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Seven people--all friends, associates, neighbors or relatives--conducted real estate business in a tight circle, mostly in the neighborhood just west of Patterson Park. Select a property from the dropdown menu or slideshow to view a page summarizing the deals involving each property, a photograph, and a map. Go to Shell Game by Ed Ericson Jr. to read more.

How Do We Figure?

To piece together this story, City Paper analyzed thousands of pages of mortgage documents and interviewed more than a dozen people, including realtors, lawyers, experts in mortgage fraud, and local contractors. In estimating the cost of rehabs (or possible rehabs) we tried to use conservative figures. That is, we estimated that the work cost more than what it usually costs. In the case of 103 N. Montford Ave., for instance, we estimated that the work cost $127,000, while John Goldbeck, the general contactor who oversaw the work indicated it cost $100,000. In the case of the homes that received "facelifts"--removal of Formstone and repointing of the underlying bricks, two knowledgeable sources, including George Waldhauser, a licensed, experienced general contractor based in Fallston, told us the typical cost would be less than $3,000. We allowed $15,000. We do this in order to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who owned the homes and defaulted on their loans. When we say they "profited" by borrowing more than they spent renovating, and did so after the market turned against them, we base that on the highest reasonable estimate of the cost of any work they may have had done on the home, and the latest sensible estimate of the "market peak."

So, in January 2007, when Janet Praid established a $50,000 home equity line of credit against 103 N. Montford, we say she "took money out" of the house. The Multiple Listings Service indicates that she had listed the home for sale at $375,000 in October of 2005, and relisted it in December 2005 at $354,900. The listing was withdrawn in May 2006. Foreclosure was filed in Baltimore Circuit Court in May 2007, approximately five months after Praid established her $50,000 HELOC.

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