A declining real estate market for "upper end" houses did not deter Williamsburg Builders from building the largest and among the most expensive of model homes ever built in Columbia.
The finished home -- at $600,000 -- is opening for public inspection this weekend, and already four customers have signed on the dotted line.
In a new section of Hobbits Glen, the model overlooks the Hobbits Glen Golf Course. The 6,500-square-foot brick house has luxurious features such as marble floors, cherry wood bookcases in the library and a sound system that is wired throughout the house.
Designed in a Colonial style with a high-pitched roof line and windows in dormers, traditional details continue inside with a variety of wall moldings, pillars and a sweeping central staircase.
There is a ground-floor sun room, the library, formal living room and dining room, a family room with a wet bar, powder room, breakfast room, a full kitchen with food pantry and also a butler's pantry complete with a duplicate sink and dishwasher.
Four bedrooms and three baths are on the second floor. Spacious walk-in closets are scattered throughout the rooms, including a large cedar closet. Attached to the master bedroom is a morning room that has a minikitchen for preparing breakfasts and midnight snacks.
Suitable for a nanny or game area are two rooms and bedroom with a kitchen and a full bath on the third floor.
Harry "Chip" Lundy, president of Columbia-based Williamsburg Builders, admits that selling houses in this market is not easy: "We're working hard for them."
"We started designing the house last summer, bought the land in February, and began construction in March. We felt we were committed and would go ahead," Mr. Lundy said.
He said sales this summer were slow, but he recently sold four houses and said he has 11 customers who are seriously considering buying the house.
One difference in doing business during a slow market, Mr. Lundy said, is that he is getting personally involved in the sales and is bargaining with customers to complete a deal.
For customers who are moving up from a moderately priced home, Mr. Lundy said he will offer to buy their house. He acquired 30 rental houses in Columbia that way.
To combat the problem of contingent-sale contracts that must be put on hold until the customer sells his present house, Mr. Lundy recently started offering a 5 percent discount off the price of the new house. That way his client can reduce the asking price of the house he is trying to sell by that amount.
"I'd rather give away 5 percent of my profits to cover my overhead. You need to be very creative in a downturn [market] like this," Mr. Lundy said. "Other builders are cutting staffs and pulling out of Howard County. The people cutting back will have a hard time gearing back up."
The model home is in Hobbits Glen in the Village of Harpers Choice. Hobbits Glen is adjacent to the Middle Patuxent River and is one of the last development areas left in Columbia.
The house, on Ridermark Row off Route 108, is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.