Best Place to live = VA, MD ?

Old Oct 7th, 2002, 11:45 PM
  #1  
Michelle
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Best Place to live = VA, MD ?

Please - fodorites! your input would be great for best places to live. Husband and I are late 30's and plan having a family someday. Looking for a town/suburb that is laid-back, warm/welcome people (outsiders accepted), charming, educated but not snobby, home-town feel. And not expensive (DC seems to get kicked out for taxes and home prices) BUT, want something with big-town (30-45 minutes or less) job opportunities (i.e. place an ex-lawyer could make a good living) and ammenities/cultural choices. Will be visiting Norfolk VA (I love water!), Charlottesville & Alexandria VA, Catonsville MD, Frederick MD.
Any comments? other place I haven't thought of? Sister lives in Baltimore, a BIG consideration for this general area....
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 03:15 AM
  #2  
gina
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Frederick is a possibility--kind of like Westminster though. I would cross Catonsville off the list. I would add Bethesda and Olney to the list. As well as the Dulaney Valley, Long Green, Hydes area--close to Towson and within 30 minutes of downtown.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 04:27 AM
  #3  
Roger
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Charlottesville is not a suburb of anywhere and is minutes from the countryside- a preferable place to live. Norfolk is part of the ugly Tidewater-Virginia Beach sprawl. Spending a summer in that area as an engineer convinced me that I'd never live there by choice. Catonsville is becoming a gritty suburb as the worst of the west Baltimore spills over the county-city border. Alexandria is fine but you need a lot of bucks to live there. Frederick is fairly nice if they get their own sprawl problems under control. At Frederick, you are in striking distance of the upper Potomac River where one can fish and canoe in splendour. Antietam and Harper's Ferry are close by. As an inhabitant of Maryland's eastern shore, I do recommend it highly.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 05:07 AM
  #4  
Lynnie
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Hi Michelle

All those towns sound great but you missed my favorite - Annapolis MD.

If you love water and a smaller town feel (70,000 people) you'd love our town. It had as much, and probably more colonial history than Alexandria. There is always something happening around town with the Naval Academy, St Johns College. It's just a great, interesting town. Plus, and it's a big plus we're within 35-45 minutes of Washington and of Baltimore.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 05:11 AM
  #5  
Jerry
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You forgot the most important issue, finding a job. Unless you are a nurse or plan to work for under $6.00 an hour, that will be difficult. The economy in DC, MD, and VA has crashed.

Also the traffic is terrible. One person suggested Annapolis, nice town but a two hour drive in bumper to bumper traffic to most office buildings, unless you work for the state.

My advice for the DC area, find a job and then move within 5 miles of the office.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 05:30 AM
  #6  
madge
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I'm a little confused. You say you want charming, educated people, but not expensive, etc. You want to be 30-45 minutes or LESS from good job opportunities and culture, but it should be laid back, inexpensive, etc. These are really contradictory terms. It's like saying you want a gorgeous home on 5 acres but low price. We'd all like to have our cake and eat it too, but the general rule is that if a place is close to culture & jobs and is populated with educated people, it will be very desireable, and therefore expensive. If you find such a perfect place, please let the rest of us in on it!

FYI, Bethesda is a great place, but it is also expensive and can be snobby. Both Bethesda and Alexandria fit the bill commuting wise, but they're both pretty congested. I think Jerry gave you some good advice. Decide where you'll be most likely to work first, then work from there.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 06:28 AM
  #7  
Mike
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You are asking a lot. <g>

I would first eliminate Charlottsville if you want some semblence of "big town" job opporutnities, since there you either have to be an academic, movie star, or horse farmer to make a living there. Richmond is theoretically close enough but a bit a little too "genteel South" for what it appears you want. I would also eliminate Norfolk since, while it is on water, it has little else to offer except pollution and congestion.

I tend to agree with the Annapolis suggestion, although Annapolis can be just as expensive as living in suburban DC. It is close to DC and Baltimore, on the water, and nice. It is, however, becoming increasingly "suburbanized."

 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 09:11 AM
  #8  
Sarah
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Traffic is horrible in the DC area, and I agree with the suggestions to find a job and work from there. You could easily live 10 miles from your office and still have an hour commute.

If you live inside the beltway, your drive is much better but prices can be very high. There are parts of Annandale, Va and Silver Spring, MD inside the beltway that are nice and still pretty affordable. Vienna, VA is a good area, outside the beltway but not too far.

Annapolis is a great place, but the commute to Baltimore or DC would be awful. Anywhere you live, you may want to consider coming in at 10am and working late, if possible. You would miss some of the traffic.

Definately cross Catonsville off the list. There are some nice quaint old areas in Lutherville, MD and Reisterstown, MD. If you want to live closer to Baltimore.

