Here an open house, there an open house

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While driving my son to a play date in Forest Lakes today, I was amazed by the number of “open house” signs I saw as I made my way through Bel Air. I was tempted to check out a few, as I have friends considering a move to Bel Air, but I stopped myself. There were simply so many “For Sale” signs tied up with balloons bobbing in the rain, I could have wasted a lot of time collecting Realtors’ business cards. Quite frankly, with so many houses on the market, I imagine my friends shouldn’t have a hard time finding something they like. It’s quite different from my Bel Air house search four years ago. My husband and I were looking at this same time of year, wandering neighborhoods in search of For Sale signs, the election lawn signs constantly mocking us. Luckily for us, we were looking just before the market got white hot. But still, we found our house only because we had a woman on the inside — a Bel Air relative with a subscription to the Aegis’ classifieds and a sharp eye. She found us an ad for a For Sale by Owner property. The couple, who wanted to sell only to someone from Bel Air, didn’t even put a sign on their lawn. They relied simply on the Aegis ad to net a buyer. Our relative on the inside greased the wheels for us, going to see the house and telling the owners how we had Baltimore connections. We ended up getting the house. And, we got a good deal. But this time around I imagine it’s gotten quite a bit rougher for folks trying to sell a house on their own. I checked out a property for my friends whose owners are selling it themselves after buying it just a year ago when the market was hot. They’re hoping to sell it for about $40,000 more than they paid last year. Unfortunately for them, another house on their block is listed today for $5,000 less than they paid for theirs a year ago. I think they’re going to have a tough time. This market just isn’t what it used to be. For those interested in a more thorough and pointed review of the market, try Nikki’s blog at http://www.baltimorehousing.blogspot.com/. She’s been following the housing bubble talk since April and poking holes as fast as she can in all the National Association of Realtors’ spin.