Living on Main Street Location: It may be everything for some folks, but the occupants of an old house in Keymar find that they can exist in harmony with a busy street.

September 01, 1996|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,Special to The Sun

In bygone days, living on Main Street or another of a municipality's major thoroughfares had a certain cache. A house "in town" meant the owners could walk to businesses, worship and entertainment. In outlying communities, Main Street commanded status as one of a few well-maintained -- and in some cases, paved -- roads.

But what happens when Main Street becomes a major thruway? When what was a sleepy country path 40 or 50 years ago now fills daily with commuters in a rush to work and tractor-trailers headed for far-off distribution centers?

Some area Realtors admitted that it can take a bit of creative thinking to market a house on a busy street -- especially when today's buyers seem to find their dream homes at the end of quiet cul-de-sacs.

Lisa Beebe and Brian Schutsky recently put their historic home in the Carroll County community of Keymar back on the market after Beebe was offered a better job out of state. It's one of the hardest decisions they've ever made.

"We planned to live here our whole lives," Beebe said, watching her three daughters romp in the yard on a recent evening under the fuzzy glow of a back porch light.

When the couple moved to the property in 1992, they had been searching for a home more child-friendly than their Frederick townhouse. They saw the Keymar house on the cover of a local real estate guide and fell in love with it. Built in the 1860s, its large rooms -- the dining and living rooms measure 15 feet by 20 feet -- were a perfect fit for their oversize furniture. Windows stretch nearly from floor to ceiling. A porch wraps around the entire house and mature fruit trees and blueberry bushes flourish among the outbuildings in back.

"It just looked like a place that you'd want to raise children in," Beebe said.

She and Schutsky were not so taken in by the home's old-fashioned amenities that they couldn't see its flaws. The house needed some repair and -- even more important -- modernization such as the addition of central air conditioning.

The one thing the couple didn't worry about -- and say they haven't since they moved in -- was the home's front-and-center location on Route 194, a two-lane highway that serves as a major connector between Frederick and Hanover, Pa.

The road does have its share of traffic, Beebe and Schutsky said. But those making the daily commute are replaced on weekends by owners of vintage automobiles and others out for leisurely afternoon drives, they said. They also believe that speed limit signs, which remind drivers to slow to 35 mph as they pass through town and frequent monitoring by the Maryland State Police, have significantly reduced the risk of accidents.

Friendly with neighboring couples who are also raising young children, Beebe said she has no qualms about letting Elizabeth, 6, and Emily, 4, go off on their own to visit pals next door. With ample back and side yards surrounding each home, "the front just isn't a draw," Beebe said. Roadway noise and dust hasn't been a problem either, she and Schutsky said. And none of the Realtors they interviewed when deciding to put their home on the market suggested dropping the $182,900 asking price because of the location.

In Beebe's eyes, the convenience of living on an important highway is one of the home's biggest benefits.

"We're one of the first roads to get plowed," she said, which makes her 25-minute commute to the National Cancer Institute in Frederick easy no matter what the weather.

"And I can walk to all the local businesses," which include a post office, bank, convenience store/gasoline station, restaurant and hair salon.

Century 21-40 West Realtor Sue Zitzer said that when Keith and Michelle Burgess came to her wanting to sell their 70-year-old home, on Frederick Road in Ellicott City, that her last concern was the house's location on one of the area's busier streets, just a few hundred yards from a Route 29 overpass.

"I never thought of the road in terms of traffic and safety, because all their entertaining and the kids' playing was done out back," Zitzer said. Instead, she worried that the home's location on a hill would keep it from being noticed by prospective buyers.

Zitzer decided that the view from the front porch -- "It was gorgeous. You could see all the lights in the county and lots of trees" -- would be one of her biggest selling points.

A coat of paint, new front steps and some landscaping, and the house attracted the attention of "lots of folks who said they had driven by for years and not noticed it," she said.

Zitzer placed a brochure box at the end of the driveway, and in the pamphlet highlighted the home's interior, which had been extensively remodeled and updated with Southwestern decor.

"I felt strongly that once we got someone up the hill and in the house, we were home free," she said.

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