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Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall

Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall

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

Location: Mostly in Towson (Baltimore County)

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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.)

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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:

Because some people want to live in the city and some don't. The property tax rate is a common point of contention -- it's a little more than twice as much in the city as it is in the county.

So, to each his own. Loch Raven Village and Knettishall don't have the variety of housing types you can find in Lake Walker, but they're well-kept and wear their neighborhood pride on their sleeve, or rather their utility poles:

Here's an example of the architecture in Loch Raven Village, which the neighbors describe as "Georgian colonial":

Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall

Patriotic front yards:

Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall

And depending on the time of year, you might just happen across a farm stand on Putty Hill Avenue:

Hidden gems: Loch Raven Village & Knettishall

Wonk reader bryanintimonium nominated Loch Raven Village and Knettishall without comment, so I went hunting for details that could confirm or deny their hidden-gem status. I drove past both for years without realizing they existed, so that seemed a good start.

Marney Kirk, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Excellence in Timonium, said she's been selling homes in the neighborhoods for 11 years and considers them gems.

"People love living there," Kirk said. "It's definitely a good area."

It reminds Kirk of Rodgers Forge, except less pricey. You'll also spend less than you would have before the housing slump ate away at home values. Homes in Loch Raven Village and Knettishall were going for more than $250,000 a few years ago, she said.

The two neighborhoods have a similar feel, but the Loch Raven Village homes are generally larger and the styles are a bit different. Ralph Simmers Jr., who built Knettishall with his father, based his design on the English townhouses he saw while in the Air Force during World War II. Knettishall is named after the village where he was stationed.

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Leslie Jackson-Vallade, a mother of two who's lived in Loch Raven Village for 10 years, says lots of families live in the neighborhood because the townhouses are big enough to accommodate the space-eating needs of kids. Her home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a "huge" attic and a finished basement.

"We're a very close-knit group," added Jackson-Vallade, treasurer of the Loch Raven Village Community Association. "It's really conducive to young families."

Other residents have deep roots. Janice Krach grew up in Loch Raven Village, went away to college and came back. Since 1975 she's lived in Knettishall.

"It's a nice location," she said. "It's so easy to get to all the places in the Baltimore metro area."

Have personal experience with Loch Raven Village or Knettishall? Do share.

Want to see all the photos I took? Check out the hidden-gem gallery.

Tomorrow: Manchester.

(All photographs by Jamie Smith Hopkins / Baltimore Sun)

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