Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Houston: Neighborhoods to watch

The Houston housing market is still strong.  Even amidst a seemingly unending oil crisis, the price of Real Estate in our city has continued to increase.  If you consider the disparity between economic growth and housing costs, it is no wonder I am continually inundated with calls from buyers who are looking for alternatives to the typical inner loop subdivisions that have been favored for so many years: West U, River Oaks, The Heights, Montrose, Bellaire, Highland Village, Midtown, Museum District, and Rice Military.  Neighborhoods such as Garden Oaks, Oak Forest, Timbergrove, Knollwood, Woodside, Meyerland, and Lazybrook that were once pegged as up and coming, bargains, or less costly alternatives, have seen an inordinate amount of growth. This same trend can be seen all over Houston and in outlying areas that aren’t inside or directly outside the inner loop: Katy, Sugar Land, Pearland, The Woodlands, and League City.
It is also no wonder buyers are frustrated.  In addition, if you are like many of my sellers who have been lucky enough to have purchased in one of the aforementioned areas before the market sky-rocketed, you have no doubt been plagued by the revelation that, once your house sells, you become a buyer in a market that has been favorable to sellers.  

So, where do you go?  Good question.  You can continue to invest in these neighborhoods – you will just need to have realistic expectations in your search.  A typical 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home, with a 2 car garage and a yard, can run up a hefty tab.  If you are not flexible on location, it is important to write out a detailed list of what you would like in your ideal home, put those items in order of most important to least important, and develop a plan with your Realtor.  Most agents who are familiar with the area in which you choose to live will be able to help you determine what you can realistically expect based on your list and on your budget.

Let me preface the remainder of this post by stating that I do not feel it is a mistake to continue your search efforts in the tried and true neighborhoods, nor do I think it is impossible to achieve your goal.  More challenging?  Yes.  A little bit more expensive?  Yes.  That being said, those areas are tried and true for a reason:  they have historically held their values and, in most cases, increased in value over many years. I also believe they will continue to increase in market value, but you will pay much more now than you would have three years ago, and that sticker shock can be discouraging.
For those open to it, buying in a neighborhood that is “transitional” can be rewarding. The prices are much more palatable and you will still get to enjoy many of the conveniences afforded to higher priced areas.  As an added bonus, you have the potential to see a larger margin of profit if you can sit on the investment for a few years.  Once an area has been “discovered”, the market value of its homes can increase quite dramatically.  Obviously, if you are risk averse, this is not a great option for you and I would recommend sticking to your guns until you find the perfect home for your needs in a more established area.
The neighborhoods below represent lower cost alternatives, are in what I consider to be neighborhoods that are on the cusp of booming, or are in transition and still have quite a few years of development ahead of them:
Idylwood: I love this neighborhood.  It is located a few minutes North of Downtown via I-45 and Wayside.  The rolling hills, charming bungalows, golf course and park are big draws for those seeking solace from Houston’s concrete landscape, increasing number of towering hi-rises, and never-ending construction.  Just a few minutes from the city, the commute won’t drive you into the madhouse.  It should be mentioned that this sleeper community has been discovered by several savvy buyers in recent years, and with only 350 homes in its inventory, buying in this area will take patience.  Even so, the prices in Idylwood offer a huge reprieve from that of inner loop living.  An updated 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 car garage home on a full lot (5000 ft +) will run somewhere in the vicinity of $450,000 vs. upwards of $650,000 which is typical for homes located inside I-610.
Lindale Park – This is another great option for those who flock to the Heights or Montrose because of the historic charm but aren’t in the position to pay the historic prices.  Located inside the loop, the lots in Lindale Park are typically bigger and it is possible to get a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home for under $400,000.  In many cases, you can find a home that might need a little bit of a refresher for under $300,000.  I’ve always felt that Lindale Park was a great alternative and it seems that others are starting to finally take notice, too.  Its proximity to downtown is another bonus.
Garden Villas – This area sits high on my list for many reasons.  To begin with, a very good friend of mine has recently purchased in this subdivision and he’s always singing its praises.  In addition, I can’t think of many areas in the city where one can purchase a home sitting on more than half an acre for under $300,000.  The homes in this neighborhood are a bit older (typically built in the 40’s and 50’s) but many are already updated.  I recommend this area for the buyer who is looking for a lot of square footage both in the land the house sits on and the house itself.  Garden Villas is located a bit further outside the loop than Idylwood (also it is in the opposite direction on I-45), but it’s a great choice for someone who is looking for more space and is not interested in making the trek out to The Woodlands, Cypress, or Spring.
Sharpstown – Native Houstonians and long term residents might find this one to be a bit of a weird choice because this area of town has been known for being a less than desirable location due to its reputation for crime.  I don’t know if you’ve driven the area lately, but you should.  There have been some major changes.  The civic association has been working on the beautification of this area since the early 2000’s. Many new businesses have been brought here and the access to Hwy 59 makes the commute less painful (as far as Houston commutes are concerned).  With choices ranging from bungalows to ranch style houses and modern homes, it is possible to find a home here anywhere from the low $200’s to mid-$300’s.  Not sure if you want to commit to this location yet?  You can also lease a property here for under $2000/mth.  Sharpstown has become high on my list for areas to watch.
Westbury – I LOVE this neighborhood. The homes here are similar to that of Meyerland, Knollwood and Woodside but don’t carry as hefty a price tag.  The prices here have always been pretty steady and it’s a great option for buyers who want to be within a reasonable proximity to the Medical Center, but don’t want to pay the prices they will encounter in Meyerland or Bellaire.  That being said, buyers have started to take notice.  Median sales prices in this area have increased (for homes under $400,000) quite a bit since 2013.  However, a buyer can still find a nicely updated home on a large lot for under $350,000 – and that’s a great deal!
There are so many options that this post could go on forever.  In the interest of brevity I will just list more options below without comment:
Cottage Grove
Sawyer Heights
Glenbrook Valley

