To live in Federal Hill is to know the value of a home with off-street parking.
Ronald Monk has lived there seven years, and even though he has access to a high school parking lot and doesn't have too much difficulty with parking himself, he's seen his neighbors' troubles. He's seen them ticketed for parking too close to a corner, or for straying outside their residential permit zone, struggling even if they're willing to pay for a space.
"It's very difficult to find garages that rent spaces," said Monk, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeService PenFed Realty, which has an office on Fort Avenue.
He now offers an abiding 21st-century response: There's an app for that.
ParkRE will debut at the end of this month, offering house hunters a way to find a place that has off-street parking in Federal Hill and beyond. Working for about a year with real estate listings compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., he and the Baltimore company Mindgrub Technologies have developed a free mobile application that provides information on the entire Baltimore metropolitan area, including the city and five surrounding counties.
Open the app on your Apple or Android smartphone, and it picks up your location with GPS and conveys information about homes for sale in the area with parking in a driveway, garage or parking pad, "anything not a permit on the street."
The app provides interactive maps and filters to sort listings by the type of parking. It's free to users, with revenue expected to come from real estate agents who pay for premium listings that will send their contact information to you as soon as you're within a certain distance of the property. The system works with an electronic "beacon" physically posted at the property to signal the app.
Monk said he got the idea not only from seeing the parking travails unfold in Federal Hill, but from the enthusiastic response he received to an ad he posted for a rental property he owns in Locust Point — with two off-street parking spaces. Two days, about 20 inquires.
Did the parking have something to do with the response?
"Absolutely," he said.
Monk's company, with a sales forces of three, hasn't started marketing the app to real estate agents yet, but will soon. An invitation-only launch party at a South Baltimore brew pub is scheduled at the end of March, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake expected to attend.