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Ursa Minor

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    Watford, Herts
  1. Most US mortgages are non-recourse - so the lender can't come after you for the difference between what you owe and what they sell the property for. Hence the jingle mail phenomenon. The annoying side effect of this is that foreclosed houses sit empty for months, sometimes years and nobody is looking after the property. Houses which are not lived in begin to decay shockingly quickly. The banks just sit on them, preferring that to taking a haircut and hoping to do well once the next boom comes along. But if it's your street, and 20% of the houses are in foreclosure, it can really bring a neighbourhood down. I work in Baltimore city and it is a perfect example of this (it has other problems too, but the foreclosure mess does not help). Hence I work in Baltimore city, but live in the leafy suburbs in Howard county. But I did live in the city when I first arrived here from the UK and in the year I lived in Canton, one of the nicer areas of the city, 4 houses on my tiny block of no more than 20 houses went into foreclosure and then sat there slowly rotting. So I moved away from the city, and haven't looked back. UM
  2. Well David Simon was a Baltimore Sun reporter for many years and the Wire was meant to be a realistic depiction of Baltimore. It's a little lopsided but not bad. Take a look at some neighbourhoods (try some of the streets off Greenmount Ave for example) with Google Street View and you'll see the same scary neighbourhoods full of run down houses in streets like those featured in the show. Baltimore could be a brilliant investment opportunity...but I really kind of doubt it. Not until they figure out a way to deal with the crack and the gang violence that goes with it. UM
  3. Well, I moved to Baltimore from London last year so I'd like to add my perspective. Baltimore is a strange city, you can be on a totally safe block and then the next block is a war zone. The War on Drugs is a bigger failure here than most areas of the USA. Baltimore is 70% black and very very poor, the median wage here is <$30K pa. The entire political structure seems completely corrupt. There's nothing alleged about the decline here. The problem is that anyone who can afford to moves out into Baltimore County and the City gradually loses its tax base. There's talk of amalgamating the City and County, which would be great for the City (since most people who live in the County work in the City, it doesn't seem unreasonable). Of course the County folk (who are richer) are completely against this. This could be a great city (I think it was once), but nobody loves it, nobody cares about it and it's hard to see how to turn it around. Last year's murder rate (which was one of the lowest ever) was still around 300. Of the houses on the list, Homeland is tricky because it's around the Johns Hopkins campus which has their security and is very safe, but is in the middle of a very dangerous part of town. The Inner Harbor is very expensive but has experienced a recent crime wave (mostly gang related shootings and stabbings). Fells Point isn't as great as it's made out to be. It still has some drug corners and occasional gunfights between rival gangs. I live in Canton which is to the east of Fell's Point and is much safer. And I still hear the gunfire at night from the other side of Patterson Park. Anyone who is thinking of investing here, I would not encourage, unless you're willing to take a chance on one of the "up and coming areas" and the crime associated with that. City property taxes are pretty high and there is a glut of rental property on the market. Renters have a much better deal here than in the UK, we don't have to pay property taxes and water rates are usually included in the rent. There's legislation trying to pass through the state senate to increase massively the tax paid on vacant properties, it will be interesting to see if it gets through. Now I must be clear, I like living here. Why? Well, for all it's problems if you stay away from the known bad areas, people here are much friendlier and laid back than Londoners. And where I live is pretty funky, with cool bars and restaurants. The arts scene is pretty fantastic because you're close to DC and NY but it's much cheaper to live here. And Maryland is a beautiful state. But Baltimore is not for the faint hearted and not for anyone looking to make a fast buck. As many investors have already discovered, given the number of foreclosures. UM
  4. Hi Masked Tulip, I'm not quite sure what point you're trying to make here. Are you saying the houses are too expensive or that they're cheap? Cheers, Ursa Minor
  5. http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy3wTw159lw UM
  6. Purely anecdotal I know but I had notice more empty or nearly empty (only one or two containers) freight trains on my line recently. UM
  7. Some of my favourites (all Watford): Add £1000 to the offers over price, that'll bring the punters in! Is it a house or a bangalow(sic)? Which "slice of Islington" did they have in mind? May not be funny if you don't know Watford, but it made me laugh. How many bedrooms? How many houses? Annex, shmannex! UM
  8. Me and Mr UM are moving to the US, probably next April depending on a few things. I've got my job offer in place, just got to get the visa paperwork sorted. UM
  9. Hi BOB, Is this the branch of Woolies on Clayton Street in Newcastle? I used to work there as a teen over the Christmas to earn a few quid. Saturday job, on the music counter, £2.20 an hour annoying the old ladies by playing the Prodigy and Nirvana too loud... :-D Happy days... UM
  10. And it took him 10 years. What on earth was he doing for crying out loud? UM
  11. Hi Stickybun, I grew up constantly moving house. My dad was a builder and we had to move where the work was. Was I happy about it at the time? No, never. My brother felt similarly. But we soon settled in and got used to each new house, new school etc. I attended 9 schools between the ages of 5 and 16. Rather more than the usual! Looking back, it has made me a better person - I am left with the skills to cope with major changes in my life. Right now, Mr UM and I are in the process of moving to the US, because of my work. I can take that in my stride, because my life has equipped me to. I'm not afraid of moving to a place where I don't know anyone. I'm not suggesting that growing up the way I did is the only way a person learns how to cope, what I'm trying to say is that not only can't you shield your children from the all the ups and downs of life, but that you ought not to, and they will learn valuable lessons along the way. Children are, on the whole, more resilient than we give them credit for. HTH, UM
  12. To be fair, that's the price for common varieties. Rare bulbs are considerably more expensive - (check out the Lord Stanley here: http://www.oldhousegardens.com/bulb.asp?Cat=TU&page=5) although admittedly even $26 for 1 bulb is not equivalent to the crazy prices paid during Tulipomania. UM
  13. Is the Don't Know option under Are you a homeowner? there for John McCain? UM
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