Greg Alexander

What are the new hot 'hoods?

Baltimore Sun, February 2006

The real estate market in the Baltimore metropolitan area may have shown some signs of slowing down in recent months; however, considering how hot the market has been for years in the area, there is still a large demand for both sellers and buyers alike. And, if you’re looking for a new home, the choices are endless. Do you want a rowhouse situated in a historic neighborhood in Baltimore City, close to great restaurants, clubs, entertainment venues and cultural centers? Or, would you rather reside in the suburbs for a quieter lifestyle? Once you’ve narrowed your choices based on location, which neighborhoods are the up-and-coming ones that are creating the buzz around town?

First, let’s focus on Baltimore City, which is hot, hot, hot! Sales prices in Baltimore City have been climbing for a while, and inventory is getting tighter and tighter. “For first-time homebuyers, most of the homes for sale in Baltimore City’s traditionally strong neighborhoods – Canton, Otterbein, Federal Hill and Charles Village, for example – are out of their range, so more and more are looking for the next ‘it’ neighborhood that is reasonably priced,” says Heather Perkins, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

“For those who have Canton on their radar but possibly can’t afford it, I urge buyers to look at Patterson Park. Baltimore City has invested significantly in the park’s cleanup and revitalization, and the homes are similar in style to those found in Canton.” Perkins notes that a “shell,” a rowhouse that needs to gutted, will list for about $150,000. “For a typical three-bedroom, three-bath home on one of the interior streets off the Park, you’re looking at the $275,000-$300,000 range; however, those homes that line the actual Park will sell for about $50,000-$75,000 more,” says Perkins. Perkins adds that the influx of new jobs due to the revitalization efforts of nearby Johns Hopkins University’s medical campus have further fueled the rise in prices for Patterson Park. “The demographics are changing there. These new jobs will be middle- to upper-class jobs, which will change things,” she says, adding that homes above Fayette Street are still considered somewhat undesirable.

For those homebuyers with a slightly smaller budget, Perkins suggests Greektown, also called “Bayview” in some circles due to its proximity to Johns Hopkins’ Bayview campus. “It’s not far from Canton and Patterson Park and is close to I-95 and the Bayview campus. Plus, you can get a nice rowhome for under $200,000,” says Perkins. “The popularity of Canton, Patterson Park and Brewers’ Hill has led people to Greektown since it’s so close.” Perkins touts the neighborhood’s Greek restaurants, quaint shops and the neighborhood’s stability – many homeowners have lived in Greektown for years – as perks for living there. Recent home sales show the neighborhood’s affordability. For example, Perkins notes that three-bedroom homes in Greektown have sold in the $140,000-$190,000 range.

Much of the rise in market value of Baltimore City homes can be attributed to transplants from costly Washington, D.C., says Perkins. “D.C. residents are realizing that they can get a large home with character and beauty for much less than they would pay for a small condo in a not-so-desirable neighborhood in Washington. Many times, the commute from Baltimore on the MARC train is close to what you would spend with multiple changes on the D.C. Metro or stuck in traffic in Northern Virginia,” Perkins says. Not surprisingly, those neighborhoods adjacent to Baltimore’s Penn Station are going to be a draw for those who commute to D.C. via the MARC train, including the Station North Arts & Entertainment district. Several new condominium and townhome projects are either under construction or in the planning stages in this neighborhood, including the Station North Townhomes, which quickly sold with prices hovering around the $300,000 range, and two condominium/townhome communities near the Charles Theater.

Proximity to Penn Station was one of many reasons why Louis Jenny chose to relocate from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore last September. Jenny, who had lived in Washington, D.C., for 18 years, says that he wanted to move from a condominium to a house, but the real estate market in Washington would make that move difficult. “When I turned 40, I decided I wanted more space, a more grownup environment and more entertaining space,” says Jenny, an avid cook. “The market in D.C. made buying a house nearly impossible, and from an investment standpoint, it just didn’t seem to make much sense.” Therefore, Jenny looked north to Charm City.

“Baltimore is so close to Washington, and I can take the train to work every day,” says Jenny, who bought a rehabbed rowhome two blocks from Penn Station. “I was a little nervous about buying in this neighborhood from the investment angle; however, I figured Baltimore would follow D.C.’s pattern of having neighborhoods’ boundaries grow and grow as they improve.” Jenny chose a 3,600-square-foot brick rowhome that features salvaged materials throughout, gorgeous hardwood floors, exposed brick and plenty of space for entertaining.

City living not your style? Well, then look to Howard County, says Hollie Pakulla, a real estate agent with Re/Max Advantage Realty in Columbia. “Most of my clients are just dying to buy anything that lands in the Centennial School District; the schools are great,” she says. Pakulla says that she even has clients who want to buy in the Centennial district who don’t have kids. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll have kids later, but we want to buy in that district now.’ I do tell them to be careful because of redistricting, though.” In this popular school district, Pakulla touts Burleigh Manor with home prices in the $600,000 to $1.2 million range for a single-family home. “Although not in the Centennial School district, I also really like Waverly Woods where you can get a three-bedroom townhome for around $575,000.”

In Baltimore County, both Pakulla and Perkins recommend Catonsville, with its historic homes that are still affordable. “I think many older homes are built better than a lot of the new construction,” says Pakulla. “I was a firefighter for 13 years, so I know what makes for good construction – real bricks, concrete, stone and mortar. “Catonsville is great because you can be in downtown Baltimore in 15 minutes, yet you can still get a great house with a large yard,” says Perkins. “Westgate, located in Baltimore City, is a surging neighborhood, as well as Paradise, which is right over the Baltimore County line, which saves you significantly on your property taxes.”

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