Especially in these gloomy economic times, discovering value in real estate is a must for prospective home owners. Some of the best buys are right here in Baltimore City, and prospective home buyers have an excellent opportunity to see what's available during a citywide open house tomorrow.
We particularly recommend "A Day in the Park." It is the name of the annual house tour sponsored from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. by Banner Neighborhoods Community Corp. That umbrella group covers about 5,000 houses in neighborhoods surrounding the upper half of Patterson Park. Ranging from restored Victorian mansions to decrepit row houses, they offer a kaleidoscope of bygone Baltimore. Many even have those famed white marble steps that once upon a time were scrubbed every day.
What is impressive about the four Banner neighborhoods is the amount of renovation going on. Just count the scaffolding. Numerous families -- mostly young ones but also including quite a number of empty-nesters returning from suburbia -- have enough faith in Baltimore's fortunes to invest and live in this part of the city.
Butchers Hill, probably the best known of the Banner neighborhoods, is a case in point. Starting in 1810, its hilltop perch along Pratt and Lombard streets near Patterson Park was settled by butchers and victualers who wanted to live outside the limits and restrictions of built-up Fells Point and Old Town. Over the next century, the community developed into a varied one until it began a steep decline after World War II. The turnaround came in the 1970s, when houses needing substantial renovation could be acquired at modest prices.
Today, houses in Butchers Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods may no longer be dirt cheap but they are still affordable and their price range continues to be wide. Unlike some 15 years ago, conventional mortgages are easily available for qualified buyers. Meanwhile, the communities sponsor a home maintenance program to make sure that the large numbers of senior citizens owning homes in the neighborhoods can continue to take care of their properties.
There are many neighborhoods like Butchers Hill in the cityBolton Hill and Reservoir Hill have community festivals today. Others will have house tours during the holiday season. Take a look: city neighborhoods await rediscovery.