From the return of MTV’s “Cribs” (on Snapchat, no less) to the nonstop parade of stunning properties on HGTV, it’s clear that luxury homes are having a moment—and Baltimore is no exception. But while Charm City certainly offers its fair share of ritzy real estate, it’s difficult to define what exactly constitutes a “luxury home” in the city and surrounding counties.
“The term ‘luxury’ is really in the eyes of the beholder,” says O’Conor & Mooney agent Susan Doyle. “Luxury homes can be so many different things to so many different people.”
For some, like Linda Seidel of Long and Foster Real Estate’s Glick Seidel, the criteria are largely financial.
“I don’t really put a label on my listings, but I’d consider luxury around one million-plus,” Seidel says. “These homes are generally over 3,500 square feet, the grounds are well taken care of and the property is distinctive in some way.”
Others consider the definition more malleable.
“I think in order to be a luxury home, it just has to have really high-end finishes,” says Diane Donahue, a sales associate for Coldwell Banker. “It could be a small home with beautiful moldings and excellent craftsmanship or a totally custom, unique property.” (Though, she admits, “it will usually have a big price tag.”)
Interestingly, Donahue points out that many of the luxury properties in the city and counties are older homes. While there are those who are custom-building new houses, many homebuyers are gravitating toward charming, established residences—though they’re being renovated, of course, with the latest technology and furnishings.
“I have a property on the market that’s in every way an amazing luxury home,” says Donahue. “It was built in the 1990s as a replica of the Georgian homes built in Guilford in the early 1900s, and it’s just stunning—with marble, irreplaceable moldings, an incredible master suite with a fireplace and crystal chandelier, a downstairs theater … even the jungle gym is amazing.”
Oh, and it’s a total steal—just over $2.5 million, about half of what Donahue says it would cost to build today. In fact, both Donahue and Seidel point to Charm City’s relatively inexpensive luxury market.
“Baltimore is the best buy in town for luxury homes,” Donahue says. “You just couldn’t duplicate them for what we’re selling them for.”
Seidel believes this is due in part to the city’s geography. She notes the cautious nature of the local market (“People are being very careful—they don’t want to overpay”), but says the comparable value of Baltimore’s high-end homes is undeniable.
“In D.C., you could be paying $5 million for a house on a half-acre lot,” she says. “Here, you’re either getting more house or more land for your dollar.”
Whether buyers are looking in the city or county can have a significant effect as well. As Doyle pointed out, the city has an entirely different set of criteria. A harborfront condo, for example, has no acreage, but offers phenomenal views and an unbeatably convenient location.
Surprisingly, the populations snapping up these homes are as diverse as the definition of “luxury.” Though universally wealthy, the buyers range in age from young two-income couples in the medical field to older couples seeking a smaller—but still ultra-luxe—space.
“It’s certainly a special buyer that is willing to pay that price,” says Donahue. “These people have a true appreciation of elegance and value, and want to get in on that lifestyle.”