Boom Nation: Meet Me in St. Louis

"Each city has to look at what its amenity is, and its economic base, and begin to build upon that," he said. "The core of the city, really the most incredible attribute, [are] the historic buildings, the historic neighborhoods, and those that can capitalize on them are coming back in ways completely unforeseen."

But are the houses in the suburbs built to last? Gudermuth doesn't think they'll outlast the mortgage.

"We see this in some of the far-flung suburbs every year," she said. "They are bringing out a new model, a new house. And the older models are like a used car. They do not bring top dollar, and the new model is what everyone wants. And I think there are going to be whole neighborhoods razed at some point, and new construction is going up again."

In the end, after a full day spent touring houses both old and new, my mother and I agreed to disagree. She admitted she was tempted by city living, and attracted by nostalgia and also by a lifestyle that would let her walk places instead drive. But she and my dad aren't ready to leave suburbia just yet.

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