Deep Creek Lake now requires deep pockets

Boom: They are kicking out the mobile homes and putting in luxurious chalets on Deep Creek Lake. Builders are having a record year.

May 26, 2002|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you're heading to Deep Creek Lake this holiday weekend with thoughts of buying a nice, tidy, inexpensive vacation home -- forget it.

You've missed the boat.

People may call Deep Creek Lake quaint and rustic. But in today's real estate market, you can also add the word expensive to this portion of Western Maryland that is rapidly becoming a sought-after resort area.

"When I first went up here in 1985, I could have bought a house, a fixer-upper on the lake for $100,000 or $125,000," said Bill Taylor, who with his wife, Vicki, sells property for Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. at Deep Creek Lake. "Those were the original log cabins that were around the lake. ... [Today] that same property would be $500,000.

FOR THE RECORD - A story on Deep Creek Lake last week stated that rentals through Long & Foster Resorts Rentals were booked for the summer season. Rentals are still available at 800-336-7303.
The Sun regrets the error.

"The real bargains are all gone."

Deep Creek Lake has been an attractive location for people looking to take a break from the craziness of city life. Located on the western edge of Garrett County, the resort town is known primarily for boating, swimming and fishing in the summer and skiing in the winter.

In addition to Deep Creek Lake and Wisp Ski Mountain, there are numerous state parks within 30 minutes of the resort, including Swallow Falls State Park, home to Muddy Creek Falls, the highest waterfall in Maryland.

From a housing standpoint, a closer look shows that there are actually two Deep Creek Lakes evolving into a premier four-season resort town.

One is Wisp Mountain where a wave of new luxury homes is being constructed. On the drawing board is a whitewater "arena" (a man-made water course for kayaks and canoes) and an additional golf course.

The other area is Deep Creek Lake itself. Its traditional mobile homes, rustic cabins and A-frames are being purchased, knocked down and remade into upscale residences.

"Anything new being built now will be large and expensive," said Rod Hamilton, an agent also with Long & Foster. "It's what customers want. No one is building two- and three-bedroom cottages anymore."

The changing dynamics of Deep Creek can be attributed to several factors in the past decade, beginning with the construction of Interstate 68, Hamilton said.

What was once a 4 1/2 - to five-hour drive along curving secondary roads has become a pleasant three-hour commute from Baltimore.

But progress has a price.

"The biggest thing up here is that the lakefront property is just about gone," said Taylor of Long & Foster. "What it has done is put the existing properties at a premium [and] I'd say in the last two years the $600,000 home on the lake is now an $800,000 home on the lake.

"Five years ago there was not a million-dollar house. Now there's about 10 or 12 that we know of and more that we don't."

He noted two properties that are listed for more than $2 million.

And with no more land around the lake, developers have gone looking elsewhere.

Glen Acres Campground, a prime lakefront location where people park trailers, RVs or mobile homes year-round, has been sold for redevelopment and residents have been told to leave.

The problem, however, is there is really no place in Deep Creek for them to go. Except for a few state park campgrounds where you can only stay for a few days at a time, no homes on wheels are allowed to park near Deep Creek Lake.

And then there's Alpine Village, one of the oldest communities of Deep Creek. Nearly all of the original A-frame chalets have been torn down to make room for luxury lakefront homes starting in the $400,000 range.

Only one turquoise chalet remains and it will likely be torn down soon, along with the nearby Alpine Village Motel, said Hamilton, the Long & Foster agent.

Added Taylor: "The old [log cabins] ... really don't exist anymore. They've been bought up for $300,000 or $400,000, and they were probably only a $10,000 investment when they started there. But the land had a value of at least $450,000."

Bill Weissgerber, co-owner of Railey Realty in Deep Creek, believes more people are seeking weekend getaways because no one has the time to take long vacations anymore.

"I noticed after the World Trade Center bombing there was a big push for people to buy. People want a safe haven that they can go to," he added. "People want a place to get away and spend time with their families. Many buyers have children and want to re-create the fun, family vacations they used to have, spending time on the water."

That's what Dave and Lauretta Buscher of Clarksville in Howard County did. Both in their mid-50s, the couple bought a vacation home to spend more time with their five grown sons and their families.

"We got a big place with room for everyone," Lauretta Buscher said. "We made no compromises."

The year-old contemporary home, which was purchased in October for $680,000, sits on the lake and has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a finished basement and a loft.

"This is our first vacation home. We chose Deep Creek because it's cool in the summer and we're right on the water. We go up there every couple of weekends," she said.

The house may become the couple's retirement home.

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