Road Testing Your New Home

Try Before You Buy or Build!

Syndicated Washington Post real estate columnist Katherine Salant recently gave an insightful talk to our office about how she “road-tested” two developer homes. This is a splendid idea — contemporary cultural anthropology in action, and it reprises a field work technique she developed in Nepal while living with families and village architecture.  She lived with a family at Libertyville, Illinois, in the new School Street community of row houses. And she  spent several days and nights in the model unit of a townhouse development in Mosaic District, near Washington, D. C. Her revelations are fascinating.

At School Street, she found that there was a strong sense of community even though the development was very new; that every owner wanted his or her own private outdoor space no matter what; and that no-one wanted a kitchen visually separated from the great room. It was also important to the families who bought


houses that they could add custom details — they received 95  hours of design time with the architects to modify plans as part of the purchase price (image courtesy School Street).

At the Aster model home in the Mosaic District — part of a row of four-story townhouses — she found that the 15-foot wide unit was ample enough for easy entertaining; that four stories did not hinder move-down buyers, who

Aster townhouses exterior

considered the stairs helpful exercise and liked the roof deck; and four stories attracted young families and singles because they could use the top floor room (opening to roof deck) as a getaway space. She also discovered that the living


room fireplace  was unnecessary — it took up too much room and added too much heat, consequently buyers mostly did not request it (photos courtesy Townhomes at Mosaic District).

I am looking forward to Katherine’s next road test. I expect her to strap on her interview goggles (Google glasses?!) and move into another new family home soon! Read her timely, thorough, and exceptionally useful home reporting at

To see Sarah Susanka’s house at School Street, click here.

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