September 6, 2011

Baltimore on list of top places 'for working towards a home purchase'

The Baltimore region comes in second on a new ranking of the best places for buying a home -- based primarily on the strength of the job market.

The list of top places "for working towards a home purchase," put together by Move Inc., ranked metro areas by the number of job openings per capita. Regions with lots of job openings but unemployment above the national average were knocked out of contention, as were places where home prices recorded big drops in the past year. (The company, which runs real estate sites such as, was looking for relative stability.)

Why a ranking based primarily on the job market rather than the housing market? Because few people can afford a house if they don't have a job.

"Buying a home in an area with an established job market or expanding industry can help provide workers more security in the future, especially as the economy continues to fluctuate," Move's CEO, Steve Berkowitz, said in a statement.

Here's what Move said of the Baltimore region: "Baltimore has the second highest job postings per capita in the bunch with 104 postings per 1,000 people. It is home to energy and financial services powerhouses Constellation Energy and T Rowe Price. Competition for jobs isn't too fierce with an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent."

It's all relative, of course -- that feels like a heck of a lot of competition compared with pre-recession days. The jobless rate was 3.8 percent in 2007.

You won't be surprised by No. 1 on the Move list: Washington, with 147 job postings per 1,000 people.

Both the Baltimore and Washington regions have long been beneficiaries of federal spending, their economies boosted by contracting -- from defense to IT -- and big agencies with headquarters here. With the looming federal deficit, that future is cloudy. Contractors are already cutting jobs.

On the other hand, it wouldn't be easy for Uncle Sam to actually pick up and move, which gives this area one advantage over other company towns.

Here's the rest of Move's top-10 list:

Continue reading "Baltimore on list of top places 'for working towards a home purchase'" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

August 16, 2011

Three Md. communities make 'Best Places to Live' list

Crofton, Eldersburg and Montgomery Village made it onto Money magazine's list of best small towns this year.

The "Best Places to Live" ranking looked at communities of 50,000 or less, considering such factors as school test scores, local purchasing power and crime.

Thirteen states -- including Virginia and Pennsylvania -- have five towns on the list. But about half have zero, so three ain't bad.

In case you're wondering, this is separate from Money's best-of list that ranks small cities, the one that last year had Columbia/Ellicott City together as No. 2.

Crofton is in Anne Arundel County, Eldersburg is in Carroll County and Montgomery Village is in Montgomery County.

What would you call the best small town in Maryland?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:15 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

August 10, 2010

Best-of lists and ZIP-code angst

Did you know Baltimore is one of eight "hip cities" for retirees looking for urban lifestyles? Or the ninth-best place for recent college graduates to move? Or, on the other side of the coin, the fourth most "irritation-prone" city?

These are just some of the best-of, and in some cases worst-of, lists out there, as colleague Lorraine Mirabella notes in a story. I figured you'd enjoy reading it.

Also interesting reading for real estate enthusiasts: Nicole Fuller's piece about Anne Arundel waterfront communities such as Orchard Beach petitioning the U.S. Postal Service to get their own ZIP code -- specifically so they won't be lumped in with Curtis Bay.

Doug Ashton, president of the Orchard Beach Improvement Association, told Fuller: "There's a perception that there's dirty water, a lot of industry, a lot of crimes. And with the same ZIP code, people associate all that stuff with our homes, and it's just two different worlds."

August 2, 2010

A 'close battle' for best-blog title reports that Realtor Marney Kirk is ahead in the battle for the "best real estate blog in Baltimore" title by one vote, last they counted. The Real Estate Wonk blog is No. 2.

"The rest of the gang is within a dozen votes, so it’s a close battle," says Zillow's Matt Bowers.

Baltimore is one of 10 cities with best-blog contests. Others include Philadelphia, Chicago and San Diego.

It's interesting to watch the role of social media here. Bowers says blogging about the contest is helping contenders -- of course -- but tweeting and Facebook updates are making a difference, too.

So on that note: Vote! This is one-vote-per-day contest, which means you can register your opinion frequently between now and Aug. 11, when it's all over.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 4:54 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

July 30, 2010

Who's got the best blog about Baltimore real estate?

Baltimore Real Estate


Zillow is holding a "best real estate blog" contest, and the Real Estate Wonk is one of the nominees for Baltimore. Keen!

The voting -- already underway -- runs through 3 p.m. on Aug. 11, and you can vote once per day. So "vote early, vote often" actually applies here.

