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December 20, 2009

Greater Lauraville: a video

Bet you thought the hidden-gem-neighborhood project was over -- not least because I said so. But there was, actually, one remaining piece waiting for its finishing touches. And here it is: the freshly edited video I shot of Greater Lauraville while I was in the neighborhood.

Enjoy, I hope. Please forgive my imperfect camera work. And feel free to re-read the Lauraville profile, which happens to be in the real estate section today.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods, Video
        

November 27, 2009

Hidden gems coda, and your very own soapbox

It started with a request in July and ended today, dozens of nominations and 10 selected places later. The hidden-gem-neighborhood project highlighted the variety of nice places in the Baltimore region with home prices first-time buyers could swing. Not all nice and less-expensive places by any means, but a cross-section.

I hope you found it a fun trip. If you'd like to take it again, you'll find the list -- with links to the photo gallery and all the individual profiles -- right here.

Now: What do you like about your neighborhood? I'm planning to launch an occasional feature on the Real Estate Wonk blog that will give you a soapbox to stand on for a few minutes and few hundred words, an opportunity to introduce everyone to your neck of the woods, share tales of life there and explain what (if anything) you would change about the place. Call it "My neighborhood, 'tis of thee."

Comment below if you'd like to participate. (Just remember to include your email address in the line meant for it, or I won't be able to contact you.) Or email me by clicking on my name directly below. (See it? It says "Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins." Yup, that.)

Thank you all for your help with hidden gems. I'm looking forward to what you'll say about your neighborhoods.

Hidden gem: Violetville

Violetville2.jpg

Neighborhood: Violetville

Location: southwestern Baltimore

Average sale price: $135,000 (January through June)

Notable features: This little triangle of a neighborhood, anchored by St. Agnes Hospital, started life as a 19th-century village and still has a small-town feel. Some streets are lined by rowhouses, some by single-family homes, all with yards. Foliage abounds. A park with ball fields and tennis courts gives kids a destination, and for the adults: Interstate 95. Nothing like slicing your commute time by living a minute from the on-ramp.

When the city expanded its boundaries in 1919, it took most but not quite all of Violetville. The southern piece of the neighborhood is in Baltimore County, as is the Violetville Volunteer Fire Department. You'll find homes on that side of the line that look decidedly suburban:

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Violetville" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 26, 2009

Hidden gem: Village of Olde Mill

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Neighborhood: Village of Olde Mill

Location: Millersville (Anne Arundel County)

Average sales price: $231,000 (January through June)

Notable features: This neighborhood of 1970s houses goes against the grain of suburban lookalike streets with nothing but one color and style. Properties range from split foyers to townhouses with bump-out windows, some clad in wood, some in brick and some in siding. Lots of attention to yards here -- see the photo above. The location, just east of Veterans Highway and Route 97, means a 15-mile drive to downtown Baltimore, 18 miles to Annapolis and 34 miles to D.C.

The average home selling in Millersville in the first half of the year changed hands for $440,000, so Olde Mill is a comparative island of affordability. Dominic Cantalupo, associate broker at Champion Realty in Pasadena, suggested it when I was desperately looking for something in pricey Anne Arundel County that's less costly but still gem-worthy.

You won't get huge homes here, but then more people are in the market for modest nowadays. The properties tend to range from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. C'mon, take the 10-cent tour with me.

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Village of Olde Mill" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 25, 2009

Hidden gem: The Villages of Montgomery Run

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Neighborhood: The Villages of Montgomery Run

Location: Ellicott City (Howard County)

Average sales price: $200,000 (January through June)

Notable features: This condo community is like many other condo communities, architecturally speaking, but it's got location to recommend it if you want a good public school and quick access to highways. Montgomery Run is cradled between Routes 108 and 100. And it's in district for Bellows Spring Elementary School, which beats both the state and county overall on test scores for math and reading.

The neighborhood is next to a new shopping center, so you can walk to get your Starbucks coffee fix, and it's a short drive from the restaurants at Route 108 and Snowden River Parkway.

The condos might all look the same, but it's a pretty colorful place in the fall. Here, have a look.

Continue reading "Hidden gem: The Villages of Montgomery Run" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 24, 2009

Hidden gem: Manchester

Manchester7.jpg

Neighborhood -- or, rather, community: Manchester

Location: Carroll County

Average sales price: $237,000 in ZIP code 21102 (January through June)

Notable features: Rolling farmland, cows, horses and elbow room. You'll find homes with generous yards, new single-family houses for less than you'd spend in much of the Baltimore region and an old-town Main Street.

