June 27, 2011

Billy Yerman: Don't try to time the housing market



Predicting when the bottom of the real estate bust will arrive has been the parlor game of the last half-decade. Some would-be buyers are holding off with the idea of catching lower prices later, while some would-be sellers are waiting in hopes of better times down the road.

Now comes today's guest poster, real estate attorney and broker Billy Yerman, with an argument about when to buy and sell that will be sure to fire up debate.

He's chief executive of the Baltimore-based Strata Group, parent company of real estate businesses such as the Yerman Witman Gaines & Conklin real estate brokerage. He's been in real estate for 22 years.

Take it away, Billy:



It’s more or less accepted wisdom that it’s not a good idea to “time” the stock market. Most professional investment advisers warn against a strategy of betting on spikes in stock prices in the short term (versus a long-term “buy and hold” strategy), for the simple reason that the markets are too complex to predict accurately in the near term. Of course, that doesn’t stop a lot of people from trying to do just that, with varying results.

Continue reading "Billy Yerman: Don't try to time the housing market" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Expert guest post, Guest post

June 13, 2011

Q&A: Renting

You asked for answers to renting questions. Nokomis Johns kindly volunteered.

She's the senior tenant/landlord counselor for Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., a nonprofit that has a hot line just for questions in this arena. A BNI employee for more than seven years, her mission is getting "more people informed on the correct laws and procedures before they get into a bad situation."

BNI counselors often provide information about tenant/landlord laws, but they're not attorneys -- and of course the answers to the questions below aren't legal advice. They're designed to point you in the right direction.

Take it away, Nokomis:



Question: What is considered "normal wear and tear" in a rental agreement? I am thinking about what a landlord can deduct from a security deposit and what he cannot deduct.

Answer: Normal wear and tear are things that result from coming and going. They are things that cannot be prevented. For example, the carpet wears down as you walk on it, or after a while the paint starts to crack and peel. These types of things cannot be prevented and the landlord cannot charge you for replacing the carpet or repainting due to ordinary wear and tear. If you do not agree with what is deducted from your security deposit, you can sue the landlord.

Q: I'm really concerned about rising rental costs. Are there rent consumer advocates to help us fight for our rights? For instance, it would be useful for consumers to determine if the rent is fairly priced for the area and amenities. When there's a rent increase, is the amount fair?

Continue reading "Q&A: Renting" »

June 3, 2011

Your renter/landlord questions

Several of you had renting-related questions when I opened the floor to suggestions for expert Q&As. A landlord-tenant specialist is on board now to answer questions, so last chance for more: What do you want to know from either a renter or landlord perspective?

Share your questions in the comments. Thanks, all!

UPDATE: Or you might want to email me at jhopkins(at)baltsun(dot)com, because as I write this, commenting is temporarily disabled. Fingers crossed that all will be fixed soon.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Expert guest post, Guest post

May 3, 2011

Now taking your housing-related questions

Questions about ground rent pop up all the time, so asking a real estate attorney to weigh in on the common ones was a no-brainer. It seems like a pretty good model for other expert guest posts, too -- taking your questions to people who can answer them.

Let's make this official, then: What burning (or perhaps slightly warm) questions do you have related to residential real estate? Home inspections, appraisals, rental contracts, mortgages, renovation -- you get the idea.

You're not limited to one. Ask 'em all.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Expert guest post, Guest post

May 2, 2011

John Mitnick: Ground rent Q&A




Ground rent, that aged Baltimore institution, has been confusing residents for many years. It hasn't gotten any simpler with the raft of new ground-rent rules in 2007.

Real estate attorney John H. Mitnick agreed to tackle some common reader questions in this week's guest post.

He's with the Baltimore law firm of Mitnick & Mitnick, which was founded by his great-grandfather in 1881 and today includes his son, the fifth generation of the family to attend the University of Maryland School of Law. The firm specializes in real estate law.




Take it away, John:


Q: The ground rent on my property wasn't registered by the owner before the deadline last year. Do I need to officially request an extinguishment certificate from the state? Is there any downside to not doing so?

A: I recommend officially requesting an extinguishment certificate. This should then be recorded in the land records of the jurisdiction in which the property is located. The result is that a future title searcher will be able to report that the property is in fee simple. Absent such recordation, the title searcher would report the leasehold interest as shown by the records, which could cause problems if the property is to be sold or refinanced.

