Things that make you go "hmm"
Columnist Jay Hancock has a piece today about home swapping -- for vacation purposes, not permanently -- and notes that it's becoming more popular as people battle rising costs. He writes:
The first question every home exchanger gets is: Will you really trust complete strangers to live in your house and drive your car?
It takes a certain faith. But I have yet to hear about a home swap that involved anything more negative than unreplenished toilet paper or divergent housekeeping standards.
Exchangers usually spend weeks or months communicating before the event, which builds trust and a mutual sense of responsibility.
Donna M. Owens writes about landscaping, noting that more sellers are concentrating on this aspect of curb appeal:
James McWilliams, a co-owner of Maxalea Inc., a landscape contractor in North Baltimore, says he often fields calls from homeowners desiring to spruce up their houses before putting them on the market. "They may need to clear plants that are overgrown near the house, or edge and delineate the flower beds. Sometimes we are checking for insects or diseased trees. We address all sorts of things."
... McWilliams says their clients typically spend between $5,000 to $50,000, but it's not unheard of, he adds, for higher-end clients to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars landscaping their mansions and estates.
Meanwhile, Fred Schulte and June Arney -- the duo who shed light on ground rent -- report on the city's looming tax sale. More than 20,000 property owners will be in danger of foreclosure if they don't soon pay their past-due tabs to the city, which range from property taxes to water bills:
One advocate for the poor said that tax sales - especially over debts for essential services like water - compound the foreclosure problem and create "a state-sanctioned, high-yield investment product" for investors who buy the liens.
"Low-income citizens of Maryland who are caught up in this problem bear the worst consequences, because they really have little choice in how they're going to be able to pay back these investors," said Louise M. Carwell, senior attorney at Legal Aid Bureau Inc. in Baltimore. She said she would like to see the city keep all water bills and alley paving fees out of tax sales.