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Realtor says story missed mark

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Longboat Key luxury realtor Patrick DiPinto was shocked and dismayed when he read an article in last Monday’s Sarasota Herald Tribune that insinuated the payment of state Documentary stamps, the tax paid in the transfer of a property, was not properly made in a recent $2.2 million transaction on Lido Key.

In the story, the writer reported that only $.70 in doc stamps was paid and that the transaction “skirted thousands of dollars in required real estate taxes, according to a review of public records.”

For DiPinto, a longtime Coldwell Banker Previews Agent and 22-year veteran of real estate who is also a state-certified building contractor, said the article amounted to a lack of understanding on the reporter’s part, but had the potential to damage a reputation he has developed in the area for his diligence and responsibility in his work.

DiPinto said the reporter contacted him about the Lido property, which a company DiPinto manages, Seaward Development, purchased along with his partner, international businessman David Hargreaves, to develop into luxury condominiums. DiPinto said the interview focused on what he planned to do with the property, which is the last piece of developable parcel for multi-family construction on the key. But instead, on Monday, the story that came out focused on the fact that instead of what the writer estimated at about $15,000 due in taxes, only $.70 was paid in the doc stamps. And one thing that irks DiPinto, his colleagues, and Coldwell Banker, is that in virtually every real estate transaction, doc stamps are the responsibility of the seller. In this case a subsidiary of the failed investment house Lehman Brothers is the seller.

To further the issue, not only is the seller responsible for the doc stamps, but the deed recorded in Sarasota County showed the transfer as a $100 sale, with a clear notation on the deed from the seller’s attorney that it was exempt from doc stamps because it was part of the Lehman Brothers federal bankruptcy filings.

On Tuesday morning, the Herald printed a clarification stating the facts about the bankruptcy case and subsequently printed a story entitled, “Tiny Tax Payment Defended,” by Josh Salman, the writer of the original story. The story affirmed exactly what DiPinto, Coldwell Banker’s attorneys and the title agent had stated.

But for DiPinto who spends tens of thousands of dollar per year marketing both his real estate listings and his name in the community, a palpable amount of damage had been done.

“I was shocked to see this kind of story on the front page. It was as if it was the only topic of conversation. But when I was interviewed, we mainly talked about how it was the last developable piece of property on Lido Beach and what could be done on the property and what we planned to do with the property. To see a story on doc stamps and tying my name into other real estate deals where taxes were avoided was shocking,” said DiPinto.

DiPinto said his company’s attorneys spoke with the Tribune for hours but he had within that time a handful of clients asking him what was going on. DiPinto said most of his clients and many people know who have bought property, that the doc stamps are the responsibility of the seller, but he said it was hurtful to hear comments from people who do not know the process.

In the end, DiPinto said his clients know how detailed and conscientious he is, but it has diminished his desire to talk openly with reporters, unless he feels they truly have researched the subject that they are writing about.

 

Details of the plan

As for DiPinto and his group of investors’ plan for developing the 1.12-acre parcel at 129 Taft Drive on south Lido Key, DiPinto says a small luxury condominium neighborhood across from the Gulf of Mexico and near south Lido Park will be developed in the next 18 months.

The property was originally approved for a 110-foot condominium holding 20 units. Subsequently, a city overlay district reduced the height and DiPinto says the building will now be no taller than 35 feet above the FEMA mandated flood elevation height of 13 feet. He said they are currently designing the property and plans to build about 18 units similar to Villa Di Lancia on Longboat Key at about 2,500 square feet each.

DiPinto said he and his partner will work closely with the City to develop a plan that is consistent with neighboring properties and is particularly sensitive to the overlay district. He added the building will use post-tension construction and said he insists the building be pet-friendly and that the entire project is fully-funded and not contingent on any pre-sales.

DiPinto said he hopes to have approvals in the next six months, start construction during the next busy season, and have the construction completed by the end of 2014. DiPinto said the price point of the condominiums will be around the high $900,000s.

 

 

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