Manchester is almost 40 miles from downtown Baltimore, and its ZIP code stretches to the Pennsylvania line. Not a commute for the faint of heart. But just the thing if you want a place removed from the urban bustle, where working farms and weathered barns dot the landscape. Here's the view from there:

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Manchester" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 23, 2009

Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall

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Neighborhoods: The cheek-and-jowl Loch Raven Village and Knettishall

Location: Mostly in Towson (Baltimore County)

Average sales price: $219,000 (January through June)

Notable features: Loch Raven Village and Knettishall have 1940s and '50s brick townhouses with more personality than most of the newer stuff. The yards are large enough for flower gardens, as you can see above, and Interstate 695 is less than a mile away. (Why "mostly in Towson"? Because the eastern half of Loch Raven Village is in Parkville.)

You've got all the locational benefits of Towson here -- malls, colleges, recreation -- without the usual Towson price. The 380-acre Cromwell Valley Park, which has a demonstration farm illustrating "sustainable" and organic practices, is a short drive from the neighborhood.

Of course, this is all true of fellow gem Lake Walker, a short drive to the south and just over the city line. So why pick Lake Walker and these twin Towson neighborhoods if they're so close together? Simple:

Continue reading "Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 20, 2009

Hidden gem: Lauraville

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Neighborhood: Lauraville

Location: northeast Baltimore

Average sales price: $184,000 (January through June)

Notable features: Single-family homes -- some quite large -- on streets with a quiet, off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. Yet the eastern boundary is Harford Road, a major artery. Businesses in the area include a Safeway grocery store and Main Street-style independently owned shops.

Lauraville was mostly built in the 1910s and '20s, but it became a village with a post office just after the Civil War, according to the Lauraville Improvement Association. Much of the neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It recently got a nod from This Old House magazine as the "Best Old House Neighborhood" in Maryland. (I pondered whether to disqualify it as a "hidden" gem for that reason, but I think it's still off most folks' radar.)

Here's the clincher: Residents here are super-enthusiastic about their neighborhood. I say that because lots of people put in nominations for Lauraville and the whole "Greater Lauraville" area, which includes the surrounding neighborhoods of Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Hamilton Hills, Mayfield, Moravia-Walther, Morgan Park and Waltherson.

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Lauraville" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 19, 2009

Hidden gem: Lake Walker

LakeWalker2.jpg

Neighborhood: Lake Walker

Location: northern Baltimore

Average sales price: $235,000 (January through June)

Notable features: This neighborhood hard against the city-county line is, architecturally speaking, the opposite of the suburban cul-de-sac where every house looks exactly the same. Here you'll find nineteenth-century farmhouses, modest Depression-era homes, bungalows, brick townhouses, stylish Tudor townhouses (pictured above) and even some homes that could participate in a suburban cul-de-sac exchange program without anyone being the wiser.

There's no lake -- the neighborhood is named after two streets. But the tree-lined Lake Avenue looks awfully nice even without water as a draw.

Lake Walker, bounded on the west by York Road, is within walking distance of a Giant grocery store. Because it's just south of Towson, it's not far from malls, colleges and Interstate 695. But never mind that for a moment. See what I mean about the homes:

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Lake Walker" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 18, 2009

Hidden gem: Havre de Grace

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Neighborhood -- or, in this case, community: Havre de Grace

Location: Harford County

Average sales price: $241,000 (January through June)

Notable features: Water, water, everywhere. Havre de Grace's northeastern boundary is the Susquehanna River, and along its southeastern edge flows the Chesapeake Bay. There's a boardwalk promenade along the river and boats galore, plus a quaint downtown on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the homes here are historic and stately. Some are just darn cute. Take a look:

 

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Havre de Grace" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 17, 2009

Hidden gem: Brewers Hill

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Neighborhood: Brewers Hill

Location: Southeast Baltimore

Average sales price: $223,000 (January-June). The cheapest home that sold was $157,000; the most expensive, $271,000.

Notable features: Ask people in the region to name a funky Baltimore neighborhood near the water, and they'll probably come up with Canton. Brewers Hill, its small next-door-neighbor to the east, gets a lot less attention. But it has neatly-kept rowhouses, cool beer-brewing history (wave hello to Mr. Boh, pictured above) and easy access to Canton hot spots without the bustling activity.

