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Incentives lure potential homebuyers to Live Baltimore tour

Lured by incentives that total up to $5,000, about 200 potential homeowners searched a list of homes on the city’s West Side over the weekend as part of Live Baltimore’s Buying into Baltimore program.

Anna Custer-Singh, executive director of the nonprofit group, said Monday no figures were available on the exact number of sales or potential contracts from Saturday’s event. Sale prices of the homes ranged from $104,000 to $219,000, on average, with two blighted shells in the city’s Vacants to Value program selling for $7,500 and $10,000 each.

“It’s too early to tell,” Custer-Singh said of the results of the tour that started at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

The event featured bus tours of city neighborhoods that included Druid Hill, Union Square and Harlem Park. Participants were offered the chance to qualify for up to $5,000 in unrestricted loans to be used toward the purchase of a home if they visited at least four houses on the tour, participated in home buying classes or homeownership counseling, and signed contracts of sale after the tour, Custer-Singh said.

If the new owner remains the sole occupant of the home for five years, the incentive loans are forgiven, Custer-Singh said. The funds were raised through city bond sales and are administered through the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Custer-Singh said past Live Baltimore house tours have attracted a majority of single females, aged 25-44. Last year, the tour attracted 349 potential buyers, she added.

There were four homes in the city’s Vacants to Value program, a major initiative started by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake last November as an attempt to rid the city’s communities of vacant and blighted houses.

One house, at 44 Stockton St. in Union Square, was listed at $119,900 and is being sold through the vacant program by local Realtor Jeannie Pohlhaus of Wisteria Development Group LLC. Wisteria purchased the shell from the city in July 2008 for $27,000, state tax records show.

The other renovated house in the city’s Vacants to Value program on the tour was located at 1815 Druid Hill Ave., a shell renovated by the Druid Heights Community Development Corp. as part of the Gateway Development in the community.

The deed to that house, built in 1920, was transferred to the Druid Heights Community Development Corp. last June for $1,265, state tax records show. Renovations were paid for by federal stimulus funds as part of a neighborhood stabilization grant, Custer-Singh said.

A second Live Baltimore Buy into Baltimore tour will be held on Sept. 10, and will focus on the city’s East Side.