Fait Avenue Deluge

Every morning I hop myself up on a green tonic that has algae in it and stumble out of my skid row-looking row house in East Baltimore (it happens to be one of the only houses on my street that hasn’t been renovated) looking for my car.

Once I’ve recalled where my Volkswagen is parked, I greet the driver-side door with the last remaining, working key (the original…lost in this cruel, sordid world). The rest is rather simple: start car, reverse in to the idiot that parked literally an inch off my bumper, and pull out on to Fait Avenue.

Today’s under-four-mile drive was a little different; I was on a mission of sorts. I wanted to see how flooded the housing market really might be. I read a lot of essays and reports about the state of the housing market, but for some reason, this morning I wanted some data from the field.

Fait Avenue is one of longest parts of my journey, so I decided to focus specifically on this street – or avenue as it were. It runs through a few Baltimore districts. The neighborhoods change depending on what area you’re in, but for this drive I traverse only an area known as Canton. Canton is home to over-renovation (usually from people taking out equity), over-inflated house prices, some over-inflated egos and one staff member, humbly driving through it all in a rundown VW – or what the Germans call Schrottkarre.

Now, in a mere eight blocks in my Schrottkarre, I counted 15 houses on sojourn from being someone’s home. Many are products of renovation and have been vacant for more than a month. A recent CNN Money report showed the average selling price for Baltimore City was $513,425.00. With many areas of Baltimore having little to no value at all (much of the northeast and parts of the west), Canton is one the neighborhoods pushing that number to such an absurd level.

Those beautiful re-pointed brick facades, modern parapets protecting Berber carpet and Brazilian hardwood floors – granite, granite everywhere – can’t afford to eat – oh, how these houses jeer at us that drive our parsimonious Schrottkarren past their parvenu “For Sale But YOU Can’t Afford Us” signs.

I suppose what keeps my spirits up is that old expression “he who laughs last, laughs best.” Fifteen houses in eight blocks, all wanting to become homes – it’s a good sign that the market might in fact be in the midst of a housing deluge. As interest rates climb and people realize paying $200,000 for a shell of a house is madness, I imagine prices will return to reasonable levels.

Until that time, I’ll continue to taciturnly drive down Fait Avenue, drinking green sludge and waiting for the day I make a house a home – day I can laugh last.

The Daily Reckoning