Last year was a boon for luxury home sales in the Baltimore metropolitan market. Multiple contracts. Bidding wars. Homes selling within hours of being listed.
Buyers flocked to the better-known neighborhoods and subdivisions in the area -- Roland Park, Mount Washington, Ruxton, Annapolis, Todd Lakes, Gaither Farm and so on -- in hopes of finding the perfect home in the perfect neighborhood.
But did those buyers ever wonder where the most desirable addresses in the most sought-after neighborhoods are in metropolitan Baltimore?
Not just garden-variety, run-of-the-mill snooty, but the high and mightiest of all addresses, those one or two specific streets that carry such appeal, such cachet, such panache that only those who hobnob in those circles would nod their heads with approval.
So what are Baltimores best blocks? A survey of several real estate agents and brokers revealed what they considered to be the creme de la creme. For those who think any old street in Guilford is as good as another, think again.
The 4200 to the 4400 blocks of Greenway have more snob appeal than anywhere else in Guilford, said Karen Bisbee, vice president and associate broker with OConor Piper & Flynn ERA.
She is seconded by Arthur Otts Davis, president of Chase Fitzgerald & Co, the Roland Park boutique realty firm. As far as Guilford goes, Greenway is certainly not a slouch road, he said.
Same for Roland Park and Ruxton in Baltimore County. Certain roads have more mystery and allure than others.
Often the most desirable streets develop a certain panache because they have a number of very substantial houses on them, Bisbee said. The perception is that housing goes along with an extravagant lifestyle that the inhabitants must have -- often the older the houses, the more bucolic picture that is painted.
Bisbee and Davis consider Blythewood Road in Roland Park as one of the citys truly lush addresses. Though its only two blocks long and intersects Wyndhurst Avenue, Its pretty much estate row; there are no insignificant houses here, Bisbee said.
In Guilford, a stones throw from both Greenway and Sherwood Gardens is the 100 block of Highfield Road, which Bisbee said is another hot address.
Not to mention Charlotte Place, at North Charles Street and Greenway. Theres the old Douglas Gordon estate, which just sold for over $2 million, said Bisbee. Not unexpectedly, the houses surrounding this grand old place are pretty swank themselves.
Furthermore, she swears that many residents of these exclusive addresses dont come from old money.
A lot of normal people live in these houses, she added. Theyre raising families, and are often doctors, stockbrokers, lawyers, and artists -- theyre not all stockpiled in one industry.
All those different cultural backgrounds make for wonderful neighborhoods.
Davis likes St. Georges Road, Poplar Hill Road and Winding Way. Most people think these roads are in Roland Park, but technically the area is Poplar Hill, he said.
St. Georges Road, which is west of Roland Avenue and north of Northern Parkway, is really, really gorgeous and very sought after, said Bisbee. These are houses that people salivate over.
Of course, said Davis, a sort of reverse snobbism is also going on. People are moving from Roland Park and Guilford to downtown Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Canton, he said. Some are empty nesters, some own boats, and others work downtown.
Its a totally different dynamic -- we have so many people coming into the city, especially Roland Park and Guilford, from the county because they want real sidewalks to push their strollers on, and want to be able to walk to the post office. Theres a desire to return to neighborhood living and a real yen not to spend ones entire life in the car.
Barely over the city line is Woodbrook Lane.
Its right across from Eddies on Charles Street , said Bisbee. Id be shocked to find anything here for under $1 million, and anything that might become available would be heartily sought after.
Of course, theres good old Ruxton.
But Ruxton is tough, said Davis. There will be a wonderful stretch of two or three big houses, then two or three small houses.
This doesnt bother Baltimore people, but it does get to out-of-towners, who dont understand a $1.5 million house next door to a $300,000.
Much of this seeming peculiarity, he added, is due to the fact that Ruxton got its start as a place to build summer cottages.
But certainly Ruxton Road and Ellingham Road are desirable, Davis said. In Ruxton, the west side of Bellona Avenue is where most of the big properties are.
Bisbee considers the 7200 to the 8000 blocks of Bellona Ave. as prime turf. Its estate row, she said. There are probably about 12 really spectacular houses there.
And then theres Green Spring Valley and its sister, Worthington Valley.
When it comes to Green Spring Valley, Bisbee points to Golf Course Road and Hopkins Lane. Houses here are very sought after, she said. There are beautiful streets with fine old trees and wonderful houses, although not estate-size houses.
Still, she adds, there is plenty of appeal because of the proximity to the Green Spring Valley Country Club and its golf course.
Then theres Chattalone Hill Road, Bisbee said.
Most of the houses here are older, but lovingly maintained and renovated, said Bisbee. Out here a lot of those particularly exclusive streets have older houses, and theres a perception of a time when people thought things were simpler and better.
In Worthington Valley, Bisbee likes Mantua Mill Road.
This is the single street that is the top of the list for desirability, she said. There are many $2 million plus properties -- there are beautiful horse farms, its the definition of all that is good about the Maryland countryside with its thousands and thousands of acres of open land.
