When Baltimore builders launched their first Dream Homes exposition last year, they spared no expense on nine showcase mansions.
Priced up to a half-million dollars, as large as 7,000 square feet, the homes in a new subdivision in Baltimore County had every imaginable luxury: skylight cupolas and hand-painted solaria, third-floor balconies and marble foyers, billiard rooms, wraparound porches, even fireplaces in every room.
Most of the 55,000 visitors to the Home Builders Association of Maryland event last summer could merely gawk -- and dream. But the six homes to be built this year -- open to the public from Sept. 9 through Sept. 24 -- will be closer to reality for more potential buyers.
"This is more reflective of what's happening with Dream Homes [events] nationwide," said Clark P. Turner, co-chair of the event, which is co-sponsored by Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. "The homes are more identifiable to most buyers. Although they'll still have the latest in design and electronic features, they're smaller and more affordable."
Relatively speaking, that is.
The homes -- expected to be about 3,000 square feet in size -- will be for sale in the $300,000 range, Mr. Turner said.
They will be built in a new section of Piney Orchard, a subdivision in Odenton in Anne Arundel County. The site -- with lots averaging one-third acre -- is being developed by Constellation Real Estate Inc., Piney Orchard's developer. Site work began earlier this month, and builders are expected to start their homes within a month.
The event gives builders a chance to showcase the latest in design, energy efficiency, technology, interior decorating and landscaping.
Only two of the builders from last year's show will return, Landmark Homes and Orion Homes. Other builders include American Homes, CC Building Corp., Patriot Homes and Ryan Homes.
Mr. Turner blamed the slow housing market for the drop in the number of participating builders. Some builders, including his Bel Air-based Clark Turner Homes, decided not to participate because they don't build in Anne Arundel County, he said.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the current economic climate," Mr. Turner said. "It's a very tough market out there for homebuilding right now."
Slow job growth in Maryland has hurt the luxury home market, Mr. Turner said, and he said he believed only three of last year's Dream Homes have sold.
But Mr. Turner said he expects no lack of interest from the public this year.