Towson area may cost less than you fear Scads of open houses planned next weekend in 2 dozen neighborhoods; Forget that $300,000 myth; Delights await you from Stoneleigh north to Baltimore Beltway; Suburban delights


Last winter, during the record snowstorms that ground the region to a halt, 78-year-old Bill Pumphrey's younger neighbors shoveled his walks, front and back. When they trudged to the grocery, they checked if they could pick up items for him.

"You've got to appreciate living in a neighborhood like that," said Mr. Pumphrey, who has lived in Knettishall since 1956.

Baltimore County hopes that it can sell more young homebuyers on the charms of Knettishall, off Loch Raven Boulevard, and the other communities that make up the greater Towson area, which has some 50,000 residents within a two-mile radius of its commercial district.

Next weekend, as many as 100 open houses will be held in two dozen neighborhoods, from the Baltimore City limits north to the Baltimore Beltway, west to Ruxton and east to Baynesville.

The event is a major component of the county's drive to preserve older suburbs by attracting young families.

Lead sponsor of the event is the Towson Partnership, a group of civic, business, government and academic officials that was formed in recent years to promote the county seat.

Another sponsor is the Baltimore County Office of Community Conservation, whose mission is to preserve urban neighborhoods.

The open house event is needed to make buyers, particularly younger ones, aware of the diversity of houses available in Towson, said Penny Johnson, central sector coordinator of the community conservation office.

"A lot of people think you can't live there for under $300,000," said Ms. Johnson. "Clearly, that's not true."

In fact, the average value of a Towson-area home is $156,431, according to figures from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. Many of the houses open next Sunday are in the low- to mid- $100,000 range.

In Rodgers Forge, a 6-decade-old brick rowhouse community, all but two of the open houses are in properties priced at under $150,000. Three of the six open houses in Stoneleigh, a 70-year-old neighborhood of Colonials and English country cottages, are in the $150s. Anneslie, a 75-year-old neighborhood south of Stoneleigh and east of Rodgers Forge, will have nine homes from $121,000 to $159,900 open.

For those with more expensive tastes, there are a few pricier homes: Several in Stoneleigh are selling in the mid-$200s; a Charlesbrooke home is going for $289,985; a West Towson home is listed for $450,000; and three Ruxton open houses range from $299,900 to $569,000.

Houses in many Towson area neighborhoods have been selling after two to three months on the market.

In Anneslie, the 24 properties sold since January 1995 sold in an average of 68 days, according to the regional multiple-list service -- Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies Inc. (MARIT).

In Southland Hills, eight homes sold in an average of 65 days. In West Towson, 16 homes spent an average of 61 days on the market before selling. In many cases, homes were selling for 95 percent or better of list price.

If the homes have been updated with modern kitchens and bathrooms, they sell fast, said Carolyn R. Lazzaro, an agent with Long & Foster's Timonium office.

Where boomers grew up

The greater Towson area is typical of many close-in American suburbs where the World War II generation raised families. In many neighborhoods, a majority of the housing was built in the 1950s and '60s.

Now these homeowners have reached retirement age, their children have moved away, and they are sitting in roomy houses with low or nonexistent mortgages.

Towson's neighborhoods and their homes have a charm and history not found in the newer subdivisions beyond the Beltway, residents say.

"We have a lot of affordable housing which is about to become available," said Baltimore County Councilman Douglas B. Riley, who lives in Wiltondale with his family.

"My objective is to get young families in there," he said.

Noon to 4 p.m.

Next Sunday, the open houses will be held generally from noon to 4 p.m., although some will be open longer than others.

To generate interest in the program, a family-oriented set of activities has been scheduled for Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at Towson Town Center, inside the mall at the entrance to Hecht's. Baby-sitting services will be available.

The Saturday kickoff will feature historic photographs of Towson from 1880 to 1960. Local Realtors will have displays highlighting homes that will be open to prospective buyers on Sunday, and neighborhood brochures, a community map and listings of open houses will be available.

Pub Date: 4/07/96

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