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Old 04-06-2011, 04:02 PM
10 posts, read 21,124 times
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I may be moving to Towson within the next couple of months and would appreciate recommendations for good areas (towns and/or communities) in which to live. I have two elementary aged children so I'm looking for an area with good schools, nice single family homes, and within a 30 minute commute of Towson. I haven't done research on the prices of homes in the area yet to see what's reasonable so for these purposes let's say homes that cost less than $500,000. Thank you.
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Old 06-13-2012, 06:04 PM
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Bumping. My husband is seriously considering a job in Towson and also have elementary aged children. So looking for the same thing.
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Old 06-13-2012, 09:00 PM
Location: Columbia, MD
553 posts, read 1,474,479 times
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Here's the skinny.

First, depending on where you're moving from, 500k doesn't buy as much as you would think if you value good neighborhoods zoned for the right schools.

There are a bunch of nice areas near town on the city side of Northern Parkway - like Homeland, Guilford, Roland Park, etc. Homes cost less but taxes are a real killer. On a 500k home in the city where you'd probably have to pay for private schooling, your taxes will be 11k whereas the same home in the county will not require private schooling and the taxes will be closer to 6k a year.

If my criteria are good schools + nice SFH (meaning 4+ bedrooms, at least 2000 sq ft, built after 1980) + close to Towson, it's going to be slim pickins at 500k. 500k will buy you a home that meets these criteria but probably needs quite a bit of updating. 600k will get you more options.

Here is an example of a home at 500k that needs a lot of work that would meet your criteria (I think):

BC7853174 on FranklyMLS.com 304 RIDGELY RD, LUTHERVILLE TIMONIUM MD for $499,000 in VALLEY GARTH Home For Sale

Here is an example of what you can expect to spend for a nice house in turnkey condition in the same areas:

BC7784003 on FranklyMLS.com 1200 BOYCE AVE, RUXTON MD for $615,000 in RUXTON Home For Sale

There are a lot of great elementary schools in the county. You absolutely need to do your research about which public elementary schools you want your kids to attend. Three reasons why:

1. There are great elementary schools which feed terrible middle schools. Many more people in Baltimore (county) than in other parts of the state are forced to send kids to private school after elementary.

2. Baltimore County is about to do some rather significant elementary re-zoning in the north/central part of the county to address overcrowding, and that includes parts of Towson.

3. Traffic in the area is bad and going to get worse because of population growth and because of long term, large scale road projects which will be starting over the next 1-2 years (695 widening in both directions, as an example).

Now, the next few sentences I hope you take to heart. They will help you figure out where you want to look, and it will give you more data to inform your decision than any anecdote you'll hear:

Maryland Report Card: 2011 Maryland Report Card

This site will tell you how every public school in the state is performing. Once you drill down to the elementary school, pay attention to the demographic data. My favorite chart to pull up is Students Receiving Special Services. This chart is important for 2 reasons:

1. You'll get an idea of what the student population is at the schools (diversity is not a bad thing)
2. You'll be able to see if the school is a candidate for the dreaded transfer list
3. You'll get a sense for classroom size, teacher qualifications, etc

What is the dreaded transfer list? If a school in a really bad part of the county does not make AYP (adequate yearly progress), then parents of all the students at the school have the option to send their child, at no cost to the family, to any school anywhere in Baltimore County which is on the transfer list.

I'm going to pick on Jacksonville Elementary. It's one of the best elementary schools in the county. At some point, though, it fell on the transfer list and now several buses bring kids in from the poorest part of the county. Since the change of location doesn't change the reasons the kids are struggling at school, what happens is the teachers at a school like Jacksonville are unaccustomed and unprepared to deal with kids with those issues (hungry, family issues, drug issues, health issues, who also may be just angry and have a hard time at school) and then the quality of the education suffers as teachers spend 90% of their time dealing with 10% of the student body.

Here's the chart of Jacksonville's students receiving special services:

1999 to 2011 Students Receiving Special Services : Demographics : Baltimore County - Jacksonville Elementary : 2011 Maryland Report Card

If you look at FARMS (Free And Reduced MealS), there were basically none until the 2009 school year, and then 5.7% of students were getting free lunch. In 2010, 7.9% were getting free meals. 2011 hasn't been released but it will likely be higher yet, I think at least 9% and as high as 11%.

So in summation - the big question that most people (at least most that I know) face is "do I want to spend 500k-ish on a home in Baltimore County where I'll probably have to pay 60k or more per child for a private education after elementary or do I want to move to Howard County and buy a more expensive home in the Centennial School District where I don't have to worry about private school".

If you choose the latter, you're looking at 600-800k for a nice SFH in the Centennial school district, which is still 30 minutes commute to Towson.

If you choose the former, homes which feed these elementary schools are where I would focus your search:

-West Towson [21204]
-Timonium [21093]
-Riderwood [21204 and 21093]
-Pinewood [21093]
-Mays Chapel Elementary - coming for the 2014 school year [21093]
-Rogers Forge [21204]
-Stoneleigh [21204]

Also, stay on top of the re-zoning of elementary schools. West Towson/Timonium are way overcrowded. The new Mays Chapel Elementary school will address this, but it will involve re-zoning (to what degree nobody knows) these schools:

-Lutherville Lab
-Padonia International

Hope this helps, if you have questions, feel free to PM me.
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Old 06-14-2012, 04:37 AM
766 posts, read 1,301,490 times
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p.s. Cenntennial is just an example. You'll pay a $25-$40k premium, but the elementary/middle schools will not be much better than those that feed into Mt. Hebron (right near I70 for that commute to Towson).
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Old 06-14-2012, 05:10 AM
Location: Baltimore
1,759 posts, read 4,261,704 times
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500k will get you into most neighborhoods in Baltimore County.
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Old 06-14-2012, 06:03 AM
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So if one were commuting to Towson how far out and rural would you go? And what areas would one look to for decent schools?
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Old 06-14-2012, 07:39 AM
Location: Baltimore
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The schools near Rodgers Forge are top rated and would be bicycle distance for your husband. Depends on what kind of commute he is ok with and the type of home you're looking for.
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Old 06-14-2012, 08:29 AM
Location: Bergen County
42 posts, read 96,123 times
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500K will easily get you a really nice house almost any direction from Towson, near and far. Obviously there are going to be house that cost a lot more and a lot less, but saying there there would be "slim pickings" for 500K is absolutely f'n ridiculous. Look in the York Road corridor, Towson, Lutherville, Timonium, and spread out from there. Great schools in these areas.
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Old 06-14-2012, 08:51 AM
21 posts, read 52,114 times
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I live in Towson, right by the reservoir. The nice sfh's in my area run around 500,000 or less. The school is Hampton, which is great. A short commute would be perry hall, which is 15min away. The schools are great and you would find a great Sfh for less then 500,000
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Old 06-14-2012, 09:42 AM
98 posts, read 203,325 times
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Default SFH near Towson

Not to confuse matters, but also keep in mind that areas around Towson are reasonably close to some terrific private schools (which are clustered in No. Baltimore). Lots of choices if you chose to go that route. Obviously, in doing so, it does affect your overall budget. Happy to discuss offline.
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