Gaithersburg MD affordable homes?
January 28, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Gaithersburg, MD: Are there any areas within an hour drive where a house with a back yard might cost under $150K (or might be reasonable to rent)?

I'm searching the 'Net and have contacted a realtor friend in the area, but I'm striking out. I have a potential job offer there. An apartment won't do it for me since I have cats and dogs.

Since this is close to the combined DC/Alexandria VA/Baltimore area, I'm tempted to assume property is way too high for me.

Comments on cost of living are welcome too. It's a cool job for a non-profit, but pays only mid-30Ks.

posted by Shane to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Baltimore is cheap. Houses can definitely be had for $150k, depending on where you live. Cost of living is low, although property taxes are pretty high.
posted by electroboy at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2008

Baltimore is a good bet, although it will be on the outside of your commuting range, and the available houses in that price range won't be in great neighborhoods.
posted by OmieWise at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2008

Only in an ideal world is Baltimore within an hour of Gaithersburg. If the job site is on the eastern side of Gaithersburg, and you live in the western suburbs of Baltimore, you could swing it in an hour, I suppose. As you suspect, though, there aren't a lot of houses in your range, and mid-30s doesn't go very far around here.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2008

I'd say "no," even in Baltimore, although a knowledgeable realtor is definitely the way to go. You may want to look into joining a group house that will accept your pets.

Also, MrMoonPie is right about the distance. I have a friend that lives outside Baltimore and it takes me WELL over an hour to get to her house from my office in Gaithersburg.
posted by nkknkk at 1:05 PM on January 28, 2008

Nearly everyone in the DC area who works for a "cool non-profit" and makes mid-30s lives with roommates. You can get a bedroom in a house with a backyard in MD with roommates who don't mind your pets (and may even help you take care of them if they're extra awesome) for $500-800 a month depending on where you're living. No one I know in your situation in this area would even attempt to buy, and almost none of them would live alone. You simply wouldn't have the money to do anything, because it would all be burned up on your rent.
posted by decathecting at 1:07 PM on January 28, 2008

What decathecting said. Spot on.
posted by ml98tu at 1:20 PM on January 28, 2008

Define "reasonable" to rent.

The DC Metro area (at least N. VA, I'm slightly less familiar with the Other Side of the river, but I can't imagine it's that different) is a renter's market right now. You can rent some pretty nice suburban houses for between $1500-2k/mo., with yards and off-street parking; if you were to split that 3 or 4 ways between roommates it's not a bad way to live at all. I know people who have done and are doing it, and some of them are starving-artist/NGO-worker types not making much.

But a house with a yard for $150k? I highly doubt it. I've seen places going from the low $200ks, and they tend to be bank-owned foreclosures where people drowned in mortgages amidst renovations (i.e. they're really a song).

Basically, because of the ridiculously inflated prices of the last few years, there are a lot of houses with mortgages that exceed their current value. As a result, people are unwilling to sell, even if they move out of town or relocate -- they'd rather hang on and pray that the market bounces back. In the meantime, the house goes on the rental market to try and offset the mortgage.

Your pets might be a slight issue in finding a rental (large dogs in particular are hard), but maybe you could offer to put down some really large damage deposit to offset the perceived risk.

I just went to, which has a good cross-section of rentals, and there are a fair number of SFHs in the $1500-1600 range with 3 bedrooms. If you could find 2 roommates, that would put your cost at $500/mo plus utilities, pretty low for the DC area.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:32 PM on January 28, 2008

The problem is that Gaithersburg itself used to be a bedroom community for people commuting into DC. But now it's become the outer edge of the metroplex itself, as did Rockville before it, and Germantown is starting to grow fast. (I live in Vancouver BC, but it's the Gaithersburg/Rockville area I moved from.) Gaithersburg is a massive commuter destination by itself now because it's the farthest extent of the metro red line, so people come from hours away to get to Gaithersburg and leave their cars there.

Another problem with moving farther out is that around Frederick, the shock wave of DC expansion ran into the shockwave of Baltimore expansion and suddenly Frederick became the second largest city in MD after Baltimore. (taking the crown from Rockville). So Frederick basically exploded and now both those blast waves are getting channeled farther out I-70 to Hagerstown. Hell, the people I used to think were nuts for commuting into DC from West Virginia are starting to look prescient.