As reader EL put it when nominating this neighborhood for gem consideration, "We have all the fun of Canton, but none of the parking headaches or intoxicated frat boys."

Some of the blocks look very much like Canton:

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Brewers Hill" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 16, 2009

Hidden gem: Ashburton

Ashburton5.jpg

First up on the hidden-gem list: Ashburton.

Location: Northwest Baltimore.

Average sales price: $141,000 (January-June).

Notable features: Beautiful single-family homes -- some brick -- and lots of mature trees. An old-money feel without the price tag. Directly to the south is Hanlon Park, with Lake Ashburton.

A 2002 study of city neighborhoods, prepared by Johns Hopkins University graduate students, called Ashburton "a well-defined enclave in northwest Baltimore that has established itself as the home of Baltimore's black elite." In fact, I almost disqualified Ashburton from this list because I thought it was an unhidden gem, a place most people know about. Until I started asking around and got puzzled looks, that is.

Here's the view down Ellamont Road:

 

Continue reading "Hidden gem: Ashburton" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 13, 2009

Hidden-gem guesses

Several folks guessed at the hidden-gem neighborhoods based on these photos -- and good guesses they were -- but only one reader correctly named any of them.

So congratulations, bryanintowson! For identifying the twin neighborhoods of Loch Raven Village and Knettishall, you win due praise, a copy of Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us by Alyssa Katz and a Real Estate Wonk magnet.

Send a mailing address to jamie.smith.hopkins(at)baltsun.com and I'll ship them your way.

Thanks to you all for playing the guessing game. If you other guessers would like a magnet, email me and I'll send you one, too.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

Hidden-gem neighborhoods unveiled

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Nice places are tucked all over the Baltimore region, from urban rowhouse neighborhoods to rural outposts. As part of the Sun's 10Spot blog campaign, I set out to find 10 that everybody and their brother doesn’t already know about -- ones with prices in reach of first-time home buyers.

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With your help, I've picked 10 of these hidden-gem neighborhoods. They aren't the only gems out there, and I'm not claiming they're the absolute best. (You'll never get a completely objective list out of something so subjective.) But they're all fairly affordable, with average sale prices under $250,000 in the first half of this year. And they're a cross-section of the great variety you can find in our metro area.

Want an urban setting? On the list. In the city but with a suburban feel? Check. The Chesapeake Bay in walking distance? Yup. Cows as neighbors? Got just the place for you. The much-vaunted Howard County schools? Got that, too.

As much as possible, I tried to pull from the list of neighborhoods people cared about enough to nominate. And every jurisdiction is represented. That's on purpose, because you all have reasons for wanting to be in one or another.

Here are the neighborhoods, in alphabetical order. Drumroll, please:

Continue reading "Hidden-gem neighborhoods unveiled" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: 10Spot, Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 12, 2009

Last chance to guess these neighborhoods

Tomorrow: hidden-gem neighborhoods. Can you guess what they are from these photos? The window of opportunity for showing your Baltimore-area smarts closes at the stroke of midnight.

Prizes for right guesses, plus your name in lights (or rather blog pixels).

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:53 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 9, 2009

Guess these neighborhoods

Calling all competitive Baltimore-area residents: Can you guess which neighborhoods are pictured in this post? C'mon, take a stab at it. The person with the most correct guesses receives a real estate book and due praise.

So far, just one guesser. The field is wide open. (It closes Thursday night because the big reveal is Friday.)

You don't have to live in the area to play, but I'm, ah, guessing Baltimore residency will help.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 1:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

November 6, 2009

Guess the hidden-gem neighborhoods

Next Friday, I'll unveil the long-awaited list of hidden-gem neighborhoods -- nice, off-the-radar and relatively affordable spots in the Baltimore region. In the meantime, can you guess the 10? Photos of each are above.

The person with the most correct guesses wins a copy of Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us by Alyssa Katz. Anyone with at least one correct guess is entitled to a Real Estate Wonk magnet.

Remember, each of the 10 is in the Baltimore metro area and had an average sale price under $250,000 in the first half of the year. More than half were suggested by you lovely Wonk readers.

Two hints: Each Baltimore-area jurisdiction has at least one. And a few of the spots are really communities, not neighborhoods.

