This might be a bad time to sell high-end real estate, but Howard Community College has hired an international real estate marketing firm that specializes in unique properties to help it sell Belmont, its 1738 historic Elkridge estate.

Rising renovation and maintenance costs and tight fiscal times are forcing the school to sell the property, which had served as a conference and event center since the 1960s, and as a culinary arts and hospitality instructional center since the college began using it five years ago.

The college board has chosen CB Richard Ellis to sell the estate, which includes 68 bucolic, secluded acres surrounded by woods and Patapsco State Park, plus a possible 13-acre adjunct tract with another house.

"We really aren't in a position to continue investing in it," said T. James Truby, chairman of the college's board of trustees. "It's not an ideal time" to sell, he conceded, "but I think the economy is going to turn around. People who could afford to buy it haven't been hurt that badly by the economy."

The Ellis firm was chosen from among three finalists using a point system to rate their proposals.

"This is a national firm. They have a wide range of experience," college vice president Lynn Coleman told the board.

The pale yellow mansion was built by Caleb and Priscilla Dorsey with more rooms and wings added by their descendants. For buyers interested in continuing the estate's role as a conference center or wedding event setting, the carriage house holds up to 50 people for gatherings, while the Manor House can accommodate 25 overnight.

There is also a barn and a renovated kitchen, 15 bedrooms, hiking trails, tennis and volleyball courts, a formal garden, an outdoor swimming pool, an indoor exercise room, and a view of a wide meadow from the main house, perched atop a small hill.

The narrow one-lane entrance road winds through woods, past other private homes on mostly permanently preserved land, off Montgomery Road. Just under half of Belmont's land is also protected by a Maryland Historical Trust easement.

The added 13-acre Dobbin property is also for sale, along with its 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom house built in 1946, plus a 440-square-foot garage. That property could be subdivided into three residential parcels, college officials said, though a lawsuit is still pending over a long-running dispute with a neighbor about the college's use of the entry road.

The college paid $4.4 million for the estate, but there's no mortgage. The college must repay the county government $1.7 million in public funds used to help make the purchase without specific County Council approval.

Cathy Hudson, an Elkridge activist who has led residents who oppose the college's use of the property, said she hopes her group is included by college officials in negotiating any sale.

"The biggest question is what it's going to go on the market for," she said.

The asking price is one of the items the college wants the broker to help determine.

If the college provides a buyer without any marketing by the firm, Ellis would get a 2 percent fee. If there's a co-broker, the fee would be 6 percent of the purchase price, and if Ellis sells it without help, the firm would get a 4 percent fee. The board approved hiring the Ellis firm Nov. 18.

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