Q: If the ground rent on my property wasn't registered, does that mean I don't need to pay? Or should I anyway, just in case the registration law is overturned by the Court of Appeals?

Continue reading "John Mitnick: Ground rent Q&A" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Expert guest post, Ground rent, Guest post

April 25, 2011

Timothy Smith: 'Echo Boomers' have a different outlook on homeownership


Today's guest-post writer is the keeper of his own blog, the Echo Boom Bomb, which focuses on Echo Boomers -- aka the Millennial generation -- from an economic and financial perspective.

Timothy Smith has worked in the financial-services industry for five years in Texas. He's spent the last two collecting data, anecdotes and details on the generation the Baby Boom produced. (At age 28, he's an Echo Boomer himself.)

He predicts that the Echo Boom won't buy houses in bulk for a while -- if at all. His guest post is aimed at people trying to sell homes in one way or another, but it will probably interest anyone trying to get a handle on what the future holds for the housing market.

Take it away, Timothy:



How would you like to have 80 million customers? If you sell real estate, I know that you would love it. The great news is that the Millennial generation is estimated at 80 million strong, but the bad news is that these Echo Boomers don't appear ready to buy homes and may not want homes.

Echo Boomers, born from 1980 to 1995, constitute the second-largest generation in U.S. history. While they perform well in school, they tend to lack the financial skills needed to make large purchases, such as buying a home. They also think in a different value system than former generations when it comes to financial investments. Those in the real estate profession will face three major challenges with Echo Boomers, but each of these can be addressed with the appropriate strategy.

The first major challenge for those in real estate is the lack of net worth among Echo Boomers.

Continue reading "Timothy Smith: 'Echo Boomers' have a different outlook on homeownership" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Expert guest post, First-time home buyers, Guest post

April 11, 2011

Marney Kirk: What to do to sell your home




You can find real estate agent Marney Kirk on Twitter, Facebook and her own blog (which won Zillow's best-blog-in-Baltimore contest), so she's one of the first people I thought of when you all suggested guest posts. She's with Keller Williams Excellence Realty in Timonium, has been an agent since 1998 and was recently named entrepreneur of the year by the Greater Baltimore chapter of the Women's Council of Realtors.

Take it away, Marney:



Timonium, or Lutherville-Timonium, as the Post Office calls it, is part of the 21093 zip code.

According to MRIS, our local multiple listing service, there are currently 43 townhouses listed for sale under $400,000 in 21093, with an average of 98 days on the market. There are nine under contract, and the average days on the market for those houses is 72 days.

What does this mean for sellers of townhouses in Timonium?

It means there is a LOT of competition out there and sellers need to put their best foot forward when listing their house for sale.

A seller's best foot involves a number of things:

Continue reading "Marney Kirk: What to do to sell your home" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Expert guest post, Guest post

March 31, 2011

Pat Hiban: Surge in part of Md. housing market as buyers, investors leap



When I did a Q&A with real estate agent Pat Hiban at the beginning of 2009, he said foreclosure resales were about to hit in a big way, prices would continue to head downward and the higher end of the market had been "severely beaten up."

Now he returns as a guest blogger -- the first of what I hope will be many -- to talk about a new market shift he's seeing.

Hiban (pictured above) has been in the business for more than 20 years and runs the Pat Hiban Real Estate Group with Keller Williams Crossroads Realty. He's a billion-dollar agent who focuses primarily on Central Maryland and as far south as Washington, and he has a book coming out later in the year.

Take it away, Pat:



Very recently, the market has taken a major turn upward with regards to activity. I have one property on Nursery Lane in Gaithersburg with 23 offers on it -- multiple offers escalating the list price significantly. This is a single-family home listed at $630,000.

I currently have 51 properties pending whereas I am used to about 30. As I write this, we are negotiating 12 offers on 12 different properties and on an average day we may only be negotiating two or three.

The housing statistics for the state of Maryland show pending units are up 34 percent compared with February 2010. Because the number of active listings has only decreased by a mere 7 percent, this tells me that it's not an inventory shortage that has created a frisky market but a large increase in buyers.

Why have so many buyers come out of the woodwork?

Four very technical factors exist today that didn't even a year ago:

Continue reading "Pat Hiban: Surge in part of Md. housing market as buyers, investors leap" »

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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.
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