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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. Bankruptcy judges get tough on debtors who don't surrender property

    Real Estate

    When Lisa Metzler declared bankruptcy in 2012, she was so delinquent on her mortgage that she agreed to surrender her Gibsonton townhouse so the bank could proceed with foreclosure.

    By agreeing to give up the home, Metzler was allowed to keep $5,000 worth of personal property.

    That was in federal court, which handles bankruptcy cases. Yet in state court, Metzler hired a lawyer and continued to fight the foreclosure. She still has her house. So do some other debtors who promised to surrender their homes but kept battling the bank. ...

    401 Leeward Island, Clearwater Beach (island estates for story on people who admit in federal bankruptcy court that they are behind in payments on a house yet try to fight the foreclosure in state court.
  2. Tampa Bay homes still a good value, new report says

    Real Estate

    Believe it or not, Tampa Bay's housing market might be undervalued.

    Despite talk of big price increases and fears of another bubble, the average sales price for a bay area home in April was slightly less than the estimated full market value, the research and data firm RealtyTrac says.

    Compare that with the findings for San Francisco and a few other parts of the country where homes sold for more than they are probably worth....

    This home on Dartmouth Avenue N in Lake Pasadena Estates was priced at $208,000 a few weeks ago, almost exactly the average price for Pinellas County homes sold in February. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  3. Is Tampa Bay heading for another real estate bubble?

    Real Estate

    Ask Realtors about Tampa Bay's housing market these days and you're apt to hear words like fantastic and tremendous.

    What you probably won't hear, except in a whispered voice, is: bubble.

    With prices rising again, no one likes to think the market could be destined for a repeat of the boom-to-bust catastrophe that cost millions of people their homes.

    Yet one research and consulting firm says a data-based analysis it conducted of the Tampa Bay metro area shows another bubble could be forming....

  4. Tampa Bay home sales soar again in April as condo market sizzles

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home sales shot up in April with prices also showing strong gains even as many buyers paid in cash.

    In Pinellas County, year-over-year sales of single-family homes rose 21.3 percent while sales of condos and townhomes jumped 17.5 percent.

    In Hillsborough, sales of single-family homes increased 20.2 percent while sales of condos and townhomes soared 27.4 percent.

    "It's a fabulous market, absolutely,'' said veteran agent Mary Pond of Smith & Associates in Tampa. "It's been tremendous.''...

    JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times
One of the buildings at Towers of Channelside Condominiums.
  5. Here's where Cancer Fund of America donations went while dying kids got Little Debbie snack cakes

    Civil

    In its pitch to donors, Cancer Fund of America touted "direct patient aid'' as one of the many ways it helped tens of thousands of Americans struggling with deadly disease.

    But instead of medical treatment or financial help, patients got boxes of sample-size soap, seasonal greeting cards and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

    Meanwhile, the family behind Cancer Fund built a network of "sham charities'' that were designed to enrich officers at the expense of sick women and children, as alleged in a complaint filed Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission, attorneys general and secretaries of state of all of 50 states. ...

     Cancer Fund of America president James Reynolds, Sr., in his office in Powell, Tenn., Dec. 29, 2009. [ADAM BRIMER, Knoxville News Journal ]
  6. Looking for an average-priced home in the Tampa Bay area? Good luck

    Real Estate

    Jenna and David Norge speak in wistful tones of all the homes that might have been.

    There was the ranch-style place in northeast St. Petersburg, behind Publix and close to the boat ramp at Crisp Park.

    "My type of house,'' David says ruefully. "A fixer-upper."

    Or how about the three-bedroom, two-story craftsman near Crescent Lake?

    "I knew it was going to go fast,'' Jenna says, "just because of where it was located.''...

    This home at 6268 Dartmouth Ave. N in Lake Pasadena Estates is priced at $208,000, which is almost exactly the average price for homes sold in Pinellas County in February. Listing price: $208,000. Income needed: $52,800. Pros: large lot, popular Lake Pasadena area. Cons: Built in 1953, needs updating.
  7. St. Petersburg's Fusion 1560 apartments sold for nearly $60 million

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Fusion 1560, a five-story rental complex whose success helped fuel an apartment-building boom near downtown, has been sold for $57.5 million.

    Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Real Estate Value Fund closed earlier this month on the 325-unit complex at 1560 Central Ave. The seller was a company backed by the California State Teachers' Retirement System.

    The purchase price "is a big number but that's what's happening in today's real estate market,'' Darron Kattan, managing director of the Tampa commercial brokerage Franklin Street, said Thursday. "The market continues to be strong for high quality property in high quality locations.''...

    A Chicago real estate fund is the new owner of Fusion 1560. The 325-unit complex built in 2011 was one of the pioneers in downtown St. Petersburg’s westward expansion. Rents range between $1,035 and $1,900.
  8. Tampa Bay still high in foreclosures, but delinquencies lower

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay had the nation's third-highest percentage of homes in foreclosure in March, although fewer bay area borrowers were "seriously delinquent" on their loans.

