We Visited Baltimore, But Picked Another City
A port city that is accessible to the DC metro area, Baltimore has undergone something of a renaissance. Once plagued by crime across the board, the extensive redevelopment of DC’s sister city have included stadiums, great hospitals and urban neighborhoods that are walking distance to fun eats. While we did not choose Baltimore as our final destination (we searched all across the USA to find our city!) we enjoyed it- more than anticipated. Here’s what we found.
Pros: If you’re looking for affordable housing in a major metro area, Baltimore will be hard to beat. There is a seemingly never ending supply of row houses that will sell for as little as a used car. That being said, you get what you pay for- make sure to walk the block and check the neighborhood stats before writing an offer. If you’re looking to live that first episode of Fixer Upper, Baltimore offers a great selection of opportunities.
Baltimore is a very walkable city. Unlike many other places that we visited, you can explore blocks upon blocks of different neighborhoods and not need the use of a car. The local eats are great, with a good selection of international and national cuisine. Winters are significantly less harsh than, say, NY the New England area. Prices of housing stock are unbelievably inexpensive. This combination has been a decided draw for many young professional-ish couples and singles, with a creative edge. The outlying suburbs have some absolutely incredible homes, at a fraction of the price that you would pay for a condo in nearby DC. Airports are accessible, healthcare is great and the newly redeveloped waterfront is very pedestrian friendly. The nightlife offers comedy clubs, dining, theatre- anything and everything you could reasonably expect of a major city.
Cons: For us (a 30 something and 40 something couple) the crime was above our comfort level. Neighborhoods change in Baltimore, and quickly so. We have lived in other cities with major crime and in transitional areas (DC, NYC, LA) but the extent of the dilapidated housing and drug stricken communities within Baltimore is vast. We’re talking hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of streets, of gang related activity, where drugs are clearly a major issue. In the event of a recession, our judgement was that Baltimore could be disproportionately affected. While DC is not far, as the crow flies, traffic in the metro area is now among the worst in the nation- one test trip during rush hour that should have taken 45 minutes, was three hours. Perhaps our biggest concern was that property taxes seemed to be out of control. Several homes priced in the 200s to 300s had annual property tax bills of over $10k.
Ultimately, Wilmington NC was our winner. Unlike the brick row homes of Baltimore, Wilmington has plantation style homes that date back to the civil war, when it was spared destruction. While neighborhoods are transitional here, the extensive urban blight that encompasses much of Baltimore (make sure you explore before you buy!) is just not a reality, here. As we are considering starting a family, a beautiful historic home that is walking distance to a fun and funky downtown, 20 mins to the beach, amazing eats, dog parks and people parks galore- it’s hard not to be won over by Wilmington.
Bottom line: If you are experienced with renovations and enjoy the dimension of a gritty urban experience with a great night life, want to be in a major metropolitan area, are on an incredibly low budget but determined to own your own place, you will be hard pressed to beat Baltimore. If you are willing to compromise on some of the benefits offered by a major metropolitan area (open air concerts that are free in summer but not access to the prestige of the Kennedy Center) but are in search of warmer weather, porch parties and a diverse city that still has a fun and funky vibe, Wilmington is hard to beat.
Samira | Wilmington, NC