McHENRY -- Deep Creek Lake, once dubbed Maryland's best-kept secret, is in the midst of a full-blown real estate renaissance.
While the installation of public sewerage in 1986 and the completion of Interstate 68 east of Cumberland in 1991 have contributed to a tremendous construction boom around the 3,900-acre lake, what happened last week has pushed the popular vacation area into a world-class resort category:
Broker Karen Spiker's A&A Realty Better Homes and Gardens listed the lake's first home priced at more than $1 million.
The listing has created enough excitement to warrant its own invitation-only luncheon, scheduled this week along with a property tour and seminar by the home's architect, Doug Devlin, and builder Jeff Gosnell.
"We're not 100 percent certain there's a market for this $1.5 million home," said listing agent Ed King. "But we have a good feeling there is because there are about 10 lakeside homes worth over $1 million already here."
But never before has any real estate agency offered such a pricey residence for resale.
"The closest we've come was the sale this summer of a 1960s-built home for $775,000 at the lake's Turkey Neck section," King said.
Neither the owner nor King would reveal exactly what the just-listed house cost to build.
"He's essentially looking for the replacement value," King said. "If it sells for the asking price, he won't be making much money."
But Garrett County would do very well. At $1.5 million, the county and state transfer taxes would amount to $33,025, according to Garrett's Circuit Court clerk.
And county officials note that property taxes account for about $17.5 million of Garrett's $29,649,075 budget for the current year -- about 59 percent of local revenue.
The expensive properties at and around Deep Creek Lake account for close to 45 percent of the assessable tax base, county Treasurer Patricia Glover said.
"It's great that people think that much of Garrett County to invest that much money here," said Roger Glotfelty, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. "Tourism contributes significantly to the county's economy."
No lake property has come on the market quite like the Italian villa-styled home at Lakeshore Drive, with its own beach, lavishly landscaped 1.7 acres and enough custom features to fill a four-page listing.
The owners -- a retired engineer and his wife who wish to remain anonymous -- lived in Europe and incorporated in the house such features as courtyards, three underground garages and a 27-foot ceiling in the great room.
"It's not really a house, but a recreation place," the husband said during a tour of the property. "We entertained quite a bit. In fact, we had a wedding in the great room, and a tent for the reception was installed in the courtyard."
Access to all main-floor rooms, including the garages, is through a loggia, a fancy hallway with bluestone flooring and the same custom Honduran mahogany doors and windows that line a 38-foot wall in the great room.
The 5-year-old house took two years to build.
Spiker said she is very excited about "the evolution of the real estate market at Deep Creek Lake."
"Over the past 10 years, even through recessions and market changes, our local resort real estate has proved itself to be steadfast with an even appreciation rate."
Prime lakefront lots have jumped from $80,000 to $235,000 over the course of a decade, and lakefront homes from $250,000 to as high as the $775,000 sale price registered this summer.
"It's a case of supply and demand," King said. "They're not making any more land and the market is changing."
Some of the smaller cottages and cabins built at the lake since 1925 are making way for the luxury market. Because there are so few undeveloped lakefront lots remaining, it is not unusual to see new lakefront property owners bulldoze cottages to build homes with 3,500 to 5,500 square feet of space. (The villa is listed at 5,500 square feet, including the ground-floor racquetball court and game room.)
The changes are reflected in the growth of area amenities, such as the eight-screen movie theater scheduled to open next spring across from the Uno restaurant and bar and an upscale grocery store.
A year-round Christmas shop opened this summer, and three lakeside restaurants have expanded and booked weekend musical entertainment.
Vacationers now include baby boomers who have turned 50, some retiring early and heading for the mountains, according to Spiker.
"They want a place they can enjoy with their children and yet remain active. They want to be able to fish, ski and sail," she said.
"We're so unique here. There's just no place that is within three hours of three major metropolitan areas that has all this, and we're just starting."
Pub Date: 10/06/96