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Best Places for Homeownership in Maryland

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Written by Cherise Fantus

Home to major government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, the highest median income in the nation in 2012, plus great schools and a strong economy, the state of Maryland is a great place to settle down. Home sales in Maryland have been rising over the last year while interest rates remain below 5 percent, according to Maryland Association of Realtors monthly housing statistics.

NerdWallet looked at the 123 communities in Maryland with more than 10,000 residents to determine which are the best for homebuyers. Most of these communities have populations of 20,000 or fewer residents and are located no more than 35 miles away from big cities.

Here are the top 10. Scroll to the bottom of the report for the top 20.

Rank City
1 North Laurel
2 Bel Air North
3 Lake Shore
4 Bensville
5 Rosaryville
6 Ocean Pines
7 Accokeek
8 Kettering
9 Pasadena
10 Riviera Beach

Our analysis answers three main questions:

1. Are homes available? We looked at the area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.

2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher.

3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.

For more details on our methodology, please see the “Methodology” section at the end of the report.

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1. North Laurel

This census-designated place experienced dramatic growth: it grew by 386% between 2010 and 2012, which places it at the top of that category for our entire list. While the population surely increased, the explosive population growth was mostly due to a U.S. Census boundary change, greatly expanding the area that is included in the North Laurel census-designated place. It has the lowest homeownership rate on our list at 59.9%, and homeowners here spend 32.8% of their household incomes on homeowner costs, the highest on our list. Regardless, only 3.7% of people in Laurel had an income lower than the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Residents have plenty to do, with Washington, D.C. just 22 miles away and Patuxent Research Refuge, Fairland Regional Park and Rocky Gorge Reservoir are easily accessible for fishing, hiking and wildlife appreciation.

2. Bel Air North

Bel Air North is a highly educated community, with 94% of its residents possessing at least high school diplomas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps that is due to the Bel Air community’s excellent schools: Bel-Air, which is located just south of Bel Air North, has a Great Schools rating of 9 out of 10, which is based on standardized test scores. Bel Air North is an affordable place to live, with median selected homeowner costs at $2,073 and homeowners paying only 25.6% of their monthly household incomes toward those costs, the lowest on our list. The population by 5.3% between 2010 and 2012, and 90% of the homes in town are owned, rather than rented. With Baltimore less than an hour away and Philadelphia less than two hours away, residents have easy city access.

3. Lake Shore

Don’t let the name fool you; Lake Shore sits not on the shores of a lake but on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, which offers residents all sorts of recreational activities. Among them, Downs Park has a fishing pier, hiking trails and a dog park. With the proper licensing, residents can even go crabbing for some of those famous Chesapeake Bay crabs or fish for some fresh seafood. Lake Shore is located south of Baltimore, near the communities of Pasadena, Riverdale and Severna Park. The homeownership rate in Lake Shore is high at 93.1%, and homeowners pay only $2,051 in homeowner costs, which take up a low 26.3% of their monthly household incomes.

4. Bensville

An affordable community, Bensville residents have a high median monthly household income of $9,812 and pay only 26.3% of that into homeowner costs. Residents here are within commuting distance to job opportunities in Washington D.C. to the north, but closer to home, major employers include Charles County Board of Education with 3,430 employees, Naval Support Facility Indian Head, a military installation employing 3,404 people, and Charles County Government with 1,638 employees. The area is spelled as both “Bensville” and “Bennsville”. NerdWallet chose the “Bensville” spelling because it is consistent with the spelling from the U.S. Census Bureau.

5. Rosaryville

Situated next to Rosaryville State Park, residents have hiking, biking and equestrian trails right in their backyard. Plus, Washington D.C. is only about 20 miles to the northwest, making the historical monuments and museums easily accessible, not to mention the jobs. Residents have a high median monthly household income of $9,847 and spend only $2,732 of that on homeowner costs. Its residents are highly educated, with 96.2% of them being high school graduates or higher, and the poverty level is extremely low at 2.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

6. Ocean Pines

This planned community sits on 3,000 acres of wooded areas just south of the Delaware border and has more than 9 miles of waterfront. It has a high homeownership rate of 91.7%. It has the lowest median selected monthly homeowner costs on our list at $1,730, but it also has the lowest median monthly household income at $6,107. There is plenty for residents to do within the community, with several parks – including a skate park and dog park – trails and marinas for kayaking, canoeing and boating. If that’s not enough, the beach resort community of Ocean City is just a few miles away.

