Hey, everybody -- give a warm welcome to YvonneWenger, a new Baltimore Sun reporter who will be joining me here to blog about (appropriately enough) newcomer issues. She'll take us along as she looks for a place to settle, gets to know the city and navigates the system (MVA registration, anyone?).
We hope her experiences will help other newbies and give natives a new way to look at things we've seen a thousand times before. (If you're a new buyer, check out this collection of information and resources while you're at it.)
Take it away, Yvonne:
On the back deck of a restaurant in Columbia, S.C., my friend, a Maryland native, threw out some names of Baltimore neighborhoods: Charles Village, Mount Vernon, Federal Hill, Fells Point. I had found out a day before that I landed the job at The Baltimore Sun. It was a few days before Christmas and I had a little more than three weeks to find a place to live, from more than 500 miles away.
I typed the names of the neighborhoods into my smart phone and emailed myself the reminder. The names really didn’t mean much to me. I grew up in Lancaster, Pa. and had visited Baltimore somewhat regularly over the years, but we had always gone to the Inner Harbor or to Homewood Field, the Hopkins football stadium, to see my uncle play. I had never really explored the city.
I researched the neighborhoods my friend had mentioned and others on the Live Baltimore website. The site's terrific, if you haven’t checked it out before. In profiles for many of the city’s 200-plus neighborhoods, the site lists average home prices, neighborhood history and crime data from the city police department, among other nuggets such as nearby cultural and civic offerings.
I ended up renting a room from a former Sun photographer in Hampden, which the site describes as having a small town atmosphere with “elegant to funky stores, eclectic restaurants and special events like the Hon Fest.” It sounds great and it is.
Earlier this week, I started a new search. We found out that my husband, Artie Nordstrom, got his job transfer to the FedEx in Beltsville. We’re still waiting on a start date, but we expect that he’ll begin within the next two or three weeks.
I love Hampden. It’s got a fun, hipster personality. The street parking is great, especially for a person like me who has always lived in a place with a driveway or a parking lot. I generally never have to walk more than a block from the rowhouse where I live on W. 37th Street to find a spot, even on the nights when I don’t get home until 10 p.m.
I’m weighing all the things I love about Hampden against the other items on our list of wants. My husband is a huge sports fan and growing up in Northern Virginia, he’s always been an Orioles devotee. He’s thrilled at the opportunity to catch weeknight games and is currently rationalizing how he can take advantage of living in Ravenstown without betraying his allegiance to the Redskins.
So, to live within walking distance of Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium would be too cool. We’ve pinpointed Federal Hill and Ridgely’s Delight as two possibilities, but I am concerned with the parking. We’ve decided to rent for a year to learn more about the city and what fits us best, and to also allow time for our house in the floundering South Carolina market to sell.
I have an appointment today to see a few places with a real estate agent, and I’ll use this space to tell you more about our journey and what I learn along the way. I’ve got some real advantages with a newsroom full of Baltimore experts and a team of crime reporters that know the city as well as the seasoned cops.
Yvonne Wenger is a general assignment reporter for The Baltimore Sun. She worked most recently covering politics for the Charleston, S.C.-based newspaper, The Post and Courier.