Sunday, January 27, 2008

Baltimore Real Estate in 21209 Means Mount Washington and More

My favorite place in Baltimore City is in the 21209 ZIP code. That would be my house, of course. But besides having HomeRome's home, 21209 includes many of the things that make Baltimore attractive.

Mount Washington is in the northwestern part of the city, and combines many of the pleasures of country living with easy access to the attractions of downtown Baltimore by way of the Jones Falls Expressway and Maryland's light rail system. The area is home to some 1,600 residences from 100-year-old mansions to modern condo developments. If you're looking for Georgian and Victorian architecture, this is a good spot to visit.

Though it is now within the city limits, Mt. Washington began in the mid-nineteenth century as a place to escape Baltimore's oppressive summer heat. When the city became intolerable, many of the wealthier families escaped to Mt. Washington which was one of the first "street-car suburbs" of Baltimore. Before long, the neighborhood became home to year-round residents, and a neighborhood association was born in 1885. The Mt. Washington Improvement Association is one of the oldest such groups in the country, and still very active in preserving Mt. Washington's charms.

Besides having lovely neighborhoods, Mt. Washington has a shopping and dining center in the Mt. Washington Village. The Mt. Washington Conference Center provides an elegant "in the country" venue for meetings. There are wonderful restaurants here like Crepe Du Jour and the Mt. Washington Tavern. There are salons and wellness centers to make you feel great inside and out, and fun shopping for clothes, jewelry, and handcrafts at places like Something Else and Jurus. Speaking as a ceramic artist, one of my favorite places is Baltimore Clayworks; even if I don't create in clay anymore, I can still enjoy the events and exhibitions and find irresistible treasures there.

Naturally, I love to list and sell houses in 21209. A couple of years ago I sold this house in the Pill Hill area (so named because of all the doctors who lived there!). While showing the house back then I met a couple who went out of the country for two years. When they came back they remembered me, and by chance the same house was back on the market due to a divorce. It wasn't quite right, but a smaller house across the street was in immaculate move-in condition, and that's the one they chose – we go to settlement in February.

In addition to the Victorian charm of Mt. Washington Village, 21209 includes such modern and desirable residences as the Heather Ridge Condo on Red Cedar Place. The combination of country-like setting and near-to-everything convenience makes this another example of why this ZIP is so popular. Some older homes are taken down and replaced with two, while other people simply add on as we've seen in the desirable Cheswolde neighborhood. Green Gate is another popular community in 21209 where town homes offer convenience and comfort.

When you come down to it, a ZIP code is just a number. But a long time ago I learned that a number can bring attention to my listings…many of which are in 21209.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Fabulous 50th

I first met Mary Joan Levin through NAWBO, a women's business group, in about 1989. I clearly remember the day she came up to me and said, "I hope you won't be angry with me…we bought a house." How could I be angry? I knew here husband was a broker, and was delighted for them. But I did tell her if that if they needed help with the sale of their present home to just give me a call.

A couple of months later the call came. They had tried selling the house as unrepresented sellers (aka "FSBO" – for sale by owner) with no luck. Mary asked would I talk with Sidney about listing the house? That was one of the longest listing appointments ever as we covered lots of questions, what ifs, striking and adding clauses to the agreement, and spending a lo
t of time on the big topic of the commission rate.

We finally came to an agreement, and professional travel planners Sidney a
nd Mary Joan took off for Finland or some such place for the weekend. My favorite Levin kid, Brian (Lauren and Eric, you know I love you both!) stayed home in case we had any action.

Well, it turned out that it took longer to list the house than to sell it. We had a contract above list price on Sunday, but I asked Brian not to tell his parents – I wanted to see the look on Sidney's face when I told him what I had done. That Monday I presented the offer to the Levins and stood back like a little kid waiting for applause. (I was still new in the business and was feeling pretty proud of my accomplishment.) Instead, it was more like "let's see if it makes it to settlement." There was no applause, but the contract did hold and we had a smooth settlement.

I know now that Sidney, Mary Joan, Lauren, Eric, and Brian really are my biggest fans. How? Over the years, many of their friends and relatives have bought and sold with me.

Sidney, Eric, Brian, Mary Joan, Lauren and family

No, let me revise that. Sidney and Mary Joan are not clients…they are true friends. They are people we care about, who we share good times and not so good times with. We've been through sickness and health together, and have been there for each other’s support. We've shared laughter and tears, parties and dinners, birthdays and anniversaries.

Sidney and Mary Joan, we are so lucky and honored to be celebrating 50 years of marriage with you and your beautiful family. Mazel tov!!

Lee and Margaret Rome

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Accelerated Marketing for a Decelerated Market

Is there anyone out there who hasn't felt the change? That engine that was roaring ever onward and upward ran out of gas, and now we're coasting. Okay, we have a different market, but that doesn't mean we can't still get people to look at and buy houses.

You might remember my earlier experience with what I call "Accelerated Marketing." Yes, it's an auction, but it's more than that. Case in point – yesterday on Stevenson Road in Baltimore. We decided to apply Accelerated Marketing to this wonderful stone rancher, along with five other properties, all scheduled for January 10. January in Baltimore can bring anything from balmy sun to slushy snow; we ended up in between with a kind of raw, overcast day.

You can imagine how delighted I was, then, to see a crowd of at least 60 people show up for the walk-through and auction on Stevenson. There were several bidders, and even though we did not reach a level that met the buyer's reserve, I still count the event as a success. Many more people saw the house than ever before, and people who are willing and able buyers know about it now having taken the time to walk through. For this house and the other four, I was careful to set low expectations with the owners – we went into the day with the expectation that none of the properties would sell. When your goal is exposure and activity, the sale becomes a bonus.

What happened with the other five properties that had their own Accelerated Marketing events? As we expected, the turnouts varied at Milford Road, Strathmore Towers, Old Post, Griffin Way, and Autumn Frost. But we still had good success and then some - two of the five sold! There are two more events tomorrow, one in country-like Havre de Grace and another in picturesque Dickeyville. Then we wrap up this series on Tuesday at Clarks Lane.

I'm feeling very positive about this way of marketing real estate. As we do more of these I'll be talking again the advantages for both the seller and the agent. I see it as a win-win in a time when we hear too many lose-lose stories.

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