Okay, if you read my last blog post – regarding real estate investing in Baltimore’s Patterson Park neighborhood – you may be wondering what features largely drive property values in that market. In other words, what features make the seemingly similar rowhouses there vary in price by $250,000 or more?
The answers are both obvious and subtle.
First, the biggest factor affecting price in all real estate markets – location -- certainly is present here. In Patterson Park, the closer a property is to the park – especially on the north and east sides of the park – the more the property tends to be worth. Rowhomes on city blocks directly adjacent to the park can easily fetch $250,000 or more, while those only one or two blocks away from the park (north of Fairmount Ave., for example) quickly drop to half that amount.
As in most real estate markets, the renovated and rebuilt homes in Patterson Park garner far higher prices than the abandoned, neglected and boarded-up ones. Patterson Park homes vary widely in terms of condition. Some are complete ground-up restorations and are lovingly polished. Others resemble bombed-out hulks in near ruin. Most of the available rowhomes, however, fall somewhere in between.
Some Patterson Park homeowners with the resources to do so have made the most of what little space they have in their traditionally smaller rowhomes. The most sought-after units feature high-end countertops, cabinets and flooring, along with premium appliances, clever storage solutions and energy-efficient HVAC systems. But because Patterson Park remains in redevelopment, most properties there still feature the kitchens, bathrooms and materials that were first installed in the 1920s through the 1960s.
In Patterson Park, it’s amazing how two homes with exactly the same footprint can vary so much in terms of floor plan and usable space. This is particularly true when evaluating the second/top-floor layout of the units. As an example, last Saturday I toured three of the neighborhood’s rowhomes, each featuring two bedrooms. But the amount of usable space each home provided was drastically different.
The most unappealing second-floor layout featured a fairly large, newly renovated bathroom. But that bathroom jutted out obnoxiously into the center of the floor space, leaving one 5 ft.(!) x 10 ft. “bedroom,” a second 8 ft. x 10 ft. “master bedroom,” and a wasted 6 ft. x 7 ft. open alcove that was totally unusable, wasted space. The second home featured two larger bedrooms and a bathroom location that made more sense. And the third provided two somewhat smaller bedrooms, but in exchange for those smaller rooms, the owner received two second floor baths, each renovated with high-end materials.
With the Patterson Park neighborhood growing in popularity, the ever-present parking problem will only grow worse. That means, if at all possible, buyers interested in purchasing these rowhomes must carefully consider parking options. For example, most of the rowhomes do have on-street parking, although availability of individual spaces varies, depending on the day and time at issue. But some Patterson Park neighborhood streets offer no parking at all. That means you better have a parking space in the rear of your home, or you might have to park blocks away and carry those groceries. One of the nicest rowhomes I saw last weekend – located on N. Glover St. -- offered no parking at all, not even in the rear of the house. Perhaps in some cases a backyard could be converted to a parking space. But this option may not be available, for a number of reasons.
If you as a buyer are asked to select from two otherwise equal homes, wouldn’t you rather have the home with 33 percent more usable floor space? That’s often a choice you’re presented with when buying Patterson Park rowhomes. Because while some homes there may have roughly similar square footage on the main and upper floors, basements in Patterson Park rowhomes vary a lot.
Most basement ceilings you’ll find there run six feet or less in height, and are very hard to stand up in. But a few of the rowhomes do have “normal” ceiling heights of seven feet or more in the basement, making them much more practical to use. Higher basement ceilings also mean homeowners have the option of finishing the basement, effectively raising their usable floor space by a third. This is a real bonus when it comes time to sell.
Finally, some Patterson Park rowhomes feature finished concrete floors in the basement, while others have gravel floors or some even earth. Some lucky buyers may even find a home with in-floor basement drainage and a sump pump.