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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


Blog: Hot Spots

  1. Tampa Bay market 'healthiest in 10 years' as home prices continue to soar

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home prices continue to soar, but the meager supply of available properties that continues to frustrate buyers may finally be starting to ease.

    In February, the median price of a house jumped by double digits in all four bay area counties compared to the same month a year ago. Hernando led with an astounding 24.4 percent gain.

    "I don't think (prices) are sustainable at this particular rate but we certainly have influences in the market that are in a very positive direction," Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker, said Tuesday....

    This gulf-front home in Belleair Shore sold for $4.55 million in February, making it Pinellas County's priciest sale for the month.
[Courtesy of Martha Thorn]
  2. A year after her death, Joy Culverhouse has final resting place but legal battle continues


    Nearly a year after her death at 96, the widow of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse finally has been cremated.

    Joy Culverhouse's estranged son, Hugh Jr., said her ashes arrived by mail late last week at his Coral Gables home.

    "While not a Chinese food box, they are in a cardboard box," he said today.

    The cremation was the latest chapter in the bitter, sometimes bizarre fight over Culverhouse's multi-million dollar estate. Hugh Jr. and sister Gay — who accuse their mother's grandson and two other men of taking financial advantage her — had refused to allow disposition of her remains without an autopsy on her brain and access to her medical records....

    Nearly a year after her death at 96, the widow of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse finally has been cremated. [Times file photo]
  3. Jeb Bush: Trump on 'right path' but needs to fill agency posts


    KISSIMMEE -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says President Donald Trump is "on the right path" in trying to reduce government regulations but rapped his slow pace in filling key second- and third-tier posts in federal agencies.

    "I know not enough appointments have been made to carry out his agenda," said Bush, speaking to the annual Lay of the Land Florida real estate conference on Friday....

  4. Why are there so few mortgages in Tampa Bay these days?

    Real Estate

    What happened to all the mortgages?

    Along with the dramatic drop in Tampa Bay foreclosure filings has been this equally striking if less-noticed trend — a huge decline in new mortgages.

    In 2005-06, during the last real estate boom, 101,506 mortgages were recorded in Pinellas County. Last year, there were just 35,995.

    The numbers are even more startling for Hillsborough County. In 2005, 124,983 mortgages were recorded. Last year: only 45,487. ...

    Home sales (and home prices in particular) are picking up but the number of mortgages recorded has yet to bounce back. One reason: a dryup in refinancings. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  5. Flipping houses stays red hot and Tampa Bay remains one of its favorite markets

    Real Estate

    Daniel Paloscio has an enviable record flipping homes.

    Last April, he and a partner paid $275,000 for a house in a coveted South Tampa neighborhood. After renovations, they sold it in November for $515,000 — a gross profit of $240,000.

    That wasn't their only impressive flip. A Tarpon Springs house Paloscio snagged for $170,000 last year sold six months later for $325,000.

    But Paloscio knows that good candidates for flipping are increasingly hard to find. That's one reason he's started to focus more on "wholesaling" — buying and selling as-is properties that other people can flip....

    A buyer got this South Tampa home in April for $275,000, listed it at $499,900 in October and sold it for $515,000 in November.
  6. As thousands of Tampa Bay residents gain equity in homes, tight for-sale inventory may ease

    Real Estate

    In more good news for the real estate market, thousands of Tampa Bay residents have regained equity in their homes.

    As of the end of last year, 526,660 of all homes with mortgages were worth more than the amount owed, CoreLogic reported Thursday. That's 36,289 more than at the end of 2015.

    That could prompt more people to put their properties up for sale, relieving the tight inventory that has been driving up bay area prices....

    As more Tampa Bay homes regain equity lost during the housing crash, the number of short sales -- area home sales for less than the amount owed on the property -- will continue to decline. [iStockphoto]
  7. Does Tampa Bay have right latitude for a Margaritaville retirement community?

    Real Estate

    For baby boomers in their golden years, wasting away in Margaritaville could soon become a happy reality.

    Tampa-based Minto Communities Florida has teamed with Margaritaville Holdings to develop "active-adult'' communities inspired by the 1977 Jimmy Buffett hit that still evokes boozy tropical fantasies.

    A sales office for the first Latitude Margaritaville is already under construction in Daytona Beach and is expected to open this fall. When completed at an estimated cost of $1 billion, the community just off Interstate 95 will include 6,900 homes, shops and shuttle service to a private beachfront club. ...

    A rendering of Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach, the first of planned "active adult'' communities inspired by Jimmy Buffett's hit 1977 song Margaritaville and the laidback, tropical lifestyle it evoked.
[Courtesy of Minto Communities Florida]
  8. South Tampa waterfront community to rise along with Selmon Expressway Extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — To kick off sales at his New Port Tampa Bay project, developer Edward Oelschlaeger threw a gala with a buffet, open bar and Cirque du Soleil-style performers. Eager buyers put down deposits on waterfront condos costing up to $2 million apiece.

