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Last updated August 20 at 6:22PM
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City Guide
Moving to Columbia

Enjoy the ease, convenience and affordability of life in this unique planned community. It has a small-town feel and immense livability, thanks to mindfully-designed villages with numerous amenities. People looking for apartments for rent, condos, or spacious single family homes will find no shortage of offerings in Columbia. The town's low vacancy rate of 4% demonstrates its status as a desirable place to live.

House hunting or apartment shopping in massive Columbia can be overwhelming. Between Columbia's 10 villages and neighborhoods within them, you will want to familiarize with the area and its offerings before pounding the pavement. Without the proper planning your head may be spinning as you drive around in circles.

Aside from your GPS to navigate Columbia's many similarly-named streets and identical neighborhoods, you'll want to be prepared with all of the usual materials: credit info, references, proof of employment, etc.

Neighborhoods in Columbia

Each of Columbias 10 villages is designed to provide its residents with a small town experience, thanks to community centers, recreational facilities, and plenty of other unique amenities. Most villages have everything from apartments to single family houses although some have more of one or the other. Columbia's 10 villages are as follows:

Wilde Lake: One of Columbia's more affordable villages, Wilde Lake comprises the neighborhoods of Bryant Woods, Faulkner Ridge, The Birches and Running Brook. With its own grocery store, and the famed Columbia Swim Center with its "Splashdown" slide, this is an appealing place.

Harpers Choice: Comprising the neighborhoods of Longfellow, Swansfield, and Hobbit's Glen, Harpers Choice is located in Columbia's northwest, adjacent to Wilde Lake. It is home to one of Columbia's athletic clubs, as well as a golf course, mini golf, tennis courts and a skate park. Neighborhoods are connected by a walking trail.

Oakland Hills: Located just east of Columbia Town Center, Oakland Mills comprises the neighborhoods of Stevens Forest, Talbott Springs and Thunder Hills, and is home to the Columbia Ice Rink.

Long Reach: The largest village in Columbia and one of its oldest. Long Reach includes the neighborhoods of Kendall Ridge, Jeffers Hill, Phelps Luck and Locust Park.

Owen Brown: Just southeast of the Town Center, Owen Brown includes Hopewell, Elkhorn and Dasher Green, Elkhorn and Hopewell. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy access to Lake Elkhorns 37 acres.

Hickory Ridge: Home to a variety of grocery stores, gas stations, banks and restaurants.

Dorsey's Search: Comprising just two neighborhoods, Dorsey Hall and Fairway Hills, Dorsey's Search is Columbia's furthest north village, and has a golf course and pool.

Kings Contrivance: Columbia's southernmost village and one of its largest, Kings Cross has great access to major highways. Neighborhoods include Huntington, Macgills Common and Dickinson.

River Hill: This well-manicured neighborhood comprises Pheasant Ridge and Pointers Run.

Town Center: Including the neighborhoods of Amesbury, Banneker, Vantage Point, Warfield Triangle and Creightons Run, Town Center is the most urban of Columbia's villages, offering multi-level apartments for rent as well as retail offices. Town Center features an attractive lakefront, as well as the shoppers delight: the Mall of Columbia.

Living in Columbia

Columbia's streets are named for famous works of art and literature, ranging from the works of Robert Frost to J.R.R. Tolkien. Its particularly fitting then that Howard County, of which Columbia is a part, has one of the country's top-ranked public library systems. Owen Brown and Town Center are home to Columbia's two public libraries--bookworms rejoice!

A central concept of Columbia's design is a commitment to recreation. Managed and maintained by the Columbia Association, there are a whopping 23 outdoor swimming pools and size indoor swimming pools in Columbia. Throw in water slides, batting cages, skating rinks, an equestrian center, skateboard park and numerous other offerings, and theres never a shortage of activities.

Those with aspiring green thumbs will enjoy taking advantage of Columbia's garden plot rentals, a program which has been around for 40-some years. Spread throughout Columbia, three sites offer residents use of 350 garden plots for a small fee.

Columbia has a low-key local bar scene, which plays host to popular local bands. Music lovers also enjoy convenient access to outdoor concert venue Merriweather Post Pavilion.

