News & Politics

Cashing Out of Your House

It’s tempting, given the high property values here: If you sold your Washington home, what kind of dream house could you buy outside the city?

William Morrow and Kent Ozkum had grown weary of their Georgetown life.

“We were tired of our urban lifestyle, tired of eating out at nice restaurants, and most of all,” confesses Ozkum, “tired of spending a fortune on a tiny postage stamp of a backyard.” It was a backyard that Morrow, a landscape designer, had turned into a little piece of paradise.

Three years ago, the two purchased a very old 30-acre farm in Emmitsburg, Maryland, as a weekend retreat. “But after two years of having two households,” says Ozkum, an anesthesiologist, “the property values in Georgetown were just too high for us not to take the money and spend it on the farm and on ourselves.”

In January, they sold their Georgetown home—in four weeks—and rolled up their sleeves for country living. Today Whitmore Farm is a working farm with chickens, sheep, cows, turkeys, and fainting goats. The only thing missing? Clocks. “We follow the sun,” Morrow says.

With the average price of Washington homes topping $400,000, and in many nice neighborhoods two or three times that much, it’s tempting to dream of cashing out here and buying a home far from the Beltway but still within Washington’s orbit. Sell your Bethesda bungalow or McLean Colonial and you may have the cash to buy the house of your dreams and start a new life.

$849,000: Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

Happiness in the Hills

With 65 miles of shoreline, Deep Creek in western Maryland is the state’s largest lake. This four-bedroom lakefront chalet with a dock slip boasts water and mountain views. Built in 1996, the house has two decks and a hot tub.

The house is on Deep Creek’s north end—“where all the action is,” according to Railey Realty’s Steve Ritchie. The lake’s north end is more commercially developed than the southern end, and Wisp Resort is three miles away. An adventure-sports center with a whitewater-rafting course is in the works.

Life still moves at a gentle pace. “The closest thing to a big city is Morgantown, West Virginia,” says Ritchie, “and that’s 45 minutes away.”

$850,000: Boonsboro, Maryland

Small Town With Good Pizza

“The question is not ‘What does one do in Boonsboro?’ ” says Michael Kurtianyk of Mackintosh Realtors. “The question is ‘Who wouldn’t want to live in Boonsboro?’ ”

The quintessential small town, Boonsboro lies south of Hagerstown snuggled at the foot of South Mountain, where, if you make a short hike up, you find the first monument ever built to honor George Washington.

Boonsboro is the kind of place where a concert by a Civil War–style brass band in the town park is front-page news. Residents like Kurtianyk brag about their “mom and pop” shops and a great pizza joint.

This five-bedroom contemporary sits on more than 13 acres of land that fronts Antietam Creek. Built in 1987, it has cathedral ceilings, a loft above the living room, a patio, and a fountain.

$865,000: Oxford, Maryland

Sophistication on the Bay

“Oxford has always been the place,” says Marguerite Beebe, a broker with Benson & Mangold.

In Colonial times, the small Eastern Shore town was a hub for British trade and oyster fishermen. Today, with a population of about 725, Beebe says residents are dedicated to keeping Oxford unspoiled by time.

This house is in Oxford’s historic district, where Beebe says waterfront homes typically start at $2 million. It’s not on the water but overlooks the Tred Avon River—“a better water view than most waterfronts,” she says.

Built in 1900, the house has four bedrooms, two baths, and a cozy screened front porch. Just around the corner is the Robert Morris Inn, where author James Michener hung out while writing Chesapeake.

$650,000: Goshen, Virginia

Want to Run a B&B?

“Railroad buffs love this place,” says TMG real-estate agent Pete Holladay of the Hummingbird Inn, a 227-year-old Victorian Carpenter Gothic in the Shenandoah Valley that sits along the train tracks. “Amtrak goes though twice a day, and it’s amazing to see all the guests go out to the front and wave at the trains.”

The five-room inn has original pine floors, wraparound verandas, and a deck that overlooks a trout stream.

Holladay, a former B&B owner, says running this five-bedroom establishment isn’t easy. “You’re wedded to the telephone if you want to do business,” he says. The innkeepers’ quarters are the third-floor attic—not the plushest space in the house.

But if you like getting to know diverse people, the Hummingbird packs them in. “One week I had an ex–World War II bomber pilot,” says owner Dick Matthews, “and the next week a rice farmer from Texas.”

$1.1 million: Cambridge, Maryland

Annie, Get Your Checkbook

This four-bedroom farmhouse-style home is being built this spring, but it already has a rich history: It stands on the spot where sharpshooting Annie Oakley stabled her horse during the years she lived in Cambridge, according to Coldwell Banker agent Frank Bolling. She and husband Frank Butler retired to the Eastern Shore in 1913 after years of touring with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

The home will have more than two acres that front a creek in Dorchester County, a few miles from Cambridge. It will be modeled after a traditional Victorian farmhouse—but there won’t be stables.

$1.2 million: Catlett, Virginia

Pastures, Ponds, and Privacy

“I hate to say it,” Bettie Pennington says, “but there’s a lot of snob appeal in Fauquier County.” Pennington, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker, points to former resident Paul Mellon and the proximity to Middleburg as proof.

This estate is further evidence. Built in 1984, the four-bedroom Victorian-style house sits on 20 acres and features a stable with hayloft, two ponds (one for koi), a pool, and a cottage-style garage with an au pair suite.

“There are French doors leading out to the veranda where you can look out onto your pasture,” adds Pennington. “And, if you have a horse, you can look out onto that, too.”

$895,000: Williamsburg

A College Town With Class

About one-third the size of Charlottesville, Williamsburg has all the benefits of small-town living—the neighborhood restaurants, the pharmacist who knows you by name—along with the energy and cultural offerings of the College of William & Mary. “It’s the best of both worlds,” says Bobby Hornsby of Hornsby Real Estate (and brother of singer Bruce Hornsby). “You get the tweed jackets with patches on the elbows along with all the services and shopping of a cosmopolitan city.”

This four-bedroom Colonial was built in 1987 on more than an acre. It has heart-pine floors, a French ceramic-tile kitchen with custom cabinets, and two fireplaces, one with a mantel carved in 1795.

$895,000: Avalon, New Jersey

All’s Quiet on the Beach

“Water, sunsets, fishing, and golfing.”

That’s how Ferguson Dechert broker Allan Dechert sums up the seaside community of Avalon. Accessed by a causeway, it’s fairly secluded. “I don’t even lock my front door,” Dechert says.

Though houses on the Atlantic side of the island skyrocket into the millions, this three-bedroom, two-bath penthouse condo on the bay side offers plenty of water views, with a living/dining area and master bedroom that overlook the bay. During peak summer months, the community’s population swells from 2,200 to 35,000—so you should probably lock your door.