August 3, 2011

Moving to Baltimore, needing advice about where to rent

Here's a reader question that anyone who has moved cross-country can relate to -- how do you figure out where to live if you don't know anything about your new community? The mother of a soon-to-be Baltimore resident emailed this week with a plea for help:

My 23 year old son just got a job and will be moving to Baltimore from Atlanta. He will be looking to rent a one bedroom apt for about $850. We plan to come up in about 2 weeks to look - can you make any suggestions about neighborhoods? He will have a car so he needs parking but his job is sales so he doesn't have a specific area where he needs to live. It also just so happens that his girlfriend is doing an internship at Johns Hopkins so she will be in that area but Michael will be in Baltimore for at least 18 mos. He's active, needs a gym (former track athlete) but also likes space and a washer and dryer.

What do you think? Renters, which areas have you enjoyed living in (neighborhoods especially, not necessarily specific apartment buildings) and why? Homeowners, you can weigh in, too -- it's not hard to find houses for rent these days, and some are near gyms.

I lucked out when I moved from Maryland to Iowa for my first job out of college: A colleague I hadn't even met yet called me up after I took the offer and said he'd find me a place to live. (Best co-worker ever.) But most folks relocating to a new area can't count on that sort of out-of-the-blue help. Advice from people in the know is the next best thing.

An explanation of how you zeroed in on an area that suited you would be helpful, too. There are a lot of apartment-search sites and homes for rent sites these days. But that gets you only so far.

New residents in need of crime and safety information have a variety of options, at least. This post links out to local government statistics sites. And this one notes some of the .com places with crime information.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Moving, Renting

July 15, 2011

Pent-up demand vs. supply

If everyone who's holding off on buying a home and everyone who's holding off on selling a home got together to commiserate over a beer, we'd need a heckuva big bar.

It's just one of the many outgrowths of the difficult housing market, not to mention one of the uncertainties the market is facing. People nervous about the possibility of continued price drops or unable to get a mortgage or worried about the stability of their job aren't running to the settlement table. Homeowners who can't sell for as much as they owe are cooling their heels, too -- along with some number of folks who aren't underwater but want to gain back some of their vanished home value before letting go. And some folks, of course, are in both camps -- they can't buy because they can't sell.

Wonk reader chappy10 figures pent-up supply, the would-be sellers who aren't selling, are "the larger group by leaps and bounds" compared with the pent-up supply of would-be buyers. "A lot of people *would* sell, but are unhappily stuck where they are," chappy10 writes.

So: Where do you fit? Would you like to buy, sell or sell and buy, or are you happy with your housing lot in life?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Housing market experiences, Moving

February 10, 2011

Title company misused escrow funds, state says

While you're waiting for January home sale stats to appear today, here are two very different stories to read that both have something to say about the housing market:

First, Crofton-based Beltway Title and Abstract Inc. has had its licensed suspended by the state after auditors discovered that more than $1 million in escrowed funds intended for real estate transaction costs had been misappropriated, the Maryland Insurance Administration said Wednesday. The money, pulled out over a period of seven months, was spent on business expenses, the state said.

Here's the insurance administration's license-suspension order.

Second, the new Census 2010 numbers show population growth -- and decline -- across the state. According to the count, Baltimore has 30,000 fewer residents than it did a decade ago. As one colleague pointed out, that works out to a loss of eight people per day. ("I hope people aren't leaving because of me - I have so many arms to embrace you!" quipped @manwomanstatue, the self-proclaimed "most hated public art in Charm City.")

The city has successfully challenged census estimates before: The 2003 figures were revised upward by nearly 15,000, for instance. But the decennial census is a count rather than an annual estimate.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that the 30,000-person loss was the city's smallest since the decade of the 1950s. (Baltimore's population peaked in 1950 at about 950,000 before dropping by nearly 11,000 by 1960.)

Still, the newest loss figure is striking for a decade that brought an inflow of housing-bubble newcomers and ended at a time when moving -- if you had to sell your home first -- was no easy proposition. (Still isn't, but it's a new decade now.)


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 1:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Closing costs, Housing stats, Moving

September 7, 2010

Where to move? Two-city couple tries to decide

Beth Green and fiancé Pete Jenior have a housing dilemma -- one that many folks in this region have faced.