If you're going to live in Columbia, you will most certainly need a car. While the town is served by both Howard Transit locally and Maryland Transit Administration routes to Baltimore and Washington, it is still not feasible to rely entirely on buses unless you like walking and waiting. Bus service does give commuters a boost to the Washington Metro; there are no train stations in Columbia. Highways lead to Baltimore (a 20 minute drive), Washington (a 40 minute drive) and Annapolis (also 40 minutes), as well as historic towns like Frederick and Savage. When its time to escape the region, residents have their choice of BWI, National or Washington Dulles to take to the friendly skies.

Rent Report

August 2017 Columbia Rent Report

Welcome to the August 2017 Columbia Rent Report. In this report, we'll evaluate trends in the Columbia rental market, including comparisons to similar cities nationwide.

Columbia rents increased marginally over the past month

Columbia rents have increased 0.1% over the past month, and are up slightly by 1.7% in comparison to the same time last year. Currently, median rents in Columbia stand at $1,530 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,920 for a two-bedroom. This is the fourth straight month that the city has seen rent increases after a decline in March. Columbia's year-over-year rent growth lags the state average of 1.8%, as well as the national average of 2.9%.

Many large cities nationwide show more affordable rents compared to Columbia

Rent growth in Columbia has been relatively stable over the past year - some other large cities have seen more substantial increases, while in a few cases, rents have actually declined. Compared to most large cities across the country, Columbia is less affordable for renters.

  • Columbia's median two-bedroom rent of $1,920 is above the national average of $1,160. Nationwide, rents have grown by 2.9% over the past year.
  • While rents in Columbia remained moderately stable this year, similar cities saw increases, including Chicago (+4.6%), Columbus (+4.1%), Boston (+2.7%); note that median 2BR rents in these cities go for $1,290, $950, and $2,090 respectively.
  • Renters will generally find more expensive prices in Columbia than most large cities. Comparably, Detroit has a median 2BR rent of $880, where Columbia is more than twice that price.

For more information check out our national report. You can also access our full data for cities and counties across the U.S. at this link.
City Median 1BR price Median 2BR price M/M price change Y/Y price change
Baltimore $960 $1,210 0.5% 2.5%
Columbia $1,530 $1,920 0.1% 1.7%
Glen Burnie $1,170 $1,460 0.1% 0.3%
Towson $1,220 $1,530 1.0% -2.0%
Annapolis $1,440 $1,810 0.2% -1.6%
Odenton $1,780 $2,230 0.5% 3.0%
Owings Mills $1,200 $1,510 1.1% 3.8%
Reisterstown $1,130 $1,420 0.1% 1.5%
Elkridge $1,460 $1,830 0.8% 1.0%

Methodology - Recent Updates:

Data from private listing sites, including our own, tends to skew toward luxury apartments, which introduces sample bias when estimates are calculated directly from these listings. To address these limitations, we’ve recently made major updates to our methodology, which we believe have greatly improved the accuracy and reliability of our estimates.

Read more about our new methodology below, or see a more detailed post here.


Apartment List is committed to making our rent estimates the best and most accurate available. To do this, we start with reliable median rent statistics from the Census Bureau, then extrapolate them forward to the current month using a growth rate calculated from our listing data. In doing so, we use a same-unit analysis similar to Case-Shiller’s approach, comparing only units that are available across both time periods to provide an accurate picture of rent growth in cities across the country.

Our approach corrects for the sample bias inherent in other private sources, producing results that are much closer to statistics published by the Census Bureau and HUD. Our methodology also allows us to construct a picture of rent growth over an extended period of time, with estimates that are updated each month.

Read more about our methodology here.

About Rent Reports:

Apartment List publishes monthly reports on rental trends for hundreds of cities across the U.S. We intend these reports to be a source of reliable information that help renters and policymakers make sound decisions, and we invest significant time and effort in gathering and analyzing rent data. Our work is covered regularly by journalists across the country.

We are continuously working to improve our methodology and data, with the goal of providing renters with the information that they need to make the best decisions.