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Nice places are tucked all over the Baltimore region, from urban rowhouse neighborhoods to rural outposts. I set out to find 10 that everybody and their brother doesn't already know about - ones with prices in reach of first-time homebuyers. Here are these hidden-gem neighborhoods, selected with the help of Real Estate Wonk readers. These 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.

1. Ashburton (Northwest Baltimore). Beautiful single-family homes and stately trees - an old-money feel without the old-money price. (Though well-known to the African-American movers and shakers who have flocked here for years, Ashburton doesn't have the regional name recognition of a Canton or Roland Park.)

2. Brewers Hill (Southeast Baltimore). Well-kept brick rowhouses, backyard gardens and National Bohemian's iconic Mr. Boh overlooking it all - just steps from the Canton nightlife.

3. Havre de Grace (Harford County). A mix of old-town charm and new 'burb development nestled where the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

4. Lake Walker (North Baltimore). Tree-shaded streets and homes that run the gamut from Tudor townhouse to bungalow.

5. Lauraville (Northeast Baltimore). Main Street businesses, single-family-home streets with a suburban feel and Herring Run Park just to the south.

6. Loch Raven Village and Knettishall (Baltimore County). Next-door neighborhoods with stylish brick townhouses within jogging distance of Interstate 695 - an affordable spot at the edge of pricey Towson.

7. Manchester (Carroll County). Picturesque farms, generous yards and a mix of old and new houses.

8. The Villages of Montgomery Run (Howard County). An Ellicott City condo community near shopping centers, Route 100 and schools with good test scores.

9. Village of Olde Mill (Anne Arundel County). Houses with beautifully kept yards close to (but apart from) Route 97 and Veterans Highway in Millersville.

10. Violetville (Southwest Baltimore). Another yard-centric neighborhood - flowers, bushes and trees galore - with a great commuting location: one minute to Interstate 95.

Each Friday until 2010, Baltimore Sun bloggers will present their top-10 lists in print and online.

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What you said

"Brewers Hill is a gem of a neighborhood. We have all the fun of Canton, but none of the parking headaches or intoxicated frat boys." -- EL

"Lauraville! Walk to where you can buy books, groceries, the best coffee beans, ice cream, espresso, creative dinners made from items bought at farmer's markets, a classy happy hour, a fantastic crab cake, and more from independent, community-based places. Meet your neighbors at fun block parties. Enjoy porches, yards, trees, parks, and even a nearby university." -- EB

"Violetville! This is a great community. More like a small town or suburb, but only 6 minutes from downtown. Has its own school, park and churches." -- JLG

"I nominate the Ashburton area of Baltimore City. There are PLENTY of big old homes in this area, and it's very close to Loyola, Hopkins, Notre Dame (even Morgan [State University] is a stone's throw away). People are paying all those big bucks to live in Charles Village (upper and lower), Homewood and Hampden when they could have a lot more house in Ashburton." -- Alonzo LaMont Jr.

For full profiles of these neighborhoods and lots of photos, go to

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