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From Luxe to Money Pit, Five of America's Best Starter Homes

Here now, a look at some of the best starter homes around the country, taking into consideration relatively affordable properties in neighborhoods appropriate for young families. These picks come from some of the country's most populous urban areas—so don't expect much space to spread out—but all benefit from the cultural bounties at their doorstep. In some cases the perennial love for luxury won out; in others, get ready for a renovation!

South Boston used to be famous as the headquarters for Whitey Bulger and the rest of the Irish mob. Today, it's a thriving and thoroughly gentrified district where first time buyers just might find a deal in the otherwise pricey Boston real estate market. This third-floor penthouse, with two bedrooms and one bath, is one of the most luxurious units on the market in "Southie" and it still comes in at $580K. Panoramic views of Dorchester Bay and the islands can be enjoyed from the private roof deck, a covered porch, and the unit's numerous windows. Additional luxuries include built-in speakers, central air conditioning, a jacuzzi tub, and an updated kitchen with stainless appliances. Short on space at 1,165 square feet, this well-kept condo makes up for it with the finishes and the view.

? Shopping for a home in famously expensive NYC on a first time buyer's budget is no mean feat, but it's certainly possible to find something other than a shoebox if buyers look outside of Manhattan. The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Carroll Gardens have all emerged as cheaper alternatives. That's not to say cheap, as a roster of excellent restaurants, bars, and retail keep these neighborhoods pricey. In the southern section of Carroll Gardens, close to Red Hook and, unfortunately, the elevated expressway, this two-bedroom loft penthouse offers the feel of Tribeca for $775K. Highlights include the high ceilings, expansive private roof deck, open kitchen with marble counters, and a coveted in-unit washer/dryer.

? Compared to the expensive Northeast, there are considerable deals to be found in some of Chicago's lesser-known neighborhoods. Considered an isolated pocket of prosperity on the city's otherwise depressed South Side, Hyde Park is sandwiched between the lake, Washington Park, and the campus of the University of Chicago. The students give the area a youthy vibe and provide a source of potential rental income should the buyers' circumstances change. This six-bedroom townhouse, built in 1895, is rife with historical detail, but gravely in need of some TLC. A buyer willing to rehab the place could get quite the deal considering the interior houses six bedrooms and the place is asking just $229K. Perhaps first time buyers would do well to steer clear of such a daunting challenge, but, then again, they just don't make inlaid floors like that anymore.

? Make it to San Francisco and you'll find real estate prices that rival New York for big price and small space. Still, the City by the Bay has some deals, even in the traditionally upper class neighborhood of Nob Hill—sometimes derisively referred to as "Snob Hill." While this two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot condo can't rival the billionaires' abodes up on Broadway, the unit is well finished and sits in a charming, nine-unit Spanish-style building that was completed in 1913. Built-ins and bay windows abound, and while the listing photo of a wood paneled room illuminated by a bare bulb gives us pause, the rest of the place is immaculately presented considering the $599K price tag.

? Down in sunny Los Angeles, home to famously expensive areas like Beverly Hills, finding an affordable first home requires venturing off the beaten (or televised) path. The gentrifying neighborhood of Highland Park, in the northeastern section of the city, has experienced a wave of renovations lately, most in an accessible price range. Listed for $380K, this revamped bungalow might be small, with just two beds and a single bathroom in 843 square feet, but it certainly beckons with outdoor space ripe for entertaining and a garage that could be converted into extra interior space. For those that find this too small, a third bedroom in this neighborhood runs roughly $75K more.

· 1774 Columbia Road UNIT 3 [Zillow]
· 529 Court Street #PH4 [Streeteasy]
· 1314 E 52nd St [Zillow]
· 1236 Washington St [Zillow]
· 5611 Meridian [Zillow]