September 19, 2011

Open houses for rehabbed foreclosures on Saturday

Among the federal government's stimulus spending is money to help nonprofits acquire and rehabbing foreclosed homes, an effort to keep neighborhoods from falling apart as the housing crisis drags on.

You can see some of those results on Saturday.

Healthy Neighborhoods, a Baltimore nonprofit, is holding an event with open houses on Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to get prospective buyers to take a look. In addition to renovated homes, it has foreclosures in the not-yet-fixed stage that can be purchased by buyers who want to do that work themselves. More than 100 homes are available, the group says.

The properties are located in Belair-Edison, Better Waverly, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Ednor Gardens, Patterson Park and neighboring McElderry Park, Old Goucher and Reservoir Hill. Eligible buyers can get up to $6,000 in closing-cost assistance for one of the rehabs. Eligible purchasers of a foreclosure still in need of fixing can get an interest free, forgivable loan (a loan that converts to a grant over time) of up to $25,000.

That help is part of the National Stabilization Program, which sets income requirements. A household of one can't make more than $71,000, for instance, while a three-person family can make up to $91,250. And sorry, investors: You've got to live in the home, not rent it out, use it as a summer place, etc.

Healthy Neighborhood has more details.

The group will be holding its event at the Patterson Park Public Charter School's cafeteria, 2726 E. Baltimore St. 

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Renovation/rehab, The foreclosure mess

July 11, 2011

Q&A: A lead-paint primer for new (and accidental) landlords




The difficult housing market has turned a lot of homeowners into landlords by necessity. They can't sell, at least not for the price they require, but they still need to move on -- so they're renting out their former homes.

For these "accidental landlords," and really any new landlord with an older home in Baltimore, trying to figure out how to comply with lead-paint rules seems daunting. One reader has a whole host of questions, and I thought a number of you would love to know the answers, too.

Enter Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning in Baltimore. She kindly agreed to do a Q&A guest post, with input from other staffers at the nonprofit.

She has run the coalition for 18 years.


Take it away, Ruth Ann:


Question: How does one best go about the process of getting square with the Maryland Department of the Environment lead rules for renting? Do I test the place myself first? Call MDE first? Call an outside contractor first?

Continue reading "Q&A: A lead-paint primer for new (and accidental) landlords" »

June 30, 2011

Baltimore offers $10,000 incentive to buyers of formerly vacant rehabs

The $8,000 federal homebuyer tax credit pushed up sales in 2009 and part of 2010. Now Baltimore's housing department is hoping $10,000 toward closing costs and downpayment will drum up as much interest in vacant homes, the city's perennial problem.

The agency plans to officially announce the incentive today -- a total of $500,000 available for the first 50 buyers of Vacants to Value properties. Homeowners can qualify either by finding a recently rehabbed home that the city considers a Vacants to Value property or by purchasing a still-vacant home with a rehab loan such as a 203(k).

Ken Strong, assistant commissioner for green, healthy and sustainable homes at Baltimore Housing, said the city is putting together a list of eligible homes. The program will launch July 1, he said.

The money comes from bond funds intended for homeownership incentives.

"We've had such a slow year -- the housing market has been so depressed -- that some of the money we've set aside for homeownership incentives in the past year have been unspent," Strong said. "Now we want to target them to get real stimulus into Vacants to Value."

The city's Office of Homeownership, 410-396-3124, will handle questions about the program. The money can be used with other incentives, such as Live Near Your Work and Buying into Baltimore.

Buyers, do these sorts of incentives make a difference? I'm curious whether they get people off the fence or change buying patterns. The now-gone federal tax credit was widely seen as encouraging people who would have bought a bit later to speed things up -- at a multi-billion-dollar cost.

UPDATE: Here are more specifics from the city about which homes are eligible:

1. A city-owned vacant house sold since July 1, 2010 and rehabbed for homeownership

2. A city-cited property with a "vacant house" notice since July 1, 2010

3. Any property that has been vacant for a year, as long as the evidence of that -- from the seller and/or buyer -- is acceptable to the city

June 14, 2011

City to put on expo about rehabbing vacant homes

Baltimore officials want vacant homes renovated and lived in again, because that fixes a host of problems in one fell swoop. So they're hoping you go this weekend to a city-organized event about -- what else? -- rehabbing vacant homes.

More than 200 people have already registered for the free expo, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the city's housing department says.

Julie Day, deputy commissioner of land resources at at the agency, known as Baltimore Housing, said the event will offer seminars on choosing a contractor, rehab financing options, understanding the permitting process and the like. The information is aimed at people hoping to redevelop vacants for a living, prospective home buyers looking for a place to fix up and live in, and housing counselors who want to help walk buyers through the process.

Teresa Stephens, director of marketing and community outreach for land resources at Baltimore Housing, said a vacant property "can offer a home buyer a really good opportunity."

"Often it does take a little vision and rose-colored glasses to see it," she added.

Expo participants will get a list of city-owned vacants that were purchased, rehabbed and are now for sale. Ten will be open for viewing Saturday afternoon, Day said. 

