BALTIMORE — Last year, Tamara Robinson found her dream home in Baltimore City. The food, activism, and community drew her here, but delays within the City’s finance department are now driving her away.
She was at the finish line of closing on the property, but after 90 days under contract, the deal fell through.
“I’m bummed. I really got so excited about that,” said Robinson. “It’s like a break up. It takes half the time of the relationship to get over it, so it might take me a good 45 days to really get over it.”
WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii first spoke with Robinson in January. At the time, she was unable to close on the property because the city hadn’t yet processed the seller’s deed when he bought it last fall.
Robinson’s lender wouldn’t release the funds until the property was listed in the owner’s name.
A spokeswoman with Mayor Brandon Scott’s Office confirmed the deed was processed on January 21, however, the Land Records Office found errors in the paperwork and mailed it back to the title company.
After weeks of waiting, the title company still hadn’t received the documents.
“And we put a final deadline on how long we would both wait and that deadline came and went,” said Robinson. “If the City had processed it back at least in the fall then we would’ve had a lot more time to resolve any discrepancies.”
In February, Yvonne Deardorff, president of Lakeside Title Company, had also been waiting for a transaction to be processed. In early November she sent a check for $750,000 that hadn't been deposited.
“It actually went on record March 4,” said Deardorff.
Deardorff said she's seen some improvements in the City’s processing immediately following the WMAR-2 News report in February.
“They're going on record,” said Deardorff. “We have some from early February but we have others that are still back from October and November.”
She believes the City's poor computer system, small staff, COVID-19 pandemic, and volume of real estate transactions were a recipe for disaster. She knows the City can do better, and is tired of explaining delays to clients.
“They go, ‘Oh, it's Baltimore City, we get it, everything's slow in the city,’ and it shouldn't be that way. It's a very important department, it's a great source of revenue for the city.” Said Deardorff. “It can affect the consumer, so it really is something they should get in order.”
“If people have trouble getting in the door they’re going to go to other places. I haven’t completely lost hope in the city because all of the amazing things I said before that made me want to live here still exist, so I’m just trying to figure out if I have the stamina to go through this process again,” said Robinson.
Robinson said when she does start house hunting again she's going to expand her search to other cities.
"I am a bit hesitant to purchase a forever property in the city just because of how terribly this process went," said Robinson.
And while Deardorff has seen a difference since February, there are still delays with Baltimore County water bills since they need to go through the city. She’s also seen the clerk send back deed recordings because the checks are stale dated and weren’t deposited in time.
City implementing software to speed up process
In February, the City was still working on deeds submitted in October. As of Friday, the backlog is from February 1, 2021 forward.
Baltimore City has been working on implementing new software to speed up the process. The go live date for the automated system is late May/early June.
The software is the Land Record E-Recording program through the Simplifile vendor utilized throughout Maryland.
Most jurisdictions have had their programs in place by December 2019 including Baltimore, Prince George’s, Harford, Anne Arundel, and Howard Counties.
Stefanie Mavronis, Deputy Director of Communication for the Mayor’s Office, sent Sofastaii the statement below:
"Compared to other jurisdictions, Baltimore City has the largest number of real property parcels, the largest number of transfer transactions and the fewest transfer and recordation tax exemptions.
Property transfer occurs in two steps. The first step is complex and involves the Baltimore City Property Transfer office, which is responsible for reviewing the lien certificate, ensuring full payment of all liens, reviewing the deed to ensure type of ownership, application and/ or proration of any tax credits, and calculating and collecting transfer, recordation and yield tax. This complexity and volume increased the implementation timeline in Baltimore City."