Custom-home Builder Is Branching Out Into County

Affordability Stressed By American Family

March 11, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

A Charles County builder that touts its homes as both custom-built and affordable is branching out into Anne Arundel County.

American Family Homes has entered an arrangement with Century 21 Realty, whoseagents will help customers locate and purchase land. The St. Charles-based builder would then build a home on the site from one of the 30single-family models it offers.

Patricia Jenkins, a vice president of marketing for the builder, explained the plan to local real estate agents yesterday at a luncheon at the Ramada Inn in Annapolis.

American Family's houses, ranging from two-bedroom ranch-style to four-bedroom two-story, all brick homes with more than 2,000 square feet of living space, cost from $65,000 to $112,000, excluding land and land preparation, such as gradingand clearing.

Jenkins said completed homes the company built in Prince Georges county have averaged from $100,000 to $150,000, including land costs. She expects similar or slightly higher prices in Anne Arundel, she said.

Jenkins said it's the right time for the 20-year-old builder to expand its current Maryland base of Prince Georges, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.

"People are looking for that affordable home," she said. "The market has been bombarded with bigger, upscale homes."

"This is something different," said Bev Sroka-Langley, owner and broker of Century 21-Finesse. American Homes "makes it easy for anyone to have a home built the way they want it, where they want it. We take buyers to new subdivisions, and many timesit's not the right price, not the right house and not the right lot."

Agents expressed interest in the plan, but doubted the availability of lots under $100,000, especially outside areas of Pasadena and South County.

But Jenkins assured them that affordable lots often come from landowners subdividing property. And as part of its expansion into Anne Arundel, American Homes is preparing new designs to suitthe county's many narrow lots.

The builder appeals to first- or second-time-homebuyers, many of whom start out looking at town houses or older homes, then change their minds when they find they can afford a new, single-family home, Jenkins said.

American Homes officials say the company can build custom homes at lower prices for two reasons. The company doesn't make a profit on the land and it has financial backing from Interstate General, a diversified real estate group that developed St. Charles south of Waldorf.

The publicly traded partnership, listed on the American and Pacific stock exchanges, buys building materials in bulk at reduced prices, then passes those savings on to the customer, Jenkins said.

Because American Homes builds from the ground up, rather than constructing modular or prefabricatedhomes, it can offer flexibility in design, room size and features, she said.

The company also offers a variety of financing packages -- requiring 5 percent down payment with competitive interest rates --for cash-poor customers, Jenkins said. American Homes also helps with up to 6 percent of closing costs, she said. No down payment is required of qualified landowners.

Century 21 Realty will offer information on American Homes through offices in Annapolis, Glen Burnie, Severna Park, Pasadena, Severn and Odenton.

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