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Melody Simmons’ real estate notebook

The Strata Group this week formed a foreclosure unit that will specialize in “all aspects of transforming bank-owned properties into assets for homebuyers and investors in Central Maryland.”

The group will offer comprehensive services to entities that control foreclosed properties, including banks, asset managers, and government-sponsored entities (HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac), said Billy Yerman, CEO of Strata.

Yerman said the group will research foreclosed properties, including a market analysis utilizing neighborhood comparables and suggested improvements to increase the value of the asset.

RealtyTrac estimates that foreclosed properties sell for just under 60 percent of the value of non-distressed properties. Such devaluation has impacted the housing prices across the board in the Baltimore metro region, according to the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

Yerman said the group aims to try to turn that problem around.

“Our team gained an expert perspective of the foreclosure process from the recent round of activity, specifically the type of assistance and guidance needed by financial institutions and other entities that assumed ownership of numerous properties,” he said. “We believe another wave of foreclosures is on the horizon and have devised a strategy to successfully deal with these properties. Owners of these assets must take a pro-active and aggressive approach, as well as anticipate the marketplace.”

Yerman Witman Gaines and Conklin Realty LLC is the residential real estate brokerage division of Strata.

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The Baltimore City Council will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. July 19 on legislation that would create a charter amendment to establish a fund to help reduce the city’s property tax rate.

The bill, introduced by District 12 Councilman Carl Stokes, was originally scheduled to be aired at a hearing on June 28 at 9 a.m. The hearing was postponed for a more convenient time for taxpayers to attend, Stokes said.

The issue has been a hot topic in the city’s mayoral race this year. Stokes, who said he plans to file as a candidate for mayor by the July 5 deadline, and other candidates are pledging to work to reduce the property tax rate, the highest in the state at $2.38 per $100 of assessed value.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is not among that pack. She says the city is strapped financially even with the high property tax rate. To those who want to cut the tax rate, she responds as if she’s from Missouri: Show me.

Stay tuned.

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Chase Brexton Health Services has purchased the former Monumental Life Building at 1111 N. Charles Street for its new headquarters and health clinic.

The organization, founded in 1978 as a STD clinic to serve gay men, has grown from a small volunteer-run operation to a private nonprofit that employs more than 200 and serves 17,000 patients each year.

The patient population now includes women and children and includes AIDS/HIV treatment, behavioral health, infectious diseases, dental services and a pharmacy. Chase Brexton operates three other centers in Baltimore, Howard and Talbot counties.

The purchase of the Monumental Life building is a milestone for Chase Brexton, which has operated out of cramped quarters at Cathedral and Eager Streets and in a suite on Charles Street.

“This building is an opportunity for us to greatly increase our services and programs to both meet the needs of our communities and ensure outstanding health care is delivered to our patients throughout their lives,” said Guy Van Tiggelen, president of the Chase Brexton board of directors.

The new headquarters offers Chase Brexton 192,000 square feet of space in four buildings that were constructed between 1925 and 1968 in Mt. Vernon. Administrative offices will be located in the building that fronts Charles Street while a new clinic will be located at the corner of Chase and Charles streets.

Terri Harrington, Vice President with MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, represented Chase Brexton in the acquisition of the property.

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New condo prices in Baltimore continued to decline over the second quarter, a report by Delta Associates said Friday.

The report said there are currently 1,606 unsold condo units in Baltimore – 3.2 years of inventory. The overall price decline is above 15 percent in the city.

Luxury developments such as The Ritz Carlton Residences, The Vue in Harbor Point and Silo Point have added glitz to the condo market along the waterfront in recent years, but the Delta Associates report confirms the overall wariness many real estate experts have seen in the market.

In addition, the glut of housing has driven prices in that high-end market downward – it’s been nearly a year since the auction at Pier Homes reset the prices on the gold coast along Key Highway.

There were 115 condo sales in the Baltimore area during the second quarter of 2011, the report said, and 498 sales over the past 12 months, a 20 percent increase.

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TIDBITS: Cushman & Wakefield brokered the sale this week of 8730 Bollman Place in Savage to Terreno Realty Corporation of San Francisco. The industrial building sits on nearly 13 acres and totals 98,745 square feet. C&W’s Cristopher Abramson and Nicholas Signor, Michael Elardo and Brian Kruger closed the deal. . . Do you (HEART) City Life? If so, mark your calendar for a Happy Hour sponsored by Live Baltimore on July 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Gaslight Square, 1401 Severn St. Every Tuesday in July, head to Mondawmin Mall at 6 p.m. for a two-hour jazz fest. Jazzy July will fill the halls of the West Baltimore retail development with blues, R&B, acoustic soul and jazz melodies.