7. Accokeek

This community has the second-highest homeownership rate on our list, as 94.5% of its homes are owned rather than rented. It also has the highest median selected homeowner costs on our list at $2,991, but with the second-highest median monthly household income on our list at $10,308, that figure is only 29% of household income. That probably explains why the poverty level is at an extremely low 2.1%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Residents here have the natural beauty of Piscataway Park right in their community, where they can kayak, hike, fish or take a gander across the Potomac River at George Washington’s historic mansion and lands at Mount Vernon. Jobs in the Washington, D.C. region are within a one-hour commute (barring bad traffic!).

8. Kettering

Kettering is an affordable community for homeowners located just north of Upper Marlboro, the county seat of Prince George’s County. The median home value here is $296,700, one of the lowest on our list, and median selected monthly homeowner costs are low at $2,198 per month. It is a small but growing community – it grew by 4.7% between 2010 and 2012. Watkins Regional Park is smack in the middle of Kettering, where residents can ride the antique carousel, play mini golf or pitch a tent for primitive camping. For thrill-seekers, Six Flags America is located just north of Kettering. The last stop of the Washington, D.C. Metro’s Blue Line is in neighboring Largo, giving residents easy access to the city.

9. Pasadena

Pasadena’s population grew by 10% between 2010 and 2012 and draws for new residents include close proximity to Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and the Chesapeake Bay. Pasadena, located in Anne Arundel County, has excellent schools, with a Great Schools rating of 8 out of 10 based on standardized test scores. There is also no sales tax or corporate income tax in town. Top employers near Pasadena in Anne Arundel County include Fort Meade, a military installation with 49,132 employees, Anne Arundel County Public Schools with 14,000 employees, and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport with 9,717 employees. The median home value in Pasadena is among the lowest on our list at $293,600.

10. Riviera Beach

Pasadena’s neighbor to the east, Riviera Beach lies on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of the few Anne Arundel County communities where residents have access to all of the waterfront property, where they can walk, fish, and crab for those famous Chesapeake Bay crabs. The beach may be accessed by walkways at the end of every cross street. There is also a boat ramp and Pat’s Pier for more fishing. Riviera Beach is located to the south of Baltimore with easy access to the city in about half an hour. The median selected monthly homeowner costs are a low $1,896 and take up only 27.2% of household income.

Rank City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income Median Home Value 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 North Laurel 59.9% $2,324 $7,082 32.8% $332,100 386.0% 73.0
2 Bel Air North 90.0% $2,073 $8,091 25.6% $321,600 5.3% 59.8
3 Lake Shore 93.1% $2,051 $7,801 26.3% $363,600 -1.6% 59.6
4 Bensville 92.7% $2,576 $9,812 26.3% $373,500 2.1% 59.6
5 Rosaryville 92.1% $2,732 $9,847 27.7% $342,100 2.3% 59.1
6 Ocean Pines 91.7% $1,730 $6,107 28.3% $296,400 -5.1% 58.8
7 Accokeek 94.5% $2,991 $10,308 29.0% $379,600 0.1% 58.7
8 Kettering 90.6% $2,198 $7,465 29.4% $296,700 4.7% 58.5
9 Pasadena 85.5% $2,010 $7,768 25.9% $293,600 10.0% 58.4
10 Riviera Beach 86.3% $1,896 $6,970 27.2% $270,300 0.5% 57.7
11 Eldersburg 90.8% $2,328 $8,380 27.8% $373,800 0.1% 57.7
12 Severna Park 92.5% $2,581 $9,959 25.9% $485,800 2.5% 57.6
13 Colesville 94.8% $2,676 $8,793 30.4% $441,700 3.6% 57.3
14 Fort Washington 88.8% $2,618 $9,230 28.4% $354,000 -1.2% 56.6
15 Bowie 85.6% $2,385 $8,828 27.0% $325,600 1.4% 56.5
16 Damascus 87.7% $2,358 $8,849 26.6% $390,300 -0.3% 56.4
17 Bel Air South 82.9% $1,952 $7,423 26.3% $283,400 1.6% 56.4
18 Mitchellville 91.0% $2,585 $9,099 28.4% $381,300 -11.6% 56.3
19 Arnold 86.7% $2,248 $8,569 26.2% $399,200 0.6% 56.0
20 Clinton 86.3% $2,440 $8,290 29.4% $317,300 0.2% 55.6

Methodology

The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:

1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up one-half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. Monthly homeowner costs come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up one-half of the affordability score. Median home value comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.

4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher percent change earned a higher score. The 2010 population comes from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data comes from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percent change.

Only places with populations greater than 10,000 were included in this analysis. Cities were excluded for environmental probelms and Fort Meade CDP was excluded since data for all three variables was not available. 

Image: Charlie Stinchcomb/Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/b7g1Ec