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In Southeast Baltimore, a nonprofit struggles to buy vacant homes from investors

Giacomo Bologna, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Kari Snyder really didn’t want to spend $62,000 on this vacant rowhouse.

She was on vacation last summer in a beach town and was supposed to be eating dinner with her family when a middleman called her. The boarded-up house in Southeast Baltimore was on the verge of collapsing, and he had the contract to sell it. Snyder couldn’t stomach another investor swooping in, buying the home, and sitting on it.

That’s how she found herself standing outside the restaurant, on her phone, haggling over a home that two years earlier was bought at auction for just $7,000. Somehow, its value had risen nearly ninefold since then. According to Snyder, the man offered a slight discount on his initial asking price, claiming he wanted to help Baltimore.

That’s when things got heated.

“You’re extracting money out of Baltimore,” she recalled telling him at one point. “I was so mad.”

Snyder runs Southeast Community Development Corp., a nonprofit trying to boost homeownership rates in Ellwood Park, a predominantly Black neighborhood where just a quarter of residents own their homes and the blocks are pockmarked with vacant houses.


Fueled by a mix of federal, state and private money, the Southeast CDC has been buying vacant homes there, completely renovating them, and selling them at a loss to new homeowners, typically for about $150,000. But the work has been slower than expected.

“We’ve been able to raise money to cover the appraisal gap — the loss. It’s the acquisition,” Snyder said. “Just getting stuff out of investors has been very, very hard. … They don’t want to sell.”

Baltimore, like other major metropolitan areas, saw a surge of investors scooping up homes during the coronavirus pandemic, when interest rates were at historic lows.

With interest rates now climbing, investors have pulled back in every major housing market in the country — except Baltimore, according to a report by the real estate company Redfin.


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