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Six Reasons Not To Buy A Baltimore House

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One of the things many young professionals face in the Baltimore region is whether to buy a home in the suburbs around Baltimore or in one of the hot young neighborhoods in Baltimore. Federal Hill, Canton, and Fell’s Point are essentially the three hubs of social activity in the city of Baltimore for anyone between the ages of 21-30 (i.e. lots of bars). When I made the decision, I opted for the suburbs of Columbia because of crime, prices, and taxes.

Anyone who says they feel 100% entirely safe walking the streets of Baltimore at night, any street, is either packing a weapon (even then you’re not safe, you just feel safe), a fool, or incredibly lucky. Anyone who owns a car parked in Baltimore that doesn’t have comprehensive insurance is also a fool. Of my friends who live in the city, at least seven have had their cars broken into. One saw a stranger moments after being mugged. Two have told stories of their friends being mugged. Finally, my girlfriend wouldn’t feel safe walking around if I wasn’t around. The City of Baltimore Police Department website has a resource for looking up crime, but it doesn’t appear entirely accurate.

2. Hot Today, Not Tomorrow
Canton, one of the hot areas, sits next to an area called Patterson Park. Canton has nice renovated homes while Patterson Park has falled into a big of disarray. The actual park of Patterson Park is nice during the day but as one friend put it, he wouldn’t “be caught dead in that park after dark.” Twenty years ago Patterson Park was the swank, posh neighborhood and Canton was the dump by the docks. You don’t get rich buying high and selling low… every nice neighborhood in Baltimore City is high right now.

3. Baltimore City Property Taxes are 2.308%
The second highest property tax rate in Maryland is 1.11% in Baltimore County (Columbia is 1.044%). For a $300,000 home, you will be sending the City of Baltimore a fat check of nearly seven thousand dollars a year!

4. Baltimore Is Not That Nice
If you’re under 30, single, and looking for some nice bars – Baltimore has some nice spots for you. If you’re dating someone and want to show them a good time… you have about half a dozen dates available (plus however many Hippodrome shows come through town) and after that you’re basically left to your wits and some pretty good restaurants. It’s not like a New York City or a Boston in terms of character, history, and wealth of things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

5. Homes are too small for too much
While I don’t expect a home in the city to be the same size as a home in the suburbs, I do expect the prices to be within reasonable spitting distances in terms of square footage. It is widely believed that paying between $120-130 per square foot is a reasonable price in this area (when you don’t have a garage). My friends have homes that are 11′ wide and they’ve paid way over that benchmark (one has paid $160 square foot, but that doesn’t count a roof deck). I think it’s the case of young professionals, with no concept of home value, seeing what the sizzling hot market rate is and just simply paying it. Granted, I paid $295k for a townhouse with 2400 sq ft. so some would say I am a foolish young professional who has no concept of home value.

6. Who Would You Sell It To?
No one with kids is going to buy your house in Baltimore City, the schools aren’t good. No one in retirement is going to buy your house in Baltimore City, the crime is too prevalent and there isn’t enough to do. No one under the age of 20 is going to buy your house in Baltimore City because they don’t have the means to buy a $350,000+ home. That leaves young professionals between the ages of 20-35 as your potential market and home prices are getting to close to the max they’re able to afford. Suburbia is friendlier to retirees and families.

I think those are six compelling reasons against buying a home in Baltimore. I’m not anti-Baltimore, in fact I like it quite a bit, but I just wouldn’t buy a house and want to stay there for a long time. Columbia offers much more than Baltimore including extensive open green spaces with trails through the woods and around lakes. There are nice amenities like nice libraries and a stronger sense of community. Ownership percentages are a little higher in the suburbs and it shows, less garbage on the streets (if any) and better upkeep of the homes. While a lot of these may be subjective, it was enough to convince me that suburbs were a better choice.

{ 35 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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35 Responses to “Six Reasons Not To Buy A Baltimore House”

  1. DD says:

    I don’t know how old this post is, but we’re loosely considering a move to Baltimore so I stumbled across it in my research. The thing that struck me the most was the complaint about high housing pricing. We live in the metro DC area… the difference between a Bolton Hill Brownstone, completely renovated, and one in DC in even a fringe neighborhood, is at least half a million dollars (usually more). At least. I agree with the poster above who noted Baltimore as the most affordable city in the Northeast Corridor.

    Crime, however… crime in Baltimore seems to be more akin to crime in New York, without the other benefits.

    This has been interesting research!

    • P says:

      Baltimore still has nice neighborhoods crime is everywhere not just in the City. Lauraville,
      Belair/Edison, Gardenville, have nice single family homes. The school system still leaves something to be desired but so many homeowners have left the city the financial support for schools have left.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, it appears that you really are not experienced in city living….

  3. Kristen says:

    I would hope readers know to take this as one person’s opinion and nothing else. I lived a block from Patterson Park for years in a lovely home and loved it. So much cultural activity (never ever had interest in the Hippodrome’s touring shows, was disappointed it wasn’t restored to it’s glory for local use) both near Patterson Park (The Patterson theater), Mt Vernon, downtown and Federal Hill. This posting gives a good idea of the type of culture/activity the writer seeks and so do please look further if you think your ideal urban/cultural living is different than theirs.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow, way to try and scare even more people away from Baltimore! Sorry that you decided not to venture away from Federal Hill, but there are many MANY more places in Baltimore to visit and live in. I’ve lived in Baltimore my whole life and have never had any of the altercations happen to me that you mentioned. The city has its faults like any other, sure, but a lot of that is people like you not sticking around to help it improve itself.

    And Columbia? Really??

  5. Craig says:

    This article was written 7 years ago. I have lived in Baltimore since 2005, in Locust Point. First off, I love it! In looking at all places, it depends on what you are looking for. Compared to DC and Northern VA, Baltimore is a bargain!! A steal. With the housing boom, Federal, Canton, Fells Point, Locust Point, and other border neighborhood have boomed/gentrified. In my area, I feel perfectly safe anytime night or day. Yes, there are lots of bars and restaurants, which I think is a great thing. I “understand” schools are not great but if that is not a concern, this may be the place for you. It’s great place for younger singles/couples and older (post kids) folks like myself. And it’s close to DC and Philly. If you don’t want to be bored to death in the ‘burbs AND are still trying to get out and have fun; I think Baltimore is a great deal.

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