Continue reading "City to put on expo about rehabbing vacant homes" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Renovation/rehab, Vacancies

July 15, 2010

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition tweets

Sun reporter John-John Williams IV will be tweeting from the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition site in Baltimore today.

Like to follow along? He's @popcouturejjw4.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:39 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Renovation/rehab

July 12, 2010

Baltimore real estate on the small screen

If you like real-estate-related television, this is your week.

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is in town to build a new home for a nonprofit that provides a group-home setting for boys and girls. Excel Homes, which is coordinating the work with the Maryland Community Builders' Foundation, is still looking for skilled volunteers.

TUESDAY UPDATE: Now the need for skilled volunteers is even greater, thanks to the Monday rain.

The show is known for providing "over-the-top living spaces," as reporter John-John Williams IV points out. Even so, this one will be a record for the series -- more than 11,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, Baltimore residents Jen and Joe Di Mattina were just on HGTV's "Bang for Your Buck" as part of a "compare these kitchen renovations" episode. Darned if I can find the actual episode online, but neighbor Matt Gonter reports that their kitchen was judged the best of the three. (UPDATE: Here it is. Thanks, Grant!)

HGTV comes to Baltimore on a semi-regular basis. (Here's a local example from "Real Estate Intervention.")

Any other real estate reality television shows shining a light on our neck of the woods?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Renovation/rehab

July 3, 2010

Home improvement project, one week in



On the plus side, a week of home improvement has left my home with new carpeting, new flooring, new paint and this extremely cool bedroom for my toddler.

On the other hand, this is the state of my living room:

Continue reading "Home improvement project, one week in" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Renovation/rehab

June 28, 2010

Update on the sprinklers-for-rehabs proposal

The Baltimore City Council bill requiring fire sprinkler systems was approved and signed into law last week -- but for new homes only, not rehabs.

The original proposal brought a chorus of rehabber protests because it would have mandated sprinklers on any project covering at least 30 percent of the home's gross floor area, a threshold that would include do-it-yourself replacement of carpet as well as major rehabilitation efforts.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who sponsored the bill with Councilman Warren Branch, said after the early June hearing that she would amend the bill so only gut rehabs -- major projects -- would require sprinklers. But real estate investors were still opposed. Baltimore's housing agency estimated the expense of installing a system in an existing home at $13,000 to $15,000, much more than in a home being built from scratch. 

"What passed finally was new-construction only," Clarke said. "There's no rehabs in the bill anymore."

She said she's disappointed and hopes to try again.

Continue reading "Update on the sprinklers-for-rehabs proposal" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Real estate investing, Renovation/rehab

June 26, 2010

Postcard from Day 1 of the home-renovation project



The first day of the renovation project is behind me -- laminate floors, check -- which meant another round of household-item musical chairs. For today's recarpeting effort, Mr. Wonk and I needed to get the office cleared out (other than furniture and cats).

But we don't have any spare space at this point. Our washer and dryer is doubling as a bookcase, for Pete's sake. So for the time being, our living room looks like this:

Continue reading "Postcard from Day 1 of the home-renovation project" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Renovation/rehab

June 25, 2010

The "fun" of preparing for a home renovation



You might wonder why my washer and dryer is doubling as a bookcase. Well, unless you've ever renovated your home, in which case you're probably thinking, "Boy, am I glad my books aren't on my washer and dryer anymore."

I'm trying to get the carpet replaced -- partly with laminate, partly with new carpet. Today, the laminate goes in, so everything but the furniture had to come out of the living room (hello laundry room, bathroom, office). Tonight, Mr. Wonk and I will be moving everything sans furniture out of the office and bedroom. It's like an exhausting game of musical chairs.

Here's the bathroom about halfway through last night's routine:

Continue reading "The "fun" of preparing for a home renovation" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Renovation/rehab

June 10, 2010

Sprinklers for 'gut rehabs'?

The legislation that would require fire sprinklers in new and renovated homes in Baltimore is undergoing some renovation of its own.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said after a Tuesday committee hearing that she's looking to change the threshold so sprinklers aren't required unless the rehab in question is a "gut" project. "Really a major rehab -- removal of interior walls, etc.," she said.

Under the original proposal, the sprinkler mandate kicked in for any renovation affecting at least 30 percent of the gross floor area or adding 30 percent more space. But there was a hue and cry against adding thousands of dollars to the cost of fairly minor projects such as -- say -- reflooring.

Baltimore's housing agency, which opposed the bill as originally written, estimates the expense of installing a system in an existing home at $13,000 to $15,000. 

Clarke, who introduced the bill, said the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations committee is scheduled to vote on an altered version on Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Continue reading "Sprinklers for 'gut rehabs'?" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Real estate investing, Renovation/rehab

June 8, 2010

Bill would require sprinklers for new homes, rehabs

A Baltimore City Council committee will hear a proposal this morning to require fire sprinkler systems in new homes and -- more significantly for a city chock-full of aging rowhomes -- in most renovations.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who sponsored the bill with Councilman Warren Branch, said she wants to prevent fire deaths. Rehabs of one- or two-unit homes would require sprinklers if the work covers at least 30 percent of the building's gross floor area or adds 30 percent more space.

