At first, the wife wasn't sure.
With so many houses on the market, an English manor-style estate at 10 Estes Road, nestled in the coveted Woodbrook neighborhood just north of the Baltimore City line, didn't grab her attention.
Her husband, though, knew immediately that they'd found their next home.
"That's not unusual with a Benhoff home," said Kevin Benhoff, the agent who completed the $2.4 million sale in June. "The styling tends to trend masculine. Especially until the final touches are there."
The home needed a lot of work at that point. Benhoff's father, Mel, has been building custom homes in the Baltimore area for more than 30 years, but few have taken this long. He started the project about three years ago, and progress on the house slowed as the market cooled. As they often do, the two decided to begin showing the house while it was still being built, so buyers could have input.
"The way the market was then, it was really tough," Kevin Benhoff said. "With so many houses available, and such great deals — they were just giving houses away — a lot of people preferred to walk into a totally finished place. It was hard to get them to envision the finished product."
Eventually, though, those "Benhoff touches" began appearing: coffered ceilings, stone floors and archways, exposed beams. Benhoff's homes are generally based on designs from two of the country's most prominent architects specializing in classic-style homes, Stephen Fuller and William E. Poole, and then adapted to fit the lot, neighborhood and Mel Benhoff's whim.
"He has a style he's developed, but he'll try things based on something cool he sees in New England or a nice idea from the South," Kevin Benhoff said.
Mel Benhoff strives for a finished, earthy look inside his homes. The outside can be something of a hybrid: because of its prominent dormers, Kevin Benhoff describes the house at 10 Estes Road as "Cape Cod-ish."
The buyers are still in the process of decorating the house. They've since picked light fixtures and had an outdoor living area with a fireplace built. A commercial-grade generator is next, after several recent storms knocked out the power.
"That's the advantage to putting it out there early, which can be tough," Benhoff said. "They get to make it their own a bit, and it's in a neighborhood that really is one of the most popular. It's beautiful, and it's as close as you can get to the city without paying city taxes."
Address: 10 Estes Road, Baltimore 21212
Sale Price: $2.4 million
Square footage: 6,000
Selling agent: Kevin Benhoff, Long & Foster Realtors