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What's up with the sizes and prices of condos in ONE St. Petersburg?

One St. Petersburg. the tallest condo tower on Florida’s west coast. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Mar. 26

ST. PETERSBURG — On Feb. 21, a condo in ONE St. Petersburg sold for $3,655,800, making it the second priciest sale of the month in the entire Tampa Bay area.

That's according to the "sold'' price shown on the Multiple Listing Service.

Pinellas County property appraiser records show that the condo actually sold for $3,146,100 — $509,700 less.

That's not the only discrepancy involving units in ONE St. Petersburg, the bay area's newest and tallest condo tower. Two other units each sold for at least $135,000 less than what the Multiple Listing Service says they did. And appraiser records show that all of the ONE condos sold in February were at least 111 square feet smaller in size than the square footage shown on the listing service.

Click here to read the story in Spanish

"That's shocking,'' said Peggy Naruns, a Pinellas Realtor.

The United States has several hundred Multiple Listing Services, cooperatives through which Realtors share information about their listings in order to reach the greatest number of potential buyers. Among the reams of data entered on the listing services are sale prices that can form the basis for offers on similar properties: Prices that are inaccurate on the high side can potentially skew offers in the seller's favor.

Listing service data is also used to show real estate trends. The figures released every month by Florida Realtors and the National Association of Realtors are the basis for "how's the market doing'' stories in the Tampa Bay Times and hundreds of other news organizations.

Merri Jo Cowen, CEO of My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service, which serves the Tampa Bay area, said she had not been aware of the price anomalies in ONE St. Petersburg.

"In general, accuracy is certainly important to us and to all of our users,'' she said. "It is critical for the agents that are working with the brokers that are working with the sellers and appraisers. Our customers, our members have to be able to rely on the data they find in the system. That's the benefit of being part of the MLS.''

Cowen said My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service does not guarantee the accuracy of listings but "we expect that they (Realtors) are putting in correct information.''

ONE St. Petersburg at 100 First Avenue N was developed by the Kolter Group, which billed the 41-story tower as setting "a new standard for contemporary condominium living on Florida's west coast.'' All 253 units went under contract before the tower was finished late last year, and closings have been underway for the past few months. Some units already have been flipped for up to 35 percent more than the original price, Kolter has said.

Naruns, the broker-owner of Northstar Realty in St. Petersburg, said she first noticed a possible discrepancy a few weeks ago when checking on Unit 1006 currently for sale. The Multiple Listing Service showed that the unit has 1,402 square feet while Pinellas property appraiser records show it has 1,291 square feet.

"That's 111 square feet smaller than in the MLS,'' she said. "So how many people bought (that model) when it's really smaller than shown?''

In doing a story on February home sales, the Times came across a similar discrepancy. The Multiple Listing Service shows that Unit 4001 has 4,062 square feet and sold for $3,655,800. Property appraiser records show 3,829 square feet — 233 square feet fewer — and a sale price of $3,146,100. That was the true price, according to the amount of transfer taxes paid at the time of sale.

The Times then looked at all ONE St. Petersburg units sold in February and so far in March. It found:

• Unit 4201 had a "sold'' price on the Multiple Listing Service of $3,757,350 while Pinellas records show it sold for $3,613,100 — $144,250 less.

• Unit 4003 had a "sold'' price on the Multiple Listing Service of $3,649,000 while Pinellas records show it sold for $3,512,600 — $136,400 less.

• Unit 4201 has 233 fewer square feet on the Multiple Listing Service than in property appraiser records while Unit 4003 had 133 fewer square feet.

Brian Van Slyke, a Kolter executive, said in an email that the Multiple Listing Service "sold'' prices were the same as the original asking prices. The amounts that the units actually went for reflected pre-construction incentives as well as credits for decorator finishes the buyers did not want.

"They will finish the unit themselves post-closing,'' Van Slyke wrote.

Van Slyke, who did not respond to a follow-up request for comment, did not explain why the actual closing prices were not shown on the Multiple Listing Service as they are supposed to be. Nor did he explain the differences in square footage. The exclusive listing agent for ONE ST. Petersburg was Smith & Associates Real Estate, whose vice president, David Traynor, did not respond to calls.

Square footage can be measured in different ways. The two main ones are paint-to-paint, which measures the area within the four painted walls; and the architectural method, which measures to the mid-point of walls between units and to the outside of all other walls.

The Pinellas property appraiser bases its condo measurements on the paint-to-paint method. Its "figures are not true and accurate for legal purposes due to rounding,'' said Sandy Leggett, executive assistant to Property Appraiser Mike Twitty. Thus a condo shown on the appraiser's web site as having 1,290 square feet — as many ONE St. Petersburg units do — could be smaller than that.

The Times also compared Multiple Listing Service and property appraiser numbers for two other recent upscale condo projects in Pinellas County — Bliss, in downtown St. Petersburg, and Sunset Pointe at Collany Key on Tierra Verde. For both, the square footage and original "sold'' prices were nearly identical on the listing service and in Pinellas records.

ONE St. Petersburg came to the attention of Multiple Listing Service officials four years ago when 108 units that had been under contract were abruptly withdrawn from the market, sparking speculation among Realtors that the buyers had bailed out. (Properties under contract usually stay on the listing service as "pending'' sales.)

The listing service okayed the withdrawals after Traynor of Smith & Associates said the contracts were still in place. But an official asked him to confirm that "once the building is ready … you will be entering the listings pursuant to MLS rules with accurate prices.''

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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