Clarke said she began working on the legislation after hearing from Baltimore Fire Chief Jim Clack "about the need for sprinklers in residential homes, because they save lives." (The Fire Department said in a memo that it "strongly supports" the legislation.)

With rotating fire-company closures in the budget-strapped city, "we need other ways for citizens to protect themselves," she said. "And sprinklers are it."

The debate over the value of sprinklers vs. the cost -- with fire marshals on one side and home builders on the other -- has raged for years. But it's usually focused over new construction, not renovation.

In Baltimore, real estate investors were organizing Monday to turn out in opposition to the 10 a.m. hearing today.

Jack BeVier, a partner with Dominion Properties in Baltimore, which renovated about 90 homes in the area last year, said the cost of installing a sprinkler system in an existing property is substantially higher than adding it to a new home under construction. You're pulling apart walls and ceilings, then building them back up, he said.

He estimated the system and installation costs at $7,000 to $15,000 in an existing home, depending on the building size and condition. (Baltimore's housing agency, which is also opposed to the idea, estimates the cost at $13,000 to $15,000.)

"There's large portions of the city that aren't worth anything because of the condition of the property and the block that they're on -- they're not worth the construction cost required to put them back into use," BeVier said. "Adding another line item to the budget just increases the number of houses that fall into that category."

Continue reading "Bill would require sprinklers for new homes, rehabs" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:01 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Real estate investing, Renovation/rehab

April 12, 2010

Q&A about new lead-paint renovation rules

If you renovate homes, on the side or for a living, the federal rules that apply to you will change next week for any project you take on where lead paint lurks. The regulations, put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency, have been in the works for years.

Rebecca L. Morley, executive director of the Columbia-based National Center for Healthy Housing,  covers the basics -- and why homeowners should care -- in this Q&A:

Question: What’s required of people renovating homes with lead paint now, and how is that changing?

Answer: Currently, there really aren’t any requirements for people who are renovating older homes, except that they do have to provide some notification to the owners that there may be lead paint there. … But with the new rule, they’ll actually be required to follow a certain set of practices. So certain things are banned: For instance, they can’t belt-sand away old paint, or they can’t use heat guns to remove the paint. ... It just is requiring them not to create any new hazards during the course of the work that they do.

The focus really is, if they’re going to be disturbing paint … that they don’t stir up lead dust and they don’t leave it on the surfaces when they finish the job. ... A common misperception about lead is you have to eat paint chips in order to get poisoned, but lead dust, which is generated from the deterioration of lead-based paint or these renovation activities, [is] the most insidious exposure threat. That’s because the lead dust isn’t visible and just minute amounts of it can result in an exposure — and a serious exposure.

That understanding, which has come to light over the last couple of decades, has really changed our emphasis about how we deal with lead. You can create significant hazards simply by virtue of scraping it off. We want to clean up really well at the end of [renovation] jobs.

Q: How old does a building need to be in order to fall under this regulation?

A. It applies to any housing and/or commercial and public buildings built before 1978. The commercial and public buildings is for child-occupied facilities, so that gets your daycares and schools.

Q: ’78 was when lead paint was banned?

A: Exactly.

Q: What must renovators do to comply?

Continue reading "Q&A about new lead-paint renovation rules" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Home maintenance, Q&A, Renovation/rehab

September 11, 2009

Little Italy residents -- and their renovation -- on TV

Jon Wingerberg and Craig Newcomb have been renovating their three-story Little Italy rowhouse since they bought it in June of last year. A variety of family, friends and strangers know all about it -- from the drywalling to the fireplace tiling -- because the partners decided to blog about it as they went.

Project Rowhouse is replete with before, during and after photos, plus the sort of commentary that anyone who's done any home-improvement projects will appreciate. Such as: "Primer is on the walls and the smell of KILZ is in the air – it’s intoxicating. Literally."

Tonight you can see them and their 200-year-old home on TV. Their renovation is one of three featured on a Baltimore-centric episode of HGTV's Bang for Your Buck.

It's scheduled to air at 9:30 p.m. HGTV sums it up this way: "Designer Taniya Nayak compares three great rooms in Baltimore that were recently renovated with budgets of $50,000 each. Along with a realtor, they look at a modern great room with horizontal metal cabinets, a contemporary great room with a wood-burning fireplace and a spunky great room with a built-in bar."

Continue reading "Little Italy residents -- and their renovation -- on TV" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Renovation/rehab
Keep reading
Recent entries
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

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Sun Real Estate section
Archive: Dream Home
Dream Home takes readers into the houses of area residents who have found their ideal home.
Sign up for FREE business alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for Business text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Sign up for the At Home newsletter
The home and garden newsletter includes design tips and trends, gardening coverage, ideas for DIY projects and more.
See a sample | Sign up

Charm City Current
Stay connected