By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun
6:55 PM EST, December 6, 2011
Just over 100 rowhouses in the Patterson Park area were auctioned off Tuesday, but the high bidders must wait to see if the selling company will accept their $4.2 million offer.
Owner Grady Management Inc. has up to 10 days to decide whether to take the bid, which works out to about $43,000 for each of the 103 homes after the buyer's premium is added in. The suggested opening bid was $3,750,000.
The team of men who won the bidding on the Baltimore properties declined to identify themselves, but their offer might not be the final word. A nonprofit that focuses on affordable housing remains interested in the properties, known as the Harbor House portfolio.
"We're discussing it internally," said Andrew M. Vincent, director of the nonprofit, the Greater Baltimore AHC Inc. "They have 10 days to decide — so [that's] a window of opportunity."
John J. Cuticelli Jr., chief executive of the company that auctioned the properties, Sheldon Good & Co., said it's not unusual for interested parties to make offers post-auction in cases where the sellers have allowed themselves time to decide.
"It happens often, especially on commercial properties," he said. "What I see is a lot of bidder remorse. … 'Why didn't I bid?'"
Silver Spring-based Grady Management, one of the largest landlords in the Patterson Park area, did not return messages seeking comment.
The man who put in the bid for the winning investment team was identified by several auction attendees as Brian McLaughlin, the state's assistant secretary for neighborhood revitalization during the middle of the last decade. Chris Ryer, president of the Southeast Community Development Corp., a nonprofit group based in Highlandtown, said their tenures at the state housing agency's neighborhood revitalization division overlapped.
"He said they were just starting out [as an investment group] and he had just joined them two months ago," said Ryer, who attended the auction because some of Grady's rowhomes are in Highlandtown.
Ryer wasn't the only interested bystander. Ed Rutkowski, who worked for years to stabilize Patterson Park, showed up — "I couldn't miss it," he said. Brian Wagner, who lives in the neighborhood, stopped by on his lunch break so he could get quick word of the results to the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association.
"It affects all of us," said Wagner, who wants the group that ultimately acquires the houses to keep them in decent shape and fill them with responsible renters. "We're looking for no negative impact."
Sheldon Good's website for the Harbor House properties got about 1,600 hits from across the world, with a few hundred people registering to download more details, the company said. But in the end, four groups bid.
It was all over in two minutes.
Auctioneer Jonathan P. Cuticelli urged the small crowd on. McLaughlin kept a cell phone to his ear the entire time, going head to head with one other bidder by the end.
"Sold for $4,200,000 … subject to the seller's acceptance," the auctioneer said.
Rutkowski felt pretty good about the outcome. "The guy was assistant secretary of state housing, for goodness sake," he said.
The possibility of an offer from the Greater Baltimore AHC intrigued others from the community. Ryer likes the sound of the nonprofit's plan for the portfolio — rent the homes out at first, then slowly sell them to homeowners.
"We've been looking at it for a number of years," said Vincent, the Greater Baltimore AHC director. "It's a nice portfolio — the tricky thing is financing. Scattered site, inner city is not on the top of most banks' lists to lend."
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