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: : Brick townhouses built in the 1940s and '50s, with more personality than most of the newer stuff. The yards are large enough for flower gardens, 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.

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 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 homes aren't identical. Loch Raven Village residents call their townhomes "Georgian colonial," and they're larger. Ralph Simmers Jr., who built Knettishall with his father, based his design on the English townhouses he saw while in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Knettishall is named after the village where he was stationed.

Leslie Jackson-Vallade, a mother of two who has lived in Loch Raven Village for 10 years, says lots of families have settled there 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."

About this series

With help from readers, The Baltimore Sun's Real Estate Wonk blog selected 10 nice, affordable and off-the-radar places as "hidden-gem neighborhoods." This is one of the 10.

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