    Of bay area houses, condos and townhomes with mortgages, 4.2 percent were in some stage of foreclosure, a level exceeded only by Newark, N.J., and the Nassau-Suffolk area of New York, according to property information source CoreLogic....

    The Tampa Bay area had the nation’s third-highest percentage of homes in foreclosure in March — but fewer bay area borrowers were “seriously delinquent’’ on their loans.
  9. Tampa Bay second in Florida in home and condo sales

    Real Estate

    More homes and condos sold in the Tampa Bay area in the first quarter of 2015 than in any other part of Florida except for Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

    According to a Florida Realtors report released Monday, bay area buyers closed on 9,866 single-family homes, a 22.5 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The median price rose 7.6 percent to $156,000.

    Meanwhile, a total of 3,536 condos and townhomes changed hands in Tampa Bay, a gain of nearly 18 percent. The median condo/townhome price hit $108,000, up a little over 9 percent from 2014's first quarter....

  10. Real estate firm DTZ to buy rival Cushman & Wakefield

    Real Estate

    Cushman & Wakefield, one of Tampa Bay's best-known commercial real estate brokerage firms, is being acquired by rival DTZ.

    The deal, announced Monday, would create a combined global company with more than 43,000 employees in 60 countries and more than $8 billion in annual revenues. The company would operate under the Cushman & Wakefield name.

    Chicago-based DTZ and New York-based Cushman & Wakefield "have remarkably complementary skills and reach in different geographies — whether in New York, London or Shanghai, this will be a formidable combination," Brett White, executive chairman of DTZ and CEO-to-be of the merged company, said in a news release....

    Cushman & Wakefield’s Tampa office helped broker last fall’s sale of One Tampa City Center, 201 N Franklin St., for $128 million. The sale of the 38-story office tower was among the largest commercial real estate transactions in Florida history. 
  11. Finding value in a tough housing market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG

    At 18, just out of high school in Indianapolis and unsure of what she wanted to do, Amy Seeks went to work as a secretary in a real estate office.

    Almost three decades later, Seeks is vice president of real estate services for Smith & Associates, a Tampa Bay firm that specializes in luxury homes and condos. In her position, she analyzes market trends and works with Smith's 220 agents. ...

    Amy Seeks, vice president of real estate services for Smith & Associates
  12. Beware the zombie (houses) still menacing Tampa Bay neighborhoods

    Real Estate

    All over Tampa Bay they lurk — deserted, decaying, scary reminders of the real estate bust.

    Zombie houses.

    Abandoned by their owners and stuck in the foreclosure process, they are a blight on neighborhoods rich and poor. Some have been vacant for years, so long that people like Lee Randall can't even remember the last time they saw the normal signs of life.

    Randall lives a few doors away from a zombie house on Nevada Avenue in northeast St. Petersburg. A large, fallen oak limb partially blocks the driveway. Jumbled piles of toys, furniture and dirty dishes can be seen through a grimy side window. ...

    A home at 1867 Nevada Ave NE in St. Petersburg has been abandoned for years. CitiMortgage started foreclosure on the loan in 2008.
  13. Tampa Bay ranks among nation's leaders in house-flipping profits

    Real Estate

    If TV shows like Flip or Flop have you itching to flip a house, Tampa Bay is a good place to do it.

    In the first three months of 2015, bay area flippers averaged a 57 percent gross profit on their flips, the sixth highest in the nation, according to a new report by the housing data firm RealtyTrac. Slightly over 7 percent of all homes sold in Tampa Bay in the first quarter were flips — defined as a property bought and resold within 12 months. Of the 587 bay area flips between Jan. 1 and March 31, flippers paid an average of $105,842 and resold for an average of $166,401, a gain of $60,559. ...

    Leo Cesna works in the bathroom of the house at 2310 East 11th Avenue in Ybor that Revelant Church is renovating. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
  14. Tampa's priciest estate hits market at nearly $14 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — For $13.9 million, you can own the largest estate opposite the world's longest unbroken stretch of sidewalk.

    The historic Stovall-Lee House on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa just hit the market at the highest price of any current listing in Hillsborough County and the second highest in the bay area.

    Situated on 2.6 acres overlooking Hillsborough Bay, the six-bedroom, nine-bath home with 8,000 square feet of living space boasts antique chandeliers, the original mahogany and cypress moldings, and some of the original leaded glass windows....

    A bedroom at the century-old historic estate nestled on 2.6 acres in a prime location on Tampa's prestigious Bayshore Boulevard. (Courtesy of Coldwell Banker)
  15. Plenty of room(s) to grow in hotel industry

    Business

    Tampa Bay's hotel industry has seen explosive growth over the past year. At least seven new hotels are planned, under construction or recently opened on Clearwater Beach and in the downtown areas of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    Kent Schwarz knows the hospitality business — he started as a bellhop at 15 in his native Phoenix, then went on to work for Hilton. Today he is the Clearwater-based executive vice president of hotel services for Colliers International, the real estate brokerage. ...

    Rendering of 174 room Hyatt hotel planned for downtown St. Petersburg as part of a $200 million hotel-retail-residential project. Hotel is due to start construction next year and be completed in 2017. [Kolter Group]