Psst. Hey! Wanna sell your house?

In recent months property owners in the neighborhood have received a flurry of emails, texts and even letter appeals offering (as one put it) “an unconditional offer on your property.” What’s driving it?

Bolton Hill real estate experts say it likely is caused by three things: a shortage of properties for sale, an agent’s desire to find a specific kind of property to offer clients and that old standby, greed: the desire to buy properties at a below-market price and flip them for a quick profit.

“The market is strong, so if the offer turns out to be legitimate and you are willing to move, then this might be a good time to sell – take the money and rent for a while,” said Marci Yankelov, who lives in the neighborhood and is an agent with Allison James. But she cautions that you should work with a real estate professional that you trust.

“I got one of those,” said longtime Bolton Hill resident Jessica Dailey. “Probably he sends them to the whole ZIP code. It’s the same as the ‘We buy houses cash’ signs.” 

Avendui Lacovara and Jessica Dailey dominate listings in Bolton Hill. Lacovara said new algorithms make it easy for investors and their agents to scan an area to determine who owns what, how long they’ve been in the property and other data to calculate who might sell or list their property. She says she has received a flurry of calls from around the country expressing interest in an investment property she owns.

Today’s market is very competitive, said Dailey, a realtor with Cummings & Co. “There is very low inventory across the board in Baltimore,” she said. “It is still a seller’s market, within reason.” COVID has helped the real estate market, she said. “People are able to cast a wider net where they choose to live now. I have clients whose employers are on the West Coast and overseas. They choose to live in Baltimore, teleworking,” she said.

“Working from home has had a huge impact on the real estate market here,” said Lacovara, who represents Monument Sotheby’s International Realty. “Many of the first wave of folks buying and selling in the early stages of the pandemic moved within the region because they realized quickly that, while they loved their home, it didn’t work well for working from home and homeschooling,” she said. Convenience, however, was still important to these buyers so Bolton Hill’s proximity to Penn Station, the universities and health centers remained a draw.

Interest rates may rise throughout the year ahead but, as Yankelov points out, they are still quite low, 3.22 percent nationally on a 30-year fixed mortgage this month, according to Freddie Mac, the federally chartered mortgage investor.

“Big historic houses sometimes take longer to sell. They are a lifestyle choice, and there are costs associated with being a steward of history,” said Yankelov. City lovers like us like to complain about the city – crime, high taxes, uncertainty about the schools and services, she said, “but many of us just love it.”

Lacovara says traditional sales cycles have been disrupted by the pandemic. “Many families opted to buy a new house first, move and then list their home” to avoid the interruption of showing the property while trying to work from home. She thinks that as long as rental rates remain high ($975 to $1375 for an unexceptional one-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood) there is an incentive for renters to buy.

“Because an investor/landlord cannot qualify for the Homestead Tax Credit, which limits the increase to a homeowner’s tax bill year over year, rents will always rise. The best way for tenants to control their monthly housing expenses is to switch to homeownership because, with the HTC, their property taxes are stabilized and their mortgage interest rate is typically fixed, therefore their monthly payments are set.” said Lacovara.

It is not uncommon, Dailey often notes, for a young person to land in Bolton Hill as a student renter with roommates, graduate to a place of his/her own, then partner up and buy a condo and perhaps, eventually, an historic property or townhouse suitable for a family. “Bolton Hill continues to be a coveted neighborhood,” she said.

Bill Hamilton