I hope you like this blog enough to vote for it, but do go vote for your favorite whichever it is. The other nominees are the Baltimore Blog, Baltimore Grows, Baltimore Real Estate Investing Blog, the Hannon Realty Group's blog, the Harriett Wasserman Team blog, Hibanism, Maryland Housing Blog, the Metro Baltimore Real Estate Blog and Realtor Marney Kirk's blog.

Clicking on the banner will take you to the poll. Thanks, all.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:22 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

July 18, 2010

What's your idea of the best small city in Md.?

Some of you seconded Money Magazine's No. 2 ranking of Columbia and Ellicott City as (together) the second-best small U.S. city to live in. Others of you thought it was a bad choice, calling the communities boring, too car-oriented and not as safe as advertised.

So here's my question of the week to you all: If you were ranking small cities -- or city-ish communities -- in Maryland, which would you put at the top of the list? And more importantly, why?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

July 13, 2010

Columbia/Ellicott City No. 2 on magazine's best list

Money Magazine thinks you can't do much better than Columbia and Ellicott City if you're looking for a small urban area to live in.

The August issue ranks them together as No. 2 on its Best Places to Live 2010 list, right after Eden Prairie, Minn. The top 100 list, which focuses on small cities, also includes Gaithersburg (No. 25) and Rockville (No. 31).

Columbia isn't an incorporated city, as it happens. Neither is Ellicott City, despite the name. But I'm guessing Money was going for the spirit rather than the letter of the law.

Of the towns, it says:

Continue reading "Columbia/Ellicott City No. 2 on magazine's best list" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:01 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

April 23, 2010

Getting rich off the housing crisis -- in song form

Bet Against the American Dream from Alexander Hotz on Vimeo.

Because what credit default swaps really need are some jazz hands: The Avenue Q folks have put together a song to go with a This American Life story about a hedge fund that turned the collapse into cash. Catchy! ("The housing market's losing steam / And all we gotta do / To make our dreams come true / Is bet against the American Dream!")

On another note, The New York Times suggests that you use the "20" rule of thumb if you're deciding whether to buy or rent. That is, divide the home's sale price vs. a year's rent for a comparable place. If it's above 20, you're probably better off renting. Below, and you could be better off buying. (The Baltimore metro area, it says, dropped from 21 in 2005 to 18 last year.) Thoughts?

On yet another note, RelocateAmerica's Top 100 Places to Live in 2010 -- which this year focused on "communities poised for recovery and future growth" -- includes Baltimore.

Happy Friday.


February 10, 2010

Retire here?

Where to Retire magazine -- because there's a magazine for everything -- says its March/April issue will feature "eight hip cities for urban lifestyles." One of those hip cities: Baltimore.

"Baltimore has a vibrant, revitalized waterfront, museums, world-class medical facilities and everything from historic brownstones to new luxury townhomes," said magazine editor Mary Lu Abbott in a press release.

The other cities on the list are Charleston, S.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Orlando, Fla.; Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, Wash. 

Abbott said a requirement -- beyond hipness -- was "unusually good buys in housing."

What do you think, Baltimore folks?

If you're at or near retirement age, what's your idea of a good place to settle?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

January 6, 2010

Patterson Park in Southern Living magazine

You might remember that Southern Living magazine picked Baltimore's Patterson Park as one of the "best comeback neighborhoods." The story's out now, and you can see it online here.

A taste:

Future restoration of the community rests on the struggle between the housing downturn and energized homeowners rallying behind the community. “You’ve heard of sweat equity? We have fret equity,” says neighborhood association vice president Kimi Aghevli. “You move in and think, ‘What have I done?’ Then your neighbors reach out and bring you into the social circle, lifting this neighborhood house by house.”

The first quote, at least on the online version, is from the owner of Three..., a restaurant across from the park. But as Elizabeth Large noted on the Dining@Large blog recently, she got a "temporarily disconnected" message when she called the business. I checked its website today, and it's down. Oh dear.

C'mon 2010, be better than '09. Better, darn you.

September 23, 2009

Interesting facts

Ask, and you might receive some interesting answers. That's how it works for the Census Bureau, which this week released the answers it got from the 2008 American Community Survey.

For instance, Maryland homeowners think their values fell last year. The typical value residents gave was about $341,000, down 5 percent ($19,000) from the year before. (As the Census Bureau points out, "Value is the respondent's estimate of how much the property ... would sell for if it were for sale." It's not necessarily what it would sell for.)

On the other hand, we're still No. 1! For income, that is. The median household in Maryland was bringing in about $70,500 last year, just topping New Jersey (almost $70,400). What? The difference is within the margin of error, you say? Shh, the New Jersey folks might be listening!

