Ground Up

The Daily Record's real estate blog

Baltimore processes 462 real estate transactions manually, off normal pace

Baltimore processed 462 applications for property deeds via a manual workaround while city computer systems are held hostage by ransomware, but that’s well below the regular pace.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office released the latest totals of transactions recorded in the first week of the workaround on Friday morning. The city processed 42 applications on Monday, 90 on Tuesday, 142 on Wednesday and 188 on Thursday, according to the city.

In a normal week, the city processes between 150 and 175 transactions a day, officials said.

After the virus infected city systems on May 7, hackers requested $76,000 in exchange for returning the system and encrypted data. So far Young has declined to pay the ransom, and the FBI continues to investigate the attack.

The attack’s timing is especially bad because it cripples the ability to process transactions at the height of the spring selling season for residential real estate. Recent data from MarketStats by ShowingTime based on Bright MLS listing activity indicates the city’s housing market was off to a good start.

In April, the median home price in Baltimore increased nearly 8% year over year. The median home price for the first four months of 2019 was up 10% compared to the same time period in 2018. New listings in the city last month were up by nearly 14%, while pending sales were down 1%.

Baltimore, a perennially cash-strapped city, depends heavily on fees from property transactions and property taxes to fund initiatives, such as the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  Baltimore’s 2020 preliminary budget of $2.9 billion is based on projections of property revenues reaching $987.1 million in the coming fiscal year, which is an increase from $938.6 million in the current budget.

The so-called “Robinhood” virus forced the city to halt real estate transactions because it could not collect city charges on the transactions or issue accurate lien certificates. Baltimore is now taking lien certificates requests in person at the Abel Wolman Municipal Building at 200 N. Holliday St.

All transactions must be made in person, and property stakeholders must sign an Affidavit for Payment of Outstanding Charges. That affidavit makes certain the seller or transferrer of a property holds the obligation to pay outstanding charges that normally appear on a lien certificate.

By signing the affidavit they also promise to pay all associated charges within 10 days of receiving a city invoice. The city, for the foreseeable future, will issue lien certificates recording zero liens and reference the form affidavit. That relieves the new owners of responsibility for debts appearing on a lien

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