January 9, 2012

Baltimore's biggest property-tax bills

The typical owner in Baltimore paid a bit over $1,800 in property taxes for the current tax year. Get 190 of them in one room, and together their tab just equals Tom Clancy's.

That's by way of putting the bestselling author's nearly $350,000 bill into perspective, which is of course on a not-at-all-typical property. He owns about 17,000 square feet at the Ritz-Carlton Residences alongside the Inner Harbor.

You can see all 10 of the homes with the biggest bills -- and the top 10 commercial properties as well -- in this photo gallery, if you didn't already check it out over the weekend. (Thanks to editors Liz Pillow and Justine Maki and photographers Kim Hairston and Barbara Haddock Taylor for their work on this time-consuming effort.)

Here's the story that Scott Calvert and I wrote, which includes an interesting discussion with the trustees for the No. 2 home. (We've got a separate gallery just for that expansive place -- thanks once again to Liz, not to mention photographer Amy Davis.)

And the Sun's Adam Marton put together two interactive maps: one for the homes and another for the commercial properties. It's interesting to see how closely most of them are clustered. (Click on the icons for details about each property.)

Our analysis ranked individual properties rather than property owners. It would be pretty interesting to know who has the biggest collective tax bill, accounting for multiple properties, but that's tricky to get at for the same reason that it's not easy to say which private owners have the most vacant homes. A single person or firm might hold a dozen properties in a dozen separate limited liability companies.

Continue reading "Baltimore's biggest property-tax bills" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Property taxes, Unusual homes

December 15, 2010

Tom Clancy's new condos, by the numbers


Photo by Baltimore Sun photographer Kim Hairston


Novelist Tom Clancy, who spent an eye-popping $12.6 million last fall to buy three condos at the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Baltimore, has taken over the entire penthouse level in his building by purchasing three more.

How much space are we talking about? Well, here are some things that could fit in Clancy's 17,000-square-foot digs:

--Seven average new single-family houses

--A fire station with 12 trucks

--An Olympic-sized swimming pool with enough space left over for a six-bedroom spread

--The giant LED billboard that wraps around a Times Square tower

--An arena-league football field

--A Las Vegas nightclub

--More than 100 of this guy's house

I wonder how much time a place like Clancy's would take to clean.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:01 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Unusual homes

December 6, 2010

'Huge price reduction' on Unabomber's property

Want to follow in the Unabomber's footsteps in a strictly real estate sense? His property in Montana, minus the cabin, is up for sale.

The listing declares it's being offered for a "HUGE PRICE REDUCTION" of $69,500, down from $154,500. Apparently buyers are not lining up for the opportunity, despite the possibly one-of-a-kind tree with "FBI" carved into it.

John Pistelak Realty, which has the listing, describes the 1.4-acre land as "obviously very secluded."

"Own a piece of infamous US history!" the listing says.

The reason you can't own Ted Kaczynski's cabin, too: It's at the Newseum in D.C., the Associated Press says. The AP points out that it's not clear who the current owner of the land is.

What do you think, folks: Would the land be more likely to sell as advertised, or if no hint of its past were disclosed?

Perhaps the folks at would like to add this to their list of wild and wacky accommodations. So far it includes a toilet-shaped house and a pyramid.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Unusual homes

November 5, 2010

Asking price for Md. estate: $30 million

In the market for a 6,250-acre estate? A hedge-fund founder has listed his -- in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore -- for $30 million.

The Wall Street Journal reports that owner Paul Tudor Jones (net worth: $3.2 billion) has used the property as a hunting retreat.

The house is a 14,000 square feet "lodge," with 11 bedrooms, 10-and-a-half bathrooms, several fireplaces and amenities ranging from a home theater to an indoor basketball court. The property also has a barn, stables and a "private lake," according to the Sotheby's listing. (The site helpfully lets you convert the asking price into anything from Aruban florins to Turkish liras.)

The guest living room has trees -- presumably not live -- along the walls, branches stretching up to the ceiling.

I don't normally blog about homes for sale, but then I don't normally see homes for sale with a $30 million asking price. And interior trees.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 4:56 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: For sale, Unusual homes

June 11, 2010

A $3.5 million home sale in Deep Creek Lake


Photo courtesy of Betsy Spiker


In this difficult market for high-end homes, at least one seller found a buyer without looking.

A Deep Creek Lake house that changed hands last Friday for $3.5 million -- a record in the Western Maryland vacation spot, according to the buyers' agent -- wasn't actually on the market. The buyers looked at homes people wanted to sell but didn't fall in love with any of them, so agent Betsy Spiker with Long & Foster Real Estate thought she'd call the builder whose family lived in the stucco home pictured above to see if he'd be willing to part with it.

"I said, 'I do know the family in that house -- let me take a shot in the dark here,'" she said.

It worked.

What, you might ask, are the buyers getting for their $3.5 million? The house as it stands now is four bedrooms with three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms on the main and upper levels. But the contract includes a deal for the builder to finish the huge, 3,100-square-foot basement, adding a bedroom and a variety of elements from a sauna to an elevator.

All told, the house, its porches and garages add up to about 14,000 square feet of covered space, Spiker said. The sellers built it in 2007.

Here's a glimpse of the interior:

Continue reading "A $3.5 million home sale in Deep Creek Lake" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Unusual homes

April 15, 2010

Anne Arundel mansion auctioned off


Photo of Tulip Hill supplied by Concierge Auctions


What's a pre-Revolutionary War mansion on 52 acres worth? More than $2,375,000, according to the retired senior military official who bought it at an auction last weekend.

