What types of items should I keep in mind while searching/negotiating rent in Baltimore?
April 18, 2010 7:58 AM   Subscribe

What types of items should I keep in mind while searching/negotiating rent in Baltimore?

I'll be attending pharmacy school in Baltimore this fall. Right now, I am trying to figure out housing. I've read through some posts about Baltimore, observed city data, and scanned craigslist. I'm planning to live off campus and not the university housing because I think the price point is a bit over-rated. I would like to stay within the Baltimore area because I don't want to commute through heavy DC traffic and want to stay involved in school. I plan to rent either a room with $800 total included with utilities. I would like the lease to last the school year. My problem is that right now....

1.) What is the time frame to start nailing down a lease? School starts in August, but the market for finding housing may need to be earlier this summer. I'm torn between not really wanting to make a decision right now in April but also not having to scramble for something later. However, I don't think that my class mates are really going to be seriously consider housing until maybe June/Summer time (based on our facebook page group discussion). By then, I wonder if it's too late. Would like to get a roommate, but by the way of doing random roommates, it's almost better to go through negotiating rent with a more formal business set up like through classified ads. I'm also in my mid twenties, and I'm not so sure about rooming with some people based on facebook pages (sorry, that's just my own personal bias).

2.) What do I need to know about leasing/renting in Baltimore? Any books to review about this process? I'm a bit nervous as I have read through metafilter and certain problems arising if I sign through craigslist. Also, when I called for a housing unit they acted like it was time to sign a lease now, making me feel this pressure. Fortunately, I had read that there were rats in this particular area that the tenants did not like. So I was only annoyed by this tactic.

3.) I heard that Baltimore has a rat problem. Anybody know of this?

4.) I'm considering renting through Bolton Hill neighborhood, but does anyone know if cars can still be broken into here?

5.) Any other resources? Just nervous/apprehensive because I found the city to be a bit too urban when I was just passing through. I want to live close to campus, but also somewhere safe. I want to negotiate well with the landlord, but I'm just apprehensive that they'll take me for a ride. A lot of my question is just my apprehensive in living in Baltimore perhaps because it just didn't "feel" safe no matter what people continue to tell me.

6.) What are the range of prices for rental/utilities/parking in the Baltimore area?

Any other suggestions email me at 555xyz555 at gmail dot com.

I know this was a lot of questions, but I just feel like I'm not making too much head way in figuring out exactly how to go about this. Anything to add, would just help me out.

posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Just some advice from a friend who just moved to Baltimore to complete a medical residency: Absolutely DO NOT watch "The Wire" before moving to Baltimore.
posted by banannafish at 8:17 AM on April 18, 2010

I was just in Baltimore for business -- for me, I like the more active areas, like Fells Point (don't know the distance to pharma school), or whatever is the active area near your school, active = not deserted = you'll feel and be safer (not sure about car). There are loads of foreclosure signs, lots of rental signs, I would assume it's a renter's market, but I'll let the Baltimore people answer on that.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:36 AM on April 18, 2010

It would be helpful if we knew which of the Baltimore pharmacy schools you were attending. I'm going to guess Hopkins, and hopefully my answers will be useful to you even if I'm wrong.

1) Cars can be broken into anywhere, and frequently are. Having a car is certainly convenient, but there are risks. Minimize these risks by never leaving anything in your car. That includes school bags, briefcases, etc. in addition to the more obvious GPS mounts, iPods, etc. The cost of replacing the broken window is often more than the cost of whatever you lose, so make it un-tempting.

2) If it's Hopkins, try to live on the shuttle route, which you can find by googling JHMI shuttle. Parking can be a pain, and the shuttles run often enough to be really convenient. This means Charles Village or Mt. Vernon, mostly. Beware that Charles Village is crawling with undergrads and some of the buildings can be quite noisy. Consider your willingness to tolerate this carefully before committing; obviously, the lower your budget the more likely you're going to run into undergrads. NB, I was once an undergrad in Charles Village myself, and am not explicitly under-gradist

3.) Baltimore does have a rat problem. Try to live on a higher floor and be diligent about taking out your trash. I never had rodents or pests of any sort, living in 6-11th floors. Friends in 5th floor or lower apartments did. YMMV.

4.) Rents are generally pretty reasonable in Baltimore, much more so than DC, where I landed immediately after. Groceries, etc. are pretty standard for any US urban area-- again, slightly less than DC-NYC-etc. I'd avoid Craigslist and try to go through a management company if possible; I had generally good experiences with The Time Group.

