A Guide to Buying a House in: Maryland

(Because it might not be DC, but it's just as cool)

Ocean City, Maryland Skyline And Tourists On Beach

So, you're kicking around the idea of buying a new house in Maryland, but you're not quite sold on trading in your current diet for one of blue crabs and Old Bay Seasoning. It's all good, your taste buds might just not be ready yet.

In the meantime, we've put together this guide to all things home-buying in The Old Line State (that's right - one of their nicknames) to hopefully get the process rollin' and the inspiration flowin' for you. We'll go over the important stuff you'd wanna know while prepping such a decision, and toss in some fun state trivia as a tasty dessert course. We'd totally eat it up, if we were in your position. So, without further delay... 

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Maryland

Thinking and making decisions can be a drag. We know it all too well. That's why we compiled a list of a few of the most/least expensive cities in Maryland to help narrow down your search for THE place to buy your next home. It's a big help to know which areas will require you to crack open your wallet the widest. So here it is.

Most expensive cities:

  • Chevy Chase
  • Bethesda
  • Potomac
  • Ellicott City
  • Bowie

Least expensive cities:

  • Hagerstown
  • Baltimore
  • Aberdeen
  • Brunswick
  • Hampstead

And there you go. Now you're all set to seek out your next location like a champ, while keeping the money factor in mind. No matter where you choose to buy your new house, you can find affordable home insurance within our trusted network.

Maryland's Housing Market

Before you move to Maryland (or, y'know, anywhere), you might wanna check out their housing market. Luckily for you, we've got an overview of just that, coming right up.

Well, Maryland home prices are practically at the highest they've been since their all-time record in 2007. There's a lack of supply that's intense enough to worry even real estate professionals. So it's definitely a seller's market, and looks like it could be for quite a while. 

Also, there's "no end in sight" for these high prices/low inventory times 'round here. The good folks at Zillow ranked Maryland's housing market at 0.8/10, which is "less healthy." So... it's not THE greatest time ever to buy, honestly.

So where is THE place to go, in Maryland? Rockville. Why? Well, it's right smack-dab in the core of the I-270 Technology Corridor - so there are tons of jobs in the biotech and software industry, as well as in federal government. There's also tons of shopping and some cool colleges/universities. That being said, it is pretty pricey. 

Home values in Rockville average $495,600, and the average price per square foot is about $296. Homes are listed on the market these days for around $482,475, and are closing for about $465,700. Renting a house will cost you about $2,250/month.

But wait, there's more - a metric ton of new construction is popping up literally all throughout the midsection of the state - especially around hot spots like Frederick, Annapolis, Baltimore and Rockville. 

There's also new stuff being built through the lower right tip of the state - near Ocean City and Salisbury. The only place that seems a bit barren and un-happening is the state's northwestern tip - out past Cumberland. So you know where to hunt, if you're looking for a brand spankin' new place.

Home Property Values and Costs in Maryland

Okay, so now you know WHERE to look, but wouldn't it help even more to know how much you'll be PAYING for a new house? We thought so. So next up, we've got an overview of some home values/prices for you.

For starters, the median home value in Maryland is currently $285,400, with homes listed on the market for around $319,900. Homes are closing for about $261,500. Home values appreciated 4.7% over 2018, and are expected to rise another 5% in 2019. The average price of a house per square foot is about $184. Renting a house will cost you about $1,700/month.

As far as apartments go, average rent for the state as a whole is $1,591/month for a one-bedroom. Of course, it matters exactly where you look, but some of the pricier regions in the state include Frederick, with places going for $1,278/month, Baltimore, for $1,188/month, Rockville, at $1,696/month and finally Bethesda, at an average of about $2,003/month.

For our townhouse fans, the average range of rent starts low at about $600/month for a one bed/one bath joint, and hits the high side at about $1,250/month for a two bed/two bath joint.

Stock up on Hurricane Insurance in Maryland

You might be thinking that Maryland's only got one mortal enemy - the "Blair Witch" - but it actually can get hit by some pretty serious hurricanes, too. So, it might not be that big of a shock that Maryland is one of 19 states that requires a hurricane deductible as a part of a homeowners insurance policy.

