Hopeful sellers to tout community


April 25, 1993|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Staff Writer

When David Sann searched for his first home two years ago, his instinct was to hunt in Baltimore County.

After all, he'd been raised in Towson. But instead, he scouted out a Baltimore neighborhood where his payments are just $433 a month -- less than half what a White Marsh home of similar size would have cost.

"We wanted to eat something other than tuna fish and macaroni and cheese," says Mr. Sann, a 27-year-old life insurance salesman.

Mr. Sann and his wife, social worker Deborah Straka-Sann, are enamored of their Belair-Edison community in Northeast Baltimore. Still, realizing that there's a glut of unsold homes on the market, they've joined with other community leaders to conduct a mass open house there today, in an attempt to market homes to would-be buyers.

More than 75 sellers have signed up for today's open house, to run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The weekend promotional event also included a flea market and community picnic in Herring Run Park.

"Our community is not well-known. We need to market it," says Tracy Ward Durkin, director of the Belair-Edison Housing Service Inc., a nonprofit group that seeks to strengthen homeownership in the stable rowhouse community, with its pruned lawns, marble stoops and green awnings.

Of the 7,500 homes in the Belair-Edison community, 4 percent are for sale. That's a troublingly large percentage for home sellers, who find it's taking far longer than usual to unload their properties because of the large inventory.

"The problem is that we're all the same age," Ms. Durkin says. The population of the community is divided between seniors, who are original owners, and young couples who bought their first homes in Belair-Edison, she says.

What's caused so many for-sale signs to sprout is that many seniors must move for health reasons, and many young couples are trading up to larger homes to accommodate growing families, Ms. Durkin says.

Many first-time homebuyers who could qualify to purchase a property in Belair-Edison are unaware of what they can get for their money, Ms. Durkin contends. For $55,000, a buyer there can obtain a 1,200-square-foot property with three bedrooms, central air conditioning and a fenced yard, she points out.

The fact that many young families are moving out of the area reflects their need for larger housing, not dissatisfaction with the community, Ms. Durkin says.

"You get to the point where it's just time to move on to a larger home -- when you get married and your income and family grows," says Kathy Hawker, 36, an administrative assistant to a state senator.

Three months ago, Ms. Hawker put her three-bedroom Belair-Edison home on the market, a well-maintained brick property with fresh wallpaper, neutral carpets and a large country kitchen. The home had been her grandmother's, and Ms. Hawker moved there 12 years ago while she was still single.

Although Ms. Hawker says she retains an strong attachment to the Belair-Edison community, she and the man she married three years ago, 42-year-old Stephen Hawker, a mortgage loan officer, recently moved to a four-bedroom colonial they purchased in a woodsy section of the Cub Hill community in Baltimore County. The couple have one toddler and another child on the way.

Priced at $57,900, Ms. Hawker and her real estate agent have been offering her home for sale for three months -- yet have attracted not a single offer.

"I don't feel it's time to get antsy or troubled. You just have to be patient. The economy has just not recovered yet," Ms. Hawker says. Through today's mass open house, she's hoping to attract a buyer to her now-vacant home.

"I think for the last few years it's been hard to move anything -- what with some buyers losing their jobs," says Beth Kotrosa, an agent with the Parkville office of Long & Foster, who will be participating in today's mass open house.

Property in the Belair-Edison community, which is generally well-kept and owner-occupied, is considered very affordable.

Many Belair-Edison homes there sell in the $45,000 to $65,000 range, with a typical total house payment now running about $575 to $625 -- including principal, interest, property taxes and homeowner's insurance. That's comparable to rent costs for many tenants in the Baltimore area, she notes.

Ms. Kotrosa says the large inventory of for-sale homes in the Belair-Edison market is attributable to low mortgage rates, which have prompted many owners in the community to make plans to trade up to more spacious detached homes elsewhere. The mass open house is a good method of attracting interest to the neighborhood, she says.

"What's nicer than a Sunday afternoon? People love to get out. People will be looking, even if they can't afford to buy, and they'll see what's available," she says.

"If people want to make a move, this is the time they want to do it," advises Jeannie Pohlhaus, of the Lutherville office of Prudential Preferred Properties, another agent participating in the mass open house.

Property is moving no more slowly in Belair-Edison than in many other parts of the Baltimore area, but the community association there is more active in its salesmanship of the neighborhood, she contends.

"I love that community. I love showing it. I think it's Baltimore's best-kept secret for affordable housing in the city," Ms. Pohlhaus said.

For information on the Belair-Edison community, call Tracy Ward Durkin at (410) 485-8422. The Belair-Edison Housing Service Inc. provides counseling for those seeking to buy property in the community.

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