Homebuyers need counseling to avoid housing rip-offsAny...


August 07, 1999

Homebuyers need counseling to avoid housing rip-offs

Any person of conscience would be appalled by The Sun's recent reports of the results of unscrupulous real estate dealings in Baltimore ("Housing prices soar, sometimes in a day," Aug. 1).

It is a tragedy when the American dream of home ownership leads to foreclosure or bankruptcy.

And it frightens anyone contemplating a purchase in the city. I know -- I'm a real estate agent and I hear this all the time.

The solution is not new laws against profiteering, but enforcing the unfair business practice laws we have.

In addition, we need to help guide would-be homebuyers through the maze of choices and hazards between them and their dream home, so they won't fall prey to dishonest opportunists.

Reputable real estate firms and mortgage companies offer free seminars on home buying and selling.

The city should encourage prospective homebuyers and sellers to attend these sessions. An educated and informed buyer knows what to expect and is not so easily taken advantage of.

Real estate contracts that were a few pages long 30 years ago now are so long that they threaten forests. No one should feel embarrassed not to understand all the regulations and pitfalls.

No less needy are sellers, who are up against a wall of requirements their homes must meet before a buyer can obtain government-backed financing.

These rules severely handicap property owners in the poorer parts of the city. They should be modified to bring these homeowners relief.

Mary Lou Wickham, Glen Arm

I applaud The Sun's recent articles on housing fraud. However, I was not surprised by the findings.

As a certified housing counselor, I spend nearly 25 percent of my time trying to extricate buyers from shady deals made by real estate agents, mortgage companies and landlords who are trying to take advantage of buyers.

The city and state should require first-time buyers to complete housing counseling from a certified agency before they can take advantage of discounts and other closing cost breaks.

Foreclosures and unqualified homebuyers who are in over their head don't do anything to promote homeownership.

Many housing agencies in the city and state across the state could act as third-party advocates for uninformed buyers.

Jeff Sattler, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Waverly Community Housing Program.

Housing scams are still another plague on the city

The article "House prices soar, sometimes in a day" (Aug. 1) broke my heart. As both an advocate for low-income people and a Baltimore City homeowner, the thought of hardworking parents getting conned by rich out-of-towners was almost too much for me to continue reading.

Perhaps the article could have included a list of reputable housing organizations, such as St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center and the Better Waverly Housing Program, that can legally and ethically help low-to-moderate income people buy homes with little money down.

The news I read about Baltimore is enough to make even this dedicated city resident want to leave.

If only the city could eliminate the fraudulent housing brokers, absentee landlords, litterbugs, drug addicts, burglars, murderers, lazy government workers and unqualified mayoral candidates.

When considering all of this, it amazes me that the city has any residents left.

But it's the glimmers of hope I see on the micro level, in such neighborhoods as Fells Point, Hampden, Charles Village/Waverly, Butchers Hill, Govans and Canton, that keep me here.

Andrea E. Morris, Baltimore

Harbor junk we see is just tip of the trashberg

In his recent letter, "Don't suggest trash despoils our lovely harbor" (July 30), Harry Wolf claims that the recent trash in the Inner Harbor was a temporary condition.

But that's not so. Most of the trash that washes into the harbor sinks to the bottom, is buried in the mud or driven by currents to other parts of the bay.

What we see on the surface is the tip of a trashberg. There's always new trash. The loose refuse that the good people of Baltimore are at this very moment dumping in their streets and alleys will be channeled into the city's storm drains.

There it will hide, waiting to resurface on the city's "showcase" the next time a hard rain falls.

This will continue so long as people don't care what the alleys and streets they live on look like and the city fails to clean up the incredible detritus that some residents kick from their cars and homes.

Wayne Alt, Baltimore

Development threatens what we value the most

Just when I was convinced that the ratings-hungry media had lost all touch with reality, I read Dan Rodricks' column "As nature retreats, so does quality of our lives" (July 30). As always, Mr. Rodricks got to the core of the matter clearly, but with heart.

I feel like the heron in his column. I often want to scream at the insanity of turning once vital farmland and open space into one more row of ticky-tacky houses.

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