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perimeter285

Suburban Development Question

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I am very curious about something and was hoping to pick the brains of those of you that are familiar with development patterns and suburban history.

I have my 1956 brick ranch house in Marietta on the market right now and am looking for a newer, bigger house with a bit more storage. (just a side note, I would love to live in Atlanta but need a single family home under $200k so I'm forced into the 'burbs). I have been looking in the Woodstock area since I work in Alpharetta. I'm finding that suburban neighborhoods developed prior to the 1990's had larger lots and somewhat of a variety of housing styles. Neighborhoods that are priced at $200k or below developed in the late 90's through the 2000's have extremely small lots, houses that are right up on the street and dominated by garage, and houses that have cookie-cutter facades.

So my question is, what caused this change in suburban neighborhood development? Were the older suburban neighborhoods developed by a consortia of developers that each had a variety of housing styles to choose from and did not have the need to cram a ton of houses on to a small piece of land to make money? Was it because land was cheaper then, meaning that the developer(s) could still make money with fewer houses?

It seems like the new neighborhoods are all done by one developer that only offers a few different house facades. Is this a fairly new trend or did you have mega-developers in the 80's that developed entire subdivisions on their own.

I'm just very curious. It's frustrating to be forced into a crammed neighborhood and a cookie cutter house in order to get something new. I wonder what it was like to house-hunt in the new neighborhoods in the 1980's. As another side note, the contemporary homes of the late 70's and 80's with the skylights, huge windows, and tons of angles are ALL OVER Cobb County and I think they're pretty neat. When did they go out of style?

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Yes neighborhoods were developed on a huge scale in the 1980s. Just look at Towne Lake in Woodstock. Those angular houses went out of favor when more "traditional" tastes prevailed in the 80s. Also, I've heard they're really hard to heat. A new single family home in the low 200s is hard to find if you value architecture, but there are some awesome condo units in Woodstock Downtown going for that price

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Lots of things happened....cheaper houses were required due to 18% interest rates.....someone who could afford a $250k house today, could only afford a $100k at those rates.

Land also increased dramatically in value, which is why you see such small lots.

Typically, there has been very little architecture involved in middle class neighborhoods. Houses used to come out of the Sears catalog with about 4 styles. What was more common however, was that homeowners first bought their lot, and then selected the house they wanted (from a list of less than 10 or so). Due to the demand for bigger returns, the production cycle needed to be sped up, which meant that tpyically single-family houses are now built on spec. While there are usually about 5 different designs still available in each new neighborhood, the generic house of the 80's-00's have much less character mostly because people don't demand more, and are content to purchase the cheapest product offered. Tradesmen who specialized in detailing are becoming obsolete due to lower demand, which means the remaining tradesmen are very expensive.

There's really no happy end to this story. The consolation prize is that we are now able to automate some detail work that makes homes attractive, but until buyers demand more, they won't get more.

The one question I have is why does anyone NEED a newer, bigger house, with more storage and a large yard? This was a luxury for all but the upper class for centuries, but now people feel entitled to it......just my mini--soapbox moment.

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Thanks for the dialogue. It is very interesting to see the mass produced neighborhoods of today versus the smaller, cohesive neighborhoods of the past. Both suburban, but in my opinion the older ones are not as bland.

I don't necessarily feel entitled to it, I just prefer single family homes b/c I have 3 large dogs and need more storage because the stuff for the yard that goes along with a single family home needs to have a place to go that is not out in the open. I have the means to treat myself to a bit larger house, just not in town. I would buy a place in Midtown, Atlantic Station, East Atlanta, or Virginia Highland if I the means to. What does it have to do with entitlement unless you're expecting someone else to provide something for you that you cannot afford yourself?

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I think what he is saying is that the word "need" is thrown around a little too liberally. You have given a perfect example. You don't need a larger yard or a SF home. You WANT one because you have three dogs. One might argue that the answer is to not have three large dogs. Similarly, people claim to need a large SUV because they have four kids and they need to haul around all of their sports, dance, etc equipement. OK, well don't have four children and all of a sudden you don't NEED a large SUV.

Historically, people with large dogs lived out in the country, usually farmers or ranchers. Cheap oil has allowed us to mimic the rural lifestyle closer to the city and completely distorted the historical patterns. Keeping with my second example above, children used to get to their activities by walking or taking the streetcars if they lived in the city. If they lived in the country kids had to come up with their own activities, some would argue that the unstructured activities are better anyway.

You say you don't feel entitled to it, you just prefer it. Well, I would prefer a lot of things that are out of my reach. Until I can convince the government to subsidize large sailboat building and have retailers and employers provide free dock space I guess I will just have to do without my 85 ft sailboat even though I would prefer it.

I know I am being dramatic, but I hope you get my point.

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I do. And I understand the difference between needs and preferences. The former are generally what people argue that their entitled to while the latter I won't pursue unless I have the means to. I tend to believe that people aren't necessarily entitled to anything but rather are responsible for their own well being. I never said I needed a new house. I will admit that it is a want.

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