In conclusion, Houston is a vibrant and ever-changing city that offers many great options for home buyers. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about any of the neighborhoods I’ve mentioned or if you need help with your home search.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recommendations for new Houstonians

As a Realtor I frequently deal with transplant clients who are new to the Houston area. Inevitably I get asked for recommendations ranging anywhere from restaurants to gyms to doctor referrals. Since I am certain that I am not assisting every buyer relocating to Houston with their home search, I decided it would be beneficial to post a list of my favorite places that would be accessible to any current or future Houstonians. Some of these will be repeats and some are new gems that I have found since my last post (sadly over a year ago).

The question I am most often asked is "who is your recommended primary care physician?" That's an easy one. I swear by the Medical Clinic of Houston (The Sunset Clinic) on Sunset Blvd. in the Rice/Medical Center area. Specifically, I swear by Dr. Cynthia Williams. She is fantastic! She's been my primary care physician for years. She doesn't try to throw meds at every problem and oftentimes will recommend a holistic approach (as a suggestion - not a requirement) that solves whatever ailment I've come to discuss. She is incredibly approachable, listens to her patients, and, most importantly, on time! I highly recommend Dr. Williams or any of the physicians on staff at this facility.

Another request I typically get is for great places to eat. I'd name them all but you would probably be better off reading one of our fair city's food blogs (see below). I do like my food (queso is my kryptonite) but I would not consider myself a true "foodie." That being said, I have had great experiences at many of the wonderful culinary delights our city has to offer. I highly suggest Triniti for your more special occasions. The food is fantastic. When making a reservation, ask to sit in Michael Fulmer's section. In my opinion, he sets the bar for the service industry. My go-to choices for healthier options are both chain restaurants, but they serve me well. At least four nights a week I am entertaining clients so I have to reign it in a bit in an effort to avoid moving up four dress sizes. I typically go to Season's 52 or True Food Kitchen when I know I've hit my caloric limit and am nearing DEF CON 1 with weight gain. If you are new to the city, I would recommend that you visit these blogs to get suggestions for your dining needs:
Alison Cook - Houston Chronicle
Houston Press
Houstonia Magazine
Eater Houston

