$633,000 getaway is means of escape

DREAM HOME

Cinematic: A stunning Deep Creek Lake vacation home is suitable for a famous movie and rents for nearly $3,000 a week.

July 11, 2004|By Cindy Stacy | Cindy Stacy,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Like its film namesake, Casablanca, a Deep Creek Lake vacation home, has it all: exotic locale, adventures all around and an interior soon to include Rick's Cafe alongside a basement pool table.

Homeowners Rick and Ann Schofield have decorated their lakefront chalet with framed posters and other memorabilia from the famous film.

But they also plan to finish a walkout basement by adding two more bedrooms and baths and a whimsical version of the legendary bar.

"Everyone comes to Rick's place," Ann Schofield says. "That's the idea of our home."

The Schofields' principal residence is in Ellicott City, close to the Schofields' engineering jobs at Northrop Grumman and their kids' schools. But every chance they get, the family heads for Deep Creek Lake and their new-found dream spot they bought in May 2003 for $633,000.

"We love it here. The kids love it," Rick Schofield says. "There's something decompressing about driving out to the mountains from Ellicott City."

The home's location on a rocky hill and its two stone fireplaces and a lakefront master suite sold the couple on the house.

But for the kids, much of the appeal was found outdoors.

Just a few steps from the chalet, the three Schofield children, ages 9, 11 and 12, can jump in the lake or onto a four-wheeler and "blast into the woods of the mountain behind us," Rick Schofield says.

The 2,357-square-foot, three-level, wood-frame house was built by local builder Jeffrey Bell 14 years ago in a development of 50 homes called Sandy Beach. The upscale mountain lodge has wood floors and ceilings and custom furnishings. The home also has coordinated wallpaper, comforters and bedroom window seats and plenty of glass doors that extend living space to the outdoors.

Behind the house is the wooded backside of Marsh Mountain, where the owners of Wisp Ski Resort (on the mountain's front side) plan to build a golf course.

"There won't be anything developed behind our house except a golf course," Rick Schofield says. "This house has the best of both worlds - the lake and the mountains. What more could you ask for in a house?"

The Schofields did their homework before deciding to invest in the Deep Creek Lake property. For six years, they had rented various single-family homes "in different areas of the lake," Rick Schofield explains. "So we were familiar with the lake."

Because they also rent their home year-round to vacationers, the Schofields added amenities like cable television in the great room and each of the four bedrooms, an outdoor hot tub overlooking the lake and Internet access.

As a result, the children prefer the lake house over their permanent home, their mother says. "The kids say they have more things here."

Amenities aside, though, the Schofields hope their children acquire "a sense of adventure" by spending time in the mountains, Ann Schofield says. She has "wonderful memories" of her own childhood, which always included two weeks at her grandparent's summer place at Hampton Beach, N.H.

Katie, Kelly and Danny Schofield are members of Scout troops and love outdoor activities.

Even though the house was rented "every week last summer," Rick Schofield says, the family made 20 trips to enjoy their Garrett County retreat last year.

"I love it in the winter," Ann Schofield says. "Seeing the snow and ice outside on the lake with a roaring fire inside."

The house is already booked for Christmas, but when it isn't rented, Rick Schofield adds, "We're up here."

After they bought the house, the Schofields spent several weekends cleaning up and hauling away yard debris, replacing a dock and building a brick patio for a new hot tub.

Relatives helped with improvement projects and also paid for a 20-foot motor boat and wave runner. Stashed in a storage room beneath a two-car garage are windsurfers, kneeboards, wakeboards, water skis and water tubes.

All told, Rick Schofield said, he spent $25,000 on improvements to the house.

To help offset Deep Creek Lake's steep real estate prices, many property owners rent their homes. In the past six years, the resort area has seen a 22.7 percent increase in the number of vacation rental homes, according to Zach Taylor, chief operating officer of Railey Mountain Lake Vacations, which rents Casablanca, along with some 350 other rental properties.

Rental prices haven't kept up with the cost of lake property, so "no longer can you buy a home and break even with rentals," Taylor says.

To an extent, Rick Schofield agrees. The family's weekly rental rates range from $1,781 to $2,953 during the spring and summer months.

"The rentals don't pay the mortgage yet," he says.

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