If a landlord ever says this, get out of there immediately. Trust us. Other tips you should know about Baltimore City living:
Historic Homes, Lush Locales: Everyone dreams of living in a quaint brick rowhouse from the 18th century. Well, the good news is that there are heaps of ‘em in Baltimore—though not all from colonial times, and only a precious few in choice areas. Think of the perfect apartment as a combination of three elements: style, location, and price. In Baltimore, these elements seem to lie as three points on a triangle: the closer you move to two, the further you move away from one. Keep this nifty diagram in mind when selecting your Balmer dream pad.
Green Public Transport: If you’re a sustainability buff but you can’t afford one of those fancy “carbon zero” eco-condos with wind turbines spinning and soybeans sprouting on the roof, then study the transit map for the Charm City Circulator, Balmer’s free and eco-friendly bus system. Go car-free!
For Those About to Drive: Let’s say you desperately need to own a car (hypothetical scenario, I know). The thing to know about the cutesy historic areas in Baltimore City is that it’s residential parking only. (Cobblestone streets have their setbacks, don’t they?) That means you’ll need a sticker ($20 annually) and you’ll have to fight for a space. All the more reason to hunt down an apartment complex with garage parking included.
Personal Safety: Baltimore’s got a crime reputation to rival New York and Detroit. If this concerns you, a general rule is to draw a narrow “V” with its base at the Inner Harbor. Anything inside the “V” is solid. Also, the further north, the safer. Thus, Hamilton and Overlea are generally safer than anywhere directly east or west of central Baltimore City. (Many neighborhoods in the quadrants typically assigned “East Baltimore” and “West Baltimore” are low-income and predominantly African-American. If you don’t fit one or both of these descriptions, you might feel uncomfortable—though not necessarily unsafe.) Just to be sure, you can go here to find location-specific crime reports: if the stats of where you’re apartment-hunting worry you, find a new area.
O Renter, Where Art Thou?
Baltimore landlords and apartment managers typically ask for a six-month lease and a deposit to match a month’s rent. Ask about utilities and expect to pay over $100/month for A/C in the summer and the same for heat in the winter (possibly more if your place is older and uses oil: talk about “historic features”!). Finally, expect to sit on a waiting list (up to a year, at longest) if you’re interested in a rowhouse in a popular area. If you simply can’t wait, consider the (newer, if possible) apartment complexes, which boast a higher turnover rate. Neighborhoods you should know about include the following:
Central: If you’re simply rollin’ in it and want to be able to taunt the crabs in Chesapeake Bay from your bathroom window, you won’t be satisfied with anything less than the Inner Harbor. Expect valet parking and all utilities included for $1600/month (1BR/1BA) or $1850/month (2BR/1BA). Second best in central Baltimore City is the Mount Vernon-Belvedere area. This area has an upscale (gorgeous old homes get friendly with blocks of apartments complexes), bohemian (hipster and artist central) vibe that mixes artsy quirk with higher education (JHU borders these hoods to the north). Bolton Hill is a collegiate-stunner with two universities, gilded statues, historic architecture and peaceful tree-lined streets. Lots of studios in this neighborhood, ranging from $650/month in some cases to $1100/month for all-inclusive units. Double-up and it gets even cheaper: 2BR/1BAs regularly go for less than $1000/month.
South: If you can’t afford a high rise in the Inner Harbor but need to be close to Downtown, look south. No, not that far—there, where the Ft. McHenry Tunnel hops over to Fells Point. That’s Locust Point; take a few steps to the left and you’re in West Federal Hill. These areas boast lots of working professionals, pubs and restaurants, but lack that yacht-crooning retirement crowd that too often characterizes South Baltimore in residents’ minds. You won’t pay under a thousand for anything out here, no matter how many (or few) bedrooms. But you might be able to snag a 2BR/1BA with a view for about $1600/month in Locust Point. Fed Hill will be slightly higher priced for the same.
North: On either side of Johns Hopkins University sit older, historic neighborhoods gentrified by young, artsy types. West of JH gets you into Wyman Park and the Hampden area; east are Abell and Charles Village (the even northerner expansion from North Charles). Things start to feel suburbany outside the expressway; but what one loses of urbanity, one gains in verdancy—it’s parks and greenspaces galore in north Balmer. Expect to pay a premium for the Abell experience (you’ll likely be fighting graduate students for the 1BRs, which run from $850 up to $1250/month). Hampden’s a little more doable: one can usually find both 1BR and 2BR/1BA apartments (sometimes even row homes!) for less than $1000/month. Johns Hopkins, Charles Village, Woodberry, if you actually like suburbia, check out Homeland: it’s a less creepy-feeling planned neighborhood a little farther north. Just be willing to drop at least a grand per month to drive past that fancy-pants sign to get to your 1BR.
Southeast: Second to North Baltimore for youngsters, Southeast has some fabulous neighborhoods. Fells Point is the choicest area: it would be unsurprising to pay over $1500/month for a 1BR (all utilities and parking in a garage included, of course). If you’re looking for parking anywhere besides the garage, you’re out of luck here. Thankfully, the area is fairly walkable and you can get all the perks of living in a major city: harbor views, posh nightlife, delicious food, luxury condos, chic shopping and even a charming Little Italy. If this is outside your budget, check out Brewer’s Hill or Canton, although these have less apartment complexes than rooms available in houses. Patterson Park is ideal for dog-owners and runners; 1BRs near the park start at $800/month, 2BRs go from $1250/month.
Sold on your new neighborhood? Wonderful. Round up the neighbors, make a peach cake, and put the O’s game on. Easy, wasn’t it?