampa Bay. A 52-story tower overlooking Tampa's Riverwalk.

    If you haven't heard much about these lately, it's because not much is happening — at least not yet.

    While a $2 billion redo of Tampa's Channel District and other mega projects are underway, others have yet to get out of the ground. That's partly the nature of the projects themselves and partly the nature of development in general, especially as another boom begins to show hints of a slowdown....

     Even though the DeBartolo Corp. filed plans more than a year ago for The Isles of Old Tampa Bay off  Westshore Boulevard near Gandy Boulevard, the project zoned for more than 1,200 residential units shows no signs of construction. SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN   |   Times
  2. Tampa Bay home prices jumped 20 percent in August, more than any metro area in Florida

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home prices soared nearly 20 percent in August, outpacing all other metro areas in Florida.

    The big year-over-year price gain was great news for sellers, pushing the bay area's median price for single-family homes to $209,900 with even higher amounts in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. But the increase in prices was propelled by a continued — and worrisome — shortage of homes for sale both in the bay area and nationwide....

    This 4,650-square-foot gulf-front  home in Pasco County's Gulf Harbors South Beach sold Aug. 31 for $1.1 million, the top price paid for any home in Pasco in August  and the highest priced waterfront residential sale in Gulf Harbors n 29 months. Photo courtesy Perella Virtual Tours.
  3. How long can the good times roll for Tampa Bay's housing market before the bubble pops?

    Real Estate

    A decade ago, Tampa appraiser Ron Balseiro realized something disastrous was about to happen.

    His letter carrier owned five rental houses. A teacher he knew had seven. All had been bought with borrowed money, and all could face foreclosure if tenants stopped paying and home values plunged, making it impossible to sell or refinance.

    That's exactly what happened.

    "They were able to keep their own houses, but they lost all the rest,'' Balseiro said. "To me, what caused a lot of the problems is that too many people were buying too many houses they couldn't afford.''...

    Ron Balseiro, a real estate appraiser, takes notes about a kitchen in a Lennar Shady Creek home in Riverview on Wednesday. Balseiro is keeping a wary eye out for signs that Tampa Bay’s real estate market might run into trouble.
  4. Tampa Bay now ranks third in the nation in house flipping

    Real Estate

    In the Tampa Bay area, there's a whole lot of flippin' going on.

    One out of every 10 homes sold in the second quarter of this year was a flip, RealtyTrac reported today. That's 13 percent more than a year earlier and enough to rank Tampa Bay third-highest nationally in flips — defined as any property bought and resold in an arms-length transaction in a 12-month period.

    "There are loads and loads of (flippers) out there,'' said Bruce Harris, a broker associate in St. Petersburg. "Most of them buy houses that Mr. Joe America can't unless he has the cash.'' ...

    A St. Petersburg company bought this house in the city’s Lake Pasadena area for $126,000 in April, remodeled it and have it listed for sale for $254,000. Tampa Bay ranks third in the nation for house flipping.
  5. Westin Harbour Island hotel in Tampa sold to Chicago firm

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — A Chicago private investment firm has bought the Westin Harbour Island for an undisclosed sum and plans a "very robust renovation.''

    Opened in 1987, the hotel has 299 rooms, 17,432 square feet of meeting space, a heated outdoor pool and water views.

    Tampa's hotel market "has been strong, so people are interested in the market in addition to all the other good news — job growth, excitement about what's planned for the Channelside district,'' said Daniel Peek, senior managing director of HFF, which arranged the financing. "Those factors drive the interest and also the reurbanization. We have more people living downtown than historically so all that helps.''...

    The Westin Harbour Island in Tampa, sold to Walton Street Capital in Chicago, opened in 1987.
  6. The rich are paying big bucks to buy Tampa Bay houses just to knock them down

    Real Estate

    The 6,900-square-foot bayfront home that sold this month in Tampa's Culbreath Isles might seem like any other palatial abode but with one key difference — the buyer paid $4.5 million to knock it down.

    That could be the most expensive teardown ever in the Tampa Bay area, according to Realtors who specialize in luxury properties. They say, though, that more and more well-heeled buyers are razing places that most of us could happily live in for the rest of our lives. ...

    A Pennsylvania couple paid $2 million in February for this 76-year-old home in Dunedin so they could tear it down and build a home on the large lot.
  7. Who's getting Hardest Hit Fund help? In Hillsborough, it's buyers, not struggling homeowners

    Real Estate

    When it started six years ago, the $7.6 billion federal Hardest Hit Fund was intended to help people save their homes.

    Now, at least in Hillsborough County, it has morphed into a program that helps people buy homes.

    Since January, only 123 struggling Hillsborough homeowners have qualified for Hardest Hit help in paying their mortgages, a Tampa Bay Times analysis found. In the same period, nearly eight times as many people — 935 — have received up to $15,000 for down payments and closing costs to buy homes, including new townhouses....

  8. When it comes to home prices, Tampa Bay's cities are a bargain, study finds

    Real Estate

    Looking for the most affordable place to buy a home in the Tampa Bay area? New Port Richey might be a good choice.

    The average listing price of a four-bedroom, two-bath house in the Pasco County city is just $154,830, according to Coldwell Banker. That ranks New Port Richey fourth-lowest in Florida and about $550,000 less than top-priced Key Largo.

