Price: $300,000

A wonderfully pert Victorian cottage is newly available in charming downtown Batavia. The 1,300-square-foot three-bedroom home strikes me as representative of an older slice of town, with numerous places of this vintage on shady lots.

“You can walk to the center of town in five minutes, and the Fox River’s hiking and biking trails are close by,” says RE/MAX listing agent Cory Jones. The Metra is a 10-minute drive north, in downtown Geneva. The few square blocks around today’s property, and particularly Jefferson Street, collect Batavia’s largest trees, which draw foliage-watchers in autumn.

Batavia may look like an idyllic vacation town to frayed city folk, and it’s plausible that the very reasonable housing prices could court a few second-home buyers. But Jones, a Fox Valley native, assures me the City of Batavia is comprised almost entirely of year-rounders. The generational mix includes first-time buyers, younger families drawn to the town’s exceptional public schools, and a stable of lifelong residents. And, while a $300,000 ask is near the median single-family sale price for Batavia ($268,000 in 2013 according to MRED), housing size and price points are a scattershot.

Kate and Eric (who asked that their last names be withheld) bought the home for $280,000 in October 2005, and first listed it for sale in 2010-11 at $339,000. The house dates to 1880 and fronts 1st Street with an unusual dual-entry porch. Hardwood floors grace every room but the master bathroom, and the remodeled eat-in kitchen has a throwback farm sink, soapstone counters, and a six-burner stove. One omission—a microwave—was intentional, says Jones. Not everyone wants to build that dependency, I suppose. You can see the interior photos here.

Kate began documenting her house by blog long before my modest effort. Discontinued a couple years ago, it was primarily a showcase for gardens and interiors—Kate and Eric keep a rambunctious perennial garden (see right). A boardwalk runs from a large back patio through the lawn and garden to the garage, and there’s a hammock site along the way. “They were originally shopping price points three times higher than this home,” says Jones, who also sold the couple their house. Instead they got caught up in the home’s Victorian charms, its one-third acre lot, and the block’s unusual set-up.

One of Kate’s favorite aspects is the home’s location on an alley block—quite rare in these parts—with open yards for easy socializing. “There are no common fences and so there’s kind of a greenway vibe where you meet people from two blocks over walking their dogs.” Kate and Eric relish the robust community that grew from this layout. But, alas, after six winters at their Batavia home (two more spent in India) the couple is making for South Carolina. “This year’s double polar vortex was the last straw,” concedes Kate.

Despite this decision to pick up roots, the family clung to the home longer than expected considering the three years spent abroad since buying in 2005. They rented it out instead of selling, in part because their kids had become so intertwined in the community.

Have your sights set on a bolstered social life in much smaller city? This may be your best bet.