3-day auction of city houses starts

April 24, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Christopher Stephen's face was barely large enough to contain his grin after he plunged into home ownership at the Baltimore Home Festival Auction yesterday.

"I'm going to tell my girlfriend I bought a house, and I haven't seen it, and she's going to say, 'Oh, my God,' " Mr. Stephen said.

The auction, at the Convention Center, was the first of three days of scheduled sales of about 160 abandoned or foreclosed properties in the city. The auction, open only to buyers who went through a process to determine if they qualify for mortgage loans, is to continue today and tomorrow.

Bidders generally appeared happy with the auction results, although one man complained that buyers hadn't been informed they would have to meet the sellers' minimum prices even if the bidding closed at a lower amount.

Another expressed strong disappointment that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took 13 houses in South Baltimore off the list three days ago at the insistence of Sharp-Leadenhall community leaders.

Mr. Stephen, 36, a chef who lives in the Harford-Echodale-Perring Parkway neighborhood, had walked into the auction planning to bid on a house on Shakespeare Street in Fells Point. When he was outbid on that house, which sold for $150,000, he said to his friends, "I need to walk out of here with a house."

So, he did. He bought the second house auctioned, a row house on North Caroline Street that friends assured him was a nice one. After completing the paperwork for his new home, he said, he planned to go and see it.

Ward Morrow, an assistant state's attorney with the city, was the bidder who complained about the minimum price. He took his complaint to Mayor Schmoke, who promised to check into it. Mr. Morrow, 30, of Roland Park, who was there as a private buyer, said he hadn't known he would be asked to pay $5,000 more than his successful bid of $25,000 on a Pratt Street row house.

He declined to pay either the $30,000 requested or $28,000, the figure he said was proposed after he protested. He said he planned to look into appeals.

The seller always reserves the right to reject a bid unless it is specified as a final auction, said Jeffrey Goldman, single-family house portfolio manager for the Maryland Housing Fund, which owns the property. Mr. Goldman said the state agency will take a loss on the property, even at the $30,000 minimum.

Zack Germroth, city Department of Housing and Community Development spokesman, said the minimums are based on appraised values.

Robert Helmacy, of Pasadena, criticized Mr. Schmoke for withdrawing the Sharp-Leadenhall houses.

The mayor took the action after community leaders said that city officials promised decades ago to give longtime Sharp-Leadenhall residents the opportunity to buy homes there.

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