You don't have to squint at the photos. Click on any and a larger version will pop up.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

October 23, 2009

Hidden-gem neighborhoods: It's a date

Months ago, I asked you to nominate Baltimore-area neighborhoods that are hidden gems -- nice, affordable places that aren't already on everybody's radar. You inundated me with suggestions.

You'll finally get to see the results Nov. 13, part of a Sun blogger campaign called 10Spot. First up -- today, in fact -- is Peter Hermann with the most notorious local crimes.

I thought a list of 10 neighborhoods would be a nice little side project. Little did I know how much time it would take to research, select, visit and compile. Boy, am I glad I'm almost done, as is everyone sitting near enough to me to hear my muttered complaints.

But it's been a great way to see parts of the region I've never or seldom spent time in. And I hope the exercise will introduce you to interesting neighborhoods you might know nothing about.

You'll get a chance to guess the 10 -- with clues and prizes! -- in two weeks.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:42 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 10Spot, Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

August 5, 2009

Hidden-gem nomimations thus far

I asked you to tell me about hidden-gem neighborhoods in the Baltimore metro area, nice places off the popular radar where homes typically cost less than $250,000. You've collectively nominated 44 -- all but a handful in the city -- that you think fit the bill.

Here's the nomination list as it stands now. Is a worthy neighborhood missing? (Or did I somehow miss your nomination?) Add it in the comments. (We still have no nods for Harford County places.)

I'll soon be going through the list myself, so -- last call.

Continue reading "Hidden-gem nomimations thus far" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (27)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

July 24, 2009

Hidden-gem nominations

The outpouring of neighborhood-love this week -- in response to my call for affordable hidden gems in the Baltimore area -- is proof that many of you have warm and fuzzy feelings about the places where you live. It's pretty darn cool to hear the various reasons you think your neighborhood is fabulous and deserves more attention.

I still want nominations -- keep 'em coming HERE -- and particularly challenge suburbanites to offer up neighborhoods for the list. (Unless there are really only a couple of suburban neighborhoods with typical prices under $250,000 that any of you like living in?) City folks, you're all over this: splendid work. Though I'm sure there are a number of as-yet-unnominated Baltimore City neighborhoods in need of a spotlight, so don't stop now.

The amount of ardent support for your neighborhoods can't be contained in one top-ten list, or at least that's what I'm beginning to suspect. So -- which of you ardent supporters would like to get a little more soapbox time to say what you like about your communities? I'll line up Q&As (simple ones) for the blog, if enough of you raise your hands.

This will be in addition to the hidden-gems list I'm compiling, not instead of. And tell you what: no $250,000 ceiling on the Q&As.

Raising your hand is easy. Comment below. Just be sure to fill in the part that asks for email address.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

July 21, 2009

Great affordable neighborhoods: Your nominations

Boy, have you responded to my request to nominate off-the-popular-radar neighborhoods in the Baltimore metro area that are both affordable and nice. (Proponents of Lauraville, in Northeast Baltimore, have come out in force.)

Keep those nominations coming. I'd like suggestions all across the city and in each nearby county. So far, nobody's recommended any communities in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford or Howard. (The price requirement -- below $250,000 -- makes it tricky in the more expensive suburbs, I know.)

Here's a recap of what I'm looking for: places in the metro area where the housing stock is decent, typical prices are below $250,000, crime isn't rampant and there's something that people would like if only they knew about it -- fun night life, a great elementary school, a strong neighborhood association, etc. You can nominate neighborhoods or entire ZIP codes.

Add your nominations to the running list here, or simply comment on this post.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 1:52 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        

July 20, 2009

Nominate a hidden-gem community

We all know about popular (and usually expensive) places to live in the Baltimore area. What, however, about the city neighborhoods and suburban communities that are nice places but off the popular radar?

I'm making a list and want your input. I'd like nominations for places in the metro area where the housing stock is decent, typical prices are below $250,000, crime isn't rampant and there's something that people would like if only they knew about it -- fun night life, a great elementary school, a strong neighborhood association, etc.

I can crunch numbers all I want -- which is just what I'm doing, as it happens -- but there's no substitute for recommendations from people who like where they're living. So leave a comment nominating a place or several places. I'm eager to hear your suggestions, whether they're neighborhoods nobody knows about (well, except the residents) or ones that have an unfairly not-so-great reputation.

UPDATE: Keep putting your nominations here, but see this post for another opportunity to get the word out about the neighborhoods you love.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:53 AM | | Comments (97)
Categories: Hidden-gem neighborhoods
        
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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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