But what does that mean, exactly? Well, basically you'll have to pay your insurance company a certain amount of money before they'll cover any damage to your home dealt out by an angry windstorm. Deductible costs are typically about 1%-5% of the insurance value of the home, but it really depends on where you live, too. 

For example, those living in low-risk areas in smaller/cheaper houses might pay $300 towards their deductible, while those living in high-risk areas in fancy mansions might pay $30,000.

If you're not a fan of hurricanes (or extra insurance deductible costs), you could always consider moving to a state that's not on the coast. States further inland may have a comfy cushion against some of these natural disasters, but honestly, no place comes without its risks - and if you're trying to contemplate trading hurricane risk for tornadoes, you might just be splittin' hairs at that point.

...and Maybe Some Flood Insurance, Too

With rising temperatures come rising sea levels, which can bring flooding (and soggy shoes). Maryland IS right up against the Atlantic Ocean, after all. So, you might also need to get some flood insurance.

If you live in an area deemed to be high-risk, your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra homeowners insurance coverage specifically for flooding. However, it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still need it. Why? Because as that old annoying (but even more annoyingly ACCURATE) expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Okay okay, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and the belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.) wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Check out your specific coverage, so that you're SURE you'll be good to go. Call your agent and have a chat about what EXACT homeowners insurance you need, because you do NOT want to find out too late that you didn't have enough. Trust us. You'll thank yourself, in the long run.

Quality of Schools in Maryland

Those with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge might wanna know about the quality of the school system in their new state, so next up we've got a peek at an overview for America in Miniature (oh yeah, we broke another nickname).

Here are some WalletHub stats about how Maryland schools ranked in the country:

  • #8 overall for the US
  • #10 for quality
  • #20 for safety

The top-rated schools in Maryland are Winston Churchill High, in Potomac, and the University of Maryland - College Park, in (duh) College Park.

Reasons to Move to Maryland (...or not)

That's enough outta you, serious stuff. We're moving on - to the (slightly) more fun section of our guide. We'll look into WHY people even move to Maryland at all - but we'll check in with people who actually live there already. So, get ready for some yeah!s and some oh man!s to Maryland life.

PROs (as voted by real-life Marylanders):

  • Proximity to DC: Some of the state's biggest cities - Baltimore, Frederick and Rockville - are just about an hour's drive from the nation's capital. What we're really sayin' is, many events are within a day's journey for locals - including concerts, museums, walking tours, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, sporting events and more. Lots of big name celebrities, musicians and stand-up comics frequently come to DC. This place IS kind of a big deal.
  • Northern AND southern vibes: Though it's technically right BELOW the Mason-Dixon line and part of "the South," plenty of Marylanders consider themselves to be northerners. In fact, asking a local about Maryland's North/South status might just start a full-on debate. But it's cool, because the state has plenty of influence from both sides. So you end up with a nice variety of culture - food/accents/attitudes, etc.
  • Mixed terrain: Maryland's not nicknamed America in Miniature for nothin' - it's got a sampling of pretty much any type of terrain the country has to offer - mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches, forests, valleys, cities, suburbs and forests. Really, the only thing missing is the desert. So, all different types of outdoor sports and events are available, and there's a lifestyle option here that could satisfy just about anyone. Just about.
  • A lot of history: In addition to being the birthplace of our national anthem, the the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in its capital, Annapolis, in 1845. And did you know baseball legend, Babe Ruth (AKA the "Sultan of Swat") was born in Baltimore? The state's also housed some famous historical battles, including the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War. History buffs, this is the place for you.

