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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. Clearwater attorney accused of condo foreclosure trickery fights back

    Real Estate

    The Clearwater lawyer accused of tricking a bidder into paying $458,100 for a gulf-front condo now plans to contest a judge's order tossing out the sale.

    On Monday, attorney Roy C. Skelton's company Deutsche Residential Mortgage filed a notice of appeal with the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.

    The action comes two months after Pinellas Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold vacated the sale of a North Redington Beach condo on which Deutsche held a mortgage because of what the judge called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" schemed to dupe bidders at a foreclosure auction....

    John Houde, left, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground, in August during a hearing Sixth Judicial Circuit court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse. The judge agreed with Houde's allegation that he was duped by Skelton in thinking he bought a Redington Beach condo for $458,100 out of a foreclosure auction. Now Skelton is fighting back. 
[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  2. Housing official: We need help to end Puerto Rico's nightmare

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER BEACH — On his first night out of Puerto Rico since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the head of the island's housing finance agency reveled in an unfamiliar sight.

    "It was so surreal; I was looking at lights in a city," said Luis Fernandez Trinchet, whose San Juan home has been without power since early September. "I thought, 'Am I here? Am I dreaming this?'''

    Trinchet was among the speakers Friday at a panel on "Rebuild Puerto Rico,'' part of the National Minority Affordable Home Builders Summit at the Sheraton Sand Key. And what a rebuilding effort it will be, as 91 percent of the island's residents still have no electricity, 81 percent lack cell phone service and thousands are crowded in the 108 shelters that remain open for those with no homes to return to....

    Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority's Luis C. Fernandez Trinchet speaks during the National Minority Affordable Home Builder Summit  in Clearwater on what it will take to rebuild Puerto Rico.
[JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. AG Pam Bondi: Time to shut down Tampa duo preying on troubled homeowners

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — During the foreclosure crisis, a lot of investors made a lot of money off the misfortune of others. But few were as prolific as Jimmy Dean Chancey and his nephew, Michael Chancey.

    Through a myriad of companies, the duo has acquired scores of houses in the Tampa Bay and Jacksonville areas for as little as $10 apiece. They got some at foreclosure auctions, others directly from desperate homeowners like Tarsha Santiago of Gibsonton. ...

    Jimmy Chancey's company is accused of using false bids and other tactics to delay foreclosure while it rents out houses. [Screen grab from web site of HOA Problem Solutions]

  4. Former Rays' slugger Fred McGriff selling Tampa home

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Former Major League Baseball star Fred McGriff, one of the original players for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, has put his Tampa estate on the market for $3.495 million.

    Custom-built for McGriff and his wife, Veronica, in the mid-1990s, the five-bedroom, six-bath home sits on nearly two acres fronting the golf course in the gated Avila community. The 11,768-square-foot house also has a gym, a game room and a four-car garage plus golf cart garage....

    Fred McGriff, shown in 2004 during his playing days with the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is selling his Tampa home.
[MICHAEL RONDOU | TImes file photo]
  5. You can have a say on one of Tampa Bay's mega projects (w/video)

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Have you ever paid close attention to the support piers of an elevated highway? Probably not, but the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority still wants your opinion on what some new ones should look like.

    From now through Friday, Oct. 20, members of the public will be able to choose between two designs for the piers supporting the 1.9-mile extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway from South Dale Mabry Highway to the Gandy bridge. The winning design will be announced Oct. 23. ...

    The public can vote through Oct. 20 on designs for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa. This design called  Estuary has a more naturalistic feel. [Courtesy of AECOM]
  6. Historic St. Petersburg home of Gandy Bridge builder sold for $1.73 million

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's oldest and most historic homes has new owners but whether it will escape the bulldozer is still unclear.

    Descendants of George "Gidge'' Gandy Jr. — who helped his father build the namesake cross-bay bridge — sold the century-old house Friday for $1.73 million. The deed has not yet been recorded and agent Natalie DeVicente would not disclose the names of the buyers but said they are locals who ''fell in love'' with the one-and-a-quarter acre waterfront property on Big Bayou....

    A plaque on the exterior of the Gandy-O'Brien estate on Big Bayou near downtown St. Petersburg. The house and 1.25 acres sold Friday for $1.73 million. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  7. In Tampa Bay, burdened renters abound as home ownership stays low

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is increasingly a region of renters.

    A decade after the housing crash, nearly 38 percent of bay area households are in rental properties, a new study shows. That compares to less than 30 percent in 2006, just before real estate values plunged and sent tens of thousands of Tampa Bay homes into foreclosure.

    And many of those renters are unlikely to become homeowners anytime soon, according to New York University researchers. Almost 25 percent of bay area rental households are "severely rent-burdened'' — they spend more than half of their income on rent — and have scant resources left for food, health care and education let alone the down payment for a house....

    Masons work atop the 9-story Avanti apartment  building under construction in downtown St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay area has gained thousands of new rental units since 2006 as growing numbers of people rent rather than buy. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  8. HGTV's Scott McGillivray brings real estate tips, new show to Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Devotees of HGTV know Scott McGillivray as the hunky host of Income Property — that addictive show in which he helps homeowners convert their disgusting basements or unused space into sleek rental units producing enviable streams of cash.

