Please register to participate in our discussions with 1.5 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
Possibly relocating from North Carolina to Columbia/EC/Clarksville/Sykesville
My husband has a possible job opportunity in Columbia and we are coming up from North Carolina to tour the area this weekend. Have a realtor to take us around, but would like some input from some fellow City Data members!
We are looking for GREAT schools, family-friendly area (3 kids - 2nd grade, kindergarten and 4yo), within 15 minutes of restaurants and a mall, very safe, where we can buy at a 3-4 bedroom + bonus/basement house for under $500K. We'd like to be in a neighborhood with lots of children, and have sports available nearby - swim team, soccer and tennis preferrably. Hoping that people aren't 'cliquey' there either. I keep saying that next time I move, I want to move to a new home community where everyone is new and more open to friendships....but from looking online it doesn't seem like there's any new home neighborhoods in my price range.
Would you recommend Ellicott City, Clarksville or Sykesville? From reading online, I am getting the idea that Columbia's schools are hit or miss so I'm leaning toward ruling that area out. We belong to Lifetime Fitness here, and I understand they opened up a nice one in Columbia so hubby is excited about that!
We want the BEST schools - I am looking at scores online, but in my experience, it's not just test scores. I want to be in the schools that all the parents talk about wanting to get into - and then they all support the school and make it even stronger. We were told when we relocated to NC that "sure, the schools are good" but didn't really do our homework and ended up with mediocre schools. Don't want to make that same mistake again!
We would be leaving North Carolina, where cost of living is much lower than MD and we have a 3300 square foot home for under $500K. Realize we will be downsizing significantly and wonder if Sykesville would make more sense - it seems more affordable than EC or Clarksville. But again, with schools being top of mind, we're willing to live in a much, much smaller house if we are thrilled with our schools.
Any input is appreciated! I am a realtor here in NC, so I know that realtors are limited in terms of how much they can say about schools and demographics....so counting on my City Data peeps to give me the real scoop.
The Carroll County Public Schools (the school district that Sykesville is in) are excellent. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Sykesville/Eldersburg area! The mall may be a bit further away (the Mall in Columbia is a very nice mall, but is at least 25 minutes away. The Towne Mall in Westminster is ok, and is about 20 minutes away). Don't know much about the local teams, but keep seeing ads for the local soccer league - maybe someone else can advise on those.
If you're looking for a single family home under 500k, I think you'd have to rule out Clarksville. If you want new construction, Ellicott City won't work either. If you're willing to settle for an older neighborhood in an area of good schools, I think you can find something in Howard County. OR, if you'd be willing to consider a townhome, there are some really nice newer ones in Clarksville and Marriottsville, both near excellent schools. I'm not familiar enough with Carroll County to talk about it.
You say you want the absolute best school, but you don't want cliquey. That's going to be hard to avoid, because people are moving to these areas for the same reason. The schools with the least diversity are also the neighborhoods with the wealthiest families. Schools with more diversity will be less so. IMO the school districts with the most snob appeal are River Hill and Marriottsville. My impression is that they are the wealthiest. The Centennial and Atholton (Columbia) HS districts have excellent academics, but are also older schools and have more diversity. Centennial has a rep for having stellar math/science/AP classes, and has a very high percentage of Asians in the district. Mt. Hebron also has excellent schools, but is more diverse. The snob appeal lessens as you go east in the county, but there are some wonderful neighborhoods in the area of 103/104/Elkridge/Marshalee that are somewhat more affordable and still have good schools, and are much closer to I95 for commuting. You would be able to find many single family home resales for around 500k or less in all of the areas mentioned, except for the first two.
Good luck! I'd be interested to know where your agent takes you.
I moved to Ellicott City from Cary about 17 months ago.
In general, all Howard County schools are much better than Wake County. I'm a graduate of Wake County schools so it doesn't bring me joy to say it, but it is much better here. I would not worry about repeating your Wake County experience with schools. However, as others have pointed out, you may risk things getting cliquey if you go for the very "best" schools. Also, you are going to notice the price differential if you do that. You will see a difference in prices based on where a house districts, and there's a risk in that because Howard County is going to have a major redistricting in the next couple of years. I would recommend going mid-range for schools for best value.
You also are probably going to have to get an older house at that price point. This area is fully developed. Here and there are small new home communities, but nothing like the big ones you get in NC. However, you may be able to find a good-sized lot with an older home, which can be nice with kids (it is for us). We're actually in a neighborhood that is turning over as older families move to assisted living, so it is a real mix of ages, but there are plenty of kids.
We are very happy with our elementary school, which is actually in Columbia. It is small, close-knit, and has a very high caliber of student, teacher, and staff. I personally wouldn't want to live in Columbia for other reasons (I'm not fond of their HOA) but I wouldn't rule out a school with a Columbia address.
Also, don't underestimate the commute around here. With kids the age of yours, I have a huge preference for living close to work. Sykesville is not a short commute, and I commute against that traffic and see it every day. There are some big back-ups going from 29 to 70.
I knew I could count on you guys! Thanks for all the input! I think we're going to rule Sykesville out for now, and consider that a back up plan if we absolutely can't find anything we like in Ellicott City. Mostly because I hate driving and I'm hearing time and time again that traffic is a problem headed in that direction.
As far as snob factor goes, I know I will be up against that anywhere but appreciate the input on River Hill and Marriottsville. Sort of seems we won't be able to afford either anyway..... I guess I am just sensitive to the snob factor because we lived in South Florida for 10 years and found the showy, "look at all the money I have" attitude to be exhausting. It's been quite refreshing in North Carolina to not have to deal with that at all. When you meet people here, they don't feel the need to advertise their net worth - they just want to talk to you and get to know you. Which is nice.
Anyhoo, we have on our list to look at - Long Gate, Font Hill Village, Brampton Hills, Worthington, Valley Mede, Dunloggin and Gwynn Acres. I'll be sure to report back on our thoughts. Thanks again!
Good Luck finding the perfect place for your family, Ellicott City is pretty nice. I love the area and I know you will enjoy it. My husband and I have a 3.5 year old son and we are thinking of relocating to North Carolina (we live in Maryland now) Schools are very important to us just like you said in your post. Any places you would recommend in North Carolina? My husband likes Raleigh, but I am not at all familiar with the area so any comments or suggestions will help.
clumsygirl, I didn't mean to give any negative slant to River Hill or Mariotts Ridge areas. That just happens to be where some of the newest and most expensive construction is going on and the school districts have fewer apartments and diverse families that might influence test scores. They're great schools. I hope you see something you like on your visit. I'm very close to several of the neighborhoods you mentioned. Feel free to pm me if you have any questions.
J_Lurk, your comments on the Wake schools are interesting. My small neighborhood has seen three families move to Wake since we moved in. I assumed the schools were excellent there.
Having lived in Columbia, MD for 12 years with a 9 and 11 year old in the school system, I understand your concerns. We are getting ready to move to Colorado Springs this summer but if that move had not happened we were wanting to move to other areas of Howard County. As you mention, not all Ho Co schools are equal. All of that said, we were looking at homes in Columbia which were districted to Clemens Crossing, Hammond Middle, Atholton High School; homes in Clarksville which were districted for Triadelphia Elementary, Folly Quarter Middle and Glenelg High School (a tough find at your budget but possible); we've also looked in the Mt. Hebron HS area. Finally, I think Iilchester elementary school is great, lots of new homes in the area and I've heard that Howard High (which doesn't have the best rep) is turning around due to all the new construction in the area. Hope this has been helpful. Good luck.
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $53,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.
Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.