For the kids:

This is still my all-time favorite pic of my niece and nephews
We have several options to entertain your little ones, so please don't see this as an exhaustive list:
Houston Zoo
The Children's Museum of Houston
Downtown Aquarium
inSPIRE Indoor Rock Climbing
Space Center Houston
7 Acre Wood
Dewberry Farm
Moody Gardens

For the ladies:

If you're inching up there in the years and are now at the mercy of an inject-able toxin to stop your forehead from looking like a pug, might I suggest visiting Melanie Frye (Melanie Ryan) at the Bella Rosa MedSpa in the Medical Center. She makes Botox injections an art form. I've been going to her for years, and to this day she still sits down with me to discuss what I want the end result to be before she goes near my forehead (and eyes now, sadly enough).

I get lash extensions now because I'm way too lazy to deal with mascara. I didn't realize just how much of a positive effect this would have on my life. It cuts down on my morning prep time, I wear less makeup, and my eyes look bigger. One of my favorite people in this whole wide world is Katie Ashmore at the Chic Lash Boutique. She does a fantastic job and is well worth every penny. If you are considering lash extensions, do not make the mistake of going to a less expensive location. The Chic Lash technicians are all trained to put extensions on each individual lash which gives a more natural look.

Finally, The Train Station is my recommendation for those women like me who need to work out but aren't jazzed about having a full on sweat and gruntfest in front of a bunch of dudes. The Train Station offers 30 minute personal training sessions. It is a women-only facility offering partner or solo workout plans. I choose the partner plan because it gives a little price break. I've worked out with every trainer there, and they're all fantastic! Currently, I go three times a week and my trainers are Delores Palmer, Kendra Benge, and Sandy Butler. Since I've started at The Train Station I have lost 15 pounds and several inches. I'm more fit than I've ever been in my life and the ladies are fun, so it doesn't feel like a punishment! I can't speak highly enough of this gym.

I hope this little list helps. I'm sure I'll think of more! My next post topic will be about some of my favorite neighborhoods to keep an eye on.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chic Lash Boutique

If you wear makeup, and you are anything like me, then putting on mascara can end up being the worst part of your morning routine. I cannot count the number of times I've had a mini-mascara crisis. More often than not, I end up cleaning up a huge smear on my eyelid or trying to overcome the pain from stabbing myself in the eyeball with the wand. In addition, as I've gotten older (yes, I'm accepting it) I have noticed that my eyelashes are shorter and droop downward. Because of this, I decided to seek out an alternative solution that would make my morning routine less annoying and brighten up my eyes, as well.

I started researching eyelash extensions because I knew several women who had them, and they raved about them. In some cases, I did not care for how they looked (way too fake), but others I thought were flawless. My initial appointment was with a well known chain - one that I will not mention by name, but they are all over Houston.

When my appointment time arrived, I had a gut feeling that this was not somewhere I wanted to be, nor was it a place that I wanted to have toxic glue applied to my eyelashes. My gut was correct. They failed to put me with the girl whom I waited (for over a week) to see, and specifically requested (several times). I requested the technician that applied my friend's lashes because she did not make her look like a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race. I was very nervous about having the extensions put on, and I discussed this, in depth, with the receptionist when I booked the appointment. I left without having them applied, and I am so thankful that I did. A few weeks later that same friend had a horrible experience there (lashes glued to her lashline that caused open sores, etc.) from which she is still recovering.

After leaving, I called Chic Lash Boutique and spoke with the owner, Jennifer. Another friend has her eyebrows threaded there and raves about the place. I researched them and after finding that all of the technicians are certified, and have more experience, I decided to book my appointment. Jennifer was so sweet and was able to fit me in for a last minute application. Yes, Chic Lash is more expensive, but I will say that the peace of mind I have with knowing my eyes are in good hands is worth a few extra dollars.

