The street is muddy and messy, the neighbor's house is still under construction, the front yard is covered with straw and the house doesn't have one piece of furniture in it. But to John and Patty Holbert, the scene is a dream come true.
For over 15 years, the Holberts lived in a number of houses scattered from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Germany, to Alexandria, Va., and bases in between, as Mr. Holbert pursued his career in the Army. Differing in size and style, all the homes had one thing in common -- they were rental properties or government housing.
"We lived in everything but a trailer, but we've never owned anything," says Mrs. Holbert, 38, mother of Michael, 9, Derrick, 8, and Patrick, 6.
When besieged with nearly 8 feet of snow and living in what the family nicknamed "the Addams family house" in Fort Drum, N.Y., Mrs. Holbert said enough. The 1975 Dulaney High School graduate was ready to return to Baltimore, and Mr. Holbert, 43, a native Californian, agreed. "We wanted to plant some roots and settle down in our own home." he said.
After a tour of duty at the Pentagon, Mr. Holbert found a job with Sanwa General Equipment Leasing in Towson and retired from the Army. "We weren't just looking for a dream house, we were looking for a certain location," Mrs. Holbert recalls. They said they wanted a community with young families and lots of kids, a neighborhood school, and a nearby hospital -- to handle any cuts and bruises their three boys may suffer.
They picked the Diamond Hills development in Westminster. The houses, built by Powers Homes, have floor plans designed for busy families -- large, open kitchen/family rooms, garages and full basements. The Holberts chose the Hampton model, a four-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath home in a style Mrs. Holbert calls Victorian-Colonial. Selecting options from a base price of $195,000, they paid $206,000 for the house on a half-acre.
The children got separate bedrooms and the front porch they wanted; John and Patty Holbert got a large master bathroom, with a soaking tub and separate shower, plus plenty of storage space. And the family was able to select their own lot, which overlooks the rural Carroll County countryside and the new Friendship Valley Elementary School.
"We really didn't think we could afford to build a house, but this was almost just that," says Mrs. Holbert, noting that her husband videotaped the construction each week. "We not only got to pick out our lot, we were able to choose many of the details. Our home is almost a custom-built house."
Little items were as important as major ones. Electrical outlets were installed near all the windows at Mr. Holbert's request. "Because of the Maryland custom of putting candles in the windows during the holidays, I wanted to make sure we could plug in the lights without having to use extension cords," he says.
Although the house is completed, the Holberts don't plan to move in until the end of this month.
As move-in day gets closer, the Holberts are planning a celebration and a christening. They are naming their house "Mon Plasir," or my pleasure. Mrs. Holbert, a student of Russian history and culture, says Peter the Great of Russia spent much time in his "Mon Plasir," a little house on the banks of the Neva River, a place where he found peace and tranquillity.
Looking for the same thing in Diamond Hills, the Holberts say their wandering days are over, they have settled down for life.
"I expect to raise my kids and grow old in this house," Mrs. Holbert says.