Answers to questions about area market

July 10, 2005

Last week in a Page 1A article, Sun staff writer Jamie Smith Hopkins chronicled the surge of investors into Baltimore's housing market, accounting for two-thirds of city homes sold in the first four months of this year. Today she answers selected readers' questions about local investment activity.

Q. Regarding your 67 percent figure, it isn't clear whether you mean 67 percent of the dwellings sold went to investors or whether 67 percent of the sales were to investors. In other words, when a single house is flipped from a would-be foreclosure victim to a wholesaler to an "investor" to another "investor" to a rehabber, that's four sales, but only one unit. All our transfers (plus several other unrecorded ones, possibly) could easily take place within six months, yes? So is that what you mean with 67 percent - or do you mean 67 percent as the percentage of total units sold to investors?

- Ed Ericson, Baltimore

A. Actually, it's about two-thirds either way - because the number of properties that sold more than once this year isn't large enough to skew the trend. From January to the end of April, about 140 homes sold twice and a handful more sold three times (most, but not all, from investor to investor). The total number of sales, by comparison, was nearly 5,800.

Q. Is there someplace you can go or call to get a list of abandoned buildings that the city is selling? - Larue Willingham, Baltimore

A. The city's housing department suggests that investors and homebuyers go to, which includes information geared toward developers, contractors, residents trying to buy their first house and others interested in the city's residential real estate market. There's a list of city properties for sale at _properties.pdf.

Q. I'm an investor looking for property in Baltimore. Do you have any contact information, i.e. a Web site?

- Junior, Owings Mills

A. In addition to the city's Web site above, you might try real-estate-clubs/ Maryland.html, which lists contact information for local real estate investor associations.

Q. Is there any concern over whether the properties are being sold to out-of-town investors as opposed to locals? I'm thinking more in terms of companies like Redbrick, which comes in and buys blocks of properties.

- Dave, Baltimore

A. The main concern I've heard so far is that investors who don't live in the area might not pay enough attention to their properties and will probably be harder to contact. Some out-of-towners have more than a P.O. box, though: Redbrick Partners, based in New York and Washington, is buying homes in such large numbers here that it has an office in the Patterson Park area staffed by an investment manager who coordinates rehabs and deals with tenants.

Still, even if the majority of out-of-town investors prove themselves to be responsible, there might be some backlash against so much property being owned by people outside the city, especially from Washington.

Q. Of the many condominium projects I have seen articles on in The Sun, are any of the high- rises actually going to be built? Also, with all the talk on opposition to high-rises in Mount Vernon on Charles Street, has anyone thought of doing computer-enhanced photos of the Charles Street corridor with high-rises in all the currently empty lots? That would give the public a better idea of the negative impact high-rises would have on the historic area. - George Garmer, Baltimore A. Nearly 800 condo units were built in the city in the past year, according to the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. To put that in perspective, no one constructed any condos here in the preceding 10 years. Not all of the new projects are high- rises, but some condo towers have moved past the drawing board.

For instance, Downtown Partnership says construction recently started on a 120-unit condo tower on Fleet Street in Inner Harbor East, while the firms building the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Federal Hill and Silo Point in the old grain elevator in Locust Point are doing site work.

As for computer-enhanced photos - I haven't heard of such an effort, but local residents could certainly try it. You can find aerial photos of neighborhoods at Google Maps,

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