- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2008

While waterfront property is a big draw to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, there is much more than water to be found in the quaint cities and towns in places such as Talbot and Caroline counties, two of the nine counties that make up the Eastern Shore.

With historic downtowns, antiques shops, festivals, delightful crab cakes and a family friendly vibe, these growing counties also have enjoyed a host of new housing options.

Builders are constructing new homes in the area as buyers are seeking a more relaxed lifestyle and looking to stretch their dollar. The Eastern Shore was once a fairly undiscovered area that beachgoers just traveled through on their way to Ocean City. Today, many of the bayside towns have become attractions themselves.

Caroline is a rural county located midway between Maryland’s northern and southern borders that shares its eastern border with Delaware. According to the county’s Economic Development Department, farming is a big part of the economy, and the major business centers are in the towns of Denton and Federalsburg.

The county is about 75 miles from the District, 61 miles from Baltimore and 100 miles from Philadelphia. The Maryland Office of Planning projects that the population will grow from 35,800 in 2010 to 58,200 in 2025.

Kathleen Mackel of the Caroline County Office of Tourism says she has seen more commuters move to the area, especially those with flexible schedules. “Even with the prices of gas, it’s worth the move because the homes are so affordable,” she says, adding that she has seen residents commute to the District and Fort Meade.

She says that there are a lot of historic homes in the area and that the ones in her neighborhood sell fast when they go on the market.

“There will always be a niche for people who like historic homes, but there’s the fear of upkeep,” says Ms. Mackel, who also says she has recently noticed an increase in business for nearby new home communities.

The county has 5,000 acres of parkland and wildlife preserves, along with miles of trails for hiking and cycling. The tourism office says that the picturesque farm country coupled with woodland, charming rural towns and flat modern roads with light automobile traffic has made it a favorite destination for bicycle clubs from as far away as New York.

A wealth of rivers and waterways makes the area ideal for watersports of all kinds, and Ms. Mackel says the county boasts a host of recreational activities, including sports such as hang-gliding for the more adventurous.

Rich in history, the county is home to the Museum of Rural Life, which tells the unique story of the county and its people who lived in a completely agriculture-based economy.

In Caroline County, Richmond American Homes Inc. is building single-family houses in Ashworth in the town of Ridgely that start in the upper $200,000s. This community features 1-acre homesites and is situated on the eastern bank of the Choptank River, just off Route 404. There are nine four- and five-bedroom floor plans to choose from. They range from 2,650 to 4,000 square feet.

The Vanderbilt I is the midrange model, and it comes with an open floor plan that includes a library and master suite sitting area. There’s an option to add a three-sided fireplace in the master bedroom. The largest model is the Yorkshire IV with a base price of $369,990. It boasts a two-story foyer, luxurious bath and master suite sitting room with the option of adding a coffee bar. For more information, call 301/399-2136 or visit www. richmondamerican.com.

Ryland Homes has single-family houses nestled in Savannah Overlook in the small town of Denton, only minutes from Route 50. Six floor plans with a two- or three-car garage are offered, and the yards are fully sodded. The four-bedroom Manchester model has 2,403 square feet and is priced from $199,990, while the five-bedroom Beddington model boasts 4,152 square feet and has a base price of $411,990.

Home options include with large lower levels, spacious gourmet kitchens, soaring two-story entry foyers and bonus rooms. The community is also close to beaches, a golf course, lake, state park and walking trails. For more information, call 410/479-1978 or visit www.ryland.com.

Nearby Talbot County is bordered by Caroline County to the east and the Chesapeake Bay to the west. The county’s low taxes help lure home buyers to the area, as does the fact that it serves as a regional hub for a 25-mile radius of the Mid-Shore area, according to Paige R. Bethke, director of the Talbot County Office of Economic Development.

She says the county provides small waterfront villages and historic towns that are attractive to many home buyers who are interested in locating to more rural areas but still want the proximity to the major metropolitan areas of the District; Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; and Pennsylvania.

