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November 13, 2009

Searching for a home? Tell your story

We're looking for a buyer to write dispatches from the home-buying front, starting with the search and ending with move in, with lots of updates in between. Take us with you on your treks to open houses, share your observations about conditions and prices, show us contract negotiation, tell us about all the paperwork -- you get the idea.

You'll be helping demystify the process for other would-be buyers. Better yet, you get to weigh in on what works and what drives you up a wall.

We're specifically looking for a first-time home buyer or someone who wants a foreclosure or short sale to live in. (Or you could fit into both categories.)

If this is you, and you're fairly early in the process, drop me a line at jamie.smith.hopkins(at)

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Dispatches, Your name in lights (well, newsprint)


I have been searching for a great deal on a property. It has taken a couple months of searching for the right one. I use to search for MLS properties. Stay away from, as that site is not updated regularly and listings aren't taken off. It is possible that agents will you give access through their website for the MLS, but I find to be more user friendly.

I was not set to any specific location. I was just looking for the best deal possible. I would perform individual searches by zip code. I would then see the listings for the area and I could see which homes were REO's, short sales, or regular resales. I found that the majority of the bargains were bank owned REO's. Regular resellers were still asking much more in price.

When I found a property I liked, I would then contact a local agent in that zip code and go take a look at the property. I would then ask the agent to pull other listings in the same sub division so I could compare all the homes for sale in the area.

It took awhile before I found something. I looked at a condo that was an REO. The bank was asking $124k for it. I put a contract in for $90k anticipating the bank would counter and they did. After weeks of negotiating, we finally agreed to $110k. The next priced condo in the same building was going for $180k and up.

The only catch to buying a bank owned property was that they required proof of funds with the contract. I am buying the condo with cash. Based on Zillow, the "Zestimate" is $274k. I know that value may be what it was during the peak, but not today. Even if you base it on other listing prices, it is discounted by more than 30%. That is what you should expect from a bank owned property, with no contingencies, and sold as is.

The condo is in excellent condition and the inspection came back clean. If you have the money, bank owned is the way to go.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Frank. Hope all goes well with the settlement.

I am searching for someone to buy my house for sale. It's located in the Hollins Market area of Baltimore, near U of MD and the new Biopark. There are several houses for sale in the area, ranging from shells to complete rehabs, and are priced accordingly.
The house I am selling is in-between. It's had some minor work done, and is move-in ready. It's perfect for a young couple.
Since my house was listed for sale, I have found that most people who were interested in it were unable to be approved for a loan. I hope that an interested party could purchase this affordable home soon.

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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