Behind the financial fraud headlines, victims tell their story

Years before Leigh Farrington Fiske of Tampa pled guilty to defrauding small business owners, Dominick and Michelle Alesandrini say they lost $18,000 in their dealings with Fiske.

In 2005, the couple signed a lease-purchase contract with Fiske for a home in Seminole Heights, and Dominick Alesandrini, a contractor, agreed to restore and renovate parts of the house that had been damaged in a fire, with the provision that the materials he bought and the value of his labor would be applied to the purchase… …read more

Pending home sales at highest level since 2013

January may have been a weak month for home sales, but it was a strong month for contract signings.

Pending home sales jumped to their highest level since August 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors. The group’s Pending Home Sales Index, which is based on contract signings, rose from 102.5 in December to 104.2 in January. That’s well above January 2014’s 96.1 level.

“Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” said NAR Chief… …read more

Boutique hotel with rooftop bar planned on former Crawdaddy’s site on Rocky Point

A boutique hotel is in the works for the site of a shuttered restaurant on the Rocky Point waterfront.

Tampa-based Lifsey Real Estate Holdings is partnering with Pinnacle Hotel Management, based near West Palm Beach, on a nine-story, 180-room boutique hotel, said Stan Lifsey, principal.

The project will be built on the site of the former Crawdaddy’s Restaurant, which is now used for overflow parking for events at the Rusty Pelican. Pending city approval of a rezoning request, construction could… …read more

Want to buy a home in Tampa? Your annual salary should be at least $38k

To purchase a home in Tampa, a person needs to have an average income of $37,732.20 per year, and unlike other metros, that number is becoming higher, according to a new report by analyzed 27 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States to find out the average annual income needed to purchase a home.

Out of those 27, the Tampa metro area was the only one to see a quarterly-home-price increase, 10.34 percent to be exact.

“The quarterly and [year-over-year] gains completely… …read more

Atlanta investor pays nearly $30M for Clearwater apartments, plans upgrades

An apartment complex in Clearwater has been sold for $29.85 million or more than $130,000 per unit.

Atlanta-based Radco Cos. acquired the 228-unit Bay Park community from Chicago-based Laramar Group. Bay Park is located near the intersection of Gulf to Bay Boulevard and U.S. Highway 19 .

ARA Tampa-based Principal Patrick Dufour and Vice President Scott Ramey represented Laramar in the transaction. ARA announced the deal Monday.

Radco sees upside potential in Bay Park, according to ARA. The community… …read more

14-story waterfront residential tower proposed on Rocky Point

A Sarasota developer is proposing a 14-story residential tower on the water in Rocky Point — a site that’s sat dormant since previous plans crashed along with the real estate market.

Ascentia Development Group has filed plans with the city for a tower adjacent to the Westin Tampa Bay at 3015 N. Rocky Point Drive, on a 3-acre site.

The plans call for 258 residential units on floors four through 14, on top of a three-story parking garage. The units will range in size from studios to four bedrooms,… …read more

Home sales dip despite low mortgage rates; are prices too high? (Video)

Sales of existing homes fell to an annual rate of 4.82 million in January, the lowest pace since last May.

That’s according to the National Association of Realtors, which reports that the Northeast and West saw the biggest declines in sales activity. January’s sales pace was down from 5.07 million in December.

“January housing data can be volatile because of seasonal influences, but low housing supply and the ongoing rise in home prices above the pace of inflation appeared to slow sales despite… …read more

USAA CEO to retire by end of February

USAA President and CEO Joe Robles Jr. will step down from his current roles on Feb. 28, the San Antonio-based financial services company confirmed.

His successor, Stuart Parker, will take the reins as the new CEO on March 1.

Retired Army Major Gen. Robles played an instrumental role in expanding USAA’s membership eligibility during his tenure to include any individuals who have honorably served in the U.S. military — and their eligible family members. As a result, USAA grew its membership by… …read more

Potential Office Depot/Staples closings couldn’t come at a better time for Tampa Bay retailers

If federal regulators approve Staples’ $6.3 billion deal to buy Office Depot, it will likely mean a number of those stores will go dark — and that could be a good thing for Tampa Bay retailers.

The retail real estate market in Tampa Bay is extremely tight, with less than 6 percent vacancy in any part of the region. That makes it extremely difficult for the new concepts looking at the market to find space in desirable areas, and rents aren’t quite high enough to justify the construction costs of… …read more

Banks see mostly favorable conditions for Tampa Bay

Both BMO Capital Markets and The PNC Financial Services Group have issued fairly upbeat reports about the area’s economy.

BMO projects Florida’s growth will exceed the national average this year, with strength in employment growth a “big positive” for job seekers, said Dave Maraman, Florida regional president-business banking, BMO Harris Bank. BMO said nonfarm payrolls rose 2.9 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter, and construction employment is rising at a very strong clip, up 9.4 percent… …read more