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Monday, May 21, 2007

real estate roundup: may 2007

Every so often, I put together a list of homes currently for sale in our neighborhood. If you're looking to buy a house in the Baltimore area, our little area is a great place to look. Since almost nobody knows about it, it's still really undervalued compared to the rest of the area's market, especially because it's in a prime location: within just a few minutes of downtown, with easy access to all of the major roads (including interstates 95, 695, 195, and 395, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and Route 1). It's seriously family friendly, safe, and has a friendly neighborhood vibe. Most of the houses tend to be bungalows; all have decent-sized yards, and generally speaking they tend to be well-maintained, though most could use some cosmetic updates (what they like to call "putting your own stamp on it" on HGTV). Just because we chose to gut our house doesn't mean that the houses around here need it -- ours was perfectly livable, we're just weird.

Anyway, here's the real estate roundup of homes currently for sale that you ought to check out.

If one of you people doesn't buy this house, frankly, I may never speak to you again. This is just a few blocks from us, and simply put, it's amazing. The great room addition at the back is phenomenal (I have a weakness for windows, what can I say) and the kitchen is spacious and updated. Hardwood floors, a phenomenal master suite, and a freaking fish pond! Seriously. Buy that house. It's even got a big backyard with a patio for entertaining. Which means you can invite me over!

This house is about seven blocks away from ours, and towards the back of the community; a nice location. It looks like it's in great shape -- the only work you'd have to do would be painting and personalizing. To be honest, I think it's a little overpriced for the size -- but real estate is always negotiable! Depending on how long houses have been on the market, sellers may be willing to take a lower price. And I have to say I think the curb appeal on this house is just adorable.

This fabulous cottage isn't actually in our little square of gridded neighborhood -- it's across Annapolis Road. But just look at it! This is a real case of undervaluing (although, to be fair, it's only got one bathroom and I haven't seen a home inspection or anything). But it's got half an acre, a pool, some nice landscaping, and what looks like decent space. This would be a fantastic house for people who want to make minor improvements indoors and enjoy their outdoor space.

This one's literally two blocks from us -- you could walk over and visit any time! Or, you know, vice versa. This place was built in 1922, but it appears to have been renovated fairly recently, and it's in great shape. It doesn't have a huge lot (comparatively speaking -- it's got 0.11 acres, which isn't nothing!), but it does have over 2500 square feet of interior space, with four bedrooms. So you've got the space you need. This place is actually bigger than our house (we have 2200 square feet, although we do have a bigger lot). It looks really nice from the outside, definite curb appeal. The inside, what little the pictures show, appears to be pretty nice as well, definitely well-maintained. They mention an aboveground pool with a multi-level deck -- that sounds promising!

This is ten blocks from us, on the other side of the neighborhood, and it looks like a fantastic renovation. It's 1900-some square feet with four bedrooms, so I don't know how big the rooms are, but I'm definitely impressed with the thought they've put into the renovation. Hardwood floors, elegant fixtures, and neutral colors are a seller's best tools. The exterior is attractive, and the location is great.

This house is for sale for just over $200K, but to be honest, I wouldn't buy it. It's very small, and it's being sold "as is" -- always a red flag (unless you are as insane as we are, and even then this just isn't that good of an investment for the price -- look for more space if you're going to be paying that much). It's also at the very back of the neighborhood -- right across from the light rail. If you dig it, though, more power to you.

Here's a decent first-time home buy: this place is on the market for just under $220K. It's got nearly half an acre of land, which is great for the price. It's just two bedrooms and one bath, so it's probably not suited to anyone who needs a ton of space, but it's a really good value. It's towards the back of the neighborhood but not close enough to the light rail to be a problem, and it's about eight blocks away from us (laterally, anyway -- if you add in the distance from front to back of the neighborhood, it's probably another three blocks, but meh, no biggie).

This one's on our street; it's another small one, with two bedrooms and one bath, but it's got a partially finished basement and about a quarter of an acre. Probably another decent starter home.

Here's one a few blocks away; I don't have much to say about it, since I'm not sure which one it is. It's got four bedrooms but only one bathroom, and from the look of things it needs some updating. I'm not sure what the total square footage is, although the lot is almost a third of an acre. So I really don't know if it's worth $265K, although generally speaking in today's market any house with four bedrooms on a third of an acre that isn't falling down is probably worth it to some degree. When you're buying a house, you have to remember that it's not just the price you need to think about; you have to think about how much work you want to put into a house, and what you're willing to dedicate to it in terms of your time and money. If a house needs a lot of work, that list price is only the bottom of the barrel of money you're going to need to tap. So you have to strike a careful balance when you're calculating what a house is worth and whether you can afford it.

Here's another house for sale for $265K. I have a feeling this one will sell more quickly than the first, because the sellers are doing more things right here. First of all, they've put up a picture of the exterior of the house, looking cute, as houses are wont to do. Second, this house is four bedrooms and two bathrooms on a quarter of an acre. Marginally less space, but as the HGTV gurus will tell you, bathrooms sell houses. The only flag on the play here is that this house is being sold "as-is", and you have to wonder why. Incidentally, this house is just a couple of houses down from us -- not quite our next door neighbor, but nearly. And no, I don't know why it's as-is, I haven't been inside, sorry. If you check it out, let me know.

This house is two bedrooms and two baths, but it's over 1800 square feet, plus it has an unfinished basement. So it sounds like there's some room to grow there. I don't know if that really makes it worth $275K, particularly on a relatively small lot size for the area (0.14 acres), but if it's in really good condition it could be. It's over on the other side of the neighborhood, closer to Don's parents than to us.

This place is new construction, and the price shows it. Three bedrooms and two baths in just over 2000 square feet is nice and all, but I think you can get a better deal with an older house. Plus, I hate split levels. But again, there's a house out there for everyone, and if this is what you're looking for, go for it. New construction does have a few advantages, after all -- it certainly won't need updating yet!

We're getting up into the spendy-spendy range (for around here, anyway), but this place is available. It's got three stories -- most of the houses around here just have two -- and both a swimming pool and a one-car garage. It's definitely big, and on a decent-sized lot, but take note that it does not have central heating or air conditioning. If you're okay with both that and the price, have a look. But remember that that sort of thing can be a hidden expense in an already expensive house.

That's it for now. You'll note that not one of these houses was over $400K, and most were in the 200 to 300 range. The market's gone up since we bought our house a year and a half ago, but this little area is still definitely below average. The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this month that the average home price in the metropolitan Baltimore area was $310,323 -- although single family homes in residential suburbs (which is what our neighborhood is) tend to go for significantly more, since the "average" metropolitan Baltimore house is actually a townhouse or rowhome. So while this neighborhood is still an 'undiscovered gem', take the opportunity to check it out.

If you want to do your own MRIS search (or whatever), just do a zip code search for 21227 and find the houses listed as being in the Baltimore Highlands or Rosemont subdivisions. Double check to make sure they're on streets named after states, and you'll be in the right area.


quietnightwing said...

"ours was perfectly livable, we're just weird" Perfectly livable! If you like bright green and purple painted over paneling, slanty floors and no air conditioning! You have a serious case of the remodeling bug. It's a genetic defect.

Jamaila said...

Well, it certainly needed some things, but we didn't HAVE to completely gut it and rebuild it from the inside out. We could have, you know, painted. :P

Lindley said...

It needed gutting, and you know it. :P

Hey, we could get one of those teeny ones for what we're paying in rent! And have a horrible commute, and no built-in maintenance, and I'd have to fix my own toilet. Total deal-breakers. :P

That new construction one is fugly, but the one above it isn't bad, and the cottage is adorable.