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Former Gov. Charlie Crist goes from renter to homeowner — big time

Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole, have closed on a 1,480 square foot cottage on St. Pete Beach. [Getty Images]
Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole, have closed on a 1,480 square foot cottage on St. Pete Beach. [Getty Images]
Published Aug. 4, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — After decades as a renter, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has finally taken the plunge into homeownership in a big way.

Crist and his wife, Carole, just closed on a 1,480-square-foot cottage in St. Pete Beach. And on July 15, they bought a condo almost twice that size in Parkshore Plaza in downtown St. Petersburg.

The purchase price of the cottage, listed in November for $995,000, was $906,250, according to the Multiple Listing Service. The couple paid $1,036,900 for the Parkshore condo, which they have mortgaged for $776,675, court records show.

Owning two residential properties will be a radical change for Crist, who has long rented a condo at the Bayfront Tower in downtown St. Petersburg. He is considering a race for the U.S. House next year, potentially representing the St. Petersburg area.

Crist said Monday that whether he runs for Congress hinges a lot on how district lines are redrawn.

"I want to make sure my home is in it," he said.

For now, it remains uncertain what district the Crists' new properties will end up in. The Florida Supreme Court recently ordered state lawmakers to redraw the boundaries of almost all of Florida's congressional districts to avoid favoring incumbents. The state Legislature will tackle redistricting in a special session starting next week.

Crist's rental condo in downtown St. Petersburg is in a largely Democratic district that could become more Republican, while the Pinellas beaches are in a district that could become predominantly Democratic.

Previously a Republican and an independent, Crist became a Democrat last year in an unsuccessful bid to reclaim the governor's office from Republican Rick Scott.

Though across the street from an often-crowded public beach, the vintage home with garage apartment has "beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico,'' the listing said. Dubbed "Wind Swept'' by its original owner, the house on Gulf Way was built in 1940 and is close to downtown Pass-a-Grille, the Intracoastal Waterway and a stretch of beach that draws carloads of sun worshipers on weekends.

The main house sits on a corner lot and consists of a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, large living area with high ceilings, Florida room and inside laundry. What the listing calls "super charming historic details" include a wood-burning fireplace, original tile work, cypress plank walls and ceilings, cedar closets and a swinging butler's door.

The sellers, who live in Indianapolis, bought the house from the original owners in 1978 for $75,000. Multiple Listing Service records show they have been trying to sell it off and on since 2007, when they put it on the market for just under $2 million.

There is no homestead exemption on the house, which for tax purposes is valued at $768,826. Property taxes last year were $13,356.

It is not known if the Crists plan to renovate and/or enlarge the home, which sits in a flood zone and does not meet current federal flood regulations. Because of the home's age, the couple could apply to the St. Pete Beach Historic Preservation Board for an exemption from federal rules that limit the cost of improvements in nonconforming structures to less than 50 percent of a property's market value.

With an exemption, the Crists could enlarge and completely redo the house to the point it bears no resemblance to its current state.

Though pricey by most standards, the home and Parkshore condo are by no means out of reach for Crist, who has become a millionaire since leaving public office in 2010.

Last year, while running against Scott, Crist released records showing a net worth of $1.25 million and a 2013 income of $713,000. That included $300,000 from the law firm of John Morgan, a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama.

Carole Crist, who ran a family-owned costume and novelties company, is wealthy in her own right. She lived in a multimillion-dollar Fisher Island condo after divorcing her first husband.

While congressional candidates don't have to live in the districts they want to represent, Democrat Alex Sink drew flak last year when she ran against Republican David Jolly for the 13th District seat in Pinellas County even though she lived in Hillsborough. She rented a condo in mid Pinellas, but moved out after losing to Jolly.

Times correspondent Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report. Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.