Home LoansMortgage

Best Cities for Homeownership in Maryland

Next door to the nation’s capital, the small-but-mighty state of Maryland has a lot to desire in the real estate arena. That’s especially true when you consider home values. In January 2019, for example, the median statewide sales price for homes was $275,000, compared with $262,000 a year prior, according to Maryland REALTORS. That’s nearly a 5% increase — it’s also a positive factor whether you’re looking to buy or you already reside there.

But even within a small state like Maryland, there are so many options to consider that it can be difficult to distinguish the best from everything else, let alone get a feel for the state of the current market. To that end, LendingTree compiled this list of the best cities for homeownership in Maryland using metropolitan statistical area (MSA) and micropolitan statistical area data from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey for the years of 2013 to 2017.

For a more holistic perspective on each area, we considered things like home values, appreciation and housing cost, as well as local unemployment rates and average commute times. Based on those factors, here are the eight best cities for homeownership in Maryland:

Key findings:

  • The Washington–Arlington–Alexandria Metro Area is the best place for homeownership in Maryland. It has the highest median home value ($399,800), low unemployment (5.5%), and increasing home values with decreasing housing costs between 2013 and 2017 (6.90% and -1.70%, respectively).
  • The second-best place for homeownership is the Easton Micro Area. It has the second-highest median home value ($322,600), the lowest unemployment rate (4.4%), and housing costs decreased from 2013 to 2017 (-0.44%).
  • Hagerstown–Martinsburg Metro Area is the worst place for homeownership in Maryland, according to our study. It has a low median home value ($195,700), high unemployment (7.5%), a long average commute time (30.1 minutes), and home values depreciated from 2013 to 2017 (-0.25%).

The best cities for homeownership in Maryland

1. Washington–Arlington–Alexandria

The sprawling Washington–Arlington–Alexandria Metro Area earns the honor of being the best zone for homeownership in Maryland, outscoring the competition by a full 10 points. And for good reason: Home values in the area surrounding, and including, the U.S. capital have appreciated by 6.9% from 2013 to 2017 (the median value was nearly $400,000 in 2017 — that’s the highest value you’ll find in any of the cities on this list). At the same time, the cost of housing decreased by 1.70%. And the 5.5% unemployment rate is relatively low; however, this area does have the longest commute, with a 34.6-minute average.

2. Easton

Located south of Baltimore and near the edge of the Chesapeake Bay is the Easton Micro Area, which earns a final homeowner score of 60.0 (tying with both Cumberland and Salisbury). It has a lower unemployment rate (4.4%) than you might find in those same-scoring cities, by a margin of 2 percentage points. And median home values in this micro area stood at $322,600 in 2017. The biggest drawback to the area, though, are the declining home values — values decreased by 1.50% from 2013 to 2017.

3. Cumberland

The Cumberland metro area is located in the northern region of Maryland, close to the West Virginia and Pennsylvania borders. Compared with its score twins (Easton and Salisbury), it offers a much better situation for those interested in keeping their housing costs under control. Those costs have decreased by nearly 5% in this area in recent years. And, among those 60-point cities, it also has the highest rate of home value appreciation (2.24%) — although the median home value is lower here than you might find in Easton or Salisbury.

4. Salisbury

The peninsula city of Salisbury is located near the Delaware border, a couple hours away from Washington, D.C. (the top city on our list). Compared with those cities that earn a matching final score, it offers something of a middle ground. With a median of $228,700, for example, home values fall right between those of Easton and Cumberland. The same principle goes for the 6.9% unemployment rate, as well as the 24-minute average commute time. But while housing costs have decreased by 3.62% in recent years, so have the home values, though not by as much as you’ll find in Easton.

5. Baltimore–Columbia–Towson

Earning a homeowner score of 57.5, the Baltimore–Columbia–Towson Metro Area gives homeowners another opportunity to live in, or near, a major city. With a median home value of $294,400 in 2017, prices are comparable to those you might find in Easton, but not quite as high as you often find in the D.C. area. The cost of housing has decreased by almost the same margin as the rate by which homes have appreciated: -1.28% and 1.41%, respectively. However, the average commute time (30.8 minutes) is somewhat elevated compared to places like Cumberland or Salisbury. But that’s to be expected with a wide-ranging metro area like this.

6. Philadelphia–Camden–Wilmington

Located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia proper is the Philadelphia–Camden–Wilmington Metro Area, which earns a score of 47.5 (an effective tie with both the Cambridge and Hagerstown–Martinsburg areas). While it’s the only city on this list to have experienced monthly housing cost increases from 2013 to 2017, the rate is significantly less than 1%, making it a solid choice for those looking to control those costs. On the flipside, home values have decreased by 0.24%.

