Originally Posted by BetsyS
We live in Gwinnett, too, and we're also itching for the market to return so we can leave.
If we had that budget, we'd be intown in a heartbeat. Our favorite areas are just off Clairmont, just east of 85. Neighborhoods like Sagamore Hills, Leafmore, Oak Grove, etc. Close to Toco Hills, Emory, the Dekalb Farmers' Market. All the good stuff.
I think these sound like a good fit for the OP - Sagamore HIlls and Oak Grove areas have ranch-style and 2 story houses, with slightly bigger yards and more sq ft than those closer to Decatur or Inman Park/Candler park (with older bungalow-style homes on wee little lots, mixed with new mcmansion styles). The public schools there are good - DeKalb County, feed into Lakeside and Druid Hills High schools, I think. You would be close to lots of things - A pretty straight shot into all the "intown" stuff in buckhead or Midtown, close to downtown decatur for the small town stuff, yet also close to Northlake and Tucker for all your mall/big box needs. And convenient to I-85 for commuting. But they are "off the path" neighborhoods, and there is TONS of cute stuff popping up in Oak Grove (Off La Vista Rd. ITP) - little neighborhood eateries, local shops, etc. It seems very family friendly, but it's not the suburbs.
I wouldn't consider Duluth unless you really like the suburbs, b/c that's really what it is.
(sorry, Duluth people - I respect your choice to be suburban, it's just not for me!)
With your house budget, you really won't have a problem finding anything you want. Intown, I see houses I love all the time for 300-400K. Too bad that's not *my* budget!