She works in Washington. He works in Baltimore. Where should they live?

D.C. is off their list -- not only for price reasons, but because Jenior works longer hours than Green.

"He can't have a really long commute because he'd never be around," said Green, 29, an attorney. "So the two options are, I have a long commute or we live in the middle."

They'd really like to hear from people who have been there, done that. What upsides and downsides do you see for a D.C./Baltimore couple living in Baltimore or its southern suburbs?

For Green and Jenior, 27, it's not just about commute. They like city life -- he lives in Federal Hill and she's in Ridgely's Delight. But they're thinking of starting a family during the five years or so they plan to live in the home they buy, and they wonder if they'd be better off in the suburbs.

It's another oft-tread subject in the "where should we live" discussions that people around the region have every day, so I figured some of you would have thoughts to share.

Continue reading "Where to move? Two-city couple tries to decide" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: From home to work, Moving

August 22, 2010

The last time you moved

We're a mobile bunch, we Americans, but less so than we used to be.

As demographer William H. Frey notes in "The Great American Migration Slowdown," a Brookings Institution report, "The credit crisis and Great Recession that followed left Americans flat-footed, as would-be movers were unable to find financing to buy a new home, buyers for their existing homes, or a new job in more desirable areas." In the 2007-2008 period, which he analyzed in his '09 study, the migration rate was lower than it had been at any time since World War II.

So I guess I'm not surprised that many of you haven't moved for a while. About 45 percent of you who took last week's poll have been in your home -- rented or owned -- for at least five years. Last move "before 2000" was the most popular answer, with 14 percent of the vote. (One reader hasn't moved since 1969.)

Even so, a fair number of you switched homes pretty recently. Eighteen percent of you moved this year, including some in the past month. Thirteen percent more moved last year.

Even if you have nothing stopping you from moving, you might not want to go anywhere -- we all know people who are happily ensconced. My parents have lived in their home for more than 30 years.

Are you settled in for the long haul (or looking to find a long-haul place), or do you see yourself as a frequent mover for years to come?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Moving, Polls

August 15, 2010

Real estate poll: When did you last move?

Lots of people are feeling stuck in place nowadays. They can't easily sell their home because they're underwater. Or they're anxious about buying. Or they'd like to rent a bigger place but don't know if their job situation is stable.

This is the pent-up demand -- and, except for the renters, the pent-up supply -- that we all hear so much about.

It got me wondering: How long has it been since you all last moved?

Do you want to move? Or do you happily see yourself where you are now for a while?

It's been nearly 11 years since I last moved, though being in the middle of a renovation project feels pretty similar. Half my possessions are in boxes, and I don't know what's where.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Moving, Polls

April 26, 2010

Moving from D.C. to Baltimore -- and vice versa

The Baltimore metro area has cheaper home prices and rents than the Washington metro area, so you probably don't need me to tell you that more people relocate our way from D.C. than the other way around. 

But the recession, housing slump and credit crunch have had an effect on that northward migration. Our net gain from the Washington area sunk from about 10,000 in 2006 to 5,000 in 2008, according to the newest federal numbers.

Here's the story.

It's not just fewer D.C.-area folks coming our way that cut down on the net gain. It's also more Baltimore-area residents moving south. Jason Policastro, for instance, who took a job at American University's Washington College of Law a year and a half ago and relocated four months later.

He didn't want to leave Baltimore, "But boy, that commute, I couldn't handle it. Eventually I broke down and started looking and found something close to work."

He's so close now, he walks to campus. That takes him a grand total of 15 minutes. Before, it was taking him anywhere from an hour -- on those very rare days with no traffic -- to nearly three hours. One way.

The alternative of the MARC train didn't appeal to him because it was often delayed, he said.

Even so, "I just can't shake the thought of moving back," Policastro said. "I love it there. Everything about it. The personality of the city, the character -- the cost of living there is dramatically lower. So yes, I do think about that. The job market, though, you can't compare the two. Which is just a shame."

It's been interesting to read people's comments on the Sunday story. Several readers shared their personal experiences:

Continue reading "Moving from D.C. to Baltimore -- and vice versa" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: From home to work, Moving
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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.
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