After two years of building houses in impossible places, the Housewrights have a space in their newsletter to describe their profit. It bears the notation, "There wasn't any".
So far, this small Maryland firm, which specializes in designing and building all wood contemporary homes-often in places many builders consider impractical if not impossible - is just breaking even, according to Jake Vandergrift, the president.
In two years, the partnership of Vandegrift, H.Wood McDonald, and David Feldman, all in their in their late 20s, have built five houses in the area and remodeled several others.
The Housewrights' latest home, built in the Brighton Estates subdivision, off New Hampshire Avenue extended, for Terry and Carol Eikenbery, was dedicated last Sunday.
The house, which drapes over a ravine at the end of a sloping 400-foot driveway, is on a 2 1/2 acre, pie-shaped lot surrounded by trees. And while most of the homes in the subdivision are built close to their streets, the Eikenbery house is built toward the back of the lot, away from the road.
The three level house covers about 2,000square feet and has three bedrooms, a living room, study, studio, kitchen, dining room, and two bathrooms. The total price is expected to range between $95,000 and $100,00.
The house combines two features which are trademarks of the Housewrights - a difficult building site and the use of massive wooden poles sunk into the ground to support the house.
"We found the Housewrights first; then we found the lot on which to build, said Carol Eikenbery.
"We had been looking for a house for some time. We knew some of the things we wanted. We knew we didn't want a house that was boxed in," she said.
Still , they had to be sold on some of the things the Housewrights wanted to do when they decided to build a house she said.
One thing was the wood floors. "We had wall to wall carpets where we were. It took some getting used to," she said, refering to the bare wood floors in their new home.
David Feldman, who designed the house with Vandergrift, said the house has 15 structural poles, which are visible in corners and in other places through out the house. The poles, sunk eight feet into the ground, are also decorative.
"The poles bear the entire weight of the house," Feldman noted. "The beams for the first, and second floors
After the decking is attached, we put in the walls of anywhere we want them to go. Since the walls bear no weight, they go anywhere. It allows a tremendous amount of flexibility and variety of floor planning."
The house has eight different kinds of wood, much of it found in Maryland lumber yards, Feldman said.
Feldman said that Housewrights require the owners to do a lot of the work themselves.
When we first got started, we did a lot more of the planning. Now we require the owners to find the log, obtain the financing, get some of the building permits or variances in the building codes, and draw up with us a list of the things they require in the house.
The Eikenberys did some of the building themselves, including the outside deck.
Feldman said that buyers can save $2,000 to $3,000 on houses if they opt to help the builder with unskilled tasks during construction. Such work as putting in insulation, sanding and varnishing woodwork, painting walls, picking up suppies and telephoning for services can carried out by buyers, he said.
"If people were willing to commit every weekend for the three months it takes to build the house, they could save up to $5,000," he said. "We would put the savings somewhere else in the house."
During the past year, the Housewrights have built another pole house in Annapolis and reconstructed and remodeled an 1810 log house, Vandergrift said.
Vandergrift said that the Housewrights had hoped to be able to build five or six houses a year. But now that one of the partners, McDonald, is leaving, they are setting their sights on three a year - a number Vandergrift says can earn them a profit.