Waterfront mansions, historic homes and newly constructed houses in subdivisions make up the county. Among the most popular towns, Easton bustles with activity, St. Michaels appeals to tourists looking for a getaway, and Oxford offers even more of an intimate setting. Another scenic area includes Tilghman Island, which is surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and is a working watermen’s fishing village with excellent fishing and fresh seafood.

“The high-end home buyer interested in waterfront estates continues to fuel the housing demand in Talbot County, which has experienced an in-migration from the middle-aged and retirement populations,” Ms. Bethke says.

The charming town of Easton, with about 10,000 residents, is the prime economic center of the county, as well as a thriving hub for cultural activities. Easton is also where many of the new housing communities are being developed. In fact, Easton, Oxford, St. Michaels, Trappe and Tilghman Island have witnessed steady interest by home buyers for existing and newly built homes, Ms. Bethke says.

She says the county has enforced restrictions on residential development in the rural and environmentally sensitive areas of the county by funneling most of the housing demand to towns where infrastructure already is provided.

Chesapeake by Del Webb is an active adult community with several homesites near the clubhouse and pond available in its final phase. Minutes away, buyers will enjoy the Easton Club, an 18-hole public golf community where a two-year membership is free with the purchase of a home.

Community amenities include the clubhouse with a fitness center, library game room, swimming pool, tennis courts, walking trails and a pond. The two-bedroom Witman floor plan starts at $399,900 and features a spacious dining room, great room and private library. For more information, call 866/444-0246 or visit www. delwebb.com.

PCS Homes is offering town homes at Douglass Landing in Easton that range from 1,329 to 1,952 square feet. Each of the three floor plans has three bedrooms and two full baths. The largest model, the Blake, starts at $214,990. It has a walk-in closet in the owner’s suite, and the builder offers the option of a fireplace in the great room or a second full bath on the upper level in lieu of part of the walk-in closet. For more information, call 410/819-8222 or visit www.pcshomes.com.

Ryan Homes is building in Dixon Square, an enclave of town homes with a front porch and brick facade. The community is within walking distance of historic downtown Easton. The 2,000-square-foot Fairgate model has three finished levels and options including a gourmet kitchen and built-in bookcases. There’s also the option of adding a formal dining room with decorative columns. For more information, call 410/763-9608 or visit www.ryanhomes.com.

Richland Homes in Easton is building single-family homes in Doncaster Farms with large level lots and expansive floor plans. Square footage ranges from 2,400 to 4,000 square feet. There are nine floor plans to choose from base-priced from $529,900. In a throwback to more leisurely times, several of the plans come with front porches that help promote a neighborly community. The Easton model features a dramatic two-level front porch that stretches across the width of the home. For more information, call 410/725-4398 or visit www.rlhomes.com.

Sylmar Homes is building in the Preserve at Wye Mills, a new community 15 minutes east of the Bay Bridge with lots up to 1 acre. Sylmar offers seven models, and buyers can personalize their home by choosing brick fronts, porches or shingle-siding options.

These three- and four-bedroom homes come with basements and range in size from 2,200 square feet to more than 3,600 square feet. Features include 9-foot ceilings and a gas fireplace in the family room. The homes are priced from the $390,000s. For more information, call 410/827-9898 or visit www.sylmar.com.

Lennar Corp. is building new homes at the Lakelands at Easton, with prices from $239,990 to $275,990. These attached homes feature three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths and master bedrooms with a spacious walk-in closet. Buyers have the option of a one- or two-car garage. For more information, call 888/214-1878 or visit www.lennar.com.

Seawright Homes LLC is offering three models at Back Creek Landing in St. Michaels. It is an intimate community of 40 homes next to 40 acres of private parkland bordered by a scenic creek. Each of the homes’ exteriors is taken from the traditional styling displayed in other parts of St. Michaels, Oxford and Easton, where wide, deep front porches and prominent roof dormers help define the streetscape. Homes are priced in the $500,000s. For more information, call 410/ 745-9444 or visit www. backcreeklanding.com.

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