What happened to the $1,500 Tampa condo, and other local real estate tales

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

By Susan Taylor Martin

Published December 29, 2015\


The year 2015 has been a dynamic one on the Tampa Bay real estate scene. Big projects have been announced, home values have climbed, the area is in a full-bodied recovery from the recession and housing crash. Here's a look at what's happened to some of the people and places we wrote about in covering the many-angled real estate business.


The $1,500 condo

Hundreds of people called Realtor Irwin Wilensky in August after reading a story about the cheapest home for sale in the Tampa Bay area — a $1,500 condo near the University of South Florida.


"Then I explained what the hell was going on with the complex and 99 percent of them ran,'' Wilensky said.

The two-bedroom unit is one of 24 in the Sleepy Hollow complex, which was all but abandoned and left to rot after so many units went into foreclosure. By the time Wilensky listed Unit 1511, the complex had no water, no power, no active homeowners association and was rife with liens and code violations.

The story on cheapest foreclosed house for sale in Tampa Bay, on the market for just $1,500


Nonetheless, a buyer bought the unit for $526 soon after the story appeared. And in November, an Illinois investor paid $428,000 for 18 of the remaining units in the complex, which is just off 15th Street between Fowler and Fletcher avenues. The investor has since partnered with Home Equity Management Group to bring the complex back to life.

"There was a lot of rehab needed because of damaged roofs, and also a lot of vandalism,'' said David Dey, a co-owner of the company. "An interesting side note is that actually one person had lived there continuously without water or power.''

The first-time homebuyers

In May, Jenna and David Norge were the subject of a front-page story on the challenge of finding affordable homes in popular Tampa Bay neighborhoods. By that point, the couple had been looking for two years in and around downtown St. Petersburg with no luck.

They're still looking.

Earlier this month, they again found a place they loved — a two-bedroom, one-bath 1940s charmer in Woodlawn priced at $250,000. They made an offer, only to be quickly outbid.

"We were kind of heartbroken, but we expect to be heartbroken,'' Jenna said.

In the past year, bay area home prices have risen 7 percent though they are climbing even faster in older, leafy neighborhoods close to thriving downtowns. With many buyers still paying in cash, it's hard for those like the Norges who need financing to compete. Some of the properties they've looked at have been snapped up almost as soon as the "For Sale'' sign went in the ground.

Since May, the Norges have taken the smart step of working with a Realtor, who sends them daily notices on what's new to the market in their target areas. They have not, however, broadened their search beyond a few-mile radius of downtown St. Petersburg, where prices are at a premium.

"Maybe we're a little too picky,'' said Jenna, who works for the city.

After losing out on the Woodlawn house, the Norges made an offer last weekend on a home nearby. Again, they were outbid though they are not hopelessly discouraged.

"The right one will pop up,'' Jenna said. "David's turning 30 on Feb. 14 and we hope to be in a house by then.''