Ever since the legendary urban homesteading days of the 1970s, Baltimore City has been trying to develop a magic formula that would enable it to get rid of an overabundant supply of houses that are for sale or already vacant.
Like a 1993 attempt, last year's expensive auction of tax-delinquent homes proved to be a major disappointment. There were some buyers, but in the end the city could not deliver.
The concept of offering a shell to a buyer at the price of a finished home -- with the buyer having little say in how the repairs are made -- was a hare-brained idea. Few people buy a pig in a poke, not to say anything about a primary residence.
This weekend the city will try again, with a different tactic in cooperation with Fannie Mae and the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
More than 80 ready-to-occupy homes are being offered for sale in neighborhoods near Patterson and Leakin parks, Calloway-Garrison, mid-Govans, Washington Square near Fells Point and Waverly and Better Waverly. Qualifying buyers get a once-in-a-lifetime $7,500 grant to help them with down payments and closing costs.
"These are first-come, first-serve properties," said Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson, "and we expect them to move fairly quickly."
"Once the incentive money runs out, we must close down the offer," he added. "Buyers looking around the 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 taking advantage of the program should reserve a couple of hours this weekend. The first stage is a counseling event between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. today at Morgan State University's McKeldin Center, Hillen Road and Coldspring Lane. Real estate brokers and bankers will be available to answer any questions about financing and home-buying.
All the homes that are offered for sale in the program will be open for viewing tomorrow. For details, call 396-8407.
Nearly every Baltimorean is paying a mortgage. Some are paying it for their own home, others are paying it for their landlord's property. In many cases, persons who can pay a reasonable rent every month are capable of buying a home. We urge readers who are contemplating buying a home to take advantage of this opportunity.