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.