But auctioneer Concierge Auctions isn't saying just how much more the winning bidder paid -- or who the buyer is, for that matter. Unlike most auctions around here, this one was closed to the public.

The property, known as Tulip Hill, is a Georgian plantation house in Harwood that dates back to 1755. It has seven bedrooms, six-and-a-half bathrooms and a pier on the water.

It was also a distress sale. Citibank took it back from the owners as a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure last year. 

Before that, it was on the market with an asking price as high as $7.5 million at one point. But the auctioneers note that the property had more land associated with it then.

Though the buyer was local, the 16 other registered bidders hailed from as far away as England and Dubai.

"Many of the bidders were qualified to do the historic renovation that that type of property deserves," said George Graham, chief executive of Concierge Auctions, which sells luxury digs. "A property like that has very significant requirements and restrictions ... to renovate the property, given its historical significance. ... That's not the type of thing that a person that's just looking to buy a large home is necessarily prepared or qualified to do."

Selling a large house is tricky enough in a rough market, but an older large house has particular challenges. For every person who oohs and aahs over historic touches, three others will say, "Feh, this kitchen is small." Beautiful, spacious kitchens were not generally a priority back in the days when the lord and lady of the manor had a staff to whip up brunch.

Another historic home -- Cliffeholme in Baltimore County -- also ended up in the hands of its lender recently after the owner failed to sell it. That home -- a 14,000-square-foot English Revival mansion on 9 acres -- had been owned by businessman Steve Geppi.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Auctions, Unusual homes

November 19, 2009

Two faces of the housing market

You might be excused if, reading the paper today, you wondered what on earth is going on with the housing market.

On the one hand, there are owners of larger homes having a hard time downsizing because -- agents say -- it's a hard-hit part of the market. On the other hand, the Ritz-Carlton Residences just sold a nearly 12,000-square-foot penthouse condo -- a unit that was originally three separate penthouse condos -- for a record-setting $12.6 million.

Does the really, really high end have more going for it than the merely high end?

Before you start adding thousands of square feet to your home in hopes of attracting a buyer, remember that few have the financial heft of novelist Tom Clancy, who (The Daily Record reported in a keen scoop) is the buyer of the huge penthouse.

How big is 12,000 square feet? As big as five typical new U.S. houses.

But the prevailing trend is smaller, not bigger -- as you might expect during a prolonged downturn. Last year, the median new house was smaller than it was the year before, the first drop since 1995.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:15 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: For sale, Housing market experiences, Unusual homes

October 1, 2009

Lego house -- emphasis on the "house"

Your opportunity to buy a house made of Legos -- and by that, I mean an actual house-sized house -- has sadly gone by the wayside. Workers were pulling the British structure apart last month because, like a number of homes made of more conventional materials, this one was buyer-less.

According to the Telegraph, "Plans for Legoland to move it to their theme park fell through because transport costs were too high and despite a final Facebook appeal for someone to take it, no-one came forward."

Number of Lego bricks: 3.3 million.

It was built for James May’s Toy Stories, a BBC series. If the house followed the original plan, its interior sported a Lego shower and toilet.

Geekologie noted the teardown on a post tagged with these pointed categories: "You fools!" and "You should have donated it to Geekologie!"

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Housing humor, Unusual homes

September 27, 2009

Small may be the new big, but ...

With all the attention on smaller homes nowadays, you might think nobody wants a big place. Well, Mark Patzschke does. In today's Dream Home feature, he says he bought his 6,700-square-foot Fallston home because of its spaciousness.

You could fit six moderately sized condos in that sort of house. Heck, you could fit a condo on his "1,200-square-foot, multilevel deck."

This is the exact opposite, size-wise, as an earlier Dream Home that is six rooms in total.

Would you want a huge home if price wasn't an issue? I'd find it exhausting just to decorate, but I'm not the decorating sort.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:41 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Unusual homes

September 10, 2009

Got $11.9 million lying around?

Million-dollar homes aren't unusual anymore, but $11.9 million is a different story. That's the asking price for a spread in Annapolis that sits on about 20 acres and looks out over the Chesapeake Bay.

The listing, which went up last week, says the brick-and-stucco Tudor house has a two-car garage, five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. (No standing in line for the loo!) There's also a guest house and a waterside patio.

The home is assessed by the state at a much lower value for property-tax purposes -- $1.5 million -- but then the use is listed as agricultural.

Thanks to reader Ted Kluga for noticing that this property hit the market.

According to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, 801 of the homes for sale in the Baltimore metro area in July were priced at $1 million or more. Just 20 were listed for at least $5 million.

It's not an easy time for the luxury-home market, which has to contend with financing constraints plus potential buyers with their own pricey homes they'd need to sell first. Not that this is news to any of you.

Seen any interesting homes on the market lately?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Unusual homes

July 31, 2009

For sale: three bed, three bath geodesic dome



The listing for the Ellicott City house pictured above is getting a lot of hits on, and you can probably see why. It's the sort of thing that people, once stumbling upon it, will forward to everyone they know with "can you believe this?!" in the subject header.

In a sea of Colonials and split-levels, a geodesic dome does tend to stand out.

I talked this week to real estate agent Kevin Willner, who represents the couple selling the home, and he said eight or nine people had been to see it since it hit the market two weeks ago. It's listed at $340,000.

What do prospective buyers think of the place, I asked?

"Either they love it or they hate it," said Willner, who is with ReMax Sails in Federal Hill and supplied the photo above. "One couple came in and it was funny -- he loved it, she hated it."

He passed this detail on to one of the owners, who quipped: "Well, that means we're halfway there."

Continue reading "For sale: three bed, three bath geodesic dome" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Housing market experiences, Unusual homes
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