    A Toronto native who began buying and renovating houses while in college, McGillivray has a new show, Buyers Bootcamp, that teams him up with rookie investors. He and his crew have just started work on episodes to air next year: Half will be in upstate New York; the rest in Florida including Tampa Bay, Sarasota, Port Charlotte and Fort Myers. ...

    Scott McGillivray, host of Income Property on HGTV and DIY Network, will be filming episodes in Tampa Bay and other parts of Florida for his new show, Buyers Bootcamp. [Courtesy of HGTV]
  9. Tampa estate of ex-Bucs coach Lovie Smith on market for $4.8 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA

    For those who like really big pieces of sports memorabilia, consider this: Lovie Smith's Tampa estate just hit the market at $4.8 million.

    The six-bedroom, six-bath home of the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach sits on 13 acres in an enclave of just four estate properties in the gated Tampa Palms community. Built in 2002, the 10,146-square-foot house has his-and-her offices, a media room, a family room with a two-sided fireplace, a heated pool and spa and a putting green. Guest accommodations include a cabana/guest house with a kitchen and a "guest tower" suite. ...

    Lovie Smith’s 10,146-square-foot home also includes a putting green, a media room and six bedrooms.
  10. Clearwater summit looks for ways to make home ownership easier for minorities

    Real Estate

    Nearly 50 years after Congress passed the anti-discrimination Fair Housing Act, blacks, Latinos and other minorities are still far less likely than whites to own their homes. As of 2016, the home ownership rate for blacks was just 41 percent compared to almost 72 percent for whites, one study found.

    That yawning gap is the spark behind the National Minority Affordable Home Builders Summit to be held next week (Oct. 12-13) in Clearwater. Nearly 200 builders, bankers, Realtors and affordable housing advocates will spend two days at the Sheraton Sand Key discussing ways to improve minority home ownership at a time when minorities make up the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population....

    St. Petersburg city council member Karl Nurse will moderate a panel on efforts to make more land available for affordable housing. Nurse helped form a coalition of nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity that will get a "First Look" chance to buy vacant city-owned lots for a few thousands dollars before they go to auction. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  11. Tampa Bay's popular 49er flea market to close Nov. 30 as land values rise

    Real Estate

    PINELLAS PARK — One of Tampa Bay's most popular flea markets is going the way of Life magazine, poodle skirts and Jadeite dinnerware.

    The longtime owners of the 49er Flea Market sold it for $3.3 million late last month and expect to shut it down as of Nov. 30. The buyer, Horsepower Investments LLC of Port Charlotte, owns Harley-Davidson dealerships and will move its bay area store from St. Petersburg to the nearly 10-acre site on 10525 49th Street N....

    Steve McLean locks up the booth he shared with Audrey Mulligan at the 49er Flea Market on May 9, 2007.  McLean is part of the tight-knit flea market community working with the sheriff's department and State's Attorney's office to see that Mulligan's attacker, now charged with murder, is brought to justice.  [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times[
  12. Wilbur Landrey, renaissance man among foreign correspondents, dies at 93

    Obituaries

    ST. PETERSBURG — Among the first stories Wilbur Landrey covered as the St. Petersburg Times chief foreign correspondent was the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala that killed 23,000.

    He and Times photographer Ric Ferro checked into a hotel that was "kind of tilting," Landrey later recalled. The next day, as he was writing a story, a severe aftershock hit and the table began to skid across the room....

    Wilbur Landrey, shown in this 1995 photo shortly before retiring from the then-St. Petersburg Times, died Friday at the age of 93.
[Times file photo]
  13. Cash still a big driver for Tampa Bay home sales

    Real Estate

    To the difficulty of finding a house these days, add this factor: cash still talks.

    Though not as common as during the foreclosure crisis, cash sales continue to make up a significant part of Tampa Bay's tight real estate market. That means buyers who have to borrow can be at a distinct disadvantage, especially those hunting for houses under $300,000.

    "I have a customer in that price range and she says, 'I need to think about it,' and the next day it's been sold," said Ann Rogers, a Pinellas County Realtor. "It just creates a sense of urgency for buyers in that price point." ...

    A home located at 3205 W Ballast Point Blvd. in Tampa sold for $224,000 cash in August.
[LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times] 

  14. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Slated to join Bliss and Rowland Place on 4th are two more developments — The Bezu, a 24-unit tower close to Beach Drive, and 747 North, an 18-unit project several blocks to the west.

    "The market is very hot these days and there's a lot of demand and not too much product on hand," Michel Regignano, director of development for the newly formed company Arclight, said Monday....

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 Fourth Ave. NE in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]
  15. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    "Immaculate 3 bedroom, 2 bath interior on a beautifully landscaped corner lot," gushed the Multiple Listing Service description.

    Then Hurricane Irma came along and — boom! — the 30-foot tree crashed onto the lawn and owner Brett Schroder saw his hopes for a sale likely gone with the wind....

    Brett Schroder bought this updated house last spring, did some work and put it back on the market with its big ficus tree as a selling point. Here's the before photo -- before Hurricane Irma toppled the tree.
[Photo Courtesy: mfrmls.com]