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July 26, 2010

Buying a home in the Baltimore area for the first time?

If you're a first-time home buyer, or just buying a home in the Baltimore area for the first time, you might not know everything you need to know. Worse, you don't necessarily know what you don't know until it comes back to bite you.

A newcomer who got bitten inspired me to start collecting New Buyer 101 posts in one easily accessible place. I'll link them all to this one, adding more as they're written. Some are most helpful if you haven't bought yet, and others are intended as aids once you're already in your home. (Some long-time homeowners might find useful tips here.)

A number of readers suggested subject matter, and I'll be working through that list as I can. I'll happily take more suggestions (or requests) in the comments on this post.

One word of warning -- some of these posts were written a few years ago. I glanced through for outdated information or broken links, but please let me know if anything needs fixing. 

Here are the links:

Maryland-specific information:

Buying a foreclosure

Determining who owns property near you

Development projects near you

Down-payment and closing-cost assistance from the Maryland Mortgage Program

Home improvement (what to do before you hire a contractor)

Homestead property-tax credit (why new buyers' bills will probably be higher than their neighbors')

Homestead property-tax credit (why new buyers' bills could be much higher than the previous owners')

Property-tax appeals after being reassessed

Property-tax appeals after buying

Property-tax appeals off-cycle

Property-tax appeals -- the effect on your Homestead tax credit

Property-tax impact of renovating a home, or buying a newly-improved place

Property-tax rates 

What to do after you buy

General buying/owning information:

The buying timeline

Credit scores -- how they work

Credit scores -- improving/maintaining

Property lines


Useful links for local buyers/homeowners (outside sites) 

Baltimore City's CityView tool (find out what neighborhood you live in, when your trash and recycling pick-up days are, which nearby buildings are vacant and a lot more)

HUD-approved list of housing counselors in Maryland (pre-purchase counseling, foreclosure-prevention help)

Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation's page to apply for the Homestead tax credit for owner-occupiers

Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation's real property data search (find assessments, sale prices, owners' names)

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development programs for buyers 

MDLandRec.Net (deeds, mortgage documents, etc.)

Local housing-market statistics


Remember to keep this in mind; baltimore city taxes across the board are twice that of baltimore county and other counties. Are you willing to pay twice the income, twice the property, twice the utility taxes as elsewhere, and put up with the cities issues?

The above comment says it all. Everything is much higher in the city, including the crime rate.


I am closing on a home in Canton in Baltimore in 30 days which is currently assessed at 106,500, which makes the current tax bill around 2500. The house has been completely renovated and I am purchasing the property at 285,000. I understand for the rest of the year I will pay on the current assessment, but what will happen next July when they reassess the property? I assume I won't be eligibile for the homestead tax credit until next October? Please help, very confused.

Jeff, it's a confusing situation because this one is more involved than normal.

Usually a property is reassessed once every three years, so you'd know what assessed value you'd be taxed on next July (unless the property was due to be reassessed between now and then). Because the home was substantially renovated, though, you'll run into a property-tax-rule wrinkle. See here for more details:

Whether the property was renovated or not, you won't be eligible for the homestead credit until July 1, 2013, because it's not until your second July 1 in the property that the eligibility kicks in.

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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