Parading City Housing Values

February 28, 1994

The Baltimore Home Festival, to be held April 23, 24 and 25 at the Convention Center, is exactly what the old-house doctor has been ordering for years. Not only will the city auction off vacant houses there but some 300 booths will showcase various neighborhoods, housing-related services and vendors, financial institutions and real estate brokers.

The event promises to be the biggest housing happening in the city since the homesteading days of the early 1970s, when abandoned shells were awarded through lotteries to renovators who put such neighborhood names as Stirling Street, Otterbein and Barre Circle back on the map.

Why it was not tried earlier is baffling. Baltimore City, after all, has no shortage of houses in need of rehabbing or neighborhoods ripe for revitalization.

Last year, the city tried to get rid of some of the vacant eyesores by holding an auction for 1,500 tax sale properties. But the process was both unpredictable and cumbersome because delinquent property owners could redeem their back taxes or tie up the transaction in courts.

The beauty of April's home festival is that all the vacant houses sold at the auction will immediately change hands. And since on-the-spot financing and professional contracting services will be available to qualified buyers, there is a greater likelihood that repair work will be done and the houses returned to the tax rolls.

Plans call for holding open houses at the vacant properties before the auction. Interested buyers will have an opportunity to look at the shells and the neighborhoods in which they are located and make informed decisions.

The April home festival is an unequaled opportunity for community organizations and the real estate industry to push the city as an option for homeowners throughout the Baltimore-Washington region.

Recent improvements in MARC commuter train service have made commuting to the nation's capital much easier. And there is no question that many older Baltimore homes compare favorably in both quality and price to those available in the Washington area.

In recent years, many out-of-towners have discovered Harborplace and Oriole Park. City housing officials and the local real estate industry should not spare any effort to make sure that these potential owners also discover Baltimore's varied neighborhoods.

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