HAMPSTEAD -- To a guy like Greg Jugo who grew up over an East Baltimore gin mill at 1818 Gough St., buying your family a single home on a quarter-acre of land with cows in the back yard is a big deal.
A rolling green slice of the American dream is such a big deal that Mr. Hugo waited in line for 19 cold hours to claim a piece of it -- lot No. 245 in an eastern Carroll County subdivision called the Fields of Hampstead.
"I'm so ecstatic. It doesn't take a whole lot to make me happy, but this is big time for a city boy," said Mr. Jugo, 36, who waited through the night with a dozen other home seekers for a shot at one of 38 lots offered by Masonry Contractors Inc. "I grew up down Broadway with a jukebox and pool tables making noise until 2 a.m. every night. Something like this is awesome for me. I've got a wife, two cars and two kids. This will be our final move."
Mr. Jugo, manager of a fast-food restaurant, and his family are already Carroll County residents -- what he's getting now is that spread of open land.
By 11 a.m. yesterday, when the developer began accepting $1,000 deposits on the lots, the line had grown to more than 30, a lunch wagon was on hand to feed them hot dogs and soda, and those first in line had their choice of where they wanted to live.
As the second person in line, Mr. Hugo got his pick, a lot that backs up onto an old farm, which he hopes will not tragically transform into a shopping center. Almost 600 other units already exist in the subdivision.
Despite current low mortgage rates, the real estate market remains slow. Yesterday's long line of eager buyers was attributed to the affordability of the homes to be built on the lots, Carroll County's strong public school system and the developer's reputation for building good houses.
Most of the buyers have 72 hours to get loans for the properties, priced between $96,000 and $139,000. They are expected to close by June.
"What this says is if you have a product priced right and a positive background, you'll have buyers. We've always targeted first-time buyers and families moving up," said Martin Hill, the project builder. "The biggest problem with selling houses now is that the media is telling people there's a recession.
"There isn't a better time to buy than now because of price and interest rates, but even people with the ability to purchase a new home are refraining because they think the world is going to come to an end."
For John E. Scoone, a 32-year-old Owings Mills truck driver, a home in Carroll County means an opportunity to get out of an apartment and maybe cash in on President Bush's promised tax-break of $5,000 to first-time home buyers.
"We drove by the lots and found out we could get exactly what we wanted brand new," Mr. Scoone said. "We're trying to get all the tax breaks we can."