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Opportunity knocks


There is little reason for many Baltimore renters to complain they cannot afford to buy a home. If they are capable of paying a market-rate rent bill every month, there is every reason to believe many could qualify for a variety of home-buying incentive programs the city provides routinely.

Add to that list next weekend's home sale.

The city, in cooperation with Fannie Mae and the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, is offering more than 80 homes for sale in seven designated neighborhoods. Buyers of those homes in ready-to-move condition receive a once-in-a-lifetime $7,500 grant to help them with down payment and closing costs. Deals do not get much better than that.

Ever since the homesteading days of the 1970s, when Baltimore auctioned off empty shells for $1 each to homeowners pledging to renovate the structures and live in them, the city government has been searching for a magic formula that would enable it to reduce the abundant supply of houses that are for sale or outright abandoned.

Attempts to auction off tax-delinquent properties to homeowners last year and in 1993 ended up as miserable failures. They were too complicated. They required long delays due to legal red tape, yet they could not produce a house that would be rehabbed quickly to a buyer's satisfaction.

Instead of even trying to sell shells that require extensive renovations, the city now is offering homes that are totally habitable. The seven designated neighborhoods are stable, including areas near Patterson and Leakin parks, Calloway-Garrison, mid-Govans, Waverly and Better Waverly and Washington Square, north of Fells Point.

"We expect them to move fairly quickly. Once the incentive money runs out, we must close down the offer," said Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III. "Buyers looking around the FTC metro area for first-time or move-up homes in the middle-income range should give this one-time offer a hard look."

Those interested in the program should reserve a couple of hours for a counseling event between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Morgan State University's McKeldin Center, Hillen Road and Coldspring Lane. Real estate counselors and bankers will be at hand giving basic information about financing and home-buying. All the homes offered will have an open house the following day, Sunday. Call 396-8407 for details.

When an opportunity knocks, smart people rush to the door -- at least to see what's there.

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