2 Harford builders take over former Keystone projects Gemcraft, B. Andrews step in for defunct firm

Real estate

December 17, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

A pair of Harford County builders -- Gemcraft Homes and B. Andrews & Company Inc. -- have taken over a majority of land positions in three popular Harford developments once under the control of Keystone Homes, which ceased operation in October.

Buyers who had purchased in Hickory Overlook, Spenceola Farms and the Reserve at Constant Friendship will have their contracts and deposits honored by the two builders. Bill Luther, principal at Gemcraft, said the agreement also includes the right to construct the same townhouse products Keystone was building.

"A lot of people are very happy that we can offer the same product," Luther said. "We've been one of the larger single-family builders in Harford County and we had just started to get into the townhouse business with our own product. So this Keystone thing works well for us. We just feel that it ties in real well with what we are doing."

Gemcraft, the 13th-largest builder in the Baltimore metropolitan area, will buy 58 lots in Hickory Overlook, 54 in Spenceola Farms and "several hundred" lots in Constant Friendship.

"We've guaranteed to buy several million dollars' worth of lot positions," Luther said.

In Constant Friendship, where Gemcraft had already been building, the company also purchased the Keystone model home "so we are open for business there now and we've already rewritten three or four [buyer] contracts."

Keystone Homes, which began building in 1986 and was the 16th-largest builder in the area, was forced to close its offices and sales centers Oct. 30 after it defaulted on loans from one of its lending institutions.

One homeowner who was taken out of limbo by Gemcraft's action was Carmela Vaccarino, who put down a $500 deposit in Hickory Overlook just before Keystone shut down.

"I was able to stop the check, but I was really disappointed because I already had things planned out and all of a sudden you don't have it anymore," she said. "I really liked Hickory Overlook and really liked the house that they [Keystone] were building. It's very disappointing. I'm glad that I held out."

Luther also said that his company has hired four members of the Keystone management team and would continue to use the suppliers and subcontractors who had been working for Keystone.

Fred Brandt, vice president for B. Andrews & Company, said his firm had picked up options on 72 undeveloped lots in Spenceola Farms, where Keystone was building cluster homes, which are marketed to older move-down buyers.

The company was also the high bidder on eight cluster units in an auction held Friday.

Of the eight, two were model homes, one home had just settled and four were under Keystone contracts.

"These four buyers, who knew that we wanted to build their houses, clapped," Brandt said. "Barry [Andrews, the principal] told them on the spot that he would honor their contract. These were older folks who had sold their homes and were very distraught, and they felt wonderful about it."

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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