7. Cambridge

The river city of Cambridge gives homeowners another opportunity to live in a Top 8 Maryland city where current home values are under $200,00 (a positive or negative trait, depending on your means.) The average commute is comparable with what you might get in a city like Easton, and the monthly cost of housing decreased by 5.15% from 2013 to 2017 — the steepest drop of any city on this list. However, house values have mirrored that housing cost decrease, dropping by 5.84% in the same time period. It also has the second-highest unemployment rate (8.3%) compared with other Top 8 in the state.

8. Hagerstown–Martinsburg

Hagerstown–Martinsburg, set along the Potomac River, near the West Virginia border, rounds out the best Maryland cities for homeownership. Home values there are still under $200,000 (though they are higher than those in Cambridge, which ultimately ties with this metro area). But at 7.5%, the unemployment rate is high, and the average commute is similar to what you might experience in a larger city, like Baltimore or even Washington, D.C. Still, it does give residents the opportunity to save money on housing costs, which have decreased by 4.55% in recent years.

Homebuying tips for Maryland

If you’re looking to buy a home in any of these eight cities, it’s important to know the state-specific details, and how those affect you, if you want the process to be smooth while allowing you to get the best price. For example, Maryland allows for dual agents — that means it’s possible for real estate agents from the same firm to represent both the buyer and the seller. This requires a consent form, however, and because it represents a conflict of interest, it’s usually best to get an agent from another real estate firm. That way, you can be confident that your interests are paramount.

The overall housing market is competitive for those on the buying end of things. Nationally, for example, 2018 turned out to be more profitable for those selling their homes than previously reported. And, according to Maryland REALTORS, homes in the state usually sell for about 95% of the listing price. So there may not be as much room for negotiation as you might get in other states.

The median Maryland home price in 2018 was $293,930. So if you want to make the traditional 20% down payment, it would amount to $58,786. Depending on your circumstances, that could represent a barrier to owning, but there are ways around that for certain individuals, particularly, first-time buyers and veterans. For example, there are national programs like Veterans Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans, and Maryland-specific programs, like the Maryland Mortgage Program and Maryland WholeHome. These programs can help buyers who might not qualify for a traditional mortgage get access to loans. (And some of those programs can provide borrowers access to decreased fees and lower interest rates. They may, however, also be subject to income restrictions.)

Compared with 2017, the number of available units decreased in 2018. What’s more, that pattern appears to have continued into 2019. This drop in inventory can create a more competitive market for buyers, so it’s vital to ensure that you are preapproved for your mortgage, rather than prequalified, so you can move quickly once you find the home of your dreams.

If you’re looking to flip — not  live in — your home, you aren’t the only one: Flipping houses is extremely popular in Maryland. In fact, the state ranks fifth nationwide for the highest rate of flips in the third quarter of 2018. And for those looking to purchase in the Baltimore area, flipped houses posted a high rate of return on investment — to the tune of 410.4%, in one of Charm City’s ZIP codes. For buyers looking to live in their homes, that translates to higher prices but potentially better quality than pre-renovated houses on the market.

Once you’ve narrowed your options to one or two houses, be sure to consider the entire financial picture. That includes everything from the list price, real estate agent fees and title insurance to things like homeowner association fees, utilities and transportation costs. Not only will those add to your bottom line, they’ll also help shape the way you live your life. And for most buyers, that’s ultimately what the whole endeavor is all about.

Methodology:

The methodology for this study was simple and straightforward.

1: Collect metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and micropolitan statistical area from the U.S. Census Bureau using 2017 population data.

2: Each MSA and micropolitan statistical area was ranked on a scale from 31 (Best) to 1 (Worst) for five different metrics. Those metrics are:

Median Home Value(31-Highest Value, 1-Lowest Value)

Unemployment Rate(31-Lowest Rate, 1-Highest Rate)

Average Commute Time(31-Shortest Time, 1-Longest Time)

Median Home Value Appreciation (2013-2017)(31-Greatest Appreciation, 1-Smallest Appreciation)

Median Change in Yearly Housing Costs (2013-2017)(31-Smallest Cost Change, 1-Greatest Positive Cost Change) – The formula for this metric is

(((Monthly Housing Costs for 2017 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2017))/ ((Monthly Housing Costs for 2013 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2013))-1)

3: An average score was then calculated for each MSA based upon the scores they received for each metric.

4: The MSAs and micropolitan statistical area were then ranked on a scale of 1 (Best) to 31 (Worst) based on their average score.

5: All metrics were ranked equally.

Data:

All data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. More information on where the data came from is provided below:

2017 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2017 Unemployment Rate and Median Commute Time

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Selected Economic Characteristics — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2013 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
 

Today's Mortgage Rates

  • 2.869%
  • 2.53%
  • 3.033%
Calculate Payment
Advertising Disclosures Terms & Conditions apply. NMLS#1136