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January 9, 2012

Baltimore's biggest property-tax bills

The typical owner in Baltimore paid a bit over $1,800 in property taxes for the current tax year. Get 190 of them in one room, and together their tab just equals Tom Clancy's.

That's by way of putting the bestselling author's nearly $350,000 bill into perspective, which is of course on a not-at-all-typical property. He owns about 17,000 square feet at the Ritz-Carlton Residences alongside the Inner Harbor.

You can see all 10 of the homes with the biggest bills -- and the top 10 commercial properties as well -- in this photo gallery, if you didn't already check it out over the weekend. (Thanks to editors Liz Pillow and Justine Maki and photographers Kim Hairston and Barbara Haddock Taylor for their work on this time-consuming effort.)

Here's the story that Scott Calvert and I wrote, which includes an interesting discussion with the trustees for the No. 2 home. (We've got a separate gallery just for that expansive place -- thanks once again to Liz, not to mention photographer Amy Davis.)

And the Sun's Adam Marton put together two interactive maps: one for the homes and another for the commercial properties. It's interesting to see how closely most of them are clustered. (Click on the icons for details about each property.)

Our analysis ranked individual properties rather than property owners. It would be pretty interesting to know who has the biggest collective tax bill, accounting for multiple properties, but that's tricky to get at for the same reason that it's not easy to say which private owners have the most vacant homes. A single person or firm might hold a dozen properties in a dozen separate limited liability companies.

Because we stuck to individual properties, we disqualified one owned by HarborView Properties Development Co. from the top 10 list of homes once we discovered the single tax record was actually six separate HarborView condos, separately used.

"They're rented out, waiting for the market to change," said Frank Wise, vice president of HarborView Properties.

So why does "Unit A" have multiple units? "When the developer originally developed the building, all the units were at one time in Unit A and they were broken out as they were sold," he said. "So we probably don't really belong [on the top 10 list], but we do pay a lot of taxes anyway."

Clancy is sort of the opposite case -- he bought separate condos to put together. He first purchased three penthouse units as one in 2009 and later bought three more adjoining units. We tallied up all the bills for his grand total there (he hasn't requested the city combine them into a single bill), but even if he'd stopped with the first purchase, he'd still be No. 1.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Property taxes, Unusual homes


This is one of those lists that appears to be more like a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you have a high property tax bill, this usually means you have a large property in a desirable location. Of course one would assume that anybody with a desirable space and is paying higher taxes, can afford to do so and is doing quite well for themselves.

What struck me as funny about this story is that it reminded me of a conversation I had with a good friend of mine. He is extremely wealthy, and always complained about how much taxes he had to pay. I also remember thinking to myself that I wish I could have traded places with this guy so I can have the burden of all his "financial" problems.

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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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