Hope that helps!
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 10:08 AM
  #9  
Roger
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The commute from Annapolis to Washington is not so bad. I commute twenty miles east of Annapolis on the eastern shore of MD. When I used to drive all the way into downtown, it took me 1 hour twenty minutes and sometimes less. Now that I take the subway from New Carrollton, it takes me 1:30.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 10:12 AM
  #10  
Navy wife
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Norfolk, VA is a place where people live because they have to, not because they want to. Because of the Navy base, the town has more than its fair share of tattoo parlors, pool halls, liquor stores and bars. Yuck.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 10:22 AM
  #11  
Lynn
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Hi again Michelle:

I just had to write back to you to let you know that it really doesn't take two hours to get into DC from Annapolis. That can happen when a major accident occurs. Otherwise it's a decent commute. I go in to the subway at New carrollton and take the Metro to and from each day.

You also mentioned an ex-lawyer in the family (which was why I posted in the first place) and Annapolis is the capitol of the state of Maryland and we have a lot of work involving lawyers.

I would suggest that you come to the Washington area and spend a couple days in communities that interest you. That could be pretty helpful. Good luck!!
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 12:13 PM
  #12  
Michelle
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Great info! Will cross off Norfolk. Did some research/survey on findyourspot.com for the general area, so the places I listed came up when I submitted my criteria.
Anyone have websites for any of these places listed above? will try to check them out to see which fits us. Visited Annapolis, seemed a bit touristy, but might be worth another visit to the neighborhoods to get a better feel. like suburbs not urban, too. was told to visit Mt Washington also.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 12:45 PM
  #13  
Diane
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I live in Olney -- I see Gina mentioned it! It is a good spot because it is striking distance of both DC and Baltimore, plus there are many jobs to be had in the Columbia, MD area, also along Rt 270 in Gaithersburg. It has gotten pricier. A decent sized single family house will run about $300K (and up). The dot.coms are struggling everywhere, but there is a pretty decent built-in economy cushion with all the government agencies and contractors in the area. Things are a bit tighter now, but I wouldn't say the economy has "crashed." I would love to live in the Charlottesville area myself, and property there isn't horrible. I'm not sure about job opportunities, though.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 05:34 PM
  #14  
Michele
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Hi Michelle,

I grew up in Mt. Washington (it's in Baltimore City) and now live in Lutherville (Baltimore County). It would probably be best to narrow down your job then find a place to live according to that location.

There are wonderful places to live all around the Washington (495) Beltway and Baltimore (695) Beltway. The areas of Columia and Ellicott City are located in the middle of both cities. They are costly, however, with lots of rush hour traffic, because of their prime location.
 
Old Oct 8th, 2002, 07:01 PM
  #15  
Chelle
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Hi,
I am a real estate appraiser in the MD/DC area and I can tell you that you have received some good advice on this site. I live in Mt. Washington and I can say there are charming areas nestled all over the area, but tricky to find for newcomers. I really don't think the economy has "crashed" here, although real estate prices are increasing rapidly. You should really make a ranked list of your priorities in finding a location, for example are school districts an issue? I hate to say it but the earlier response that talked about price was right on. You really get what you pay for in this area, which sometimes can include such things as simple as being away from or close to public transportation centers. Some beautiful but sometimes expensive areas near D.C. include Bethesda, Potomac, Ashton (country setting but a short drive)and Damascus in Montgomery County(not near the recent crime)are very nice areas. Howard County is central to D.C and Baltimore and there are some wonderful communities in Clarksville near Columbia. And if your considering being as far out at Frederick, you may want to try Mount Airy, New Market, or Marriottsville, all rapidly developing comminites on Interstate 70 and a much shorter drive to Baltimore. I think Frederick could be a good choice for the same reasons people have suggested above, however if you are willing to make that kind of commute Annapolis is much more scenic and offers limitless opportunity in the legal realm. I also feel a much closer community feeling from the people who live there. Of course, you will pay slightly more in Annapolis than in Frederick for comparable homes but weekends watching sailboats will make up for it. Northern Harford County above the Baltimore beltway offers easy access to the city with great communities like Forest Hill, and Fallston but are easily a 40 minute commute. If culture is high on the list, there are lots of great communities within both Baltimore and D.C. In Baltimore, I suggest areas northwest such as Lutherville, Hunt Valley, and Ruxton, as well as some areas of Towson. In D.C. of course Georgetown, Capitol Hill, and Chevy Chase are good selections if you want to fork out the money (or should I say shovel?) Catonsville is charming and historic... and very close to some sketchy areas. Try Ellicott City (which is adjacent to the wide open spaces of Clarksville) for the same conveniece. They have a cute but small historic Main Street with a few good restaurants. Overall my advice would be to make really good friends with your sister or someone who knows the area well. I don't SELL real estate, just appraise it. So if you would like to send me some more specific criteria I would be glad help you narrow down your possibilities. I didn't mention Virginia because that is not my area of expertise, but I my friends who live there love it just as much as I love Baltimore. Good Luck in your search!
The non-author Michelle
 
Old Oct 9th, 2002, 10:43 AM
  #16  
Michelle
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Thanks non-author Michelle! Though I guess expensive versus reasonable is relative to who and what we're talking about. I would like to live in an area that a 4 bedroom house of 2000-2500 sqft would be $175-250K. Then again, what you get for that could be a wide range! I am moving out of Scottsdale AZ where a 1500 sqft track home is $190K. Hoping to get better than this!