My first visit was with Des. She was amazing and she made me comfortable. My concerns were with what might happen to my eyes as well as being fearful I would walk out of there looking ridiculous. She took my fears into consideration and gave me a very natural first set. Yes, it was noticeable, but not overwhelming. Now, I'm addicted to the time it has saved me, as well as how little eye makeup I have to wear. I am a member of the monthly unlimited refill plan, and Katie is my current technician (my schedule did not jive with Des's). I get so many comments about how good they look, and that they do not look fake. I have been going since November, and I've never had any eye issues. Both Katie and Des are unbelievable - I HIGHLY recommend them. However, I believe any of the girls there would do a great job.

If you are looking into lash extensions, I recommend spending the extra money and heading over to Chic Lash. Your eyes are not something on which you should skimp! Chic Lash offers a variety of services including lash extensions, eyebrow threading, and tinting services (lash and brow).

Call Jennifer to book your appointment and let her know Danelle sent you!

Chic Lash Boutique
Phone: 713.874.0114
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00-6:00pm
Address: 544 Waugh Dr. Suite A
Houston, TX 77019

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Train Station - Houston's Personal Training Studio For Women

A few months back I decided that I needed some extra help with my endurance. I was freaking out as my "vacation" (climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro) neared. I knew that I could hike for long distances on flat land, but was not so sure about my ability to deal with inclines for 6-8 hours a day.

Not one to enjoy working out, grunting, and looking disgusting in front of a room full of strangers that include the opposite sex, I decided that I would enlist the help of a personal trainer. I heard of The Train Station on several occasions, always meant to call for information, and now there was a reason to do so. I am so glad I did!

Needless to say, climbing a mountain is not an easy feat, especially when sick for the entire trip (I am blessed with a sweet immune system, and I live at sea-level). I truly believe that the work I did with my two trainers, prior to this trip, is the reason I was able to persevere and get as far as I did. No, I did not summit, but I tried and got farther than I could have possibly imagined.

I find that I respond best to strength training and Pilates. If that's not your thing, there are aqua fitness classes, cardio camps and a lot of yoga inspired moves that can be incorporated. Your trainer will tailor a workout that is suitable, based on information provided in your first consultation.

If you are a woman who is looking for a way to workout without gyms, mass quantities of people, and no waiting for machines, then I highly suggest looking into The Train Station. My two trainers, Christina and Dolores, are amazing. I saw changes in my body within the first two weeks, and I noticed my balance improved within the first couple of sessions. Even though I'm not climbing any mountains anytime soon (OK, maybe next year), I am still attending my sessions at The Train Station. I feel stronger and healthier, and it is nice to be held accountable.
The Train Station
1608 Bissonnet
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 523-9092

Monday, March 18, 2013

Houston BBQ Festival is this Sunday!

The weather in Houston is beautiful right now and it's time to enjoy some delicious BBQ from some of the best Houston has to offer. Mark your calendar and buy your tickets for the 1st Annual (and, the best!) Houston BBQ festival. The Houston BBQ Festival is this Sunday, March 24, 2013 from 1-5pm and is located at the Bayou City Event Center - The Pavilion. Tickets must be purchased in advance--they WILL NOT be sold at the door (per website). This event will likely sell out, so you are well-advised to purchase asap. The participating BBQ vendors will provide samples of their fares. You can purchase all drinks at the festival.

A few of the participating vendors (and, some of my favorites): Gatlin's BBQ, Pizzitola's Bar-Be-Cue, Ray's BBQ Shack, and Fainmous BBQ.

If you love good BBQ, or just love being outside and enjoying this beautiful weather we've been having, then buy your tickets today!

Buy tickets


Venue information

Houston BBQ Festival
Sunday, March 24, 2013
1pm - 5pm
Bayou City Event Center
9401 Knight Road
Houston, TX 77045

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Buying a house inside the loop - Houston Real Estate

From time to time, I like to write about Real Estate, although, this is not a Real Estate based blog. However, I feel compelled to write about the market right now. In a nutshell, it is crazy!

If you are a buyer looking for a home in Houston (specifically inner loop), right now, you probably know what I mean. If you are a seller, you are likely very, very, happy. Buyers cannot find houses and sellers cannot sell them fast enough. If you are a seller with an appropriately priced home (and a desirable location, floorplan, etc.), you can assume you will be under contract by the end of the first day the home hits Moreover, you will likely reap the benefits of a multiple offer scenario, or what some refer to as a "bidding war".

