Friday, May 23, 2008

Prospective buyers travel foreclosed-home circuit

Bus tours offer a look at bargain properties

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Silver Spring investor Sylvan Jayaraman (right) visits one of the homes on a bus tour of foreclosed homes in Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village. Rodney Townsend (left) a Michigan investor who co-founded, talks with Janet Nettles of Silver Spring.
Would-be homebuyers are being lured by foreclosure bus tours that try to turn one person’s mortgage-crisis lemon into another’s lemonade.

Many signed up for one such daylong excursion last month that stopped at seven properties in Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village handpicked by the tour’s sponsor, Jobin Realty.

The group toured a variety of homes ranging from single-family houses to condominiums. They examined the properties while guides, including people familiar with home inspections, offered tips on what renovations a prospective buyer would need to make and whether the mortgage would make it profitable to rent out. All of the homes were last purchased for $230,000 to $500,000 and some had been bought as recently as 2007, according to state property records.

‘‘There’s been quite a bit of interest so far with not only homebuyers but investors,” said Realtor George Fountain, one of the tour’s organizers. ‘‘This is a great time to buy because prices have come down to a more realistic level and money is so cheap.”

Soon after the tour, four offers had been made on homes, said Rodney Townsend, a founder of

Townsend and Ralph Claxton, both Michigan investors, saw opportunity among the foreclosure chaos and founded last spring. Their tours of Detroit became a hit and they began franchising around the country. In addition to the Montgomery County franchise, Equity and Foreclosure Bus Tours, the company’s tours can be found in Chicago, Phoenix and New Haven, Conn. The tour will next go to Rockville and Silver Spring, Fountain said.

In March, agents in Long and Foster’s Mount Airy office held tours in Frederick and Carroll counties of foreclosed, bank-owned and pre-foreclosed homes.