Theres also Butler Road. All of it, according to Bisbee. All are serious estates, $2 million or more, she said. Butler Road has many substantial houses and equally substantial land, not to mention spectacular barns. On Butler Road, everyone is dedicated to land conservation -- .
Anne Arundel County
Anne Arundel is a tough one, Davis said. In my fathers words, you can have a mansion right next to a shack. Its very strange. Another Anne Arundel county agent said that the key word in desirability here is waterfront.
Its a supply and demand issue, waterfront property is a finite commodity, and its very sought after, the agent said. A lot of people have made a ton of money in the stock market and were seeing a lot of cash buyers, which would not have been possible 10 years ago.
She said Anne Arundel has many desireable homes, many often not visible from the road.
Joyce Lane, on the Severn River, is very popular, she said. Its off the beaten path, the houses are older, but there are large lots, and there is a spectacular view of the water.
Another hot spot is Severna Parks Boone Trail. It doesnt look like much from the street; there arent huge, imposing houses. But you have some of the prettiest water in the county and a lot of very successful people live there, although you wouldnt know it from driving down the street.
Still, the houses on both Joyce Lane and Boone Trail range from $800,000 to $1.5 million -- and up.
And then theres Eastport, which used to be the poor second cousin to downtown Annapolis, she said. This was pretty much where the watermen and the boatyards were -- now Eastport has all these wonderful nooks and crannies.
A small townhouse can fetch up to $1 million. Fifty years ago Eastport was no big deal, then about 20 years ago it started to get nice. And now its the place to live.
Bel Airs Glen Angus, a newer development, leads Joan Ryders list for Harford County.
Its about an 8-year-old development and some of the newer houses are pretty ritzy and pretty upscale, said Ryder, broker and owner of Century 21 Joan Ryder. Glen Angus is near the Maryland Golf and Country Club and the houses sell for $1 million and up.
In the older section, some of the lots front on the golf course. There are a lot of professional people who live here, especially executives from the major corporations, as well as some retired military people.
Diana Hirschhorn, a top producer with the Forest Hill/Bel Air of OConor, Piper & Flynn ERA in Harford County, echoed the allure of Glen Angus and Glenangus Drive.
You have the ability to step out the back door [from cul de sac lots] to [view] the golf course, which is certainly a plus, Hirshhorn said, adding that those owners have the ability to step outside and have privacy.
Also in demand is Todd Lakes. Most of what is going on in there is all new, all are executive homes, ranchers and two-story homes, she said. It used to be that you had to have an interview to see if you were right for the neighborhood.
Thats no longer the situation, of course, but the neighborhood has managed to retain its ambience.
Ive got a couple of listings in the $595,000 and $895,000 range, Ryder said. Todd Lakes pretty much allows all styles of housing, including Spanish-Mediterranean, Georgian Colonial, Tudor, and all the lots have at least 1 or 2 acres, with several overlooking a couple of lakes.
Timothy D. Rodgers, president of Hill & Co., points to the appeal of Darlington.
In Harford County, Id say that Darlington Road would be the premier place in which to live, he said. Its very remote and has a lot of farms, but is close to Havre de Grace, where a lot of people keep their boats. He also recommends Trappe Church Road and Glenville Road.
In general, Harford County doesnt have a lot of high-priced developments, although there are a lot of little pockets with houses in the $250,000 to $300,000 range, Ryder said.
Hirschhorn also noted the Baldwin Mill Road corridor in Fallston, just before before Route 152, has a pocket of million-dollar plus properties.
When it comes to Howard County -- the fourth-highest county in per capita income in the United States -- the place to be can be summed up in two words: the Preserve.
All the lots are between 3 and 10 acres, said Elaine Northrop of the Ellicott City office of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc., who also happens to live in that luxury development. Theyre wooded and beautiful and rural, yet very convenient to Ellicott City and Columbia.
All houses here must have a minimum of 4,000 square feet, use all natural materials, and have a three-car garage, adds Concetta Corriere, a broker in Columbia. The price to buy here? No less than $700,000. And one custom-built house was erected for $3 million.
Other Howard County developments of note include the Chase and Farside. These two are a little older developments, says Corriere. According to Northrop, the Chase begins at $600,000 and ranges to $1.2 million, while over at the Farside it costs $500,000 to $1.4 million to move in.
Finally, Northrop points to Gaither Farm, which, she says, has one of the largest homes in the country -- a 23,000-square-foot residence built by a recent lottery winner. However, most houses in Gaither Farm run in the $600,000 to $3 million range.
There arent a lot of really snobby places in Carroll County, said Joe Stephens, president of the Carroll County Association of Realtors, and owner-broker of Westminsters Re/Max Ambassadors.
Still, there are places available for those whose housing needs range beyond $300,000.
The most expensive is probably the Beaver Creek subdivision, where houses run from $300,000 up to $700,000 or $800,000, said Stephens. All the houses are fairly new and there are still lots available. He also cites River Downs, a golf course community, where the 8- to 10-year-old homes begin at $300,000. And I think there are a couple that go for as much as $1 million.
Finally, theres the Cold Saturday subdivision. Here youll find houses as high as $750,000, with a couple of waterfront properties that overlook Liberty Reservoir.