June 16, 2011 | by Wayne Curtis
Unexpected charms

Baltimore celebrates Pride this weekend with parades and parties on Saturday, a festival on Sunday and many smaller celebrations throughout Charm City. And, because we’re so close to D.C., we’ll also have many “former Washingtonians” taking part.

These ex-Washingtonians considered Baltimore an attractive alternative because it was affordable, had a great quality of life and reasonable commute times. Today, even after years of housing distress in both cities, those factors still hold true. As Washington home prices have begun creeping higher again, Baltimore still offers home ownership to many people who are priced out of the District.

I asked two past clients, both in long term same-sex partnerships, how they feel about their decision to buy in Baltimore. Each couple has one partner who makes the commute to D.C.

Nick and Tim bought a renovated rowhouse in Fells Point, one of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor neighborhoods. “When we moved here six years ago, our intention was to be within walking distance of coffee shops, restaurants and entertainment. We were attracted to the city’s vitality,” writes Nick.

Ten years ago, Martin and his partner bought and renovated an 1840s townhouse in the mid-town neighborhood of Mount Vernon. He agrees with Nick about the quality of life: “A lot of my favorite things to do are within a 10-minute walk from home: The Walters Art Museum, the Sunday farmer’s market and restaurants serving Indian, Nepali, French, Thai, Italian, Mexican and American food.”

Martin is also an avid cyclist.

“It is very easy to get to northern Baltimore County where the roads and scenery are fantastic for bicycling,” he says.

Is Baltimore gay friendly? Nick votes yes. “

Our neighbors embraced us quickly and welcomed us into their social circle,” he says. “We never expected to move into the city to find the kind of warm friendships we thought existed only in small towns.”

For Martin, there was never a question.

“I haven’t really thought of Baltimore as anything other than gay friendly. It’s not so much sexual orientation but rather community and other interests and issues which form the basis of a lot of my friendships. That aspect of Baltimore I really like.”

Was D.C. an option?

“We simply could never have afforded a place like this in D.C.,” Nick says.

“The cost of homes in Baltimore is probably one-third that of D.C.”

Martin agrees.

“We certainly wouldn’t be able to maintain the same standard of living in D.C. Who knows where we’d end up if we had to relocate; probably not in D.C. at all.”

What about the commute? Martin commutes daily to Washington.

“My house is a 10-minute walk from Penn Station, so the Baltimore side of the commute is pretty easy. From Union Station I take the Metro and then walk another 10 minutes to my office.”

But this cyclist has taken advantage of another option.

“This April I have started riding my bike to work: Mondays and Thursdays I ride from Baltimore to D.C. and take the MARC back, and on Tuesdays and Fridays I take MARC down and bike back to Baltimore at the end of the day. Wednesday is a rest day. Believe it or not, the bike route is pretty nice. Although it takes longer, I get my workout in so that I don’t have to go to the gym over lunch or on the weekends.”

“Tim works for the D.C. Fire Department, but he has an unusual schedule. He doesn’t have a Monday-through-Friday commute,” writes Nick, who drives about 20 minutes to his job in Anne Arundel County. “The beauty of city living is that once you get home, you seldom drive.”

When D.C.-based friends visit, what do they think of Baltimore?

“When our friends visit and we show them ‘our Baltimore,’ they’re pleasantly surprised,” Nick says. “They admit they had the wrong impression and usually go away liking the city. In fact, sometimes they’ll call us and ask, ‘What was the name of that restaurant?’ or ‘Where was that museum?’ so they can bring their friends to enjoy Baltimore as well.”

“People who visit us from D.C.,” Martin says, “are usually surprised by how unlike D.C. Baltimore is. Baltimore is the older city, it’s less transient, it has a commercial and industrial vibe which D.C. never did have. A lot of visitors say Baltimore feels more ‘real’ than D.C.”

So, if you are a D.C. resident visiting Baltimore this Pride weekend, be prepared for pleasant surprises. We’ll welcome you with open arms. Enjoy our hospitality and get to know our city. You might even want to start calling it home, hon.

Wayne Curtis, ABR, is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Advantage Realty. He can be reached through charmcityrealestate.com or 410-467-8950.

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