It’s simple. People choose to live in the city for the simple fact that they like it.
That’s at least according to a recent survey of 1,176 city homebuyers conducted by Live Baltimore, a nonprofit that works to attract residents and promote living in Baltimore.
The survey, done with Mileah Kromer of the Federal Hill Research Group, is the second “wave” or round from an original survey Live Baltimore completed in 2021. The goal of the first survey was to know why home buyers chose their Baltimore City homes and neighborhoods, and the goal of the most recent survey was to see how residents’ preferences changed and to inform an advertising campaign that will run through 2024.
Highlights from the survey reveal that most people living in the city already lived there before buying a home, were renting before purchasing, and plan on staying in the city for five years or more as homeowners.
The highlights aren’t stand-alone factors, Live Baltimore Executive Director Annie Milli said. They went hand-in-hand with just liking Baltimore.
“People are saying the primary reason they chose to buy is that they just like it here, but they’re never saying that in isolation,” she said. “It’s they just like it here and they work here, or they just like it here and they have friends here. So, it’s not that they’re just liking it in isolation, but clearly liking it is very important.”
Home Preferences weren’t all that different between Black and white homeowners, Milli said.
Across the board, all respondents listed working in the city and just liking the city as the most important factors in buying a Baltimore home.
One Canton homeowner, Alissa Akins, who is white, said she bought her Baltimore rowhome at the end of 2020 for two primary reasons. She moved from Alexandria, Virginia, where she was looking to purchase a home but couldn’t afford it, and “I’ve kind of always liked Baltimore,” she said.
Although she wasn’t a survey respondent, she agrees with the 84% of the respondents who said they just liked the city. Akins is also with the 87% of homeowners without children who said just liking the city was a factor in their decision to buy a home in Baltimore.
“One of the things I love is that it [Baltimore] has really preserved a lot of history and historic buildings, and it has character,” she said. “In Alexandria, all I was able to afford were these condos in garden-style buildings from the 1960s where everything looks the same. …. But in Baltimore, every house has something different and quirky and individual about it.”
Akins moved to Baltimore without knowing any friends and only some family members. This aligns with the 36% of respondents who said having friends in the city was not a factor as to why they moved.
The majority of respondents, 45%, said that having a job in the city was a major factor in why they moved to Baltimore. Akins would have been in the 41% of respondents who said working in the city was not a factor at all in why they moved.
She works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., and commutes once or twice a week, making the need for a home office a major factor in her home preference.
A home office was also one of the “must-haves” that 31% of respondents said they looked for in a home, which is a 14% increase from the 2021 survey. This factor had the largest percentage change from the first survey to the second survey, Milli said.
Other must-haves include a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a yard or outdoor space, a specific square footage, closet space, off-street parking, historic features and updates or recent renovations.
The only factors that Black respondents listed as the more important must-haves for their home compared to all survey respondents were a basement, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, outdoor space and recent renovations.
Of all respondents, 44% said that recent renovations were one of the most important factors in choosing their homes, and 59% of Black respondents said the same. New construction was not a must-have for a majority of the respondents.
“The survey suggests that Baltimore City is a vibrant market for developers and home improvement contractors — and that these professionals can play a crucial role in attracting more homebuyers,” Kromer wrote in the survey.
This is exactly what Kyara Uqdah, the CEO of Charm City Buyers — a real estate development and consulting firm – is working toward. She said the clients she has worked with are moving to the city to create a future generation of wealth as the city grows.
She compared buying in Baltimore to other historically Black cities like D.C., Harlem, Brooklyn or Oakland, California. Uqdah said she thinks people “really watched how those communities and cities transformed when development and revitalization came, and I think in Baltimore, folks are recognizing the opportunity to play a part in that.”
She said this was especially important for people who have history in Baltimore, such as being born in the city, having gone to school in Baltimore or even their parents having Baltimore ties.
According to the survey, a main factor among Black homeowners was having family in the city. Of all respondents, 31% said that was a main factor, while 44% of Black homeowners listed that as a main factor.
Overall, she said, people are moving to Baltimore because of what they see the city becoming.
“I think that we have this younger generation of folks who are looking to plant their seed in Baltimore and be part of what this whole growth in Renaissance truly looks like,” Uqdah said.