Wish I could pictures and find info on the MD towns of Reistertown, Lutherville, Olney, Townson, Long Green, Hydes, and Silver Springs... not to mention Annandale & Vienna VA
 
Old Oct 9th, 2002, 11:38 AM
  #17  
Mike
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Michelle, your price range will make most of the DC are inaccessible. A house the size you are suggesting is more likely to run in the $300 - $400,000 range (appraiser Michelle could give you a more accurate idea), and that's assuming you are quite a distance from DC. I also would think it would eliminate Annapolis, although I could be wrong.

Baltimore is a more more affordable city than DC and you would probably find something near your liking there.

To give you a sense, I live in a 1-bedroom condo in a non-affluent area of Arlington and mine could sell for $145,000. People pay $750,000, to start, for four bedroom homes in many parts of the DC area.
 
Old Oct 9th, 2002, 12:51 PM
  #18  
Ann
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First off, the economy in the VA/DC/MD area has not crashed. In fact, it's strong here than in much of the country, as we're insulated because of the federal government. It's not so great for some tech workers, but I still don't know anyone who's been laid off in the past few years.

Secondly, there is no suburb of DC that really meets your needs. You'll have a very long commute if a small town feel is what you're looking for. I think the closest you could come would be Old Town Alexandria. But if you want a single family home, OT is probably not for you. There's a metro on one end of King Street, which marks the northern border of Old Town, making it easy to get around; there are a lot of good restaurants (unfortunately, no great ones, but as long as you stay away from Bertucci's, you're fine); and the feeling that OT is a city/town in it's own right, not just a suburb. And it's beautiful there.

I know a few people who commute or used to commute from Annapolis. If you don't mind wasting 3 hours a day commuting to DC, it's a great place to live. Or if you find a job in Annapolis, it's ideal. But commuting around here is not fun. Traffic is horrific, even on the weekends.

One other option to consider if you don't mind a bad commute is Frederickburg, Virginia. There's a commuter train there that will take you into DC. Don't think the trip's any longer than Annapolis, but don't know that for a fact. It's got much of what you're looking for.

But if you live in the DC area, you can't get away from snobs. They are literally everywhere, although they do seem to congregate in Fresh Fields. There are more self-important people here than you could possibly imagine.

That said, I love this area and have lived here since 1987. Of course, I would not consider having kids here because I could not stand to raise them surrounded by so many snobs and self-important people. But it's been a great place to spend my college-early 30s.

I wouldn't be so quick to discount the District. There are some great neighborhoods where prices aren't that bad. Mount Pleasant is one, and some parts of Capitol Hill. Parts of Southwest, near the waterfront. Also, I've heard parts of Brookland are really nice, and houses are pretty reasonable because people have a bad image of the place. Also, first time home buyers in DC get a $5,000 federal tax CREDIT. You qualify the first time you buy a house in the city. It's a great incentive, and I'd take advantage of it if I didn't work in Alexandria.
 
Old Oct 9th, 2002, 12:59 PM
  #19  
Tina Wentner
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Michelle, the train's left the station if you're in your late 30s and don't have kids yet. You need to have a heart-to-heart talk with your man about this issue.

If you come to realize that you're not going to have kids then you should consider DC. The only real reason not to consider DC is on account of the third world level public schools. Otherwise, there are great and moderately priced choices for someone with your living requirements, without the commuting hassle, which is the biggest complaint about that area.
 
Old Oct 9th, 2002, 01:05 PM
  #20  
Roger
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Michelle, my newlywed wife and I moved to Queenstown, MD in 1991 and bought a 1700 square foot house on two acres for $ 152,000. It would only go for about two hundred thousand now. I live twenty minutes from downtown Annapolis, twenty minutes from Easton and half an hour from touristy St. Michaels. You might be able to get a cheaper house on Kent Island on half an acre. Developments like Bay City or Cloverfields. By the way, I'm two hundred yards from the Wye River and the geese began to come home for winter two Saturdays ago. I skinny-dip in my hot pool on my secluded back deck when the kids are asleep. My wife used to until she became addicted to being pregnant.
 

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