5.) You may never feel fully safe in Baltimore. Carve out safe spaces-- your apartment where you are careful to always double-lock the door, the library, certain areas downtown in the daytime. Always be alert, but realize that by not putting yourself in high risk situations, you are minimizing the chance of being a victim of crime. Other people may chime in to say that this is ridiculous, that Baltimore is perfectly safe, etc. but after 4 years of living there is was like breathing again when I moved to DC. I feel comfortable on the street at night here in a way that I never did in Baltimore. Again, YMMV.

MeMail me if you would like more information.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:53 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Firstly, keep in mind that there is more to Baltimore than The Wire, and for those not involved in the drug trade, Baltimore's violent crime rate is actually pretty comparable to other major cities. Frankly I feel a lot less safe in the non-nice parts of DC than in all but the worst parts of Baltimore. Your car can get broken to anywhere, and it's really just a question of how tempting a target your vehicle is. Take steps to minimize your car's attractiveness.

Mount Vernon and Charles Village are safe, have reasonable rents and provide relatively easy access to anywhere else in the city. Hamden is a little less nice, but still safe and cheaper. There are rats in Hamden, but if you and your neighbors stay on top of the trash, they will be minimal.
posted by spaltavian at 10:36 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming your school is either Notre Dame or Hopkins. You want Hampden. There are rats, but if you're clean, you'll never see them. The only problems that I've heard of people having around here involve compost bins. Hampden is also the safest that I've felt in my years in Baltimore. It's also the first time that I've lived in the city rather than the county. Charles Village and Mt. Vernon attract way more crime because they're known for being more wealthy areas of the city. Hampden is this charming enclave of college / post-college kids, hipsters and lifers who have been here for generations. I wouldn't live any place else in Baltimore... this is the first time I've not hated living here, actually. Feel free to memail me for more specifics and welcome!
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to corroborate youcancallmeal's description of Hampden; there are a lot post-college hipsters. If people in skinny jeans feel safe, so should you.
posted by spaltavian at 11:09 AM on April 18, 2010

I'm here to put my vote in for Mt. Vernon. I've never felt unsafe here but I'm a larger man so YMMV.

Rents are reasonable everywhere due to a housing glut. If you want someone to tell you specifically if the apartment you are looking at is a good deal or not, I'd be happy to help.
posted by josher71 at 11:27 AM on April 18, 2010

Assuming that you haven't locked up a lease already - Mount Vernon and Charles Village are going to be your best bets for easy access and reasonable housing for any of the pharmacy schools in Baltimore (if you're at UMD, Hampden will be a bit of a haul, but not unreasonable). The rental market will open up significantly starting from late May/early June, as the students leave. Pickings will be rather slim by August.

It's been a few years since I was last looking for a place in Baltimore, but assuming the market hasn't changed wildly, $800 should be plenty to get you a decent place on your own or in a shared house. Around Charles Village, neighborhoods like Lower Charles Village/Old Goucher, Abell, or Ednor Gardens will be less undergraddy than Charles Village proper (general rule of thumb for the Charles Village area - live north of 25th Street). If you like Mount Vernon, you should be aware that on-street parking has gotten to be a nightmare - I don't know if Bolton Hill has a similar issue or not. In Hampden, I suspect that living south of about W 37th and west of Falls Road would not be entirely comfortable for you. Also, it is changing, but Hampden's history is that it's a working-class white neighborhood, and white people have a different experience of it than people of color. Mount Vernon and Charles Village have more diverse populations.

Unfortunately, I don't know much about Bolton Hill. I didn't have a car when I lived in Baltimore, and Bolton Hill is not the most accessible neighborhood by public transit, so I didn't find myself over there much.

I hope it will make you feel better to hear that I lived in Baltimore for the better part of 10 years (on foot and the bus, mostly, since I didn't have a car) and never had any serious problems with rats or crime. Yes, there is a rat problem, but in my experience, it's largely an outdoor issue that you can avoid encountering by not taking your trash out late at night. As for crime, your car can get broken into pretty much anywhere. Random street crime does happen, but most of Baltimore's crime is linked with drug trade, and if you're not involved in that, your risk goes down considerably. Be smart and keep your cool. And have fun - Baltimore has a cool arts scene, affordable restaurants, some good bar-hopping districts, plenty of neat historical stuff, good museums ... I'd still be living there if I hadn't had to move for work. If it would help you to talk to someone who's enthusiastic (but not unrealistic) about living in Baltimore, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:55 PM on May 7, 2010

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