First impression, lasting effect Colonial: A couple succeeded in disguising their delight at the Cedarcroft house's features -- until the aroma of fresh baked bread came from the kitchen.

Dream Home

September 20, 1998|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

First impressions are important.

Two years ago, when Mike and Marybeth Morsberger first walked into a 76-year-old, three-story Colonial in Cedarcroft in North Baltimore, both were pretty sure that this was the home they wanted to live in with their two small daughters, Courtney and Allison.

Marybeth nearly gasped when she saw the Georgia honey pine floors, grand fireplace and elegant French doors. "But I didn't want to seem too eager," she said.

Mike was impressed when he walked into the main foyer and could see up to the second floor balcony. As the couple toured each room of the house, it seemed more and more that this place would be their new home.

When they entered the formal living room, Mike saw the built-in bookcases and pictured the boxes and boxes of books he had acquired over the years at yard sales and flea markets lining the many shelves. "I even remember whispering the word 'bookcases' when I saw them," he said.

When they stepped out on the side balcony, they pictured evenings sipping wine and watching the sunset. They envisioned the third floor as a playroom for the girls. They imagined gathering in the basement family room.

And as the couple stepped into the kitchen they smelled something wonderful. Could it be? Yes, it was. Fresh baked bread.

Sold!

The couple made an offer on the home 10 days later.

But the Morsbergers weren't the only ones with a good first impression. Winifred O'Neill, the owner of the home, noticed something when the family toured the house.

"She told us that when she first saw us, she knew that she wanted us to have the house," Mike said.

The Morsbergers sensed that it was probably difficult for Mrs. O'Neill to sell her home. She had lived there for more than 40 years with her husband, who had since died. The O'Neills raised five children in the house.

At the settlement table, O'Neill told the Morsbergers that there was something about the family that seemed so familiar. Mike vividly remembers what O'Neill said: "She told us, 'I remember when you kids came in here with your little girls. And it was as if my husband and I had walked in that same door 40 years ago with our little girl.' "

"She got very teary at that point," Marybeth said. Indeed everyone got a little misty-eyed at the settlement table -- the Morsbergers, O'Neill's daughter, the real estate agents and the bankers.

"Promise me one thing," O'Neill told the Morsbergers. "Promise me you'll let your little girls slide down the banister. It's an O'Neill tradition."

"It was meaningful to us. This was truly a home she loved a great deal," Mike said. "I think we are carrying forward the tradition of love in this house as she did."

The Morsbergers have invited O'Neill to their home several times for holiday parties and other events.

The instant home-like feel wasn't the only reason the Morsbergers were attracted to the house. The couple particularly liked the Cedarcroft area -- an older neighborhood of Colonial-style homes close to York Road and the Towson area.

"It was important for us to live in the city," Mike said. Previously, the couple lived in Hamilton. Both work in Baltimore. He is the senior associate director of development for the Johns Hopkins Hospital Oncology Center. She is vice president at Eisner Petrou and Associates.

"We did toy with the idea of living in the county," Marybeth said. But everything the couple looked at that was in their price range seemed too small and too average. "It was more money for less house," Mike said.

They had looked in the Guilford, Homeland and Roland Park neighborhoods, but found that most of the houses they liked were out of their price range. But when they looked in Cedarcroft, they found an established neighborhood that Marybeth described as "cute."

The couple has had to put very little renovation work into the home. Most of it was cosmetic -- repainting walls, putting in carpet and putting in a drop ceiling in the basement. "We haven't knocked down any walls or anything like that," Mike said.

The house was purchased for $176,000, and it was recently appraised for $256,000.

"It's the charm of the trees, the whole area," Marybeth said. "There's such a great mix of people here -- young families with children, older couples, people just starting out and there are a lot of walkers here."

Marybeth liked the neighborhood so much that she became a member of the neighborhood association's board.

"This is a just a wonderful home," Mike said. "We're comfortable here."

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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