For years, Howard County's real estate star has been on the rise. With easy access to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., tons of great homes and a top-notch school system, it's a place that's easy to love.
Some neighborhoods, of course, are hotter than others. We dug into data culled by online real estate information service MRIS to identify the ZIP codes on the upswing. Then we talked to people who live, work and sell homes in those places to find out just what makes them shine so bright.
Key How much: Median sale price in 2015 How fast: Median days on the market in 2015 How much better: Notable growth in the real estate market over the past five years
How much:$618,000 How fast:35 days How much better:The median home price has grown by 21 percent in five years, the largest increase of all the county ZIP codes. The number of homes sold in the area is 77 percent higher than in 2011.
Much of Fulton’s recent growth has been driven by the development of Maple Lawn, a planned community that Keller Williams Integrity real estate agent Bob Lucido describes as “a city within a city.”
Wenda Harbour, 52 and a resident of Maple Lawn for the past three years, also works in the area; she loves that she’s able to live, work and have fun all in the same place.
“The live, play, work area really works for me,” she says, noting that she has everything she needs close to home. “There are conveniences like a small neighborhood from years ago, but it’s modernized and contemporary.”
Pam Bianco, branch vice president of Coldwell Banker’s Enchanted Forest office in Ellicott City, explains Maple Lawn’s appeal: “It’s a citified feeling in a rural setting and very walkable. It’s a front porch community.”
Harbour agrees. She lists the Saturday morning farmers’ market and well-manicured places to walk among her favorite elements of the town. “It is so very well planned out,” she says. “Everything is very well-appointed and beautiful. There’s a luxuriousness about it.”
For Harbour, Maple Lawn’s draw extends beyond aesthetics and amenities, to her neighbors. “I like that there are multiple ages. You’ve got grandparents, some singles, some brand-new parents,” she says.
Harbour is an empty nester, but she still gets to witness some of the fun the younger families experience. “I’m overwhelmed by the bus stop,” she laughs. “It’s like a party waiting for a concert to start, every morning at 9. Folks hang out afterwards and get to know each other.”
She gets in on the action, too. “My dog has a full dance card!” she says. “Everyone is very friendly. It’s a big family.”
Eastern Ellicott City (21043)
How much:$406,374 How fast:28 days How much better:Homes sell for 14 percent more than they did five years ago at the second-fastest rate in the county. The area saw 35 percent more homes sold last year, compared with 2011.
Home buyers have been flocking to the eastern half of Ellicott City for close proximity to great shopping, parks, restaurants and history in the town’s established community — all at a slightly lower home price than the western half.
Buyers love the central location near Baltimore but with easy access to Washington, D.C., says Coldwell Banker real estate agent Tony Scuto, but they also like the family-friendly charm of the town and the diversity of home options.
“There are well-built, more established homes and of course, new construction for folks who prefer that,” says Scuto. “In general, it’s a nice area with lots of families, where people feel safe.”
Sally Fox Tennant, the owner of Discoveries on Main Street in historic Ellicott City, has lived above her shop for more than 16 years. From her perspective as a shop owner and a resident, the real draw of her neighborhood Ellicott City is the people.
“It has a real small-town feel; it’s a tight-knit community and a notoriously friendly place,” says Tennant, 61. “It’s more artistic and bohemian.”
Tennant says if she is out of town during bad weather, she knows she can always call a neighbor to check on her shop and home.
“It’s a nice, low-key environment where everyone’s helpful,” she says.
How much:$315,000 How fast:34 days How much better:The number of homes sold in the area in 2015 jumped 87 percent over the number sold in 2011. And those homes are selling twice as fast compared to five years ago.
Drew Roth, an Elkridge resident for the past 10 years, loves his home for a variety of reasons, from its history and location to the camaraderie with his neighbors.
“It has a strong sense of place and a lot of history. It’s not just another collection of subdivisions,” says Roth, who lives with his wife and elementary-school-age son. “We have Old Washington Boulevard, which was the original National Turnpike. And the historic district, which was one of the first railroad suburbs, has magnificent homes from the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s.”
But Elkridge’s appeal isn’t all about history; its convenient location offers a very modern benefit. It’s “especially close to 95 and a straight shot to Baltimore,” says Lucido.
Despite its proximity to major cities, Roth is quick to point out that Elkridge doesn’t feel overly urban. “Even though we’re in the middle of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, we have a lot of nature and natural areas, being close to Patapsco State Park,” he says. “There are fantastic opportunities for biking and hiking.”
As the head of the Greater Elkridge Community Association, Roth has also had the opportunity to get to know a lot of people in the community. “I am incredibly impressed with how people work to get stuff done when we have things we need to work on,” he says, citing community efforts to address airport noise, stop the CSX Intermodal Terminal and renovate Elkridge Assembly Hall.
Life in Elkridge is not all work and no play, he promises. “You can tell you’ve got a cool town when you see everybody in town at the soft serve stand,” he laughs.
How much:$445,000 How fast:29 days How much better:Area homes make some of the fastest sales in the county, with the median number of days on the market decreasing by 58 percent over five years. Home values have grown 13 percent since 2011.
Lucido doesn’t just sell homes in Woodstock — he also lives there.
“It’s a wonderful place to live,” he says, rattling off benefits like easy access to U.S. Route 40 and Interstate 70, great golfing, a highly rated school district, excellent shopping and restaurants, “and of course The Snowball Stand on Route 99.”
Lucido, 57, and his wife, Tracy, live in the house where they raised their children, who are now adults but have fond memories of walking to The Snowball Stand and playing sports in the backyard, according to his daughter, Lauren.
Woodstock also offers diversity of housing options, says Bianco. “In Woodstock is a newer, somewhat planned community, Waverly Woods,” she explains. “It’s walkable and has very easy access to [I-70]. It’s one of the most sought-after school districts, with a lot going for it. It’s mixed, so there’s 55-plus, condos, single-family homes — just about everything is right there. And there are upscale restaurants and two golf courses, Turf Valley and Waverly Woods.”
The Waverly Woods course is adjacent to the community of the same and Turf Valley, located just across I-70 in Ellicott City, is a 36-hole course that is part of a resort and spa property. Over the past few years, several acclaimed restaurants have opened in the area just around the resort.
Lucido appreciates the town’s amenities, but what initially drew him to the location, and what’s kept him there for three decades, is the feeling of living in the country. “It’s the last water and sewer district before you get to the well. It gives us that rural feeling without going further out,” he says.