When Elisa Pratt considered upgrading several years ago from what she called her starter condo in Alexandria to a roomier house, the prices on real estate inside the Beltway, she said, led to a case of sticker shock.

“I’d been looking for my grown-up house for quite a long time, but once I saw how far the money went inside the Beltway, I got real disappointed,” Pratt said.

She said that at the time, her husband worked in Reston and the couple wanted to buy a home closer to his job to shorten the commute.

“Living in Alexandria, we felt so far away. It basically felt like we lived in West Virginia,” she said.

So, after overcoming her initial shock at the lack of affordable housing inside the Beltway, Pratt said, a conversation with her real estate agent prompted her to consider the Cascades community in Sterling in Loudoun County.

“We got more house than we thought we could ever afford,” said Pratt, who moved six years ago to a 2,800-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial in Cascades. “In Alexandria, for close to a million dollars you’d get a run-down, tiny house. Out here that amount gets you a mini mansion.”

The Cascades is a 2,500-acre, 6,500-home planned community that’s made up of a collection of developments built along the Potomac River in eastern Loudoun County, said Andrew Barnes, general manager with the Cascades Community Association.

Gina Tufano, a real estate agent with Pearson Smith Realty, said the Cascades community, which was built in the early 1990s, is starting to appeal to buyers who like the idea of newer construction but also want the beauty of “mature trees,” she said.

“There are a few pockets still being developed, but the community is aging nicely,” she said.


Sense of neighborliness: Jen Travis said she spent months scouting Cascades after a friend’s recommendation before she decided to put an offer on a house.

She knew the schools were highly ranked and that houses didn’t last long on the market. But it was the sense of community, she said, that ultimately won her over.

“We weren’t just moving into a house but joining a community with a pretty strong sense of neighborliness,” said Travis, who moved five years ago to a 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bathroom Colonial.

Katherine Parramore, who’s lived in three different developments in the Cascades, said that when she considered upgrading from a smaller condominium to a more spacious house, an agent suggested she look at buying in Arlington.

But Parramore, who said she loves being surrounded by woods, never considered leaving Cascades, a place she describes as “the countryside.”

“I have friends who are so confused. They see a single chick with a dog who’s chosen to live in suburbia like a soccer mom,” said Parramore with a chuckle. “Sure, there are a lot of families here, but there are also a lot of empty-nesters and single folks, too. I’m so close to the river that I don’t even bother to put my kayak on the car. I just put it down in the grass, put my dog inside and drag it to the water.”

Living there: Cascades is composed of three main sections, said Barnes, the community association general manager. The core part includes communities along Cascades Parkway and Potomac View. Along Algonkian Parkway, the community splits at Sugarland Run, a tributary of the Potomac River. Lowes Island makes up the eastern portion of the Cascades in Loudoun County. The Estates development is a small subset of the Cascades. The community is roughly bordered by Algonquin Regional Park on the north, the community of Countryside on the west, Virginia Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) on the south and Fairfax County on the east.


The Cascades is a 2,500-acre, 6,500-home planned community that’s made up of a collection of developments built along the Potomac River in eastern Loudoun County, said Andrew Barnes, general manager with the Cascades Community Association. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

In the past 12 months, 330 properties have sold in Cascades, ranging from a 701-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom condominium for $209,300 to a 6,744-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom Colonial for $1,700,000, said Tufano, the agent with Pearson Smith Realty.

There are 46 homes for sale in Cascades, ranging from a 1,295-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium for $275,000 to a 9,053-square-foot, six-bedroom, seven-bathroom custom-built house for $1,699,000, Tufano said.

Schools: Algonkian, Horizon, Lowes Island and Potowmack elementary schools; River Bend and Seneca Ridge middle; and Dominion and Potomac Falls high.

Transit: The Cascades community is served by a commuter bus operated by Loudoun County Transit. The area is also near the Wiehle-Reston East Station and the Greensboro Station on Metro’s Silver Line.

Crime: In the past six months, there have been nine assaults and two stolen vehicles reported in the police service area that covers Cascades, according to crime data available for Loudoun County.