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This is not your father's tract house.

OPENING UP According to Michael Woodley, chief architect for Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation of Los Angeles, "If someone commutes 4 or 5 hours a day, you don't put them in small rooms. They want the family to be together even if they are doing different things. And so the open plan is more important than it ever was. Now the living room, dining room, breakfast area, and family room open to each other--there may be only one actual dividing wall, and it doesn't go all the way to the ceiling."

FAMILY VS. LIVING Another result of this trend toward togetherness is the growth of the family room at the expense of the living room. Mark Posth, managing editor of California Builder magazine, asserts that the family room is now the dominant room in the house and always opens into the kitchen: "It has become the heartbeat of the home. The living room has recently been shrunk to an afterthought."

THE MASTER BEDROOM One of the biggest changes since the 1950s and '60s is in the master bedroom. Previously you could hardly distinguish it from the other bedrooms. "But today," according to Woodley, "it needs to be a parents' retreat. It needs to be bigger, with more closet space, and open to a compartmentalized bathroom with two sinks and an oval soaking tub." Woodley explains that prospective buyers view such amenities as a reward for making the sacrifices needed to afford the house.

Tips for buying a tract house

* Do your own builder background check. Experts advise choosing a developer first, then the house. Learn as much as you can about a developer's reputation and track record by talking to homeowners in the development you are considering (or in a recently completed development by the same builder), local banks, building industry associations, building inspectors, county planning officials, and real estate agents. You can also call the state's contractors license board and the local Better Business Bureau to check for any complaints filed against the developer.

* Be suspicious of the sales snow job. Remember that the salesperson in a new subdivision works for the developer; it's his or her job to try to sell you a house in this development.

* Beware of model house trickery. For example, interior doors are often taken off the hinges to increase the feeling of openness; imagine the doors back in place and see if that spacious feeling remains. Count the mirrors; will you have as many to blur the edges of a room? Outside the house, has the driveway been replaced by lawn and trees to give an impression of luxuriant landscaping?

* Do some comparison shopping to determine the fair price of options and upgrades on such things as cabinetry and appliances, and don't be afraid to negotiate the cost of extras. Confirm in writing what you are getting and at what price.

* Do your homework before selecting your lot: consider privacy, traffic noise, orientation to sun. Review the builder's copy of the soils and engineering report for the lot in question.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Report: The Endangered Western Home
Author:Fish, Peter; Gregory, Daniel
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:Housing strategy #1: the far, far suburbs.
Next Article:Housing strategy #2: staying in the city.

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