The overall real estate market may be in a slump, but the downturn has not dampened business for some developers who are specializing in affordable homes for first-time buyers.
"People look at Owings Mills, turn around and buy from us," said Stephanie G. Rezaiyan, vice president of sales and marketing for General American Real Estate Inc. in Columbia, the builder of the Oaks at Old Court in Randallstown. "They can get all the options they want" and still get a house for $90,000 to $100,000, she said.
Even without a model for inspection, traffic through the sales trailer has been brisk, with 14 sales since October.
William Given, sales director of the development, sold three town houses one recent Sunday afternoon.
Two hundred town houses are planned for the 17-acre site off Rolling Road between Old Court and Liberty roads.
Construction began recently on the first houses and the models, scheduled for completion in April.
Two models are selling for base prices of $85,000 and $86,000. Both have three bedrooms, a bath and a breakfast area in the kitchen.
The more expensive Wye Oak model has a kitchen in the rear of the house; the Royal Oak has a front kitchen.
A host of options is available, but many buyers prefer just adding a powder room to the lower level or opting for an full bath off the master bedroom on the upper level.
By adding a bathroom to the master bedroom, a few square feet are taken away from one of the two other bedrooms. To compensate for the lost space, some buyers opt for an extension to the upper level for an extra $2,500.
Buyers generally have been adding about $6,000 worth of extras to the house, Ms. Rezaiyan said.
When the two models are completed in April, one will have all of the options, and the other will be the standard base-level price house. "We want them to see how good the house looks even without the options," Ms. Rezaiyan said.
The houses, designed with Colonial exteriors and traditional interiors, offer a choice of a basement entry with interior or exterior stairs up to the main level, or the best-selling model that has a below-ground basement in the front and an entrance to the basement in the back yard.
Pre-construction house prices are expected to remain stable until the first 30 houses are sold.
Referring to the declining market conditions, Ms. Rezaiyan said General American has not been hit hard because its customers are primarily first-time homebuyers looking for affordable housing.
Many buyers are living in apartments in the surrounding area, and a few buyers are retirees wanting a smaller house. Ms. Rezaiyan said most people don't realize that their mortgage payments would be about the same as rents they now pay.
Mr. Given said he sells houses to one of every seven customers visiting the sales trailer and expects to better his average when the model is built. "I've been around [selling houses] since 1972, and I've never been in a slump. I love this market."
Other houses in the area are priced about $10,000 more than those in the Oaks at Old Court, Mr. Given said.
"When the market turns downwards, everyone gets nervous, but we are able to sell," Ms. Rezaiyan observed. "We've always done well in entry-level housing."
The houses are several blocks away from Scotts Level elementary and middle schools and about a mile from Milford Mill High School in Baltimore County.
The community is five minutes away from the Old Court Road Metro station.