Escape From New York -- Go to Ashland

Welcome to Escape From New York, in which we find (theoretical) new cities and homes for those priced out of the absurdly tight New York City real estate market.

In this installment, we have a home-owning couple who have lived for a decade in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood now suffering from "hipsters and strollers everywhere (plus the entitled attitudes that go with them)," says Giuliana, a textile designer.

She and her husband, James, a musician and architectural CAD consultant, love the food, the diversity, the culture, and their pals. But their house is dark and high-maintenance, cultural activities are too pricy, and the blood sport of parking is now bloodier.

Their must-haves: great food ("sushi is crucial," Giuliana says), a good music scene, dog-friendly, some amount of walkability, economic diversity, and a sense of community.

Their deal breakers: gated communities, high crime, a conservative political culture.

Their goal: an easy three- to four-bedroom home with a big kitchen, manageable yard (deck or patio is good), and finished basement. While they're at it: a tree-lined street and a fireplace.

Their budget: whatever they can sell their house for, which they estimate at $500,00 to $600,000 (a conservative estimate).

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I'm putting my money on Ashland, OR: progressive, affordable, breathtakingly beautiful.

Drawbacks? It's a looong way from Portland -- five hours at least -- where you'll find the real music scene. And diversity? Well, of 20,000 folks, 90% are white. It's kind of an Oregon thing -- and, yet, look at where you can live.

244 Hargadine St. for $629,000

It's hard not to use the word "adorable" when peeking at this three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1800 Victorian. It was remodeled in 2009, so despite its age it's open and light inside. And the views -- for those of us whose apartments peer into air shafts, they're almost painful to look at. The kitchen is sparse but lovely. It's close to town and near parks, so your walkability factor is quite high. So, too, is the price. You can get cheaper in Ashland, but you might not get cooler.

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420 Ashland St. for $469,000

Yeah, it used to be a split-level ranch, and now the 2,054-square-foot, four-bedroom home is a contemporary dream. Kitchen? Nice. Bamboo floors, a fireplace, and garage doors with reverse hierarchical windows that make you forget the home's humble 1966 past. Also, if you're looking for a spot to grow old in, you've found it: The place has wheelchair access.

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614 Fair Oaks Ct. for $355,000

So this is what a condo looks like in Ashland: It looks like a house. A nice house. It has three bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,668 square feet. There's also bamboo floors, travertine tile, and those signature Ashland views. And, yes, the fireplace and nice kitchen are included. It's close to town and a park.

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326 Ridge Rd. for $629,000

Did someone say "deck"? Holy cannoli! Here's another example of a typical ranch house reimagined as a light-filled paradise. The 2,129-square-foot house, built in 1947, has three bedrooms and two bathrooms and is located in a "highly desirable older established Ashland neighborhood." It's quiet but close to town. There are lots of built-ins and, yes, ye olde fireplace. All on a manageable 3.2-acre lot.

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826 B St. for $485,000

This one requires the lowest maintenance: It's a smaller place, at 1,350 square feet. It doesn't have much outdoor space, but there's a nice patio. There's also an "easy care yard with zero-scaping and drip sprinklers." It also has -- get this -- a carriage house. Three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, with approval for an ADU, which we now know can be a beautiful thing.

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