Seeking the Peace of the Suburbs

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Buying there, Mr. Tortoso said, would have been “like moving into freshman class,” and the children would have had built-in friends. But the cul-de-sac where they found a $1.4 million house they liked was adjacent to high-voltage electrical power lines, and the Tortosos were concerned about potential health risks; also, ConEd performs periodic inspections by helicopter and trims the trees, and they were worried about the noise.

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The new house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Credit
Susan Fisher Plotner for The New York Times

In nearby Briarcliff Manor, they loved a home on Butternut Road, another cul-de-sac. A $1.2 million house, it had been fully renovated by a contractor, but it wasn’t configured to their liking.

Then they heard something intriguing from their agent, Hillary Landau of Houlihan Lawrence, whom they found through Suburban Jungle, a service that helps match home buyers with the right suburbs.

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CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. A home in a new subdivision was uncomfortably close to power lines.

Credit
Susan Fisher Plotner for The New York Times

A building lot was available in Pocantico Hills, Ms. Landau told them. But unfortunately, “it was on a double-yellow-line” road, Mrs. Tortoso said, not a cul-de-sac.

Skeptical, the Tortosos drove up on a rainy weeknight and found they loved the location, next to a park. The contract came with an agreement to have the house built by ZappiCo, which they were already familiar with.

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BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. A cul-de-sac was ideal. But the house, though renovated, didn’t have the right layout.

Credit
Susan Fisher Plotner for The New York Times

The advantages of buying a new, custom-built house included the choice of “more efficient appliances, heating and cooling,” said Jim Zappi, the owner of ZappiCo. “They are better insulated, so the cost of ownership is less.”

The Tortosos signed on for $1.12 million, for a two-story, 3,000-square-foot house with four bedrooms and four bathrooms. But the project was more complex than they had envisioned.

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POCANTICO HILLS, N.Y. The Tortoso family’s custom-built house is 3,000 square feet.

Credit
Susan Fisher Plotner for The New York Times

“You are making every decision — from knobs to hinges to countertops — and things you don’t necessarily think of when you find a house that is already built, like where do you put the windows and how many windows do you want,” Mrs. Tortoso said.

“You invariably upgrade,” she added, noting that they eventually chose nine-foot ceilings over eight-foot, and solid wood doors, with better soundproofing, over standard hollow doors.

The construction took a year, twice as long as scheduled. The family arrived last spring, after selling their Yorkville co-op for about $1.43 million. Then Mr. and Mrs. Tortoso set to work on the landscaping, which was also more complicated than they expected.

Now that they’ve settled in, though, they revel in the suburban supermarkets, with wide aisles and roomy shopping carts. Still, there are trade-offs.

“You can’t swing by and have a slice of pizza,” Mr. Tortoso said. “Whatever you have at home in the house is what you have for dinner.”

Mrs. Tortoso’s main regret about their new home, she said, is not going with pocket doors in the bathroom that connects the children’s bedrooms. The doors swing inward, and when both are open they nearly touch.

As for Mr. Tortoso, he regrets that their new neighborhood is, in fact, “not a neighborhood — there’s not going to be a block party.”

But at night, they hear crickets rather than honking and sirens loud enough to wake the children. And the toys are largely confined to the basement playroom.

“I am able to step into a private room to make a work call, and not have kids all over me,” Mr. Tortoso said. “Before, I’d go to the hallway or the roof.”

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