Why is this happening? There simply is not enough inventory available for the plethora of buyers that are looking. With a looming fear that interest rates will increase in 2014, consumers are trying to take advantage of historically low rates--sometimes as low as 3.25%.

When faced with so much competition, how does one take advantage of today's low interest rates and purchase a house?

Here are some ideas of things you can do that can put you at an advantage:

1.) Work with a Realtor who has connections with other Realtors specializing in the area. Typically the listing agent (with seller approval) will share with other agents (who they have relationships with) when they have a listing coming up. In many cases, houses are already under contract before they ever reach mls. Working with a Realtor who has information about unlisted properties could be beneficial.

2.) Have your Realtor set you up on an automatic search. This search will immediately email you when a home that fits your criteria hits the market. You will need to be prepared to visit the house within 2-3 hours and bring along a full-priced (or higher) offer in hand. That might seem presumptuous, but, if you are looking at it, there are probably at least 5 other people who are and who will also submit an offer.

3.) Make your offer desirable. Right now sellers have the luxury of being choosy. If you want to stand out from the rest, remove items from your offer that could be considered negative. Examples of this include long closings, seller contributions to closing costs, requests for appliances or other excluded items, long option periods, etc. In addition, if you have a contingency, you will not be at a competitive advantage. Your best option is to sell  your home and do a leaseback, if possible, or find a temporary residence while you search for your home.

4.) Always have the most recent lender approval letter to submit with your offer. Work with your lender to obtain full credit approval--not just pre-approval--for submission. This shows that you have submitted your documents to the lender and that you are  approved based on a more detailed check of your finances. It is a step further than pre-approval and would put you at an advantage over most buyers who submit with pre-approval only.

5.) Ask your agent to put a deadline in the contract for the seller to respond. I request that the seller respond within  5-6 hours with the caveat that the offer "will be considered void" if they do not respond within the requested time-frame. If you do not, the seller will likely hold onto it while collecting other offers. Inserting a deadline does not mean they have to accept your offer, but it does require the seller to respond in order to keep your offer on the table. This practice can put you in a good position if the offer is strong and the seller is afraid of losing it.

6.) Write a letter to the seller. I've written about this before. It might seem silly, and it does not always work, but it can be beneficial. If there are multiple offers on the table, and your offer is under consideration along with someone else's, then a nice introduction  letter to the seller could be the difference. Sellers have emotional connections to their homes--it is their first house, they raised their first child there, etc.--so appealing to the seller on a personal level could push you in front of someone else who is still only a number on a piece of paper.

These are just some suggestions, and in no way does it  guarantee your offer will come out ahead of the pack. The most important thing to remember is that something will come along, and not to get frustrated. It is a terrific time to buy or sell in Houston!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Draft Festival is this Saturday!

Calling all craft beer lovers - The Draft Festival is this Saturday, November 17. If you have not already purchased your tickets to attend, you need to do so soon...

Besides the obvious (craft beer), there are other reasons one should attend the festivities. The proceeds from Houston Beer Week, including The Draft Fest, will go to Live It Big, Inc., which is a non-profit that supports charities such as Friday Harbour and Stepping Stones Elementary.

Also, this is the only beer festival that includes food with your cost of admission. Some of the food that will be provided are as follows: Ninfa's on Navigation, Antone's, lamb and goat tacos from El Hidalguense, and, lastly, Richard Flores will be roasting 300 lbs of pork meat for pulled pork sliders.

The Draft Festival will showcase a cigar program curated by cigar aficionado/fashion celebrity Teresa Merchant and will feature Stogies World Class Cigars.

There will be live music, a silent auction, and a few other surprises. Don't miss out on the fun, and your opportunity to help out a great cause.

Look forward to seeing you this Saturday at Guadalupe Plaza Park!

The Draft Festival
2311 Runnels St.
Houston, TX 77003
Saturday, November 17,2012
open 11am-5pm