    That was in 2006. Within two years, the economy had tanked and the banks began foreclosing. Yet Oelschlaeger remained convinced that the 52 weedy acres near the east end of the Gandy Bridge could still become the next great gateway to Tampa. ...

    A street sign is seen along a plot of land near Gandy Boulevard in Tampa. BTI is developing a 52-acre waterfront site where Related Group of Miami already has announced plans for 400 apartments.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  9. One of Florida's 'most exclusive' collection of properties hits the market

    Real Estate

    Want to be a neighbor of Florida Gov. Rick Scott?

    Not far from where Scott makes his Naples home, what's billed as one of Florida's "most exclusive'' collections of properties has just hit the market.

    Included in the offering are several buildable lots, three large houses, a private marina and 70 beachfront acres, mostly on Keewaydin Island just off the Naples coast.

    No price has been set. CBRE, the brokerage handling the sale, said there will be a marketing period followed by as yet-undermined deadline for offers. ...

    The founder of giant Federated Investors and his family are selling several homes, buildable lots and other properties on Naples' Gordon Pointe and nearby Keewaydin Island. Florida Gov. Rick Scott owns a gulf-front home on Gordon Drive.
  10. Judge raps Pasco foreclosure lawyer and one of his clients

    Real Estate

    In an unusually sharply worded ruling, a judge has blasted both a Pasco County lawyer and the homeowner he represented in a foreclosure case.

    Circuit Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd said last week that she found "clear and convincing evidence'' that attorney Constantine Kalogianis intentionally and fraudulently altered mortgage records in attempt to block foreclosure of his client's house.

    And while acknowledging there was no direct evidence homeowner Nicholas Verrengia took part in the fraud, he "at the very least condoned (Kalogianis') actions after the fact,'' the judge said....

    Circuit Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd said she found "clear and convincing evidence'' that attorney Constantine Kalogianis intentionally and fraudulently altered mortgage records in attempt to block foreclosure of his client's house.
[Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  11. LM Funding America fends off one legal battle

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa's beleaguered LM Funding America has staved off one legal threat even as it still faces another.

    A federal judge in Tampa last week denied a request to certify a class action lawsuit against LM Funding, which buys the rights filed to collect unpaid homeowner associations fees. The ruling by Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell came in a suit alleging that LM Funding and a related company, Business Law Group, tried to collect more fees than they were owed....

  12. Bridging the gap: Tampa Realtors cross bay to see why St. Pete's condo market is so hot

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — As the Cross-Bay Ferry slips into the Vinoy Basin, Lynn McKinnon points at the high-rises along Beach Drive and lets out a happy little yelp.

    "How exciting!'' she exclaims. "Just think, we're going to be in every one of those condos!''

    It is 10:30 on a weekday morning, and McKinnon, a sales executive with Majesty Title Services, is about to shepherd a group of Tampa real estate agents and home stagers off the ferry and into the opulent buildings that have helped make St. Petersburg one of Florida's hottest housing markets. ...

    A group of Tampa Realtors, title agents and home stagers arrives in downtown St. Petersburg on the Cross-Bay Ferry to tour several high-end condos along Beach Drive. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  13. Grand jury calls Florida agency inept and ill-suited to probe condo complaints

    Real Estate

    In Pasco County, residents of one community were shocked when their homeowners association approved a special assessment for new roofs even though a study showed most of the existing roofs still had "years of useful life.''

    In a Tampa high-rise, condo owners are fighting a $600,000 assessment they say will mostly benefit an investment group that is trying to convert the entire building to rentals. ...

    Residents of Weymouth, from left, Barbara Hospel, 79, Angelo Anello, 68, Jim Dolan, 44, and David Coreen, 46, stand in front of Dolan's villa in the neighborhood of 234 villas in Land O' Lakes last week. They are among those who disagreed with the neighborhood homeowner's association over assessments for new roofs on all the villas -- and the way it was approved and managed. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  14. Tampa Bay home prices shoot up 11 percent, kicking off another strong year

    Real Estate

    Another year; another super start.

    Prices for single-family homes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 11.4 percent in January from a year ago, far higher than the statewide average and the highest of any major Florida metro area.

    The number of sales that closed last month also rose significantly — up 10 percent — in a sign that the robust market that began in early 2016 will continue. ...

    This home on Davis Islands sold for nearly $6.3 million in late January, making it 2017's  first bay area  sale over $6 million.
[Smith & Associates]
  15. Renovation of small St. Petersburg building gets big attention

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — In the past few years, downtown St. Petersburg has gained more than 2,000 new rental units. But it was a 12-unit apartment building dating to Harry Truman's presidency that recently drew kudos from Mayor Rick Kriseman and other civic leaders.

    Built in 1948, the Prince Gregor Apartments at 844 Fifth Ave. S have been restored to their Art Deco glory by a Canadian couple who became smitten with the place on visits to relatives in St. Petersburg....

    The 12-unit Prince Gregor apartment building, which was built in 1948, has been restored by Ali Sarrafian and Afsaneh Asayesh.