And finally, there's not a lot of living near your work going on. Maryland, Brent Jones reports in a story about the American Community Survey, "had the second longest commute time in the nation at 31.5 minutes, just behind New York with 31.6." I'm disappointed in you all. If only you'd taken a measly seven seconds longer on the daily commute last year, we'd be No. 1 on this measure, too. Come on, guys. Try harder next time.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Housing stats, We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

July 15, 2009

Lauraville celebrates 'Best Old House' recognition



This Old House magazine recently picked what editors consider the "best old house neighborhoods," and Baltimore's Lauraville community makes the list. Lauraville folks think it's a recognition worth celebrating.

Granted, it's not a top-ten list -- the magazine picked one neighborhood in every state. But why not party if you can call yourself "The Best Place in Maryland to Buy an Old House"?

The event will start Thursday at 3 p.m. outside 2905 Rueckert Avenue, a house renovated with a loan from Healthy Neighborhoods Inc. (That's it in the photo above, courtesy Mark Tough, executive director of the Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville Inc.) After an award presentation, Lauraville residents will move the party to Clementine, a restaurant at 5402 Harford Road.

If you're planning to show up, go here for details.

Tough said the home on Rueckert Avenue -- which belongs to Robert and Mary Thuman -- is “very representative" of the style and size of properties in the neighborhood.

This Old House magazine, which calls Lauraville "a leafy paradise studded with hefty framed and shingled homes with full-length front porches and large front lots," had this to say about the housing stock:

Lauraville has a combination of Colonial Revivals, Foursquares, bungalows, and Victorian-era homes, many of which have their original millwork inside and their shingle siding outside. Some single-family homes that were carved up into multifamily units are being returned to their original floor plans. Prices run between $175,000 and $250,000.
Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 3:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

June 27, 2009

Baltimore on Top 10 lists

And now for something completely different: top 10 lists that Baltimore graces.

As the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore points out, the city (or metro area) has appeared on at least three "best of" lists recently.

Next Generation Consulting names Baltimore seventh on its list of large cities it believes are "the best places to live and work for young professionals." The factors it looked at -- based, it said, on 11 years of studying "residential and relocation patterns" of 20- to 40-year-olds -- are "Earning, Learning, Vitality, Around Town, After Hours, Cost of Lifestyle, and Social Capital."

Forbes includes Baltimore on its list of "Best Cities to Get Ahead" -- though by dint of being part of Greater Washington. The mega metro area, it says, has "one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and a high median household income."

And The Nielsen Co. thinks Baltimore is one of 10 cities with the "greenest automotive potential." It says Baltimore households are 22 percent more likely than average to buy a green car, based on its analysis of ownership rates of high-mileage vehicles. That ties Baltimore with Los Angeles for ninth on the list.

There are a lot of best-of lists out there. (Forbes seems to have a new one every day.) Do you think they can influence people's buying or moving patterns? Or do they at least reflect those patterns accurately?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

April 8, 2009

Baltimore on list of 'Most Livable Cities'

Forbes put together a list of "America's Most Livable Cities," and guess which one comes in No. 8? Yes indeed -- Baltimore.

Forbes says it considered quality of life measures such as income growth, cost of living, crime, unemployment and a "culture index." (Baltimore's culture index ranked it seventh, but other measures, such as crime, pulled it down.)

Though the list says "cities," Forbes is actually looking at metro areas -- and only those with at least 500,000 people. Metro area No. 2 on the list: Bethesda.

Here's the full top ten:

1. Portland, Maine

2. Bethesda, Md.

3. Des Moines, Iowa

4. Stamford, Conn.

5. Tulsa, Okla.

6. Oklahoma City

7. Cambridge, Mass.

8. Baltimore

9. Worcester, Mass.

10. Pittsburgh

Tip of the hat to Robert Strupp of the Community Law Center in Baltimore for noticing this list.


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:17 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)

March 3, 2009

Federal Hill wins national award

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named Federal Hill one of its 2009 "Great American Main Street" winners, calling it the "Hip Side of the Harbor."

The trust praised the nonprofit Federal Hill Main Street Inc. for helping to drive down vacancies and pump up investment.

Of the group, the trust said:

Its popular street festivals like the Spring Block Party, the Jazz & Blues Festival, and the Street Beat Festival attract thousands of people by offering live music and activities for young and old alike. Unique boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and trendy bars give festival-goers reasons to come back and keep the district humming all hours of the day and night.

The other honorees: El Dorado, Arkansas; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; Broadway in Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Livermore, California.

All the winners, the trust says, "are truly the commercial and cultural hearts of their communities."

What Main Streets appeal to you?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:29 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: We're No. 1! (Or thereabouts)
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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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