Hampstead has been recognized as one of the most affordable places in Maryland to own a home by the website smartasset.com, ranking seventh behind Bowie and ahead of eighth-place Cumberland.
"It goes along with the recent recognition of Hampstead as a great place to raise kids and one of the Maryland's safest towns," said Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin. In April, San Francisco-based Movoto Real Estate named Hampstead the place to live in Maryland — it looked at cities and towns with populations of at least 5,000 — and in 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek online rated Hampstead the best place to raise children in Maryland.
Smartasset.com based its ranking on the average closing costs, mortgage payments, homeowner's insurance rates and property taxes for a home in each location over a five year period. The rankings were then made by taking those calculated costs as a proportion of the median income in each town or city.
Hampstead's average closing costs were $6,500; property tax was $2,367; the average homeowner's insurance $1,073 and average annual mortgage payment was $11,854, whereas the same numbers for sixth place Bowie were $9,622, $4,033, $1,438 and $15,952, respectively. The median household income in Bowie however, is $105,936 while Hampstead's is $75,135.
Not all of these factors are things within the town's control, according to Nevin, but he does believe good tax policy can naturally lead to good community outcomes.
"It's not something in general that we think about as we set policy, but it's good to hear," Nevin said. "We do concentrate on keeping taxes as low as possible in a limited service model. ... That does increase the affordability factor."
Bob Fale, owner of Fales Realty in Hampstead said that low taxes are certainly a factor in Hampstead home affordability but that they work to further enhance the low home prices that came after a speculative real estate bubble burst in 2008.
Carroll County Breaking News
"That boom, it was insane. The prices just kept going up and up, and making housing less affordable for lots of people," Fale said. "In some ways, the crash was a good thing restoring prices to a more normal level. ... It was a bad thing for a lot of people because then their houses went underwater in terms of the value, but for young people coming to the housing market, it has allowed them to be able to afford something. That's a good thing."
Today, Fale said the majority of his clients are looking for homes in the $150,000 to $300,000 range, though there are higher-end properties in the area.
At the same time, Fale said that low housing prices were only one of the draws for living in Hampstead. Having been in the real estate business in town since 2000, he and his wife find the place and the people are an attractive part of the location.
"We really like it working this area and dealing with the people in this area," he said. "The schools are good, and it seems like the people here are really friendly."
This combination of good prices, good people — and the perception of safe streets — is what Nevin credits for the frequent nods of recognition the town has received.
"The family and community spirit of Hampstead factors into these awards, and the safety factor makes us an attractive place to live and raise a family thanks to the efforts of our Police Department and the community in general," he said.
Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or firstname.lastname@example.org.