    In fact, all of the Tampa Bay area is a relative bargain given its wealth of beaches, activities and amenities. No bay area city ranks among the state's 15 most expensive, and Largo barely squeaks into the top 30 with an average listing price of $324,383. ...

    A study by Coldwell banker finds homes for sale in the Tampa Bay area are a bargain. Only Largo cracks the top 30 most expensive cities in the state. New Port Richey was found to be the most affordable. istockphoto.com
  9. Tampa's controversial LM Funding America cuts staff, salaries as business slows

    Real Estate

    Less than a year after going public, Tampa-based LM Funding America is losing its president, cutting staff and slashing salaries.

    The company, which buys the rights to collect delinquent homeowners association debts, is taking the steps because of a slowdown in collecting the debts.

    "One of the challenges in this business is predicting when accounts will pay off, as we have little control over the speed of the court system and other variables," Bruce Rodgers, LM Funding's founder and CEO, said in a press release. "We have experienced a decline in the number of paid-off accounts in the last two quarters although the average payoff amount continues to increase."...

    LM Funding CEO Bruce Rodgers’ salary will be cut $115,500.
  10. For the Florida Bar, bad lawyers are more than a punch line

    Business

    Palm Harbor attorney Angela Morton Armstrong charged hefty fees to handle bankruptcy cases for people hoping to shed their debts and make a fresh start.

    There was just one problem, records show: She collected the money but did little if any work.

    After numerous clients complained, Armstrong was suspended from practicing law in 2014 and again last year. Finally, in April, she was disbarred....

    Lawyers Stephen Diaco, left, Adam Filthaut, center, and Robert Adams are seated in a courtroom at the Pinellas County Justice Center In May 2015 at the beginning of a hearing in the case against the three who were accused of orchestrating a DUI set-up. All three attorneys have been recently disbarred. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  11. Distressed home sales in Tampa Bay still high despite improving market

    Real Estate

    Even as Tampa Bay's housing market continues a robust recovery, distressed sales still make up a significant share of all home sales.

    Distressed sales — foreclosures and short sales of homes sold for less than the amount owed — accounted for 17.3 percent of bay area sales in May. That was more than twice the national rate and the third highest rate among the 25 largest metro areas, CoreLogic reported Tuesday....

    Short sales and other indications of distressed housing sales remain high in Tampa Bay despite an improving market. [iStockphoto.com]
  12. Group home for at-risk kids causes stir in pricey waterfront neighborhood

    Real Estate

    For months, neighbors in St. Petersburg's Pinellas Point area wondered what would become of the large, aging waterfront house with its wide-open view of the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

    So when the "for sale'' sign disappeared in June, their thoughts ran along two lines: "We were hoping it would be either an investor who would demo it, because it was pretty rundown, or a homeowner with a family,'' says Mary Weber, who lives next door with her husband and two children. "That would be nice for us if another family came in.''...

    Defy the Odds, owned by SailFuture, is moored in Tampa Bay just off the 68th Avenue S home, which will house at-risk teens.
  13. Old Belleview Biltmore section to become new inn

    Real Estate

    BELLEAIR — The iconic Belleview Biltmore Hotel is no more, but part of it will live on as the new Belleview Inn. JMC Communities, which bought the property last year for a condo- and carriage-home community, is spending $13 million to move and preserve a 38,000-square-foot, three-story section of the hotel including the lobby, original stained glass, heart pine planks, fireplace and grand staircase. Sporting the original distinctive green and white exterior, the new inn will have a pool, ice cream parlor, history room, social events venue and "grand lawn'' for outdoor events. It will sit at the end of a new boulevard landscaped with palms and flowering bushes. The move and renovation are due to start this fall and take 16-18 months to complete....

    A rendering of the Belleview Inn, a 38,000-square-foot section of the original Belleview Biltmore Hotel built in 1897 by railroad magnate Henry Plant
  14. Home prices rise again around Tampa Bay as supply remains tight

    Real Estate

    Sorry, Tampa Bay home buyers — prices are still shooting up.

    The median price for a single-family house jumped 12.6 percent in July, the ninth straight month of double-digit, year-over-year increases. The steady rise continued to be spurred by a tight supply of available homes, with 4.3 percent fewer houses sold in July than in the same month a year earlier.

    "We still have demand out there that's not being met with the amount of supply," Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker, said Wednesday. "It's a great time to come on to the market as a seller — if I was thinking of selling I'd want to be in this market. It's crazy to see it last this long on the demand side."...

    This home in Tampa's Beach Park area sold for $6.4 million in July to Cigar City Brewing founder Joey Redner and his wife, Jennifer. It was among the most expensive homes that changed hands in July.  
[The Toni Everett Company]
  15. Judge recommends five-year disbarment for Pasco attorney Constantine Kalogianis

    Business

    Even before the Great Recession, New Port Richey attorney Constantine Kalogianis was in serious financial trouble.

    In a letter to a bank that was suing him, Kalogianis said he had exhausted his savings and "simply could not go (on) this way any longer.'' His real estate holdings were worth less than the loan amounts. He had stopped paying on two business lines of credit.

    Yet Kalogianis told none of this to a client who agreed to "invest'' nearly $230,000 with him....

    A Pasco judge is recommending a five-year disbarment for Pasco lawyer  Constantine Kalogianis, shown here announcing a failed bid for U.S. Congress in 2002. [Times file photo]