But the homeowners' agent knew an offer might be coming and was poised to act fast. As Orso hopped back in his SUV, he promised Payne: "You'll hear from me in an hour or two."
Two hours later, he was jubilant. Payne's offer was accepted — he'd expected as much. But he'd also heard back from the agent for the bank, and McCarthy's offer was a go, too.
"It was a stroke of luck," said the lender's agent, Tom Richardson. He deals with many foreclosures as an associate broker with Long & Foster in Annapolis and knows better than to count on such a quick turnaround.
What happens to the housing market now is a subject of great debate. Some predict that so many people bought now rather than later that the market will once again slump after all the tax-credit deals have closed. Buyers have until June 30 to go to settlement.
Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight, is counting on a decline in sales initially but thinks job growth will help later in the year.
"It's still a bad housing market, but it's going to get better," he said.
For Payne, what matters is that her family will have more space than in their rented rowhouse, and for a lower monthly payment than the rent on a three-bedroom apartment she'd been considering. She was already rearranging the place in her head Friday afternoon. Her boys were discussing what colors they wanted their rooms painted.
And McCarthy, Orso's other buyer, was over the moon. When he called her to say her contract had been accepted, "it was like, oh my gosh, fireworks," she said. The $6,500 will pay for window coverings and furniture at her new place.
After he brought the prized document to McCarthy for initialing, Orso headed off for one more settlement — finally almost done with a frenetic day to end all days.
"I'm not complaining at all," he said from the road. "This is a dream come true in what's supposed to be a down economy. I'll take it while I can."
By the numbers
Homebuyer tax credits claimed by Americans through the middle of February for purchases in 2008 and 2009: 1,795,429
Value of those credits: $12.7 billion
Number of credits claimed by Maryland residents: 29,298
Value of those credits: $206.5 million
Source: Internal Revenue Service