CONs (also from the mouths of real Marylanders):

  • High cost of living: Maryland's cost of living index is 116 - 16 points above the national average. It was even ranked as the country's seventh-most expensive state to live in in 2017. It's proximity to DC, as well as its major cities like Rockville and Bethesda, shoots up Maryland's property prices and values - and its taxes. All the convenience comes at a price - literally.
  • Traffic: According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, Maryland has the second-longest average commute time in the entire country - at 32 minutes, EACH way (the national average is 25). That same survey also ranked Maryland LAST in the percentage of drivers with an "easy" commute. The state was also ranked as the "worst to drive in", and consistently ranks in the top three positions on many other websites. Hope you like listening to lots of podcasts.
  • Crime and homelessness: Baltimore has earned its fair share of nicknames, one of them being "Bodymore, Murderland." In fact, the city was ranked at number seven on the list of the "10 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities." The website also states that Baltimore "ranks in the top 15 U.S. cities for all violent crimes" and is "plagued with drugs and poverty," as well as homelessness. Just something to keep in mind when considering a move to any new area.
  • Cicadas: Though they're SUPPOSED to arrive only every 13 or 17 years, recently swarms of cicadas - estimated to number in the billions/trillions - have begun to arrive in off-season years. The jerks. And these insects are impossible to ignore. They sound off in sync with such a volume and buzz that summers here can feel like some sort of natural/outdoor rave on steroids - one that doesn't end, and that you can't leave...or tune out. Bring your earplugs or best pair of noise-canceling headphones. Seriously. They're LOUD.

Stuff to Do in Maryland

Well, now we know WHY people live here, but just what is it that these people DO with their time? We asked the locals to talk to us a bit longer about those sweet insider secrets to having some fun in this place - from wild horse-gazing to cosplaying.

Here are  just a few of the state's coolest attractions:

  • National Aquarium: Located in the Baltimore Inner Harbor area, this giant aquarium has more than 660 different species of animals - including reptiles, fish, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and a variety of Australian animals - according to the official website. There's also a dolphin show, an opportunity to pet stingrays and an adorable and well-loved giant three-legged tortoise, who was rescued and rehabilitated from the wild. Awww.
  • Assateague Island: One minute you're sunbathing on the beach, the next you're staring at a heard of wild horses galloping past (cue the Rolling Stones). More than two million people every year head to Assateague Island, not just to camp on the white sandy beaches, but also to witness the herd of feral ponies - called "Chincotagues" - that is native to the island. There's also an annual event called the Chincoteague Pony Swim, in which the ponies are brought to the mainland and put up for auction - so you can take a new friend home with you, if you want.
  • Antietam National Battlefield: Located in northwest Maryland along Antietam Creek, this historic site pays homage to the bloodiest single-day battle in the Civil War. The battlefield site is here for your exploring pleasure, as is the Antietam National Military Cemetery - with its 5,000 graves of soldiers from the Battle of Antietam, World Wars I & II, the Spanish-American War and the Korean War. See? We told ya history buffs would love it here.
  • Ocean City Boardwalk: Across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is Maryland's most popular beach town (and senior week destination), Ocean City. One of the main attractions is the boardwalk, which has dozens of eateries, tattoo parlors, shops, museums (including Ripley's Believe it or Not!), bars, rides and of course, the beach (duh). Don't miss Thrasher's French Fries - they serve boardwalk-style fries doused in malt vinegar and salt - or you'll be shunned by the locals, for sure. Don't say we didn't warn you.
  • Maryland Renaissance Festival: This annual fall festival is set in a fictional 16th-century English village called Revel Grove (which is actually Annapolis), and spans 25 acres of land. Cosplayers attend this festival to eat, drink, shop and be merry, as well as check out the shows at one of its eight different theaters or at the jousting tiltyard. There are also elephants and camels to ride - as long as PETA isn't there protesting (which has happened). 

Embracing Your Dual Northern/Southern Status in Maryland

Alright folks, there it is - our tiny sneak preview of all things home-buying, Maryland-style. Obviously, it's not within our mortal powers to cover EVERYTHING that might be on your concerns list before making such a huge move (we've got some boardwalk fries to eat), but here's hoping you've learned the basics necessary to inch closer to your decision and start making plans, and that you've enjoyed washing it down with the refreshing state trivia tidbits, as well.

If you're aching to buy your new house in the same place as the Antietam National Battlefield, the legend of the "Blair Witch," or all the Old Bay-laden treats, then fire up those make-stuff-happen burners and get to it. Make sure your new house is covered properly with an affordable home insurance policy.

Good luck.

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