Walk around any weekend festival in Baltimore this summer and you will overhear conversations that sound as if they first took place on the National Mall. Is Baltimore being invaded by outsiders? Not exactly… but over the last decade many Washingtonians decided that Baltimore was a better place to set down roots and call home. These ex-Washingtonians considered Baltimore an attractive alternative because it was affordable, had a great quality of life, and reasonable commute times. Today, even after years of housing distress in both cities, those factors still hold true. As Washington home prices have begun creeping higher again, Baltimore still offers home ownership to many people who are priced out of the District.
I asked two past clients to share with me how they feel about their decision to buy in Baltimore. Each couple has lived in Baltimore for over five years, and has one partner who makes the commute to DC.
Nick and Tim bought a renovated rowhouse in Fells Point, one of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor neighborhoods. “When we moved here six years ago, our intention was to be within walking distance of coffee shops, restaurants and entertainment. We were attracted to the city’s vitality,” writes Nick.
Ten years ago, Martin and his partner bought and renovated an 1840s townhouse in the mid-town neighborhood of Mount Vernon. He agrees with Nick about the quality of life: “A lot of my favorite things to do are within a 10-minute walk from home: The Walters Art Museum, the Sunday farmer’s market, and restaurants serving Indian, Nepali, French, Thai, Italian, Mexican, and American food.” Martin is also an avid cyclist. “It is very easy to get to northern Baltimore County where the roads and scenery are fantastic for bicycling!”
Was downtown DC an option? “We simply could never have afforded a place like this in DC,” Nick responds. “The cost of homes in Baltimore is probably one-third that of DC.” Martin concurs. “We certainly wouldn’t be able to maintain the same standard of living in DC. Who knows where we’d end up if we had to relocate; probably not in DC at all.”
What about the commute? Martin commutes daily to Washington. “My house is a 10-minute walk from Penn Station, so the Baltimore side of the commute is pretty easy. From Union Station I take the Metro and then walk another 10 minutes to my office.” But, this cyclist has taken advantage of another option, “This April I have started riding my bike to work: Mondays and Thursdays I ride from Baltimore to DC and take the MARC back, and on Tuesdays and Fridays I take MARC down and bike back to Baltimore at the end of the day. Wednesday is a rest day. Believe it or not, the bike route is pretty nice. Although it takes longer, I get my workout in so that I don’t have to go to the gym over lunch or on the weekends.”
“Tim works for the DC Fire Department, but he has an unusual schedule. He doesn’t have a Monday through Friday commute,” writes Nick, who drives about twenty minutes to his job in Anne Arundel County. “The beauty of city living is that once you get home, you seldom drive.”
When DC-based friends visit, what do they think of Baltimore? “When our friends visit and we show them ‘our Baltimore,’ they’re pleasantly surprised,” Nick says. “They admit they had the wrong impression and usually go away liking the city. In fact, sometimes they’ll call us and ask, ‘What was the name of that restaurant?’ or ‘Where was that museum?’ so they can bring their friends to enjoy Baltimore as well.”
“People who visit us from DC,” Martin begins, “are usually surprised by how unlike DC Baltimore is. Baltimore is the older city; it’s less transient; it has a commercial and industrial vibe which DC never did have. A lot of visitors say Baltimore feels more ‘real’ than DC.”
So, if you are a DC resident visiting Baltimore on a sunny Saturday, be prepared for pleasant surprises. We’ll welcome you with open arms! Enjoy our hospitality and get to know our city. You might want to start calling it ‘home,’ hon.