Illustrative digression. I once drove a friend up to Frederick very early in the morning so he could start one of those periodic cancer walk things that was going to start there and wind up on the Capitol mall. He had to be there at 6:00 am. So it's a little after 5:00 am going north up 270 and the southbound Interstate headed into DC was already a solid river of headlights.

Short answer, as to buying a house in that price range, forget it. You'd have to commute from downtown Detroit. Your best bet is either find a group house as suggested above, or comb the local papers (not the Post) and Craigslist for places you can rent. Try Montgomery Village in particular - plenty of townhouses for a direct door to the outside, and common areas for your dog.

The Realtors that are easy to find probably won't be much help because you're not worth their trouble. I found the main place I lived in via a tiny real estate company that mostly did apartment management for absentee landlords. The other place was in Montgomery Village. Guy had gotten married and they were renting his wife's old place. I found it the Gaithersburg Gazette helpful for this. And I had a cat, btw, so pets aren't always a dealbreaker.

Still, at mid-30's it's going to be really hard to live alone. I was scraping by at about that, but this was eight or nine years ago and I can only assume rents have soared. A roommate you can stand would be quite an asset. Good luck.
posted by Naberius at 2:05 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about exact prices, but you might want to take a look at townhouse rentals in Frederick or maybe the Damascus area.
posted by trillian at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2008

If you can find a house for 150k, your expenses are going to run you just as much because the condition of the house will be very poor. You can find a room where your pets are welcome. I suggest paying 10 dollars to subscribe to but be open minded when it comes to the area, meaning not just gaithersburg, although it's a decent area.

Specifically, you can go to craigslist not only to seek apartment, but you can post an ad and include the specifics of your situation. I've found 3 great living arrangements this way since my move. In addition, you get a response from only those that are ok with the pets will respond and you can weed out those you don't want. It always helps if you have an open mind. For example, I had specifics such as only female housemate, but I decided to visit a place to see and found an ideal living situation with one male and one female roommate. The more flexible you are, the better, but make sure you're not flexible on necessities like safety, cleanliness, drama-free roommates, and cost.

Hope this helps, good luck!
posted by notsogirliegal at 3:21 PM on January 28, 2008

Don't skip the post if looking for roomates/shares. I got a nice one there (Arlington, huge room, laundry, backyard, walking distance to metro sub 500/month) from WaPo classifieds in 2004.
posted by Jahaza at 3:37 PM on January 28, 2008

Frederick resident here - Naberius has a good take on the situation. North to Gettysburg by 30 minutes from here is probably still outside your price range. You might look around Charles Town, WV. I can be in the middle of town there in 25 minutes from where I live (a little west of Frederick-proper, but still inside the city limit), and you will probably find rentals in your price range, possibly a small townhouse to buy. You'd have about an hour to Gaithersburg. I commute from here to Bethesda daily, and it's generally under 90 minutes, but I go through more 270-suck past Gaithersburg.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:21 PM on January 28, 2008

If you found something in that price range anywhere north of Gaithersburg up to the PA border, it would be old and in bad repair. If you really want to buy and are content to live in a shabby place or put in a lot of elbow grease, it might be worth it to just look in the zip codes north of 70. A lot of those areas have shabby old rural houses intermixed with huge new developments of mixed single-family/townhouses. The new places are all well above 250K, but there is less demand for the old places (and some of the old places are in truly terrible shape).
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:08 PM on January 28, 2008

If you can find a house for 150k, your expenses are going to run you just as much because the condition of the house will be very poor.

Not true. Baltimore still has plenty of working class neighborhoods that aren't the hip parts of town, but are perfectly safe and have houses in good condition in the 150 range.
posted by electroboy at 7:58 PM on January 28, 2008

I lived in Frederick and worked in Gaithersburg. It was only a 25-30 minute drive when I could come in off hours (10:30-7PM) I worked. I'd imagine then that you could find somewhere maybe 20-30 minutes North of Frederick in the 200s.

Townhouses would be cheaper. You might consider that.
posted by GregX3 at 10:43 PM on January 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for the help. I'd mark Best Answers but there'd be a ton.
posted by Shane at 10:10 AM on January 30, 2008

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