Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Broken

I went to a foreclosure auction a couple of weeks ago. It was appropriately cold and rainy that morning in front of the courthouse in Ellicott City. There were only a handful of people there; the auctioneer, an attorney, three bidders and me. The property being auctioned was all teed up to be an age restricted community with literary street names like John Galt Way. On auction day it was just another wooded lot with some entitlements.

The real estate project fell victim to the recession. The age restricted market in HoCo today is a far cry from what it was three years ago. The development process for this property was likely well underway when the market started tanking and capital dried up. The developer ended up with land dropping in value like a stone and a community that there was no longer a market for. Treading water becomes the only option when this occurs and one can only tread water for so long.

Last week I stopped in the offices of a large homebuilder headquartered in Anne Arundel county. I walked through the front door of their offices into a nicely appointed reception area. The reception desk was unmanned but there was a desk bell on the counter. I gave it a tap.


No response. I waited an awkward moment, unsure of how long to allow for someone to materialize.


Again, nothing. I decided to investigate on my own. I walked down a corridor past empty workstations. In a corner office I met one of the senior executives of the firm. He told me that the firm was now operating  in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The ultimate destiny of his company was now in the hands of others.

Driving back to HoCo I thought about posts I’ve written about how good we have it around here. For some of us though, it’s just not good enough.
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